Musician’s Note: Swing into Spring – with the Big Bands!

Tad CalcaraHello! My name is Tad Calcara, principal clarinet of the Utah Symphony. This week I will be hosting the Utah Symphony’s program of classic Big Band Swing music. Swing music was the popular music of the 1930s and 1940s. It is an energetic Jazz-based dance music that became hugely popular in the mid 1930s during Roosevelt’s New Deal. It also served as a soundtrack during WWII. One would hear swing music everywhere at the time – on the radio, in the movies, at the store, at school, etc….

The leaders of the Big Bands were quite literally household names at the time: Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington, Tommy Dorsey, Glenn Miller, Artie Shaw. These musicians were as famous as Elvis was in the 1950s or the Beatles in the 1960s. They were also amazing instrumentalist on each of their instruments. Arguments would occur when discussing who played clarinet better – Artie Shaw or Benny Goodman; or who was a hotter trumpet man: Harry James or Louis Armstrong?

An interesting phenomenon about this style of music is its appeal to other generations. The reason for this is quite simple – it has an irresistible lively youthfulness that is quite exciting – even if you were born 20, 40, or 50 years after the Swing Era! This is teenager music from the 1930s.

It is one thing to hear this music from recordings – but to really get the full experience you must hear it LIVE! There is nothing quite like seeing and hearing a Big Band in person. My band, the New Deal Swing, will be enhanced and enlarged by the full Utah Symphony. In addition we have spent countless hours researching archives and digging through music to locate the original arrangements played by the famous bands 70 years ago. Every piece on the concert is taken from the original manuscripts – no re-creations here!

Our program will also feature Jazz vocalist Melissa Pace Tanner as well as the Salt Lake Jitterbug Club. It is important to note that Swing music was first and foremost – dance music – and the Salt Lake Jitterbug Club has all of the moves down! Check out their period costumes also; everything from two tone shoes to zoot suits! In addition one should not forget that Swing Music was also a vocal music that featured many great singers. In fact many famous vocalist began their careers with the Big Bands; Doris Day (Les Brown), Peggy Lee (Benny Goodman), Ella Fitzgearld (Chick Webb), Billie Holiday (Artie Shaw), Tony Bennett and a skinny kid from Jersey – Frank Sinatra – sang with both Harry James and Tommy Dorsey.

In addition many Utah Symphony musicians will featured as soloists; principal trombone Larry “Slide” Zalkind will dazzle you with Tommy Dorsey’s Trombonology; Tony DiLorenzo will play some “smokin’” trumpet solos; and retired Utah Symphony principal bassoon Doug “Cap’n” Craig will return to Abravenel Hall on alto sax!

So Swing into Spring with the New Deal Swing Band and the Utah Symphony this Friday or Saturday at Abravanel Hall.

Tad Calcara & New Deal Swing
Utah Symphony Pops
May 2 & 3 (Fri & Sat) @ 8:00 PM
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Musician’s Note: Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto

Yuki McQueen

Happy Spring!

My earliest memory of the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto is from when I was four or five in San Diego. My parents are not musicians, but my mother especially loved classical music and they had a small but respectable collection of LPs. One of these was a two-record set of Heifetz playing the Mendelssohn, Tchaikovsky and Brahms Violin Concertos. I used to know each LP by its record cover design and color, so this was the purple one with a color portrait of Heifetz looking elegant but stern. The cover is now quite beat up from all of the handling (and perhaps also from my cat who willfully mistook my record shelf for a scratching post), but the records inside are still scratch free. Even as a little kid, I knew that this music was wonderful, and treated the LPs with utmost care.

My other source of music was running to the house next door. Both musicians in the San Diego Symphony (they still are), Mr. Sasaki was the percussionist in the orchestra, and his garage was filled with all of his fascinating instruments. I was especially mesmerized by his amazing virtuosity at the xylophone. Mrs. Sasaki was a violinist in the orchestra, and I loved the few times she let me sit nearby while she practiced. These moments have left a deep impression on me.

Now, as a violinist in the Utah Symphony, I have the privilege of participating directly in the music making. Listening is wonderful, but being there inside the orchestra and contributing my best to the whole, is an incomparable feeling. Whenever I visit other orchestras, my fingers start to twitch and I just want to join right in. I become impatient to get back to the Utah Symphony where my chair awaits and we’re all ready to take the next musical adventure.

I hope you join us this month for more great musical moments. Mendelssohn Violin Concerto, Brahms Piano Concerto, Carmina Burana…. These are all monumental works not to be missed!

Yuki McQueen

Utah Symphony Violinist

Opera Preview; sneak peak to brilliance!

I went to the Opera preview this past week, and it was so much fun! They gave us a tour of the facilities and had old costumes out as well as costume and set designs for us to see as we walked around. It was really exciting to see it all up close! The food was great, but the highlight of the evening was the performances. The Opera apprentices performed selections from next years season and I lost myself as I listened to them! They have picked some brilliant shows, and as I am a new Opera lover it only seems to get more and more exciting as I am introduced to this new world. Next year is going to be one hit after another.

If you’re interested in season tickets for the 2008-2009 Utah Opera season, they’re on sale now and start at just $42:

You can see pictures of the Opera Preview on Facebook here:

Vivace Turns Three With

A Little More Cowbell

It’s been a wild ride, and it’s gone by way too fast, but USUO’s Vivace turned three over the weekend! If you haven’t heard about Vivace yet, it’s a funkified bunch of 20, 30, 40 somethings – single/partnered/married – who just happen to get their groove on to classical music and opera. Vivace is the largest group of it’s kind West of the Mississippi, with 1,061 members as of this post. We attend 6 or so performances a year, sit together, get a sweet discount, receive a funkified version of the program notes, and then we follow up the evening with a fabulous after-party. Next year we’ll have an event every single month so no worries you Vivace addicts! Relief is on the way. Vivace is open to the funkified of all ages. It’s free to join, just send an email to Check us out at as well as on Myspace and Facebook. Gotta throw in the self-plug! J

We celebrated this anniversary the way Vivace does best – a big party mixed in with some fierce music. We attended the March 22nd performance of the Utah Symphony that featured percussionist Colin Currie and guest conductor JoAnn Falletta. They were both excellent partiers. Colin Currie was actually the guest artist at Vivace’s second event on August 5, 2005 so it was like coming full circle to have him at our 3rd b-day bash. Both guest artists fit right in with the Vivace crowd.

The music, of course, was the star of the night. That and the free champagne. e heard George Enescu’s Romanian Rhapsody that he later called a “youthful indiscretion.” I’m sure if a Romanian Rhapsody was your “youthful indiscretion” you’d probably have a few more brain cells right? Next we had the pleasure of hearing Jennifer Higdon’s Percussion Concerto which included among a myriad of fabulous instruments, the magnificent cowbell. Percussionists are all about showing off their toys and doing pretty much everything that can possibly be done to inanimate objects, so this concerto rocked. What better way to celebrate Vivace’s bday than with a little banging around?

The performance part of the evening rapped with Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4. Vivace members were totally impressed that Ms. Falletta conducted that gargantuan of a piece from memory. As always the Orchestra sounded fantastic. And fierce.
We wrapped up the night by throwing the most marvelous after-party in the universe in the 1st Tier Room of Abravanel Hall. We enjoyed delicious food from Cuisine Unlimited and champagne donated by Vivace members David and SandyLee Griswold. We talked, mingled, and partied till I kicked everyone out when the bar closed.

What’s up next for Vivace, you may ask? Well aside from world domination, we’re attending opening night of Mozart’s Don Giovanni aka “The Original Playa” on May 10, 2008. We’re going to combine the Vivace after-party with the cast opening night party so it will be one event NOT to miss. Tickets are $30, $15 for students and include the after-party. Call 801.533.NOTE (6683) and mention you’re a Vivace member or visit find the performance, and enter promo code Vivace.

by Crystal Young-Otterstrom, Audience Development Manager