Andover Public School students have always made a name for themselves musically, but none seems to evoke more nostalgia than the Punchard High School All Girls Band.
The girls band was formed in 1940 by high school music teacher Miriam Sweeney McArdle. Original uniforms were one-piece, long-sleeved dresses that ran below the knees. Hemlines rose in the 1960s and the style became one-piece, heavy, satin-lined military looking uniforms. The only all-girl band in the state, it received many awards over the years.
The group merged with the boys’ band in 1971, and by 1979 the Golden Warriors were introduced to competition with other high school marching bands. Initially sporting black and white, military-looking uniforms, a fundraising drive in 2004 bought uniforms that highlight the school colors of blue and gold.
Andover High School was again in the news in 1983 with the construction of a 1,250-seat, $4.5 million professional auditorium. In appreciation of J. Everett Collins’ long and generous musical career, it was named the Collins Center for the Performing Arts, and dedicated on Sept. 25 of that year with J. Everett Collins in attendance, at the age of 90.
The Collins Center continues to host a variety of performances, and serves as the location for many Town Meetings.
Recognizing the importance of “music as a force in history and society,” the high school also created in 2004 a course entitled “Music and Society,” featuring one section taught by a musician and another by a dancer. Among the themes presented were “music as a revolutionary medium,” “music as a means to break down stereotypes,” and “using music as a document to history.”
Music stores also have a history in downtown Andover and reflect the tastes of the times. William Allen opened his Victrola Shop at 30 Chestnut St. in 1913. By 1919, the shop was located on the second floor of 4 Main St. Post Office Avenue was home to two music businesses: Roland Moore’s Guitar Studio in 1966, and the store of “Rufus Pavubalis & Friends” in 1971, that advertised “records, tapes, headstuff and gifts.” Harold Phinney was well-known for his radio and television business, first opening at 66 Main Street in 1976, then briefly at 29 Barnard St., and finally to 85 Main St., site of the old Shaw estate on the now-Olde Andover Village parking lot. “Autograph Records” was at the Musgrove building in 1986.
The last music store on Main Street was “Underground Music” at 10 Main St. in 1995 and, later, 2 Main St. in 1998.
The Andover Theological Seminary, Phillips Academy and Abbot Academy also added to the richness of Andover’s musical life. In addition to public concerts featuring student instrumental and vocal groups, the schools sponsored, and continue to offer, programs by prominent musicians world-wide. Of note are the varied efforts of the school’s organists. Carl Pfatteicher, for one, directed a choral society, bringing together all the area church choirs in 1915 and 1916. Arthur Howes founded The Organ Institute in the 1950s, which conducted a summer session on the Academy campus for professional organists and led to the formation of the Fine Arts Society Orchestra.
And the Academy’s Memorial Bell Tower was the site, for many years, of Sunday afternoon carillon recitals. “Open tower” sessions were offered where participants braved the 112 riser-less wooden stairs to the keyboard level.
Another town anniversary – this time its 350th – once again showcased the town’s love of music. Included in the celebration was the Inaugural Concert featuring local choral groups including the Andover Choral Society, the Andover Community Chorus, and the Madrigal Chorus of Andover High School. Highlighted was “Fantasia on America,” commissioned by the town and composed by Daniel Pinkham, a 1940 graduate of Phillips Academy. Pinkham also composed “The Tenth Muse: Songs of Love and Nature,” which premiered at the 350th Anniversary Arts Concert in April and had as its theme, “Let Music Swell the Breeze.” The Boston Pops Orchestra entertained in September.
The celebration concluded in December, featuring the Andover High School Marching Band and with the community raising their collective voices to “America.”
Andover music today continues to take on many forms. There is the Andover Chamber Music group, founded in 1997 by flutist Julie Scolnik and her husband, physicist Michael Brower. “The Sunrise Singers” is a volunteer chorus of Andover senior citizens, directed by Linda Kirk. The Treble Chorus of New England, a group of young people, founded in 1975, performs choral music with programming that includes opera and professional collaborations. The New England Classical Singers, founded in 1968, draws members from throughout the Merrimack Valley. There is even the award-winning Merrimack Valley Chorus, women’s a cappella voices joining together in the tradition of barbershop quartet singing.
No matter what the occasion, whether the spring musical at South Church, summer pop concerts in the park, the annual Messiah Sing at Phillips Academy, or Selectman Brian Major singing “God Bless America” at the July 4th pancake breakfast, for modern Andover – clearly – the beat goes on.