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Holiday hits with a big-band sound

‘A Jolly Holly Christmas’ will fill Holly Theater with brassy swing music

POSTED: December 9, 2010 12:30 a.m.

An authentic big band experience awaits Northeast Georgians on Tuesday between the brick walls of the Historic Holly Theater.

The 17-piece Noteworthy Orchestra will perform a show featuring the classic big-band Christmas hits from the days of Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby.

"It's quite an experience," said Gabe Russo, production manager at the Holly Theater and one of the vocalists for the band. "The music is different because it's analog. It comes right out of the horns and into your chest."

The Noteworthy Orchestra sets itself apart from many of the other swing and big band orchestras that currently play in the Southeast. Russo said that a lot of the other orchestras will pick up the sheet music and just rehearse a couple of times at most.

"Whoever can play shows up," Russo said, "and they do a rehearsal where they just open the sheets and everyone plays."

After asking if there's any problem with the song, "they just move on."

Under the leadership of Bob Russell, the Noteworthy Orchestra rehearses every Tuesday. During these rehearsals, Russo said that Russell can "literally, in the middle of a song, say, ‘Stop. OK, second trumpet, did you just play an A flat in measure 43? Could you make that an A natural please? All right, let's start again.'"

"He can just hear these notes out of all of the music, and he picks these things out. It is the tightest big band working in the Southeast, easily. There may be better bands in Vegas, but that would be the only place I could imagine."

The whole experience of the show, named "A Jolly Holly Christmas," will be split up into two acts. The first act will feature classic big band music not associated with any holiday.

"Then act two is all Christmas music," Russo said. "We've got three or four guest vocalists in the show, plus Kathy Russell and myself, who are the regular vocalists."

In addition to the guests, the band sports an incredible lineup of musicians from around the country.

"The head of the Atlanta Swing Orchestra is Steve Weikle," Russo said, "and he's our first chair saxophone player. While he's doing pickup stuff with Atlanta Swing and a bunch of different bands, this is the band that he shows up every week and rehearses with."

However, it's not often that anyone gets to go out to listen to live big band shows anymore. This, Russo said, is the core of the evening: To do something that's, sadly enough, rarely enjoyed anymore.

"In a small room like the Holly Theater with only 300 seats and brick walls, it's amazing," Russo said. "We were there two years ago, and it was remarkable."



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