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Review: Pasadena Roof Orchestra

Last Sunday, 6 April, saw The Grand Theatre play host to the world famous Pasadena Roof Orchestra (PRO), who wowed the audience with a  delightful evening of big band, swing, jazz and showmanship.

Founded back in 1969 and with over 300 musical numbers recorded, the famed and admired eleven-piece ensemble, fronted by compere Duncan Galloway, has thrived, building itself a prestigious reputation. Remaining a firm favourite, among mature generations especially, PRO beautifully entertained a full-house of Blackpool’s finest swing-era music lovers, on the seaside leg of their 2014 tour.

As a theatre-goer in my twenties, with musical taste that typically lies across alternative genres, I was very enthusiastic to understand and appreciate the charm and appeal of a classic musical repertoire from days gone by; keen to be present among an audience whose fondest memories of the 20s, 30s and 40s might be captured in the theatre that very evening.

dazzling sound

The room was packed out; Pasadena Roof Orchestra still draws a huge crowd after over forty years. In our grand circle seats, Dad and I had landed a perfect view – although, it wasn’t really the ‘view’ that would count foremost, but the dazzling sound. PRO’s modest stage set-up, without unnecessary or fanciful decoration, was animated instead by jazzy instrumentals and smooth vocals, as the music spoke entirely for itself.  The PRO’s eleven talented musicians each play a significant role in producing their exceptionally tight sound, with an energy and vitality to illuminate a room and gratify any crowd.

The ensemble was note-perfect, as confirmed by my father (a big band veteran musician himself), as a seamless spectacle of classic 20s, 30s and 40s hits which transformed a bracing, blustery Blackpool evening into a glowing, graceful and Grand (Theatre) experience. It seemed to me as if all the local Blackpool residents who embodied the swing era had gathered for the night’s occasion! Dad and I were probably the youngest in in attendance, but it was really pleasing to see huge smiles on the faces of an older audience whose feet were a’tapping, hands a’clapping and singing along –  as though recapturing gentler times.

Duncan Galloway, Pasadena Roof Orchestra musical director and compere, said:

The music of this era has now, and will have in the future, a permanent place in the musical genre. It can lift spirits! Shout For Happiness, by Ray Noble and Sophisticated Lady by Duke Ellington, can be just beautiful. My Canary has Circles Under his Eyes, however, is simply daft! And of course, there will always be songs about love: The Very Thought of You is a prime example and a real crowd pleaser.

 

There’s a piece of music for every life event and the orchestra members all enjoy being part of the team that delivers the live show on stage, every performance.

A number of striking solos, including the booming bass, brisk banjo and smooth, sophisticated saxophone sounds swept the stage and PRO’s drummer whipped up an impressive silver spoons solo of his own on the washboard, which added a little idiosyncrasy to the performance, much to the enjoyment of the crowd. Duncan Galloway was a consistently excellent presenter throughout the performance, keeping the band well under control and the audience laughing.

perfect balance

So, would I go to watch the Pasadena Roof Orchestra again? Yes, they were brill! The band entertained but they weren’t excessively theatrical; they kept it classy- offering up a perfect balance of humour and musicianship. And the talent these gents have is abundant! It’s just a real shame not to have seen many younger faces in the crowd that night.

Household names including Bing Crosby, Fred Astaire and Al Bowlly are just a few of the timeless classic artists whose musical story the Pasadena Roof Orchestra are dedicated to continuing – so pack up your troubles, come on, get happy… oh and grab your nan, she’s gonna love it.

Tickets are still available for PRO’s  remaining tour dates.  Visit their website or Facebook page for further details.

 

Cover photo courtesy of Douglas Slade.

 

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