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Nov. 3 concert celebrates first anniversary of grand piano arrival


CRESTVIEW — Warriors Hall will erupt into an evening of lively big band and jazz music when the Friends of the Arts present “A Swinging Serenade” on Nov. 3. The concert, which features the Downbeat Jazz Orchestra, marks the first anniversary of the arts group’s acquisition of a grand piano for the city-owned auditorium, and the cherry-wood instrument will feature prominently.

Dick Reinlie, owner of UpBeat Music in Crestview, and Will Corbin formed the 17-piece orchestra as the Playground Big Band, music director Michael Walker said.

“They were classmates at Choctaw a while ago,” Walker said. “The band got its genesis at Playground Music in Fort Walton Beach. We felt it was time for us to expand our horizons beyond the Playground area. The name was a little bit localized.”

While attendees at Saturday’s concert will have many opportunities to cut the rug to Hit Parade swing standards during the concert, the orchestra’s repertoire extends beyond tunes of the great band era, Walker said.

“We do a lot of the classic … themes that people associate with big band music — the Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey, those (kinds) of things — but we also do some of the specialized big band and jazz music,” he said. “The music of Buddy Rich, Maynard Ferguson, some of the more significant weight pieces. They’re more like serious compositions.”

Like many bands of the 1930s and ’40s, vocals are an integral part of the Downbeat Jazz Orchestra.

“Our singer is really the centerpiece of our band,” Walker said. “We feature the vocals of Gina Walker.”

Saundra Daggs, known as the First Lady of Crestview Jazz, will join the group, as a special guest, for several numbers.

“It’s going to be a really fantastic night of music,” Friends of the Arts concert chair Mary Mancini, wife of the late national touring big band leader Michael Mancini, said. “There’s no way anybody will be able to keep their feet still when these guys start playing.”

Want to go?

The Crestview Friends of the Arts presents the Downbeat Jazz Orchestra in “A Swinging Serenade,” a night of big band and jazz music, 7 p.m. Nov. 3 at Warriors Hall in the Whitehurst Municipal Building.

Tickets cost $10 for adults, $5 for students, at UpBeat Music, Azteca Mexican Restaurant, Journey Java Connection and Lewis & Company Jewelers.

Call Rae Schwartz, 585-5672, for more information.

This article originally appeared on Crestview News Bulletin: Nov. 3 concert celebrates first anniversary of grand piano arrival