TOWNSEND -- Nobody was using their library voice. They didn't need to. The spacious room was filled with toe-tappers and trippers of the light fantastic. The Indian Hill Big Band was at it again.
A yearly performance by the semiprofessional big band has become a tradition at the Townsend Public library. April 7 marked the fourth concert by the local musicians based in the Indian Hill Music School in Littleton.
Most of the performers are students; they take band as a class during the academic year, meeting for two hours of practice weekly. A few are professional musicians, like leader and founder Jerry Sabatini from Leominster. The accomplished jazz musician led the group from his seat in the trumpet section.
The first set was meant for listening. Tunes both new and familiar filled the barrel-vaulted room of the main library. Band members stood for solos, and the sections were tight whether they were accompanying the soloist or being featured.
Sabatini was awed by the acoustics. "This place is great. It sounds so good," he said.
Volunteers, many from the Townsend Couples Club and the Townsend Public Library Endowment Fund, set the room up for the concert. Computers and tables disappeared, clearing space from the doors to the center of the hall.
The room was full. Organizers continued to add chairs during the first set as even more trickled in. Carolyn Sellars, president of the endowment, counted 171 audience members. Including all the volunteers, she estimated there were around 200 people enjoying the jazz.
The second set featured swing dance tunes. Room was left in front of the orchestra for dancing, but Sellars was afraid she did not see any of the usual dancers in the audience.
Her fears were unfounded. As soon as the first tune began, couples stood and glided to the front of the room, reveling in the experience of dancing to an acoustic band.
Sabatini founded the group 15 years ago and returned to lead it again this year when the director went on sabbatical. The band has made a lot of progress over the years, he said.
Some of the players from Sabatini's first two years with the band are still gigging with the group. "You have to have a hobby," one said.
The afternoon was funded by the endowment. The group has given the library more than $66,000 in grants since it was incorporated in 2008. "It's a community investing in itself. Life in Townsend is more exciting and more enlightening for us," Sellars said.