‘First’ Old Home Week band will play prior to fireworks

David McCandless

Musicians who have played in the Old Home Week band in the past now have the opportunity to perform as The "First" Old Home Week Band. The band gets a new name in 2010, when it plays for the first time on Kaley Field prior to the Friday night fireworks display.

Longtime director David J. McCandless has a valid reason for the new moniker.

"We were stuck," he said of himself and committee members Eric Plum and Candy Mowen. "We couldn't get a military band to play for the fireworks."

Therefore, they decided that the people who gathered to play before the two Old Home Week pageants could just as easily stick around and play the same songs a couple days later. For years, residents have returned to Greencastle for the triennial celebration, and many brought along their band instruments, which may not have been out of the case for some time. But the folks of all ages enjoyed getting together for camaraderie and to make beautiful music. Initially, they played between scenes at the Tuesday and Wednesday evening pageants, and then switched to a concert for the people arriving at the high school auditorium early.

McCandless, 68, a former band director in the Greencastle-Antrim School District, welcomes back everyone who has ever played in the OHW Band, and also hopes for younger people who may not have thought about joining. Every three years he gets the same questions about the band.

"Who's in it?"

"When do you practice?"

He replies, "I don't know and we don't."

Whoever shows up gets to participate. People come from across Pennsylvania and across the United States. Whoever has the time in their schedule should get to the high school around 5 p.m. Aug. 3 and 4. After running through the material until 6:15, they will turn around and perform for 45 minutes for the pageant audience.

Several practice dates have been set for 5 p.m. Saturday, July 17 and Wednesday, July 28 in the Greencastle-Antrim High School band room and at 5 p.m. Monday, Aug. 2 in the Greencastle-Antrim High School auditorium.

McCandless thinks he will present different songs each night so that on Friday he will have 90 minutes worth of music for the capacity outdoor crowd.  Plum will join him in directing the instrumentalists. They are lining up patriotic pieces, marches and singalong selections for the 7:45 p.m. show.

"Once in a while I throw in a challenge piece," he said. He has heard about 'A Hymn for the Lost and the Living,' written in 2002 and dedicated to the 9/11 victims and survivors. Peers have told him the somber arrangement by Eric Ewazen, an instructor at the Juilliard School in New York, is among the best ever written for a band.

"We'll try it," he continued. "If the performance is up to par, we'll play it, or else try it again in three years."

McCandless has kept busy in his retirement from his last career as an insurance agent. He heads New Horizons, a band consisting of senior citizens in the Hagerstown, Md. area. They rehearse weekly and put on concerts across state lines. He finds those musicians share a similarity with the ones in his Old Home Week band.

"The people really enjoy playing and don't get to do it often. Everyone raves about them."

Anyone interested should come to the rehearsals or contact any of the following: David J. McCandless at 717-328-5541 or by e-mail at; Eric Plum at 717-597-7528 or by e-mail at; or Candy Mowen at 860-8766 or by e-mail at