SWANSEA – Dan Durette can’t remember the specific song. Instead, etched in his memory is what the song did.
A long-time member of the Volunteer Corps Swansea Community Orchestra, Durette remembers having played one day in a retirement home. A woman, at home to visit her mother and enjoy the concert, wrote shortly afterwards to the group’s president, Milton Silva, that her mother, who had not spoken for two years, had turned to her for concert and said, “I haven’t heard that song in years.
The girl was floored. The band members too. Durette shares the story when people ask why he is performing for free.
“It’s worth it,” the SCCB lead drummer said last week from his home in New Bedford. “It affects them. For the music to touch someone like that, it’s worth it.
“We’ve had several situations like this,” said SCCB chairman Daniel Moniz of Swansea. “People with dementia, with Alzheimer’s disease. We play an old song and they just start singing.
A former trumpet player Army National Guard Band, Durette, 61, is one of about 35 members of the SCCB, a group organized in 1978 as part of a municipal after-school enrichment program. An accomplished drummer, Durette joined the SCCB as a trumpeter but filled a week when the drummer failed to show up for rehearsal. The no-shows continued for a few more weeks and Durette became a permanent drummer and then the main drummer.
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The band has traditionally played the majority of their gigs in nursing homes. Due to COVID concerns, the SCCB did not play for two years and their numbers dipped slightly. He came back to play outside. He was part of this year’s Wednesday Night Series at Somerset’s Pierce Beach, performed at Swansea Village and did an outdoor concert at Clifton Assisted Living in Somerset.
“People in nursing homes are our best audience because they don’t get a lot of it,” said Ray Silva, a retired Fall River School Department teacher and SCCB bandleader/music director since 2017. “These people can’t get out, so they appreciate it more.
The band made their theatrical return on August 9 at St. Dominic’s Church Hall in Swansea. St. Dominic’s allows the group to practice for free in its hall on Tuesday evenings.
“Stuff that people can sing along to”
The Swansea Community Concert Band song menu features patriotic music, swing, big band and Broadway tunes. More recently, they’ve expanded that menu to include some of what Silva jokingly calls modern music – Chicago, Stevie Wonder, The Association.
The group, he says, eschews classical music. Silva recalls when he was a musician in a band at Durfee High School and his mother criticized one of the gig selections, telling her son she didn’t like a particular song because she didn’t like it. didn’t know.
“We play stuff that people can sing along to, stuff that people can clap to,” Silva says.
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An all-volunteer organization
SCCB is non-profit. He accepts donations. None of the band members are paid. The group offers three annual college scholarships to students considering studying music, with one being awarded to a student at Joseph Case, BMC Durfee and Somerset Berkley Regional High Schools.
One of the long-time members of the Swansea Community Concert Band, and its greatest benefactor, was the Milton Silva, presiding judge of Bristol County Second District Court for 20 years. Silva died in 2020 at age 96. He had played in the band until about five years before his death. “He bought most of the arrangements,” says Ray Silva (no relation). “We always play music that he bought. He paid to put them in books.
The SCCB roster is a bit of a revolving door, Silva said. There are retired doctors, retired music teachers, people who played an instrument in high school and miss performing. Some stay for years and years. Others come in and go out. Other communities in the area also have community bands and it’s not unusual, Silva notes, for a musician from one band to fill in for another band facing a talent shortage.
The SCCB has members from Taunton, Stoughton and Cranston, Rhode Island.
“They’re just people who like to play,” Silva said.
“We’re having a great time,” Moniz said. “We love what we do.”