On Sunday evening, patrons at the Player’s Pub swayed and tapped their feet to the beat of classic Christmas songs as they enjoyed their food and drinks. The 17-piece Swing Time Big Band, an affiliate of the Bloomington Community Band, made its debut at the venue. It featured vocalist Kathleen McCalahan and played various big band jazz arrangements of holiday tunes.
Band director Jerry Jerome said he was pleased to see so many people at the Player’s Pub, especially because the band didn’t know what to expect for a Sunday evening show. He said the group hadn’t done a lot of advertising, but the little it did must have worked due to the considerable crowd.
“Sunday afternoon, a group like ours that is not known, we thought, ‘Well, if no one is there it’ll be a rehearsal if nothing else,’” he said during a break between sets. “But it’s been wonderful. We have a nice group here.”
Player’s Pub owner Joe Estivill also said it can be difficult to draw a crowd on a Sunday or even find bands that are willing to play. He said he does not specifically seek out holiday shows during Christmas time but will allow musicians to make the decision to do a holiday-themed show on their own.
“If artists want to do that sort of show then we normally will find space,” he said. “It just sort of happens organically between different artists.”
Although the pub experienced financial difficulty earlier this month and nearly shut down, Estivill said the venue is back on its feet. He said except for a few initial missed shows due to lack of communication, the pub has been able to maintain shows as scheduled.
“We’re trying to continue on, and the schedule is completed through 2016, and the first couple of months in 2017 are being worked on,” he said. “It’s an important space to the community. Now we just have to find the bands to support it or have to find a way to help support it.”
One such band is Jerome’s professional swing group, the Stardusters. Jerome said the group has been playing monthly shows at the venue since it opened nearly 12 years ago.
“We’re somewhat of a fixture here,” he said.
Though Jerome is not new to the Player’s Pub, he said he is excited to showcase the talents of the Swing Time Big Band. Formed almost two years ago, Jerome said the band is made up of volunteers and many of its newest members are students at Bloomington High School North.
“They come from various levels of musicianship,” he said. “Some of them have never played big band before, and some are pros. It’s a hodge-podge, but they’re all guys that like to play.”
Jerome said the band is glad to have young people interested in big band swing music and it is good for the high school students to get experience playing in a public setting.
“It’s a wonderful style,” he said. “I love it, and a lot of people do. This was born during World War II in the late 1930s. Big band swing will be with us forever, but it’s hard to keep it alive.”
Jerome said although being in so many musical projects keeps him busy, he is simply thankful he gets the opportunity to play.
“I love it,” he said. “I love doing this. I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
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