By Sylvia Cagle
The Meadville Tribune
Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians perform at the Academy Theatre, 275 Chestnut St., on Oct. 20 at 2 p.m.
Known for “the sweetest music this side of Heaven,” a description coined by Ashton Stevens of The Chicago Tribune in 1928, the music of the Lombardo family has been delighting listeners since 1917. What began as a quartet including the Lombardo brothers Guy, Carmen, Lebert and Freddie Kreitzer expanded to the group that’s recognized today by 1924. By this time, the group was already known as Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians and was in residency in a Cleveland nightclub.
Several elements characterized the Lombardo sound: the smooth vibrato of the saxophones, led by Carmen’s alto; Carmen’s emotive singing, often satirized for its marked tremolo and precise diction; the preponderance of schottisches in the orchestra’s repertoire; the use of the tuba instead of a double-bass, and in a harmonic rather than rhythmic role; and the quiet drumming of Gowans, barely audible save to the other musicians.
The orchestra’s membership was quite stable, many musicians playing for more than 40 years with the group. After Guy’s death, the orchestra passed through several hands, including many Lombardos. It has come to rest now under the skillful direction of Al Pierson. Taking over in 1989, after starting his professional music career at the age of 14, Al Pierson has brought the orchestra back to glory, touring all 50 states and 54 coutries.
Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians is one of the longest running dance orchestras in the world, with more than 500 hit songs to its name, more than any other orchestra in the world. It was their influence that made the Scottish ballad “Auld Lang Syne” a New Year’s tradition.
The Academy Theatre may not be a dance hall, but if the music moves you, don’t resist the urge to kick up your heals as you listen to this big band treasure.
Tickets are $25.50 and can be purchased by calling 337-8000 or visiting theacademytheatre.org.