Sunday, December 7, 2008

A night at the Elks club

One of my little side jobs is that I play trumpet in a "Big Band". I don't necessarily mean big in terms of size although that is how the term got started. The Big Band era originated in the 1930's and 1940's and became a style of dance music as much as a description of the bands that played during this time. These were the days of Benny Goodman, Count Basie, and Duke Ellington, with songs like "String of Pearls" and "In the Mood."

Big Bands are a dying breed. For one, they are expensive. It costs a bit when you have to pay so many musicians. Many clubs choose DJ's or smaller groups to save on cost. For another, people tend to do other activities these days than go out dancing, probably because there aren't many clubs that pay for live music so they find other pursuits. But I do notice most of the people that we play for are, shall we say, of the more "senior" generation.

It's too bad, really. This music is way before my time, before my Dad's time in fact. But it is wonderful music to play and listen to. I understand it's also some of the best music for dancing. Statements like this always bring to mind one of Schroeder's comments from the Peanuts comics. "Musicians don't dance." A more apt phrase could not be applied to me. I truly have 2 left feet when it comes to perusing a dance floor.

It's a great job. We don't play as often as some of the more popular groups which is just fine with me. When you have a full time job, a part time job, involvement in church functions, and 2 children in a variety of activities your discretionary time is very limited. But it's just often enough that I get to play and keep up the trumpet skills I spent 7 years of my school life honing. I know I wouldn't play hardly at all if it were not for the bands I'm in. And like all talents, if you don't use them, you lose them.

But by far the most rewarding aspect of this is seeing the look on these older couple's faces as they pirouette around the dance floor. Their eyes are either closed or they are transfixed in the eyes of their partner. The joy truly glows as they're transported back 50 years or more to what had to have been, "the good 'ole days."

We've developed a respectable following at the Bismarck Elks club. The band manager gets along well with the club's manager, and we've had a few good reviews that have found their way back to the Elk's management. So that's where I was Saturday evening. We've got some more dances scheduled for January 16-17, February 13-14, and again on May 5. We play from 8-11PM. If you're not an Elks member, you can be really polite to the door man and say you'd really like to come and listen to the band. Most of the time they'll let you in. Please check us out if you're interested. For my male readers, your significant others would really appreciate an evening of dancing.


Steve at Random said...

@I love Glenn Miller, and, of course, my favorite Miller song is "In the Mood." I was in college when I realized there were words to the song so I had to learn them. Like the author, I too have two left feet, but my wife likes to dance so I might see if we can sneak away to the Elks on a cold night in February and "trip the light fantastic." I might add that I am well acquainted with Big Al's Big Band that the author play with because of their appearances at the Mandan band booster night and at the summer concert series in the BN park in Mandan. I could listen to them for hours. And besides playing trumpet, the author also has a beautiful tenor voice that blends well with big band sound.

randymeiss said...

We'd love to have you. The doorman shouldn't bother you but if he does tell him to go get Randy Meissner and I'll come and vouche for you myself!

Funny you mentioned "In the Mood" easily our most requested song. Unfortunately it's the band's least favorite simply because we've played it so much and so often. But you are guaranteed to hear it at least once in the 1st set (we can't leave unless we play it) we had to play it twice on Saturday because we got some late-comers.

The trumpet player really screams on the solo (not me).

Clint said...

I'm with you fellers on this one. As far as Schroeder's comment about musicians not dancing, we can certainly apply that to the horrid bucket of putrescence commonly referred to as "pop music" over the past decade or so, can't we!

Now I think I'll have to switch the DirecTV receiver in this room over to the Big Band channel, or grab my iPod...this discussion has put me In the Mood (pun intended).