Lawrence City Band to kick off summer series Wednesday with new conductors at the helm; storm threat forces relocation

Update: Wednesday's concert has been moved to Room 130 of KU's Murphy Hall because of the threat of thunderstorms. The performance will begin at 8 p.m.

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When the Lawrence City Band performs its first concert of the 2016 summer season Wednesday evening, it’ll be without longtime conductor Robert Foster, who retired after last year’s season.

Instead, audiences will find a trio of new — but familiar — faces directing things from the William Kelly Bandstand (aka the gazebo) in South Park.

“We just can’t take his place and we don’t want to,” says assistant conductor Marion Roberts, who will share rotating conducting duties this summer with newly appointed conductor Paul Popiel and fellow assistant director Martin Bergee. “We want to honor the past and move forward into the future.”

Roberts, a 30-year veteran of the band and chairman of its board of directors, says he — along with Popiel and Bergee — made a conscious effort this year to select pieces with the potential to “appeal to a larger audience.” That includes more contemporary music compared with some of the ensemble’s Big Band staples, such as selections from “Les Miserables,” Disney tunes and “American Bandstand”-era hits.

A large crowd gathers around the South Park gazebo to listen to the final Lawrence City Band concert of the summer Wednesday, July 17, 2013.

A large crowd gathers around the South Park gazebo to listen to the final Lawrence City Band concert of the summer Wednesday, July 17, 2013. by John Young

“With the times the way they are, one of our concerns is that we continue to make it a part of the heart of Lawrence,” Roberts says of the City Band, which he says held its first concert the night before Quantrill’s Raid some 150 years ago. “It appeals to all ages. It’s something that truly is a piece of Americana.”

All concerts are free and open to the public, and will be held at 8 p.m. on Wednesday nights through July 13 in South Park, 1141 Massachusetts St. In the case of inclement weather, performances will be moved to Room 130 of Murphy Hall on the Kansas University campus.

Here’s a look at this summer’s thematic lineup:

• May 25: Opening Day

• June 1: March Kings

• June 8: Greatest Generations

• June 15: Hooray for Hollywood

• June 22: For Children of All Ages

• June 29: Rockin’ the Bandstand

• July 6: America the Beautiful

• July 13: Grand Finale

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