Holy Name Band has the feel of a family

Joseph Herde, former director of the Holy Name Band, was presented a jacket by the band’s current director, his daughter, Carolyn H. Cook, as members of the band applauded April 23. The band had just performing a concert at the Little Sisters of the Poor’s St. Joseph Home for the Aged, one of dozens of concerts the band presents each year. (Record Photo by Glenn Rutherford)

Record Editor

The Holy Name Band gathered before a handful of listeners April 23 at the St. Joseph Home for the Aged and played about an hour and a half of music that filled the halls with marches and waltzes, swing tunes and love songs.

They did it with smiles on their faces between numbers, determination apparent during the playing. And they did it, as they have each year since 1939, for one another.
Especially for three of their members who were honored at the end of last Monday’s concert.

Joe Herde, until recently the band’s director, was honored for his 70 years with the Holy Name Band. Joe Harpring received a pin for 50 years of volunteer horn playing, and Tony Emrich — brother to the band’s founder, the late Father Joseph Emrich — was presented a pin for his 52 years of service. Don Stroud received a pin for the 20 years he’s spent playing in the band, too.

Their decades of commitment seems the norm, not the exception, for members of the Holy Name Band. Since Father Emrich launched the band and the Holy Name Choral Club back in 1939, the band — now some 55 to 60 members strong — has been a fixture in the Archdiocese of Louisville.

Through the years they’ve played at Corpus Christi processions, at living rosaries, at ball parks and nursing homes and all manner of public gatherings. And for those who lie at the soul of the band — its players and their families — the group is as much a part of life as family meals and doing the dishes.

Take the Herde family, for instance. These days Joe Herde, 87, gets around in a wheel chair, and he’s passed the baton as the band’s director to his daughter, Carolyn Herde Cook. When she’s not directing the band, Cook hands the baton to co-director James Taylor and takes her seat in the clarinet section, across from her sister, a niece and a brother.

“It’s just been a part of our family for so long, we don’t even think of it as unusual,” said Marcella Herde, Joe’s wife and Carolyn’s mom.

“All eight of our children played music,” she said, with just a hint of pride. “In our house you had to finish your second piano lesson book before you could get a two-wheeled bicycle.”
Seven of the eight Herde children played in the Holy Name Band, Marcella Herde said. The eighth joined the Navy.

“The band rehearses each Monday from January to the middle of March,” she explained, “and then their season starts in the spring and just about each and every Monday they’re playing somewhere.”

In November the band begins rehearsing Christmas music, and December is filled with holiday concerts. “Then in January the whole thing starts all over again,” Marcella Herde said.

The band’s concert last Monday had a familial feel to it. There was light-hearted banter between Schubert’s “March Militaire,” some John Williams movie music, and a medley of World War II music that was part of the varied and diverse program at the St. Joseph home.

“We’re a dying breed, I guess you could say,” Harpring said before the concert began. “But I’ve done this most of my life, for 52 years, and when I started Joe Herde was my band director down at Flaget High School. We’ve been together ever since; I guess we just can’t get rid of each other.”

Harpring, Herde and Tony Emrich all admit to loving what they do with the band. Emrich isn’t playing these days; he’s taking what director Cook called “a medical leave.”

But he was there on the 23rd, and he’s proud to have been playing with the band since 1947.

“I’ve been around so long I remember playing for the Little Sisters of the Poor when they were over on 10th Street,” he said with a grin.  “We played the Corpus Christi processions at Churchill Downs and before we played there, the procession was actually where Bellarmine (University) is now. There are a lot of memories among all the people in this room.”

And a lot of joy, too.

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