It isn’t often that one can start a brand new career twice in the exact same venue but that is what the Hotel Paradise Roof Garden Orchestra did Sunday night a few weeks ago at the Jewish Mother restaurant’s brand new location at Hilltop in Virginia Beach. Taking a few minutes out to speak with me after the band’s last set for the evening, Lynn Summerall, its musical director, reminisced a bit about the orchestra’s debut in 1992…. at Jewish Mother, albeit in the restaurant’s previous Atlantic Avenue location ! This was the band’s first performance since 2001 and Lynn had a lot of fun joking about getting everything down pat for this performance because in essence this is the beginning of a new career– getting the band back together, playing a few gigs part-time., really just having some fun. ( Like Jake and Elwood in “The Blues Brothers”, they’re putting the band back together but the mission more like having some fun. I should mention that the band will be playing at the Jewish Mother again on June 12th and July 10th, with more in the works after that, possibly a “second Sunday” kind of thing. )
I am completely in love with the music of the 1930’s and 1940’s– in fact, when I think of popular music, that’s what comes to mind for me, the great sounds of orchestras like the Dorsey brothers, Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw, Harry James, Count Basie. ( I’m probably telling my age but I am particularly partial to music which actually includes more than 5 notes and a real variety of instruments, not just 3 guitars, a drum and a keyboard ! ) Lynn Summerall’s group specializes in 20’s and ’30’s swing music and on Sunday night the audience was wowed with a number of old favorites including Guy Lombardo’s hit recording “Someone To Watch Over Me” , Cole Porter’s “Begin The Beguine” ( a personal favorite of my husband ) and that lovely old tune, “Stormy Weather”, so beautifully sung by Becky Livas, the orchestra’s original vocalist back in the day. ( If you live in the Hampton Roads area you will remember Becky Livas, well-known from her news work at TV Channel 13 some years back. ) Summerall himself treated us to a fast-tempo vocal of “Yes, Sir That’s My Baby” and got a huge round of applause for his efforts, then sent folks into peals of laughter by telling the story of the customer who had just come up to him during intermission to suggest that he not wear black suspenders under his white tux jacket next time.
Co-incidentially, I had heard about this performance during pledge week on our favorite radio stations, WHRO/WHRV , the National Public Radio stations broadcasting from Norfolk, Virginia. Lynn Summerall’s “real” job is manager of volunteers for the station and copies of a Hotel Paradise Orchestra CD entitled ” Bye Bye Blues” were on the gift selection list for a pledge. During that program it was mentioned that the band would be reuniting for its first live performance in 10 years on May 8th at the Jewish Mother. ( In fact, he indicates that the full-time responsibities of his job at WHRO were what made him give up the band.) I made my reservation that night and was glad that I had done so because Sunday the place was packed, fortunately they had valet parking. One of the great things about this kind of music is that it is so eminently danceable and a number of couples were dancing– in fact, one couple, Jane and Ed Martin, who had noticed me taking photos came up later to tell me that they used to go to the Chamberlain Hotel in Hampton, (so fabulous in its day, now divided into luxury apartments ), to dance to the live music of the Hotel Paradise Roof Garden orchestra which had played there quite frequently. The Martins were thrilled to be dancing once again to lilting tunes from this old familiar orchestra, hadn’t imagined they ever would again until they heard about this performance. They are delightedly looking forward to the June and July performances, as am I. P.S. Talk about a small world and only 6 degrees of separation, Lynn mentioned that although they had never played a gig on the Eastern Shore he knew all about the renovation of the historic Palace Theatre in Cape Charles, that in fact William Neill ( who is the musical director for the Palace ) will be playing in the orchestra’s June performance. ( see the April, 2011 post on Art’s Enter’s production of Oliver ! The Musical at the Palace Theatre which mentions Neill’s outstanding work ). Just another good reason for me to be there on June 12th, reveling in those smooth, sweet sounds !
(Posted by Marlene Cree, licensed Virginia agent with Blue Heron Realty Co., 7134 Wilsonia Neck Dr., Machipongo, VA)