WEST HARRISON, N.Y. – In 1968 progressive rock band Rat Race Choir played its first concert at the White Plains YWCA, and the band is still going strong, performing its 44th anniversary concert Thursday night on the Village Green in West Harrison.
“My first girlfriend lived on Columbus Avenue in West Harrison, and I used to come up the street from where we are playing tonight,” said bass player Dave Chmela, who founded the band. “Being here is kind of bittersweet, because when I come back I remember her, but playing in West Harrison trumps that because we are at home here.”
Chmela and keyboardist Larry McGowan are the two original members still with the band. Craig Weinberg took over on guitar a decade ago, and Ray Scalzo is now the drummer. At their peak, Rat Race Choir would play 300 shows a year. Though now reduced to two or three, Chmela said the band still appreciates the fan support over the years which has kept them going.
“We’ve had many fans in the 1970s and '80s who were in their 20s and 30s at the time, who followed us and now come to our shows in their 40s and 50s,” Chmela said. “A lot are grandparents now and will bring their kids and grandkids.”
Chmela said the band was a staple on the Long Island club circuit 30 years ago, adding that many people who met at Rat Race Choir shows got married.
“We had to have married a dozen couples,” Chmela said.
Even though they didn’t make it as big as other bands they performed with, Rat Race Choir had a decent run, which included a couple of shows with John Entwistle, legendary bass player for The Who.
“We’re very open-minded, but the main thing has always been musicianship of the highest caliber,” Chmela said. “We have camaraderie and respect for one another and have always been working, whether writing or playing, for the past 44 years.”