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MSO turns back the clock with timeless big band tunes

September 18, 2005|By KATE COLEMAN

The joint was jumping, the Maryland Symphony Orchestra was swinging and the audience was loving every minute - every note - of Bravo Big Band, the pops concert of the orchestra's 24th season Saturday night at The Maryland Theatre.

Soprano Lynn Roberts; Michael Maguire, a Tony Award-winning tenor; and saxophone, clarinet and flute player Bill Holcombe joined the MSO for a sentimental journey to the music of America's "greatest generation."

Iconic tunes of the era were represented. The program included songs by Cole Porter and Hoagy Carmichael. There was a medley of Frank Sinatra hits, and although Maguire mentioned that they were intimidating to sing, no one was disappointed.

The program opened with Glenn Miller's hit "American Patrol," and the orchestra next played Miller's "Moonlight Serenade" and the swinging "String of Pearls."

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Music Director Elizabeth Schulze invited the audience to step out and do some jitterbugging if they were so moved.

Although no one in the audience danced, many heads were bobbing to the rhythms.

Holcombe brought along a saxophone quartet, and their featured parts drew the audience's enthusiastic appreciation.

Schulze took time to introduce Holcombe, 80.

"There is not a musician in the United States - and probably around the world - who does not know the arrangements of Bill Holcombe."

Roberts and Maguire's first duet was "You Make Me Feel So Young." They also shared the stage for "Oh Look At Me Now" and "Unforgettable," which Roberts said probably was the newest song in the show. They danced together during an instrumental section of the song.

Roberts performed with several of the superstar band leaders - Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey, Benny Goodman and Harry James.

Still a "girl singer" at 70, Roberts sang "Big Band Singer," a song that she said tells the story.

Schulze introduced the last song in the show's first half - a tune rejected by bandleader Benny Goodman.

"In the Mood" became Glenn Miller's tune, and the MSO's rendition brought a roar of approval from the house.

For many in the audience, the concert brought back memories. John Hull of Hagerstown said big band music was the background music of his growing up. He said he was amazed by the number of songs on the program.

"Isn't this great?" asked a beaming Harry Hamby of Hagerstown at intermission.

The 87-year-old, who dances at concerts at Pen Mar Park in Cascade, said he saw many of the big band greats at Atlantic City, N.J.'s, Steel Pier.

"This is my kind of music," he said.

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