Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Sentimental Journey: A Night with Charleston’s Premier Big Band, featuring Nancy Clayton

by Lisa Kight
     The moment I walked into the College Center in the 920 building, I was transported to an era where the music was live, the audience was dressed to the nines, and the evening was spent listening to the music of Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman, and the Gershwin brothers. The dance floor was filled with dancers of all ages, and the luxurious sound of the music lulled me to a place I never knew, allowing me to live, if only for a brief while, in the era of the Big Band.  The closest I have ever come to the real thing was listening to the 40’s station on my XM radio or watching an old movie on the AMC channel. Both paled by comparison when it came to the live music being played that night.
     Charleston’s Premier Big Band, featuring the rich vocals of Nancy Clayton, performed music made popular during the 20’s, 30’s, and 40’s. Clayton’s silky voice was a perfect accompaniment to the music being played that evening. The orchestra played classics such as, “Mack the Knife,” “Stardust,” and “String of Pearls” finishing the evening with a lovely rendition of a more contemporary tune by Sir Elton John, “Can You Feel the Love Tonight.” 
     Each song was introduced by the emcee, Kenneth Kitchen, a retired Trident Technical College history instructor who shared little bits of history to go along with each song. I found this very enjoyable, making the experience all the more real even for someone in her fifties. His witty banter was not only entertaining; it also gave the band a moment between songs, which I am sure they appreciated.
      I am not sure what I enjoyed more, listening to the music or watching the audience. There was a sense of joy throughout the room. Each time a new number began to play, the dancers—young and old—would rush to the dance floor to get lost in the moment. Perhaps, for some, it allowed them to remember the first time they had heard the song many years ago. There is one thing for certain: a good time was had by all who attended.
     The pleasure of watching everyone enjoy the music in his or her own way was wonderful. There were ladies in the back who didn’t stop dancing the entire night. I had the pleasure of chatting with one of the dancers, a “young” lady in her nineties, but you would have thought she was twenty. She smiled and laughed as she danced the night away. She even shared a dance with one of the student volunteers: she wore him out! 
     There were couples in the audience who didn’t make it to the dance floor, but I could see in their faces, as they tapped their feet and swayed along with the music, that listening was all they needed to enjoy their evening. There were parents on the dance floor with young boys and girls who laughed, jumped and danced to the music. I smile even now thinking about how much fun they were having. I loved the celebration within them all.
      I only wish that it was more than once a year. I applaud the college and Heritage Trust Federal Credit Union for making the evening possible.  I know there was a great deal of effort that went into making the evening a success. One thing is for sure: I plan on being there next year. I may even work on my dance moves, so I can be one of the dancers tripping the light fantastic on the dance floor. Until then, I will have to rely on my XM radio when I feel a yearning to return to the golden era of the Big Band.


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