What is big band music, you might ask, especially if you were born well after the era of the famous bands like Tommy Dorsey and Glen Miller. You may think you don’t know music from those times, but Val Anderson, musician with the Creek Big Band, knows better.
“One of the highlights is when the audience is talking and laughing among themselves, then our band strikes up In the Mood. It’s electric. Everyone sits up and wants to dance,” Anderson said.
In the Mood is just one of the classic tunes the Creek Big Band will perform at Dancing Under the Stars at the Sunshine Coast Golf and Country Club (SCG&CC) on Aug. 24. Other favourites include Tuxedo Junction, Pennsylvania 6-5000 and Moonglow, good old-fashioned material.
But the ensemble also plays jazz of all kinds — most recently performing at the Gibsons Landing Jazz Festival.
“Jazz includes so many types of music, blues and swing,” said Doug Reid, saxophonist.
Currently the band is under the direction of Graham Ord, who leans towards experimental and progressive jazz.
The Creek Big Band is made up of unpaid volunteer players — about 18 of them — who donate their time and effort to play swing, jazz, dance, Latin and rock tunes. Some are retired; some work at their day jobs. One is a dentist, the other a contractor, several are professional musicians and music teachers with years of experience. Reid, for example, the elder statesman, as he likes to be known, is retired, but he has composed about a dozen tunes for the Big Band. Music is his avocation, he said.
The Big Band got its start with a course on jazz in 1997 taught by Blaine Dunaway, who would later go on to be its conductor.
“He gave us a feel for the music; it developed our artistic side,” some members agree.
When Dunaway left the Coast for a while, Dave Morgan took over. The late Lyle Carter and Harry Busby were also band leaders. Carter’s strength was his encyclopaedic knowledge of jazz, while Busby offered his obvious joy and exuberance to the music. Each conductor added to the mix, and the band members remain committed to working together for the love of music.
The money earned from paying gigs goes towards scholarships for students graduating from Coast high schools who intend to go on to music or related studies. Fact is, there has been a shortage of paying gigs these days for the eager band. Yes, it’s a little difficult to pack an 18-member band into a small venue, plus they may be too expensive for the average event. But they hasten to say that their rates are variable and they would really like to be performing more at civic events or community gigs.
The musical line-up for high school dances is often determined by the teenage students now, and they don’t seem interested in swing music. But Gordon Catherwood, trombonist, points out that the band has a repertoire of more than 700 tunes — many of them rock music.
“If we don’t get heard, we don’t get hired,” Reid said.
They have performed at dances, weddings and a recent highlight — they were invited to play in Vancouver for a reunion of naval college retirees that drew an international audience.
Jackie Coombs, food and beverage manager at the SCG&CC reports that tickets are $35 per person and they include a buffet dinner and music out of doors in a beautiful setting. The conductor for that evening is Michael Grice, who has been filling in for the summer. Doors open at 6:30 with dinner at 7 p.m. Tickets are available at the club. Phone 604-885-9217. For more information about the band, see www.creekbigband.net or contact Anderson at 604-885-6756.