Local musician’s swan song shared with The Willows

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By Christine Galeone, Contributing Writer

Monte Becker, founder of BrassBoro
Monte Becker, founder of BrassBoro
Photo/submitted

Westborough – When someone has to bid farewell to someone or something dear to his heart, the occasion is often met with goodbyes and hushed tones. But, for musicians, that’s not always the case.

On May 23 at The Willows retirement community, Monte Becker – who will be moving – gave his last performance with the brass ensemble that he founded, BrassBoro. Toes were tapping as the joyful noise of jazz, show tunes and other types of music filled the air. And trumpets blared.

“To me, it’s a bittersweet thing, because we played very well, but also it’s my last time with the crew; I don’t think I’ll forget it soon,” said Becker not long after he stepped off the stage. “I also liked playing for this group, because…its bringing back memories…and they enjoyed it so much. It’s a very appreciative audience.”

And bringing that joy to the community has been one of the ensemble’s goals since Becker started it a little over two years ago. While playing the trumpet in the Interboro Community Band (ICB)– a large Northborough-based concert band formed under the direction of the cherished late Algonquin Regional High School teacher Dennis Wrenn – the professional engineer saw the need for a small band that could give amateur brass musicians a chance to shine and share some wonderful music with the community. He then recruited other ICB members to perform four to five concerts a year at area senior centers, churches, libraries, retirement communities and assisted living facilities.

The concert at The Willows began with a lively performance of “Beale Street Blues.” That launched the ensemble – which plays in the quintet style – into an engaging performance of a range of music that underscored the nature of the occasion. It consisted of melancholy selections, such as “Danny Boy,” “Funeral March of a Marionette” and “St. James Infirmary Blues,” that reflected the grief of an ending, as well as upbeat tunes, such as “When the Saints Go Marching In,” “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” and “I’ve Got Rhythm” that are filled with the hope of a new beginning.

Polly Horenstein, a director at The Willows who arranged to have BrassBoro play there, was happy the band members shared their talent with the residents.

“They enjoy it,” she said. “It brings back a lot of memories. And who doesn’t like a big brass band? Just like ‘Music Man.’”

And Becker is one music man who doesn’t want the music to stop playing in the Boroughs. He encouraged the group to stay together.

“There are so many missions – stated and unstated; the mission of bringing great music to the public is sort of an obvious one, but there is a less obvious one – to bring music to the players,” he said. “People come out to play a gig, maybe, but then, they stay because it’s giving them something they need.”

With bandmate Stacy Cohen taking the reigns as the band’s coordinator, BrassBoro should continue to thrive. Meanwhile, Becker is looking forward to playing and listening to music in Northampton. But he’ll miss the ensemble. At the end of the concert, he expressed his gratitude to both the band and the audience. He told the audience. “It’s been a pleasure to be the Master Blaster.”