Special to the Tribune/Advisor
On Saturday, November 9th, our own Cariboo Gold Dance Band will be performing a tribute to our veterans with An Evening of Remembrance.
Celebrating the swing music of the Big Band era, with the great songs of the ’30s, ’40s and ’50s, these songs served to boost the morale of the troops and raise the spirits of those of us at home during the Second World War.
The Big Band really began its development in the early 1900s and paralleled the evolution of both modern dance and New Orleans jazz that was moving to Chicago, New York and many of the other large cities of the United States.
Typically consisting of four musical sections, a big band has a trumpet section, a trombone section, various saxophones and a rhythm section, including drums, bass, guitar and piano. Total numbers vary, but most big bands have 15 to 18 members in total and can have a powerful sound that is truly sensational.
Many big band songs are written in simple form repeating the same phrase and chord structure several times. Each chorus commonly follows a 12 bar blues form or 32-bar (AABA) song form. The first chorus of an arrangement introduces the melody and is followed by choruses of development. This development may take the form of improvised solos, written soli sections, and “shout choruses” where the energy of the band is incredible. In some vocal arrangements, the first chorus is preceded by an introduction, which may be as short as a few measures or may extend to a chorus of its own.
Some big ensembles, like King Oliver’s, played music that was half-arranged, half-improvised, often relying on head arrangements. A head arrangement is a piece of music that is created by band members during rehearsal. They would experiment, then memorize the new piece, without writing it on sheet music. During the 1930s, Count Basie’s band often used head arrangements. As Basie said, “we just sort of start it off and the others fall in.”
Before 1910, social dance in America was dominated by the waltz and polka, but as jazz migrated from New Orleans, energetic, suggestive dances travelled with it. During the next decades, ballrooms filled with people doing the jitterbug and Lindy Hop. The foxtrot was introduced in the 1920s and became a hit almost overnight. Swing music began appearing in the early 1930s and was distinguished by a more supple feel than the more literal 4/4 of early jazz. The walking bass line in the rhythm section also helped make the swing style music smooth and easy to dance to. This type of music flourished through the early 1930s. After 1935, big bands rose to prominence playing swing music and played a major role in defining the swing style.
There was a considerable range of styles among the hundreds of popular WW II big bands. Many of the well-known bands reflected the individuality of the band leader, the lead arranger, and the band personnel.
Count Basie played a relaxed, propulsive swing, Benny Goodman a hard-driving swing, and Duke Ellington’s compositions were varied and sophisticated. Many bands featured strong instrumentalists whose sounds dominated, such as the clarinet of Artie Shaw, the trombone of Tommy Dorsey, the trumpet of Harry James and the drums of Gene Krupa. The popularity of many of the major bands was also amplified by star vocalists, such as Ella Fitzgerald, Billy Holiday, Doris Day, and of course Frank Sinatra.
When the Second World War started in 1939, it was quickly recognized that music would play an important role in boosting of morale and patriotism. Many songs of the late 30s and 40s reminded the troops and those at home of the need to support the efforts of the soldiers, and military big bands formed to help ensure the strength of these efforts. During WWII the Glenn Miller Orchestra toured with other USO troupes and included almost 50 members. Tragically, Miller and others in the band were killed December 15, 1944, when their plane was shot down over the English Channel.
Remembrance Day is a memorial day observed in, since the end of the First World War to remember the members of their armed forces who died in the line of duty. It was first observed on November 11, 1918, following the signing of the armistice.
Today, we observe Remembrance Day as a time to remember and honour all soldiers and support personnel that served our country, past and present. Many of these dedicated individuals tragically lost their lives in conflict and their service and ultimate sacrifice is honoured in Canada on Remembrance Day.
The CGDB invites you to An Evening of Remembrance, a family-friendly event supported in part by the Williams Lake Community Arts Council, being held one night only.
Mark your calendars, and join them Saturday, November 9, in the Gibraltar Room of the Cariboo Memorial Complex. Be sure to wear your dancing shoes.
Adults are just $20, seniors and children are $15. To show appreciation for and in recognition of their service, veterans in uniform will be admitted free of charge.
Tickets are available from Cariboo Gold Dance Band members and at The Open Book, and the door if still available.