Bangor Band board member and euphonium player Adina Salmansohn got excited when she read a Bangor Daily News article in January about Melville Andrews, the Bangor musician, composer and business owner who led the band for more than 20 years in the late 19th century.
Andrews served with distinction in the Civil War and later was a leader of the Bangor Band and Bangor Symphony Orchestra and ran a successful music store in the city. His story was not widely known among Bangor Band members, and came as a delightful surprise to them.
“I’m sure there were a few people that knew a little bit about him, but the article really brought out the story in a way nobody had ever thought about,” said Salmonsohn, a New York native who moved to Maine in 2018 and quickly joined the Bangor Band. “We all kind of looked around and asked, ‘What if we really highlight Andrews and who he was for our members memorial concert this year?’”
In short order, bandleader Phil Edelman began digging around in the Bangor Band music files and found a march written by legendary Maine composer Robert Brown “R.B.” Hall, dedicated to Andrews. Hall considered Andrews his mentor, and “The MHA March” is his first published composition. That march is on the program for its upcoming members’ memorial concert, set for 4 p.m. Sunday, April 23, at Peakes Auditorium at Bangor High School.
Andrews joined the 12th Maine Infantry as the Civil War broke out in 1861, and served throughout the conflict as a soldier and musician. He was a part of Gen. William T. Sherman’s march to the sea, which cleaved a fiery path through Georgia before ending in Savannah. Andrews spent more than a year there, and regularly gave trumpet concerts in the city’s famous squares.
By the time he left Savannah in 1866, people so appreciated Andrews’ many months of entertainment that they gave him a silver cornet, a carved wooden cane and a gold watch and chain, in gratitude for “helping to scatter the seeds of discord by his beautiful strains of harmony.”
Andrews returned to Maine and set up shop in Bangor, where he led the popular dance band the Andrews Orchestra. He also led the Bangor Band and Bangor Symphony Orchestra, and began composing works and teaching young musicians and composers, like R.B. Hall.
In 1890 he opened Andrews Music Company at 98 Main St., which would do business for another 84 years, long after Andrews died in 1921, before finally closing in 1974.
The Bangor Historical Society has Andrews’ silver cornet from Savannah in its collection, as well as a violin he crafted. Curator Matt Bishop will show off the cornet and give a presentation on Andrews at Sunday’s concert, which will also serve as an unofficial kickoff for its 164th season.
“We are an organization that is very proud of its legacy, so this is exactly the sort of thing we love to highlight and teach people about,” Salmonsohn said. “And our members’ memorial concert is our yearly chance to honor the thousands of people who have played with the band over the decades, so to honor Andrews is really right on the money this time.”
Sunday’s concert will be followed by one at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, April 25, with the University of Maine Collegiate Chorale, also at Peakes Auditorium. Another concert is set for 1 p.m. Sunday, April 30, at the Cole Land Transportation Museum in Bangor, and honors Galen Cole, the Bangor businessman and World War II veteran who founded the museum and Walking Sticks for Veterans program.
The band’s summer season begins with a performance in Bangor’s Memorial Day parade on May 29. Free concerts on Tuesday evenings begin on June 13, and are held around the area, including at Bangor Waterfront, Bangor Public Library, Chapin Park in Bangor and the Veazie waterfront. They continue through Aug. 8, with a season finale concert at the Maine Savings Amphitheater in Bangor.
Salmonsohn said that band members hope to record or film the recollections of older band members, so that stories like Andrews’ don’t get lost.
“We have this incredible resource here for this organization that has so much history in Bangor,” she said. “We need to make sure that history doesn’t get lost.”