By Dan McDonald
For Hometown News
BREVARD - Dance steps replace marching and the British are invading again as the Melbourne Municipal Band sets to salute and entertain guests with a special pair of November events.
First up, the 20- piece Swingtime Jazz Band slices off from the main body of the band for a "Salute to Our Veterans" dance on Thursday, Nov. 8, followed by a "British Invasion" concert on Nov. 14 and 15 by the full 80-member band. Both events will be held at the Melbourne Auditorium, 625 E. Hibiscus Blvd.
"I can't tell you how proud I am to be part of the veterans' tribute," said Cocoa Beach resident Sally Hart, who was once a singer on the Lawrence Welk Show and one of the two featured vocalists with the Swingtime Jazz Band.
"One of my best local friends just turned 90, and he's a retired pilot who flew in World War II, Korea and Vietnam," she added. "It's an honor to be able to help entertain him and all our local veterans."
Ms. Hart jumped to national fame in 1967 as a 21-year-old, when she joined the Welk troupe as part of the "Sandi and Salli" duet hired to replace the departing Lennon Sisters, then spent five years with the iconic bandleader and his Champagne Music Makers.
"Since Sandi spelled her name with an 'I', I changed my spelling for the show so we would be alike," Ms. Hart recalled of her stint on what became a television classic, airing nationally from 1955 through 1982.
"When I look at those old shows, I can't believe I was ever that young," she said. "It was a long time ago, but I feel honored and privileged to have been a part of that show. It was great. It was a gift."
Ms. Hart said she left the show in 1973, hoping to break into a Broadway career. While that success eluded her, she still has a trunk full of memories from performing and traveling with Welk.
"We did a lot of tributes to veterans on the Lawrence Welk Show," said Ms. Hart, who married fellow Welk cast member and singer Clay Hart. "They were always great fun and full of patriotic music. That's why I'm happy to be part of the Swingtime Jazz veterans salute. I think everyone who comes to the dance will have a flashback to the big band sound and have an enjoyable evening of music and dancing."
Tickets for the dance are $5, but free for veterans or active duty military members. As is customary, it's a BYOB affair, with mixers and light snacks available for the 7 p.m. show.
Art Martin, conductor of the Swingtime Jazz Band, said the group expects a full house to enjoy the three-hour show.
"We look forward to this veterans' tribute," said Martin, who has been the group's conductor for the last two years. "Any veteran or current service member gets in free."
"We have great music planned that is dance-friendly," Mr. Martin added. "They'll be plenty of waltzes, ballads, fox trots, two very gifted singers - Sally Hart and Len Fallen. It's going to be a great show, and we hope everyone comes out to help us celebrate and honor our veterans."
The second of the two November shows will feature some of the very recognizable tunes from across the pond, as the Melbourne Municipal Band prepares for the "British Invasion" on Nov. 14 and 15.
"We thought this would be a great theme for our November concert," said Staci Cleveland, who recently entered her third season as the band's conductor. "There are a lot of British standards and popular music that have become part of our culture, as well."
The band will be featuring many songs that its audience will be familiar with, including a Beatles' medley, James Bond themes, as well as more formal songs, including "The Standard of St. George March."
"We're also going to have a special performance by the members of the Space Coast Young Marines," Ms. Cleveland added. "They normally present the colors when we perform, but this concert we're going to have them perform a little more. It will be a great show and we're hoping to have everyone come out for an enjoyable event."
The MMB British Invasion concert is free to the public and begins on both nights at 7:30 p.m.
Audience members who go to any of the shows will become part of the estimated 69,000 audience members, who enjoy the Melbourne Municipal Band shows annually.
For more information about these concerts or any other MMB event, visit www.melbournemunicipalband.org or call (321) 751-0555.