Around F.C., Arts & Entertainment

The Silver Tones Swing Band Brings Back Memories to the Region

THE SILVER TONES deliver big-band swing from the 30s to 70s. (Photo Courtesy of The Silver Tones Swing Band)

Those who seek a night of swing music and dances while rusticating in a quaint European, country-like setting recently “got their kicks on Route 66” in Middleburg, Virginia, where the Silver Tones Swing Band held forth. This big band differs from most orchestras of its type in two ways.  One is that it recreates not only classic popular swing tunes from the thirties, forties, and fifties, but also performs popular music from the sixties and seventies.  The other was demonstrated in its performance of “In the Mood.”  While usually performed instrumentally according to the style of the Glenn Miller orchestra, the version performed by the Silver Belles vocal trio was sung in the style of the Andrews Sisters, with Wendy Marie and two other female vocalists, Larke Pain and Laura Mills, taking on the roles of Patty, Maxene, and LaVerne Andrews.  This vocal orientation of the band shows that while it can play solid instrumentals, it particularly engages audiences with the beautiful lyrics of the Great American Songbook.

Given our current season, George Gershwin’s “Summertime” was particularly appropriate. The band brought back memories of the classic performance by the Bob Crosby band, yet it was augmented with a poignant vocal by Wendy Marie, who, with her husband Dave Shuma, is co-leader of the Silver Tones. 

The Silver Belles often back vocalist Gene Bates, as in their wonderful recreation of Ray Charles’ “Hit the Road, Jack.” The piece included a fine tenor saxophone solo by Dan Hurlow. He and Paul Hamilton brought back memories of both Louis Prima in the 1950s and Brian Setzer in the 1990s with “Jump, Jive, and Wail.” “Route 66” featured a powerful solo by Katie Bryant on the piano.

The Silver Tones recreated the Andrews Sisters’ version of the “Pennsylvania Polka,” the polka form complementing the European country-like ambiance of Middleburg’s National Sporting Library and Museum. An instrumental version of the Les Elgart’s arrangement of “Bandstand Boogie” (used for years as the signature tune of television’s “American Bandstand”) was one of the outstanding pieces of the evening. A memorable version of the Kay Kyser hit “Slow Boat to China” was performed as a duet by Wendy Marie and Gene Bates, recalling but distinct from the Kyser orchestra’s version.

Contrasting songs of Frank Sinatra were presented with Mr. Bates’s performing the swing-style “Old Black Magic” and a later Sinatra hit, “That’s Life,” with the latter backed beautifully by the Silver Belles. “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” and “Luck be a Lady,” two other songs associated with Sinatra, were sung with smoothness and ease by Mr. Bates. 

Audience members and listeners spread out on the lawn in front of the orchestra, and some enjoyed swinging out their dance moves. A conga line was formed during the song “Hot, Hot, Hot” in which Mr. Bates joined the dancers. For those who appreciated music from more recent decades, “Unchained Melody” from the 1950s, “Sweet Caroline” from the 1960s, and “Dancing Queen” from the 1970s were played. In this more modern mode, Mr. Bates and the Silver Belles sang a moving “My Girl.” Indeed, Mr. Shuma, the band’s co-leader, told us that the policy of the Silver Tones is to appeal to popular music lovers of all generations. The crowd, ranging from young to old, bore this out wonderfully.

The Silver Tones also performed in Warrenton, Virginia, on July Fourth. Readers of the Falls Church News-Press will have an opportunity to enjoy the Silver Tones closer to home on Wednesday, July 26, at 7:30 p.m. at Franconia Nights Concert Series in Alexandria, Virginia. Like many of the Silver Tones orchestra summer performances, this appearance will be free of charge to the public. 

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