McGalliard Brought The Music To Brooks Park

By: William F. Galvin

Cynthia McGalliard playing the bells for the Harwich Town Band.  COURTESY PHOTO


HARWICH — Cynthia McGalliard brought the music into Harwich Center and the smile on children’s faces as recreational programs in this community expanded under her tutelage. Mrs. McGalliard, passed away on Feb. 9 at the age of 90.

Mrs. McGalliard was the secretary for the parks and recreation commission for 31 years and was instrumental in expanding recreation programs over those years. One of those initiatives was the creation of the Harwich Town Band.

“If you don’t know, she was one of the people who back in 1975 led the charge to form the town band. It was she, along with then recreation director Richard Campbell who placed the advertisement in the paper looking for musicians oh those many years ago leading to what is now a summer Tuesday night Harwich institution,” Tom Jahnke, Director of the Harwich Town Band, wrote in an email to band members.

Mrs. McGalliard and her family had strong ties to the town band and to the recreation department. Her uncle, Earl Bassett, was known as the “Father of Recreation” in Harwich, starting the first programs in the town. Her father, Wendell Bassett, served for a couple of years on the recreation commission and he was the original manager of the band, Jahnke noted.

The advertisement drew a terrific response from musicians and the town band began to march along, figuratively speaking. When the Harwich Town Band performed in the Fourth of July Parade in 1975, band members were traveling on a horse-drawn wagon.

The band proponents reached across the town line to South Dennis and brought in Anthony W. Stevens, a teacher at the Cape Cod Conservatory, to serve as the first band master. They played two songs on their first trip along that parade route, “America” and “As the Caissons Go Rolling Along.”

Mrs. McGalliard played an instrumental role in the band, accessing the bandstand in Brooks Park, which has become home base and center stage for the now traditional Tuesday night Harwich Town Band concerts each summer. She was an active member of the band for many years, playing the bells.

“I remember her fondly as a kind and sweet person whose love for her town and the bandstand at Brooks Park made Harwich a better place,” Jahnke said. “It was also during a conversation with Cynthia, as she was telling me about the history of the Harwich Town Band, that partially inspired my children’s book “Little Town Band.”

“Cynthia was one of the sweetest most generous people I’ve met,” Harwich Town Band member Dorothy Hemmings said this week. “The town band organized by her father Wendell, who played the coronet, and herself, was her pride and joy. She didn’t like to be referred to as the band manager, she preferred secretary. But she certainly did ‘manage’ the band for many years.

“She was so gracious when it was her turn to step back and let me take over playing Orchestra Bells in the band,” she added. “She was as excited as I was when my bells arrived in the mail from eBay. We unpacked them together.”

Mrs. McGalliard began working for the recreation department in 1970 and from that point forward the department grew and expanded. Described as the glue that held that department together, she was praised for building a recreation department considered to be one of the best on the Cape.

“Cynthia worked full-time, but got paid for part-time,” former parks and recreation commission chairman, the late Lee Culver, said of Mrs. McGalliard at her retirement party in 2001.

Harwich Town Band member Robert Domos, at that retirement party, call Mrs. McGalliard “the pillar, the stone people built upon. Without her the Harwich Town Band would be nothing.”

When asked what she planned to do in retirement, Mrs. McGalliard said, “I’m going to do exactly what I’ve been doing, but take a little bit longer and do a little better job at it.”

Mrs. McGalliard was predeceased by her parents, Alice and Wendell Bassett, her husband Thomas McGalliard, brothers Wendell and Franklin Bassett. She is survived by her brother Richard and his wife Eleanor. At the family’s request services will be held privately.