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Youths Hop into Swing With Beantown Orchestra

July 10, 2008

By Rosemary Ford, The Eagle-Tribune, North Andover, Mass.

Jul. 10–They’re young, they’re hip and they know how to rock — to the music of Benny Goodman.

The Beantown Swing Orchestra, 18 musicians with the average age of 23, will headline a concert to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the St. Basil Salvatorian Center in Methuen.

The center hosts religious retreats, Pre-Cana classes for engaged Catholic couples, and Cursillo — a short course on Christianity. In booking Beantown, Teresa Drelick of Methuen — who organized many of the 40th anniversary celebration activities — wanted to bring in a band that would appeal to people of all ages.

“We decided we wanted to celebrate it in a way that opened St. Basil’s up to everybody,” Drelick said. “The people who know St. Basil’s love St. Basil’s, but there are people in Methuen who don’t know what St. Basil’s is.”

The concert is one way to open the celebration to those people, she said.

Band Manager Frank Hsieh formed the Swing Orchestra two years ago, posting a call for musicians online. He quickly found a rotation of 60 performers, most students or graduates of Boston’s famed schools, Berklee College of Music and the New England Conservatory, to play with the 18-piece band.

“I wanted to introduce this music to younger people,” said Hsieh, 37. “The only way to keep this music alive is to have younger people into it.”

The group plays standards of the Lindy Hop era — the music their grandparents and great-grandparents grew up on. Hsieh says that the band’s youth makes it special. The energy the musicians infuse into the music is like seeing a band from that era when Swing was the Rock ‘n’ Roll of its day.

“It’s like classical music,” Hsieh said, “but we have the energy to make it hip.”

So the far the band has had luck hosting dances that attract people from seniors in high school to senior citizens. They’re latest claim to fame is a spot in the September movie “My Best Friend’s Girl,” starring Kate Hudson and Dane Cook. The Beantown Swing Orchestra plays a wedding band in the film — a role it often occupies off camera, too.

The casting director for the movie found the band the same way Drelick did — on the Internet. The Salvatorian Center rented a stage sound and lights for this concert, which Drelick hopes will bring out the families.

“It’s a nice way to end a weekend,” she said, adding there will be a raffle including sports memorabilia. “We really just want people to come up and enjoy it.”

St. Basil Salvatorian Center 40th anniversary celebration events

All events will be held at Saint Basil’s, 30 East St., Methuen.

r Sunday, 5 to 7 p.m.: Beantown Swing Orchestra, 18 piece Big Band Outdoor Concert, $10 admission ($5 for St. Basil parishioners). Free for children 12 and under. Bring your own lawn chairs and/or blankets. Food available.

r Sunday, Aug. 3: 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.: Transfiguration Blood Drive, including Holy Liturgy, lunch.

r Monday, Aug. 4, 7:30 p.m.: Transfiguration Divine Liturgy and Social

r Saturday, Sept. 13: 6 p.m.: “Walden Pawned — Henry David Thoreau,” special theater presentation

r Monday, Oct. 27: 7:30 p.m.: Evening of Thanksgiving, Monday Night Liturgy

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Copyright (c) 2008, The Eagle-Tribune, North Andover, Mass.

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