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Big band music comes to Riley

March 28, 2011

By STEVEN NALLEY
citybeat@bellsouth.net

For audiences young and old, for fans of Frank Sinatra, Glenn Miller and Jimmy Dorsey, the 1940s are just one shuttle ride away this weekend.
The Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra and the Pied Pipers will present “America’s Hits on Parade” Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at Mississippi State University’s Riley Center in Meridian.
Shuttles from MSU will leave at 4:30 p.m. from the north end of the Zacharias Village lot across from Griffis Hall on campus. Shuttle tickets cost $10 and can be requested by calling the Riley Center box office at 601-696-2200 before ordering concert tickets.
From the 1930s to his death in 1957, Jimmy Dorsey led his orchestra to produce several of the big band genre’s greatest hits, including “Amapola,” “Tangerine” and “So Rare.” The Pied Pipers, a vocal quartet, share in the orchestra’s history, with their most famous alumnus, Frank Sinatra, leading the Pipers and the orchestra in making the collaborative hit “I’ll Never Smile Again.”
Now, with Bill Pole as Dorsey’s latest successor and a new generation of four singers in the Pied Pipers, the two groups carry the hits of the past forward to a new audience.
Dennis Sankovich, executive director of the Riley Center, said this is not the first time big band music has come to the venue.
“We had the Glenn Miller Orchestra here a few years ago,” Sankovich said. “It was just an opportunity to hearken back to an older era. We try to have something for everyone here.”
And when Sankovich says “something for everyone,” he means he tries to book artists everyone will enjoy, he said. While older generations are likelier to remember the original Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra, Sankovich said, younger audiences often enjoy the music, too.
“There’s a broad spectrum of people who find that fun,” Sankovich said. “We have, in some of our high schools and even in our colleges, students who play big band music.”
He said the Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra and Pied Pipers set themselves apart from other, more recent bands with traits unique to the ‘40s. For instance, Sankovich said, there are few bands today that have 20 members on stage at once.
“It’s as relevant today as it was in the 1940s,” Sankovich said. “It’s music that maybe hearkens back to an older era, but it’s still fresh. This is going to be very different sounding.”
Sankovich said tickets to the show were still readily available, and sales are growing as the night of the event approaches, as is often the case. He said he was looking forward to the performance, especially the vocal stylings of the Pied Pipers.
“I think what they should expect is they’re going to hear some nice vocal harmonies,” Sankovich said. “Maybe Lawrence Welk put it best when he called it ‘toe-tapping music.’”

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