Fans flock to Williams Valley for 10th annual Les Brown celebration
By Rob Wheary, Staff Writer
TOWER CITY – Festivalgoers got a chance to go back in time musically as the Les Brown Big Band Festival presented the sounds of the 1940s and 1950s at Williams Valley High School and surrounding areas last weekend.
It was a weekend filled with stories, music and remembering as the festival honored noted big band leader Les Brown, a native of Reinerton and the leader of Les Brown and his Band of Renown.
Brown’s son, Les Brown Jr., who joined his father’s orchestra at the age of 15 and took over the orchestra when his father passed away in 2001, acted as master of ceremonies for the event, talking about the music that several school and community jazz bands played on the auditorium stage.
“You are talking about pieces of music that have been listened to over and over for the better part of 70 years,” Brown said. “It’s timeless music that you just don’t have today.”
Brown said that much of today’s music is focused more on the songwriter and becomes personal to them, not the audience.
“Taylor Swift has a fight with her boyfriend and she writes a song about it. That’s good for her, but my dad and many musicians of that era, made music for the audience,” Brown said. “We don’t control our destiny in music, the people that buy our product do.”
Joining Brown on stage was musical director Donn Trenner, who, as part of the Les Brown Orchestra, worked as Bob Hope’s personal accompanist and occasional musical director.
At times, music gave way to comedy between Brown and Tremmer on stage.
“Donn and I go back a long way,” Brown told the audience. “When I joined the band, you and I were roommates back in the day.”
“Yeah and you didn’t pay the bill back then either,” Tremmer deadpanned.
Saturday’s event featured performance on stage by several school jazz bands, including two from the hosts, Williams Valley Elementary and High School. Elementary band director Joe Guldin is one of the organizers of the festival.
“It always a great day when we can pay tribute to a local boy done good and this great music,” Guldin said. “I’ll be starting to plan next year’s festival about a week from now because we have such great support for it.”
One act that loves being a part of the festival is the Letters from Home singing group. Their performance reminiscent of groups like the Andrews Sisters, traveling on the USO Tours of the past.
“It is great to hear such music and seeing the youth of today enjoying and performing it,” said singer Erinn Diaz. “One of my favorite moments was someone younger than me asking me what the title of that ‘Boogie Woogie something or other’ song.”
Singer Amanda Newman saw several young ears perk up when the two singers combined the past with the present, doing a “mashup” the kids call it, of the Judy Garland hit “Come On, Get Happy” with the recent “Happy” hit by Pharrell Williams.
“You watch them when we go into those newer numbers and their eyes get wider as they recognize the music,” Diaz said.
“You find that many of the youth today are rediscovering the music of the past through YouTube or some other technology,” Brown said. “It gives it new life.”
With the school musicians performing much of the same melodies that he did many years ago, Tremmer had a smile on his face during his time at the festival.
“Music has been my life, and I hope that everyone encourages the young ones to make it part of their lives as well,” he told the audience. “There are two universal languages in the world — Music and Dance — and we don’t want to lose either one.”