After nearly half a century of performances including tours with The Who and headline performances at Jethro Tull conventions, Rat Race Choir is celebrating its 43rd anniversary Thursday night right here in West Harrison.
The White Plains-based progressive rock fusion group will take stage on the West Harrison green as part of the town's summer concert series, bringing a variety of instrumental and vocal talents to the stage for all to enjoy—free of charge.
It's a bit of a homecoming for the band, and will mark the second time Rat Race Choir has performed in Harrison's concert series.
"It's great playing here," said Dave Chmela, one of the band's two original members, adding that he used to ride his bike in Silver Lake as a kid. "It's sort of our home town, it's right there by White Plains."
Over the years the band has toured the concert scene throughout the region, at one point playing as many as 300 shows a year. A concert-driven band, Rat Race Choir plays a combination of more obscure cover songs and original music. Chmela said the band's strength has always been their instrumentals and ability to play some of the most difficult songs off the mainstream radar.
"We've always been known over the years as kind of a musicians band," he said. "A lot of musicians used to come and see us."
Although the four-member band has seen plenty of change over the years, including five different guitar players and three keyboardists, Chmela said this is the best Rat Race Choir has ever been.
Current band members include Chmela, who plays bass, Lawrence McGowan, who plays keyboard, Adam Snyder, who plays drums and Craig Weinberg, who plays guitar. Ages range from 26 (Weinberg) to 60 (Chmela).
"I believe right now we've got the best lineup talent-wise we have ever had," he said, "which is saying something."
It all started for Rat Race Choir in the late '60s at White Plains High School, when Chmela and a classmate decided to team up during a High School science class. Since then the band has toured the club and concert scene, playing at a variety of venues and teaming up with some major bands over the years. Some have even credited Rat Race Choir with changing the club scene from dance to a concert event back in the late '70s.
The current version of the band has been together for eight years. Weinberg, the newest addition, has been playing Rat Race Choir songs since his early teens. He joined the band when he was 18 and has been a member since.
"He is a phenomenal guitar player," said Chmela, calling Weinberg a prodigy who had a guitar in his hands since his pre-teens. "It's worth the trip just to see Craig play."
Although the tours have slowed down for the band recently, Chmela promised Rat Race Choir still brings same powerful rock that has become the band's trademark over the years. Although a few faces have changed, Chmela said he likes the current direction of the band entering year 44.
"People that were out of the mainstream think they're coming to see the band they saw in the '70s—and it sounds exactly the same, we kept a lot of the music—but, like I said, I think we're better," he said.
Rat Race Choir's 43rd Anniversary Concert will begin at 7 p.m.