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Veterans' band to play Thursday

In the early years of its existence, the Red River Valley Veterans' Concert Band was known as the Gilbert C. Grafton Post 2 Concert Band of Fargo.

But since those beginnings more than three decades ago, the band has grown to include between 40-50 active members from Fargo, Moorhead, Detroit Lakes and other communities around the region.

Though they still rehearse at the Fargo Legion every Thursday from September to mid-June of each year, the band was eventually renamed to reflect its more regional membership.

Myron Dybing has been a member of the band since he retired from teaching music in Kindred, N.D., after more than 30 years, and moved to Detroit Lakes -- where he and his wife had a summer cabin for many years. That was a decade ago.

"I play trumpet," he said. Dybing will be in the lineup when the band takes the stage of the Historic Holmes Theatre this Thursday, May 3, for a free concert beginning at 8:15 p.m.

As its name implies, much of the band's membership consists of retired members of the U.S. Armed Forces, who have served in both times of war and peace.

"We have veterans of World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm, and even Iraq," Dybing said. "Each time we play, we do an armed services medley."

The themes of the five branches are played in turn: Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force and Coast Guard.

"We ask veterans in the audience to stand when the theme of their (branch of service) is playing."

In addition to the Armed Forces medley, the band also plays segments that include popular tunes of the World War II and Vietnam War eras.

"We do arrangements similar to the 'big band' sounds of the 1940s, but (designed) for a concert band," Dybing added. "It's basically an 'easy listening' concert, though we do some formal concert pieces as well."

The band also has a couple of vocalists who perform with them on songs that require a singing element, and "they do a fine job," Dybing said.

The band's concert season starts in September, with rehearsals every Thursday followed by an evening concert.

The only time they don't play on Thursdays, Dybing said, is on the first Tuesday of the month, when they are asked to perform at the monthly meeting of the Fargo Legion. They do a 30-minute set before each meeting, then play the "Star Spangled Banner" at the beginning. Those band members who are not also active members of the Legion are allowed to go home after the anthem is finished, Dybing added.

Concerts during the first four months of the season, from September to December, are primarily in the Fargo-Moorhead area and surrounding communities.

"In the fall and winter months, we play nursing homes and clubs in the Fargo area," Dybing said. "In the spring, we hit Minnesota."

Though all of the band's concerts are free, donations are accepted to help defray travel costs.

"We take the Fargo Legion baseball bus to travel to concerts," Dybing said. Donations help pay for gas and maintenance, and because the RRVV Concert Band is a 501(c)3 certified non-profit, contributions are tax-deductible.

Bernie McKigny has been the band's director for over 20 years, Dybing noted. Some of the original players are still among its membership as well.

The band's final concert of the 2006-07 season will be on June 22 at the Fargo Civic Center, as part of the North Dakota State Legion Convention.

For more information about Thursday night's concert, please call the Historic Holmes Theatre Box Office at 218-844-SHOW (7469).

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454