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Big band plays the music of memories

Here's what's in Frank Parsons' BIG Band: 18 musicians, five saxophones, five trumpets, four trombones, one bass, one set of drums, one piano, one singer and a whole lot of memories.

"We're just from another era," said Parsons, 78, of New Port Richey. "The people we play for reminisce, and they just love that kind of music."

In its 15th year, his New Port Richey-based BIG Band has become quite popular. Their upcoming afternoon series at the Richey Suncoast Theatre begins Wednesday with the theme "Autumn Days."

Crowd favorites in this month's show include Autumn in New York, Early Autumn, Falling Leaves and Autumn Nocturne.

Trombone player Jay Moody, 71, has fond memories of Autumn in New York. The Safety Harbor resident grew up in Long Island during the big band era, and he remembers whistling the tunes he heard on the radio.

"This was the era of radio before television," he said. "I always thought rock 'n' roll music was kind of dumb. Well, it won."

All of the band members are over age 60, and they're all devoted to the music. Moody said the big band tunes are more complex, sophisticated and fun than their modern musical cousins.

"I tell people, here's a chance to hear music that you're not going to hear every day anymore," said trumpet player and business manager John Parese, 72, of New Port Richey.

"There's a whole generation of people that enjoy the music of yesterday," he added.

"It's like taking a trip down memory lane. That's kind of refreshing. We're filling a need."

Parsons selects the music for each monthly show, which the band rehearses three weeks before the performance. He said he has one of the largest collections of big band music in the state, with more than 4,000 arrangements neatly organized in 10 file cabinets.

The group also incorporates spontaneous comedy and humor connected to events of the day.

"On (Wednesday) I'll be doing some nonpartisan political jokes," said Parsons. "We're looking to entertain, educate and amuse them. I do like to leave them knowing a little more about the music."

In addition to the music and general entertainment, Parsons' BIG Band looks fine, too.

"We all wear matching outfits," said Parsons. "We all look very nice. We don't go in for scroungy — things that the dog wouldn't sleep on."

The theatre has already sold 200 of its 350 seats as season tickets, which cost $56. Individual tickets are $9.

BIG band season

Nov. 19: "School Days in Autumn"

Dec. 10: "A BIG Band Christmas"

Jan. 21: "Good Golly Gershwin!"

Feb. 18: "Were You My Valentine?"

March 18: "It's Green, St. Patrick!"

April 15: "Blue, Blues & Bluer (Tax Time)"

May 13: "BIG Band Heyday Classics"

>>If you go

Frank Parsons' BIG Band, 'Autumn Days'

Where: Richey Suncoast Theatre, 6237 Grand Blvd., New Port Richey.

When: 2 p.m. Wednesday.

Tickets: $9 per show, $56 for eight-show concert series. The box office is open 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays and an hour before each show. Call (727) 842-6777.

Big band plays the music of memories 10/16/08 [Last modified: Thursday, October 16, 2008 3:24pm]
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