Leslie “Les” Muncaster thinks he and his wife, Marcia, performed at least 240 concerts with Ocala’s Sun Kingdom Concert Band over the past 24 years, but the number is likely higher.
Les, the band’s bandleader, and Marcia, its singer, will take part in one last concert next weekend before hanging up their bandleader’s baton and microphone, signaling their retirement after decades with the band. the Marion County art scene.
The performances, aptly titled “Curtain Call,” will take place Saturday, March 5 at 2 p.m. and Sunday, March 6 at 3 p.m. Auditorium of the Marion Technical Institute, 1614 SE Fort King St., Ocala. They are free and open to the public.
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“I think the most important thing for me was the fact that together we were able to enjoy something that we both love and be able to share it with other people”, Marcia, who also stars in the percussion section of the group, mentioned. “How many people can do that? »
From the Air Force to Ocala
Kingdom of the Sun Concert Band, which began in 1990, is an all-volunteer organization made up of musicians of all ages and professions who give free concerts.
The Muncasters, who have been together for more than 42 years, moved from the Mississippi Gulf Coast to Ocala in 1992 after a career in the military – Les with more than 27 years as a musician in the US Air Force Band and Marcia as a former vocalist in the US Air Force Band.
Les was also involved with the Ocala Civic Theater for five years as musical director and conductor before he and Marcia became members of Kingdom of the Sun in 1998.
His reasoning for staying in the volunteer position all these years is simple.
“Because it’s fun,” he said. “When I took over the band, there were 35 members and the audience was around 125. We now have 90 in the band and our audience averages around 900 per gig.”
In addition to growing the band over the past 24 years, the Muncasters and the band’s Board of Directors have welcomed many guest artists, introduced scholarships for Marion County Public School students and chosen a wide range of selections to perform at concerts, which are practiced at seven rehearsals. before each show.
“We’ve done in the past where we’ve asked the audience to give us things they’d like to hear, we’ve done band favorites, we’ve done my favorites, so we’ve done a combination of things,” Les said. says song selections.
One of his favorites, “Ouverture à Candide”, will be performed in the final show. Marcia’s favorites include “Over the Rainbow,” “Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again” from “Phantom of the Opera” and “Bring Him Home” from “Les Mis,” the latter two of which are on next week’s schedule.
“They want to hear Marcia sing more”
Although public reviews suggest that the Kingdom of the Sun Concert Band is stellar on their own, Les considers the series of guest artists one of his greatest accomplishments.
“We had Colonel Arnald Gabriel, who was the conductor emeritus of the Air Force Band in Washington DC. We had a clarinet soloist who was a clarinet professor at Arizona State University. We had Harry Watters, who was a trombone player,” Les said. “He does ‘Flight of the Bumble Bee’ on the trombone, so it’s really phenomenal.”
The Muncasters also expressed their thanks to Marion County Public Schools for their support over the years and highlighted the strong connection to the schools.
The age of the musicians ranges from early teens to over 90, and there are currently many students, school music teachers, and retired managers in the group. An estimated 150 to 200 high school students have passed through the group over the years.
“I’m really happy to say that most of them went to college, and a lot of them are now band managers in Florida, so it’s kind of a stepping stone,” he said. he declares. “They play in this group with the older members, who are more seasoned and more experienced, so they can learn a lot, plus it keeps the older ones on their toes because they have to keep up with the younger ones.
The Muncasters have received many positive comments over the years, including thanks for keeping concerts free or playing certain music.
“People will write and say, ‘You give so much to the community,'” Marcia said. “People will say, ‘That was your best gig.’ They always say the last one was always the best gig ever. “We love it when you do this particular song” or “We’re so grateful you do this for the community.”
Les says audiences also appreciate the band’s salute to the military at the end of each concert since taking over and the other tributes it holds each year at Ocala/Marion County Veterans’ Memorial Park.
“The other praise we get is that they want to hear Marcia sing more,” he said.
Cruise and family time for retirement
The band will be in good hands: David Fritz, a retired college band manager who has been Les’s assistant for the past year, will take over. Les will remain as a board member and liaison with the Veterans Park.
“It’s going to take him a while to adjust, but it’s been my band for 24 years, and he’s going to have to make it his band,” Les said. “I will be sad. I’ll miss it, but I think it’s time. I mean, I’m 85. It’s time for me to step aside and let someone else do it and give myself some free time to do the things I need to do while I can still do them.
While the Muncasters will stay in Ocala for their retirement and become spectators at the Kingdom of the Sun concerts, they have planned a special 16-day cruise to Europe to first spend time with their children and grandchildren in England.
After that, they plan to prioritize more family time with loved ones in the United States.
“It’s bittersweet because you realize it’s been such a big part of our lives,” Marcia said. “Very bittersweet that the possibility or contingency of never happening again is difficult, but it has to happen now.”
Contact reporter Danielle Johnson at [email protected]m.