Music Review: Nashville Symphony’s “Nashville Swings”

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Nashville Symphony’s Bank of America Pops Series presents “Nashville Swings” featuring Mike Eldred and Abigail Burke
Jan. 17 – 19; All ages

Schermerhorn Symphony Center
1 Symphony Place, Nashville
687-6400 • nashvillesymphony.org
Remaining show times: Fri – Sat 8 p.m.
Tickets: $44 – $129

Amazing music of the big band era is alive and well this weekend inside the Schermerhorn Symphony Center’s Laura Turner Concert Hall as our Grammy Award-winning Nashville Symphony presents “Nashville Swings” along with members of the Nashville Jazz Orchestra.  This energetic, toe-tappin’ evening of standards — featuring vocalists Mike Eldred and Abigail Burke — quickly made its way into my Top 3 Pops Series experiences with the Nashville Symphony (Amy Grant and Dionne Warwick being the other two).

After the beautifully played opening number, Glenn Miller’s “Moonlight Serenade,” the ever-entertaining Conductor Albert-George Schram cheerfully expressed to the eager audience, “We’re going to swing, rock and roll, and cook tonight.” And that was no joke! Among the standout instrumental numbers are “In the Mood,” “One O’Clock Jump,” Brian Setzer’s “Rock This Town” and “Jazz Police.” Kids will enjoy a particularly fun gem of the evening, John Williams’ “Cantina Band” from Star Wars. It’s a real treat to hear the entire tune versus the short snippet in the movie.

Broadway-blessed vocalist Mike Eldred (he played Jean Valjean in Les Miserables and was in the original cast of the Tony-nominated The Civil War) graces the stage with his dynamic tenor vocals. Eldred is a natural on stage and is one of those rare breeds who succinctly embodies what he’s singing, evident in numbers like “This Could be the Start of Something Big,” “Feelin’ Good,” “Fever” and “Try a Little Tenderness.” Eldred first appears on stage with fellow vocalist Abigail Burke for a lively rendition of “Bandstand Boogie,” the theme song from the TV show American Bandstand.

Burke delivers a soulful performance of Harold Arlen’s “Come Rain or Come Shine” as well as a festive version of George Gershwin’s “I’ve Got Rhythm.” However, it’s the final number of the evening, “Birth of the Blues,” where Burke truly dazzles the audience with her vocal prowess.

Other highlights of the evening include an incredibly jazzed-up version of a classical tune, Bach’s “Two-Part Invention in D Minor,” and Schram taking the mic for a joyous audience sing-along of Cab Calloway’s “Minnie the Moocher (The “Hi-De-Ho” Song).”

Like any Nashville Symphony performance, “Nashville Swings” is a wonderful family outing and serves as the perfect opportunity to introduce your kids to some of the most outstanding music in American history.

Chad Young is the managing editor and arts/entertainment editor for this publication.

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