Ensemble lifts spirits with lively outdoor concerts

The Palm Island Music Ensemble performs at a pre-Christmas concert in Palm Bay. From left are Norman E. Madison on baritone, Brian Nemeth on clarinet, Rena L. Madison on trumpet and Klaus Kolb on keyboard.

At a time when most concerts are being canceled, the Palm Island Music Ensemble’s goal is to offer open-air live music in a safe setting.

At a pre-Christmas concert in Palm Bay, more than 50 attendees wearing masks sat in wheelchairs, scooters, lawn chairs and their cars to hear and sing along with Christmas songs, as well as German hymns and polkas.

“We are specialists in open-air live concerts that we call Music in the Park. People enjoy listening to the music in their lawn chairs positioned at proper social distances while wearing masks. This is a positive and safe approach during the restrictions of the pandemic,” said Klaus Kolb, 86, who founded the group.

Mary Ellen Baldwin, recreation chairman for Country Club Vista, said the concert was the subdivision’s first activity in months. “With COVID, everything else was canceled. This is just what we need right now,” she said.

Julie Steed of Palm Bay agreed. “It’s convenient to be outside. There were no other activities (for Christmas). This is something to pick your spirits up.”

In 2014, Kolb formed the Palm Island Trio with longtime musician friends Rena L. Madison on trumpet and her husband, Norman E. Madison, on baritone. Kolb plays accordion and keyboard. They began the Spring Music in the Park following the pandemic shutdown, performing at Watts Park on Merritt Island and Merritt Island Rotary Park. When the group planned a CD, they invited Brian Nemeth to play clarinet.

All four retirees play with the Harbor City Dance Band that Nemeth directs. Band rehearsals from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. Wednesdays are open to the public wearing masks at the Italian-American Club at 1471 Cypress Ave. in Melbourne.

The CD, “Enchanted Dance Tunes,” is primarily German polkas and waltzes. It costs $15 and is available by emailing Kolb at Klaus.kolb@yahoo.com.

“We wouldn’t have come if it was inside. Usually, we see the Melbourne Municipal Band or jazz groups, but they’re not performing indoors,” said Carol Aumann of Indian Harbour Beach.

“We just want to give people joy,” said Rene Norman, who now manages the band.

Nemeth added: “We don’t take ourselves seriously. We just have fun.”

Upcoming concerts include Gleason Park in Indian Harbour Beach on Feb. 13 and March 13; Ryckman Park in Melbourne Beach on Feb. 20 and March 20; and Rotary Park, Merritt Island, on Feb. 27 and March 27. All concerts run from 2 to 3 p.m.