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Northern Neck Big Band comes to Callao

Posted on Wednesday, March 29, 2017 at 12:32 pm

It was a good thing the Westmoreland Players had not yet struck the set from their recent production, “Born Yesterday.” The 1950’s styled set was a perfect backdrop for The Northern Neck Big Band during its concert at the playhouse Sunday afternoon.

The Big Band’s four saxophonists, four trumpeters, bassist, drummer and piano player slid through old-time big band music ranging from WC Handy’s “St. Louis Blues” to Artie Shaw’s “Begin the Beguine”, which drew applause when it was announced. Celeste Gates who put down her saxophone and picked up her clarinet for the piece also drew sustained applause.

The Big Band’s leader, Kenny Flester, Lancaster Middle School’s music teacher, said he didn’t know how long it has been playing but at least from the 1970s under several different leaders and with different members.

The newest member of the group was Destiny Carter, a Lancaster High School senior. Flester said one of his saxophonists had become ill Saturday. He had to scramble to find a replacement. He said he called Destiny and asked her if she would be willing to “sight read” the music and play saxophone, not her usual instrument, at Sunday’s concert. “Sure. It sounds like fun,” Carter responded. She never missed a lick Sunday afternoon.

In addition to Carter and Gates, Flester and Fred Paul also handled the saxophones. Robbie Spiers, Glen Burtner, Steve Kanchianik and Barbara Kahler played the trombones, cornets and, at one point a flugelhorn. Keith Miller played drums, Mack Gates bass and Suzy Cuthbertson piano.

The music ranged from dreamy to raucous as with the closing piece, Woody Herman’s “Woodchoppers Ball.”

One piece, “Night train”, but for the venue, might have had a lot of folks up and dancing. It is a favorite of strippers on the burlesque circuit. As people were leaving, one lady said, “A lot of us wanted to jump up and do a bump and grind.”