Entertainment

Big band sound Downtown

Saxophonists and New Westminster residents Rob Fee and Tim Kelly of the Impressions big band will be part of a concert at the Columbia Theatre Sunday. It will benefit a non-profit organization set up by the late Ray Sikora of New Westminster who played trombone for jazz great Stan Kenton
Saxophonists and New Westminster residents Rob Fee and Tim Kelly of the Impressions big band will be part of a concert at the Columbia Theatre Sunday. It will benefit a non-profit organization set up by the late Ray Sikora of New Westminster who played trombone for jazz great Stan Kenton's orchestra.
— image credit: Grant Granger/NewsLeader

The Columbia Theatre and Downtown New Westminster were happening places to be in the 1940s and ’50s.

So it's an appropriate place for the big band sounds of that era to once again get the joint jumping.

Big bands Impressions and Urbana will perform at the Columbia Sunday evening. Both are operated by the Arokis Centre of Music Society. It's a non-profit organization started by the late Ray Sikora, a trombone player from New West who got to play with jazz legend Stan Kenton and others. (Arokis is Sikora spelled backwards.)

They're made up of amateur and semi-pro musicians like New Westminster residents Rob Fee and Tim Kelly. Both play saxophone for Impressions. Fee, 43, is an art teacher in Steveston who refuses to put his alto sax away for good. Kelly, 58, is facilities manager at Royal Columbian Hospital who plays the tenor sax on the side.

"We practice every Saturday, and Saturday rehearsals are a great way to start a weekend," says Fee.

Impressions is directed by composer and arranger Jill Townsend, who has a professional big band of her own. Urbana is led by professional musician Robin Shier. Each band has 17 to 18 amateur and semi-professional musicians. The society's mandate is to get the extended music community involved and keep the big band sound alive.

Fee says Impressions and Urbana are adult extensions of the high school stage band. The rich sound of a big band is a strong attraction for him.

"To have that sound of five saxes blending together [is amazing]," says Fee.

Besides changing demographics, Fee and Kelly figure one of the reasons why the popularity of big bands is fading is financial. They've got triple or quadruple the musicians a rock band has.

"It's all those mouths to feed," says Kelly.

The concert is a fundraiser for Arokis. For more information go to arokismusic.org. Tickets are $15, $10 for students and seniors. They are available through northerntickets.com or at the door.

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