Swing legend closes Port Coquitlam Coffee Concert series
Big band leader Dal Richards — better known as the "King of Swing" — will wrap up the city of Port Coquitlam's 14th annual Sunday Coffee Concert series with a matinee show at Terry Fox Theatre on March 24. The Tri-City News caught up with the 95-year-old Vancouver legend last week to talk about his upcoming performance and about mentoring young talent. Here's an excerpt of the interview:
The Tri-City News: When was the last time you played in Port Coquitlam?
Dal Richards: I was out there last week to see Karin Plato. It was a very appreciative audience. I got a feel for the place. We sat for the whole show, naturally, then we did a couple of songs together. That was kind of an introductory for me. [For our show], we will have six musicians and four singers.
TCN: How do you tailor your shows?
DR: I consider the age level. Of course, it's totally mixed in Port Coquitlam because the prices are for seniors, students and adults. I try to program accordingly. I try to make it a friendly show: I talk to the audience, I talk about the songs and the composers. And we've got three people [in our band] who live in the area.... We're not just a band passing through. We're part of the scenery.
TCN: How long have your musicians been with you?
DR: All 20 or 30 years. But I've been very lucky to find new talent, too. We play the PNE every year and, about 12 years ago, one of the entries in the talent contest was Michael Bublé so I had him singing with the band for a few years until he took off. And, more recently, Bria Skonberg who is a graduate of Capilano [University]. She's a trumpet player and singer. She was with the band for three or four years and left recently for New York and is doing very well there.
TCN: Do you like to take the younger ones under your wing?
DR: Yeah. They learn lots sitting besides experienced musicians. They all appreciate that opportunity so when they fly the coop — so to speak — they are ready for whatever they encounter.
TCN: Did someone mentor you earlier on?
DR: Yeah. There were a number of people when I was first starting out at the Hotel Vancouver, which was a very prestigious job in those days. I was 20 and we were there for years and years and I learned a lot from that experience. I have a liking for young musicians. I have an appreciation for what they're going through. They don't know what they're facing.
TCN: Do you think it's harder for them today?
DR: They have lots more opportunities than I did and they're more ambitious. They have no hesitancy into thinking they can make it in New York and they have. Of course, Michael Bublé, that's out of sight.
• Tickets to the Dal Richards show on March 24 at 2 p.m. are $12/$10/$6 and available by calling 604-927-8400 or visiting experienceit.ca. The event is sponsored in part by The Tri-City News.