Retired ENMU music director belts out Christmas tunes
Louis Burkel, 85, has played every Christmas concert with The Clovis Community Band since joining the band in 1980. CNJ staff photo: Jack King.
Louis Burkel has spent a lifetime with music, either playing it or teaching it to others.
Burkel, who retired in 1980 as director of the school of music at Eastern New Mexico University, began playing in the 1930s in his native Missouri and began teaching it there in 1940.
A devotee of the swing music of ’40s bands that included Glen Miller, Artie Shaw and Tommy Dorsey, Burkel has conducted his own bands and played trumpet in others, including Bill Case’s swing band at Clovis’ State Theater.
At 85, the oldest member of The Clovis Community Band, was back in action on Sunday as an estimated 600 people attended the annual Christmas concert at Marshall Auditorium.
“It’s one of the biggest audiences we’ve had, although we’ve always had great support from the community,” said Wayne Anderson, coordinator of music for Clovis Public Schools.
The Community Band played the national anthem, a suite of Christmas classics, “Christmas Fantasia,” a “Fantasy on a French Carol,” “God Rest Ye Merry” and “Jump Swing Fever.”
A combined chorus of the Clovis High Chorale, the Clovis Community College High Plains Chorale and the Clovis Community Choir sang “A Festival of Carols,” “Bring a Torch, Jeannette Isabella,” and the “Hallelujah!” chorus.
The 37-member Clovis Community Band includes members from Clovis, Portales, Muleshoe and Friona, said director Donald Young.
The combined chorus boasted 110 voices, Anderson said.
Burkel and his trumpet were coaxed out of retirement in 1980 by the community band’s founder and first conducter Norvil Howell. Burkel said he gave up bowling to play with the Howell’s new band.
“I was living in Portales, and I was bowling every other Monday. Then this group got organized and it got to where I was bowling one Monday and coming up here the next Monday. I told my wife, ‘This is foolish. I might as well give up the bowling,’” he said.
Burkel has played in every Christmas concert since then, although he took time off last year to nurse his wife, Marjorie, through her last illness. They celebrated their 63rd wedding anniversary in August and she died in October, he said.
He said he thinks this year’s Christmas concert went “real well.”
“We vary some of the things the band does. And I think the choir does different things, but we always play the ‘Hallelujah!’ chorus from Handel’s ‘Messiah.’ It’s pretty traditional,” he said.