“It makes no difference
If it’s sweet or hot.
Just give that rhythm
Everything you’ve got.”
— from “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If it Ain’t Got That Swing)
Name a musical instrument with nine letters that makes a sound like no other.
If you answered “saxophone,” that was the correct answer.
Richard Babikoff loves saxophones, so he is especially pleased that the Dukes of Swing will be bringing theirs to the Fort Columbia Theater in Chinook, Washington.
Babikoff, who lives in Ocean Park, Washington, is a longtime board member of the Peninsula Association of Performing Artists. The group has invited the musicians to perform Saturday, Oct. 7.
The event is being hosted at the theater where the association produced a summer run of the musical “She Loves Me,” featuring Babikoff as the crusty perfume-store owner.
As well as acting, music has been a huge part of his life.
“I watched ‘The Glenn Miller Story’ movie and wanted to play the sax,” he said, recalling his early school days in Oregon City. “Instead, they gave me a clarinet. When I moved to Hood River for high school, I was able to learn the sax. I fell in love with it.”
Decades later, he still plays both instruments, but there is no question the sax is his favorite.
“It is just beautiful,” he said, recalling The Dukes of Swing performing Miller’s signature tune on two prior visits to the Peninsula. “When they play ‘In The Mood,’ it’s such a sound. It’s awesome, with five saxes out front.”
Cindy Flood, president of PAPA, has appeared in musicals with Babikoff for the past 10 years. She said the “salute to veterans” event is suitable for all ages. It runs 5 to 8 p.m., a time slot deliberately chosen so more mature audience members can enjoy it.
Several Peninsula restaurants are donating plates of hors d’oeuvres. Admission is by $10 donation, and all funds raised will be presented to the Don R. Grable American Legion Post No. 48, which serves the Long Beach Peninsula.
“It is something that we feel we can do to give back to the community and our veterans,” Flood said. “We put the chairs around the sides, the band is on stage, and there’s room to dance, although that’s optional.”
Heart and soul
The Dukes of Swing is the band of the Elks Lodge No. 593 of Aberdeen, Washington. The group, which also performs jazz concerts, has opened for Manhattan Transfer and Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, as well as performing at last year’s Washington Governor’s Ball.
Leaders draw on the talents of Grays Harbor County and Olympia, Washington, musicians who want to continue long after their school band years. One original member, Bernie Edwards, who died last year, was still playing his tenor saxophone at 98. Norm Fosburg joined 60 years ago and still performs.
Director Dave McCrary, a longtime professional trumpet player, is a former music teacher at Elma High School just north of Pacific County; former director Bob Neisinger, who plays drums and sings, held a similar position in Raymond, Washington, in the 1960s. Both have been associated with music in the region for more than 50 years.
Neisinger, who joined the group in 1967, said that despite the emphasis in the past few decades on rock ’n roll and country music, most college and high school band repertoires include the big-band tunes that boosted morale during World War II.
“That was how they got through the war and kept their sense, because the music was happy,” he said, enthused about the upcoming Peninsula show. “There’s something about being part of an ensemble. Individually we wouldn’t survive, but as part of a large group it’s very rewarding.”
Dukes of Swing performers include their former students from the 1970s, something that delights McCrary, who still calls his protégés “good kids,” even though they are long grown up. “It gives me a great sense of pride that they are able to play as professional musicians in the Dukes of Swing, because music is part of their heart and soul,” he said.
A nod to the Duke
The group’s roots go back to 1912 when the Aberdeen Elks Lodge formed an orchestra and later a marching band. The swing band was formed in 1948, and its musicians played at the fraternity’s national conventions. The name Dukes of Swing was adopted a while later, in part as a tip of the hat to Duke Ellington. Classic tunes from the 1940s Big Band Era dominate the repertoire.
“The World War II generation is infatuated with the music of Glenn Miller and Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey and the Andrews Sisters,” McCrary said. “We enjoy keeping that music alive, especially for the next generation who can hear how wonderful it is and learn to dance to it.”
Like the PAPA hosts, the director is excited. “We always have a good turnout and we are appreciative that they keep inviting us back,” he said.
The Dukes of Swing
A Salute to Veterans
Concert featuring the stage band of Elks Lodge No. 593 of Aberdeen, Washington, at the Fort Columbia Theater, Chinook, Washington. Dancing optional.
5 to 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 7.
$10 donation, at the door. Hors d’oeuvres provided by local restaurants.
The concert is staged by the Peninsula Association of Performing Artists and benefits the Long Beach Peninsula’s Don R. Grable American Legion Post 48.
No Discover Pass is needed for park entry.
‘It is something that we feel we can do to give back to the community and our veterans.’
— Cindy Flood
PAPA president describing swing music event