Wednesday will be bittersweet for lovers of Frank Parsons Big Band, as the 17-piece orchestra brings to a close its seven-year run of afternoon concerts at Richey Suncoast Theatre.
"It's the end of an era," said Marie Skelton, whose husband, the late Charlie Skelton, brought the group to the theater in 2005 for one performance, then, after pleas from ardent fans, brought them back year after year for a six- and eight-show series during the "high" season, with many performances sold out.
Earlier this year, Parsons announced his intention to retire, after forming and leading the band since moving to Florida from his Ohio marketing job in 1993. "I'm going to put my feet up and just do nothing," he said after the November show.
As has been his custom this season, this finale will be a mix of big band tunes, with Parsons' introductory remarks before each number.
But just because Parsons' group is leaving, that doesn't mean the end of big band shows at Richey Suncoast.
Indeed, musician/conductor Robert "Bob" Boyd is launching an eight-concert season running Oct. 9 to May 14, 2014, at the theater, featuring his 12-piece 42nd Street Big Band and an impressive list of guest performers. They include singer Andy Stefano doing the songs of Frank Sinatra, singer Lori Hafer, who wowed audiences with both Richey Community Orchestra and Hernando Symphony Orchestra this season, and specialty shows dedicated to Mardi Gras, St. Patrick's Day, Latin music and the USO.
Boyd, who is also conductor of Richey Community Orchestra, joined with the late Russ Maddox to form the 42nd Street Big Band in 1987, playing piano and conducting.
"We did 20 or 25 concerts a year," Boyd said. Boyd took over when Maddox retired and has kept a busy schedule for his players since then. "We've done the opera gala in Sarasota, one at Long Boat Key, the Sun City military ball, the Brooksville Southeast Motor Coach Association," among others, he said.
Though his group is smaller than Parsons', "We can get a good big band sound," Boyd said. And if ticket sales are good, he may add players, though he's satisfied with the present ensemble. "A lot of my musicians work day jobs, so Wednesday afternoons are out," he said.
Tickets are on sale now for the 42nd Street Big Band season. All eight shows go for $72; five shows (December to April) are $50; and individual shows are $12. Call (727) 842-6777; box office is open 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesdays to Saturdays starting May 1 to May 26 and an hour before any show.
Here is the schedule for the 42nd Street Big Band season:
Oct. 9: Sinatra Swings, featuring Andy Stefano
Nov. 13: Red, White and Blues, a Veterans Day Salute
Dec. 11: Santa's Swingin' Christmas
Jan. 15: Fabulous 50's, The Legends Live On
Feb. 12: Dixieland Jamboree — It's Mardi Gras Time
March 19: Irish Eyes are Smilin'
April 9, 2014: Stage Door Canteen, 40s Style USO Show
May 14, 2014: South of the Border, Love that Latin Beat