Sunday, February 07, 2016
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Founded in the mid-1990’s, the RGV Swing Street Big Band as it is now known, was called The Society for the Preservation of Big Band Music. Players from Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa and Illinois joined together and pooled music they brought from home for the band. Some members created crafted music stands from plywood and painted them white with the band name in blue on the front. Because their target was the Winter Texan audience, the season ran from mid-December to mid-March.

When Bob Comeau took over the band 2013, he made some major changes. The old music was donated to a service club so that the band selections could be upgraded. Music is now ordered from a gentleman in Grand Rapids, Mich. who owns a library of music with over 14,000 arrangements that can be emailed to the band.

20150101 Swing-Street-Big-Band-2014Today, the band plays music recorded by artists such as Benny Goodman, Les Brown, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Les Elgart, Harry James, Maynard Ferguson, Buddy Rich, Henry Mancini, Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett, with a bit of the Beatles, Blood, Sweat and Tears and Chicago thrown in for good measure.

Comeau has a degree in music from the University of South Dakota where he taught band in South Dakota and Minnesota for five years before pursuing a career in insurance. But he never lost his love for music, and while living in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area, he performed with Swing Beat Big Band and the Encore Wind Ensemble. In the Rio Grande Valley he also plays with the McAllen Symphonic Band and the Rio Grande Valley Concert Band. Back home in the summer he plays with local community bands.

In addition to Comeau there area seven other local band directors who teach in the Rio Grande Valley and seven retired band directors, mostly Winter Texans, who also play in the band. The band also has two retired military musicians. All of these musicians and others who join them have a great appreciation for the “big band sound.”

According to Comeau, there are several types of fans that range from seasoned ballroom dancers to folks who just like to move around to the music. Then there are people who don’t dance but come to listen to the music because they like the big band sound. Most performances are done in a show/dance format where different selections of the band will be featured along with instrumental soloists and vocalists. The band plays a variety of slow and up-tempo music with beautiful waltzes and Latin rhythms sprinkled through the concert.

Swing Street Big Band can be seen Thursday, Jan. 8 at Victoria Palms Resort; Sat., Feb. 7 at Cottonwood Country Club; Friday, Feb. 20 at Mission Bell Ballroom; Friday, Mar. 13 at Park Place Estates; and Friday, Mar. 20 at Bentsen Grove Resort. All performance times are 7 p.m.

Swing Street will also perform as part of the Lion’s Club Benefit Concert Feb. 6 at Trinity Worship Center, along with the Rio Grande Valley Concert Band and the Senior Ambassadors. Tickets are $7 and may be purchased at the Winter Texan Times, Alamo Rose RV or from any member of the Mission Lions Club. Proceeds of the Lions concert go to the Texas Lions Camp for handicapped children.

For information about Swing Street Big Band contact Bob Comeau at (763) 360-9065 or email swingstreetrgv@gmail.com.

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