Band and Orchestra History

First, some general overviews and explanations (based on parent meeting minutes dating back to 1936):

1) What we currently call “The Liberty High School Grenadier Band and Orchestra Parents Club,” was originally named “The Bethlehem High School Band and Orchestra Mothers’ Club.” The very first President, Mrs. Ralph Weaver, and Vice President, Mrs. Hattie Shimer, tell of the Mothers’ Club’s inception in their 1935 report:

“In May, 1934, Mrs. Hattie Shimer conceived the idea of a little treat for the children after the Mothers’ Day Concert by the Liberty High School Band. With the aid of Mrs. Ralph Weaver, we got in touch with all of the band mothers who were very pleased with the idea and contributed willingly, giving money and donating cakes. After all expenses were paid, the net proceeds amounted to $13.49 which were turned over to Mr. Ricapito to use as he thought best for the interest for the Band.Mr. Ricapito was so well pleased and the mothers were so interested in the work of the Band, he asked if we wouldn’t like to repeat it after the Mothers’ Day Concert this year [1935] and include the Orchestra. This affair was again successful and Mr. Ricapito suggested that we form a ‘Mothers’ Club,’ Mr. Goldman having spoken so highly of the Mothers’ Organizations in the West. On September 20, 1935, the first regular meeting was held in the Liberty High Band Room with an attendance of about 70 mothers. It was decided that the regular election of officers take place at the January 1936 meeting, and at the meeting of October 17th, name our organization ‘B.H.S. Band and Orchestra Mothers’ Club.'”

Little did Mrs. Shimer realize that her kindness would eventually lead to the LHSGB&O Parents Club, an organization that provides our students many opportunities beyond the scope of the regular curriculum. Nor would the Mothers’ Club ever have imagined that from their $13.49, amount netted would grow to a record $375,000 (for our most recent 2000 United Kingdom Tour).

Over the years, our students and parents have devised just about every fundraising project imaginable: hoagies (over one million sold – laid end-to-end, that’s enough to stretch form here to Baltimore!), pizza, pretzels, Tastycakes, Christmas Trees and wreaths, flowers, cookies, candy, fruitcakes, pies, strombolis, fashion shows, raffles, discount cards, discount books, ice cream socials, Valentine’s Day socials (complete with card exchanges), 50’s Rock n’ Roll dances, benefit concerts, car washes, postal truck washes (we used to wash the Broad St. Office fleet), and football concession stands. We’ve even raffled off ourselves, the winner receiving a free performance by the LHSGB at a site of their choice anywhere in Bethlehem!

2) Since 1926, there have been only three Directors: Joseph Ricapito (1926-61), Ron Sherry (1961-90), and Greg MacGill (1990-present); and only three Assistant Directors: Clark Hamman (1973-78), Greg MacGill (1978-90), and Kevin Long (1990-present). quite a testimony to the support we receive from the students, parents, administrators, and the entire community!

3) The LHSGB has eleven recordings to its credit: six LP albums from 1966, 1967, 1970, 1973, 1976, 1986; and five compact discs from the 1994, 1996, and 2000 joint Liberty/Coldstream Band U.K. concerts, and 1999 and 2001 LHSGB Spring Concerts. (Only the compact disc recordings remain available.)

4) At a time when bands received extended television coverage at half time, the LSHGB performed at 28 pro football/baseball games. (Although not are all mentioned in this profile, Ron Sherry confirms this number. He also tells us that the LHSGB was the first band to perform the national anthem at Giants Stadium.)

5) “On the Road”: Touring and performing throughout the U.S. and abroad, the Liberty Band and Orchestra have traveled over 90,000 miles – over three times around the world. And, over the years, the LHSGB has been “on the road” in more ways than one; thoroughfares that we have dedicated are: routes 22 and 78, Hill-to-Hill Bridge, and Fahy Bridge (We were also the last band to march across the “old” New Street Bridge.)

6) To conserve program space, the following performances/events are not listed due to their frequency:

– Beginning in 1937, and occurring almost every year thereafter until the early 1970’s, Senior band members toured New York City each May. Due to the band’s close relationship with renowned march composer and director, Edwin Franko Goldman, students would travel to “The Mall” in Central Park to hear the famous Goldman Band. (Edwin Franko Goldman guest conducted at Liberty H.S. no less than 19 times. We are told that, along with the musical merits of Liberty’s band, Mr. Goldman was drawn to Bethlehem by Mrs. Ricapito’s amazing spaghetti dinners!)

– Local parades/civic appearances occurring on an annual basis, such as the Bethlehem Halloween parade, Memorial Day Parade/Ceremony, Bethlehem Tree Lighting, and, most recently, Celtic Classic.

Text by Greg MacGill
Photographs from the band and orchestra collection at Liberty High School, alumni and friends

Special thanks to Patricia Hale and Mark Wasem