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WATCH NOW: Pops Band playing 'Great American Songbook' program

The Kenosha Pops Concert Band continues its season-long journey through the past 100 years by visiting the 1930s, the decade of "The Great American Songbook."

And it doesn't get much greater than Cole Porter’s “Begin the Beguine.”

Porter composed the song during a 1935 Pacific cruise aboard Cunard’s ocean liner Franconia, and it was introduced in the Broadway musical “Jubilee.” It has since become a standard tune recorded by everyone from Frank Sinatra to Elvis Presley.

“The beguine is one of the longest song forms to come out of the golden age of standards,” said Craig Gall, the band’s musical director. “There are 108 bars in that piece, and nothing is duplicated. That's amazing.”

Greg Berg, the band’s master of ceremonies, will be the featured vocalist on “Begin the Beguine.” He's also singing "I Got Plenty o’ Nuttin’” from George Gershwin’s “Porgy and Bess” and “All the Things You Are” by Jerome Kern.

Guest vocalist

It's a big night for vocalists on the band shell. In addition to Berg's three numbers, guest soloist Lou Rugani, host of WLIP-AM 1050's longtime radio show “Music of the Stars,” is singing tonight with the Pops.

Rugani is performing three Warren Barker arrangements of popular standards: “Blue Moon” by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart, “As Time Goes By” by Herman Hupfeld and “But Not for Me” by George and Ira Gershwin. Barker specialized in arranging pieces for vocals with a full band.

Another Barker arrangement — “Irving Berlin: The Early Years” — doesn’t feature vocals but does include several well-known Berlin tunes: “Say It With Music,” “A Pretty Girl is Like a Melody” and “Alexander’s Ragtime Band.”

Also on tonight's program:

  • A medley of tunes from “The Wizard of Oz,” including “We’re Off to See the Wizard,” “The Merry Old Land of Oz” and “Over the Rainbow.”
  • “Walt Disney Band Showcase,” a medley featuring such familiar tunes as “Give a Little Whistle” from “Pinocchio” and “Heigh-Ho” and “I’m Wishing” from “Snow White.”
  • "Tribute to Count Basie,” a medley including “All of Me,” “Corner Pocket,” “Li’l Darlin’” (with trumpet soloist John Sorensen) and “April in Paris.”
  • “The Teddy Bear’s Picnic,” a John W. Bratton piece arranged by Paul Yoder. (The song was written in 1907, but lyrics were added by Jimmy Kennedy in 1932, so it fits tonight's program with a bit of what Gall calls "creative theme stretching.")
  • “Thanks for the Memory,” first sung by Bob Hope and Shirley Ross in the film “The Big Broadcast of 1938.” It won the Academy Award for Best Original Song and became Hope's signature tune, with different lyrics adapted to any situation.

Kathy Ripley, the band’s assistant conductor, leads the band on “something completely different” as she calls it: “Ye Banks and Braes O’ Bonnie Doon.” The piece is made up of folk songs from Scotland arranged for band by Percy Grainger. The composer first set the piece for “chorus and whistlers” in 1903 and created the band setting in 1932.

The program also features “Green is Green,” a polka that started life in a 1937 Czech operetta, Gall said.

“Wisconsin polka bands have adopted it as a polka, but it was what they call 'a spring flirtation piece' in the operetta,” he said. The polka version was arranged by Ernest Broeniman, director of the Dorf Kapelle Band (of which Gall is a member).

“There are so many great tunes on tonight's program that will appeal to all ages,” Gall said, "from kids up to grandparents.”

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