Four community bands will come together to present a benefit concert on behalf of the Northern New Jersey Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Sparta. The combined band, approximately 70 musicians strong, will perform on Saturday, June 24, 8 p.m., at the Sussex County Technical School, 105 North Church Road, Sparta.
The Franklin Band, West Morris Community Concert Band, Bloomingdale Cornet Band, and the Palisades Park Fire Department Band were recruited to perform together by Ken Odgers, conductor of the Franklin Band. The unified group will be conducted by Odgers, Gary Quam, Michael Kallimannis and Ed Meisner, respectively.
“The welfare of veterans has always been important to me,” said Odgers, who organized volunteers from the four bands to perform at the dedication ceremony of the cemetery in 2015. “A cemetery that is locally accessible, where honor and dignity are prevalent, tops my list of ways in which we, as musicians, can honor those who died in service to our country.”
Odgers’ father, Frank E. Odgers, enlisted in the Armed Forces in 1941. Serving in Germany during World War II, he was killed in action on April 13, 1945, when his only son was three months old. The Purple Heart recipient was initially buried in Germany, but was eventually moved to Arlington National Cemetery in 2008.
“I felt compelled to see that my father’s final resting place would fill the requirements of honor and dignity,” said Odgers. “The Northern New Jersey Veterans Memorial Cemetery gives families of fallen soldiers an opportunity to do that, but closer to home.”
The effort to open a private, non-profit veterans cemetery on a 66-acre property in Sparta was led by John Harrigan, a veteran who served in Vietnam in 1967 and 1968. It has been financially supported by several veterans’ organizations and private donations, but will require additional funding to become established in perpetuity.
“I never dreamed how difficult and time consuming it would be to organize this concert would be, but combining the bands gives us much better instrumentation and allows us to play at a higher level,” says Odgers, who would like to see the 1,300-seat McNeice Auditorium at the school sold out.
“Beyond that,” he added, “my hope is that those who attend the concert enjoy themselves and that the musicians have a deeply satisfying musical experience.”
Tickets are available in advance for $10 at the following locations: Hampton Automotive in Newton; Branchville Family Chiropractic; Irish Cottage Restaurant in Franklin; Sparta Pharmacy; North Country Pharmacy, or; by mail to Franklin Band, P.O. Box 16, Franklin, NJ 07416.
Make checks payable to Northern New Jersey Veterans Memorial Cemetery. Tickets will also be available at the door for $12.
For more information, email Ken Odgers at firstname.lastname@example.org.