The life and music of ol' blue eyes himself, Frank Sinatra, will be celebrated at the Carroll Arts Center Friday, as the Gettysburg Big Band hosts a concert celebrating the 100th anniversary of the singer's birth.
The two-hour tribute to Sinatra will feature big-band performances of some of his most famous hits, while singer Ron Bevilacqua takes the role of the Sultan of Swoon. In addition to the music, the show will feature videos from some of Sinatra's most famous performances throughout his career.
Gettysburg Big Band director Joel Sears said Sinatra is a vital figure in musical history, one who should be celebrated at every opportunity.
"He's one of the great icons of the Great American Songbook," Sears said. "I can't think of anyone else who better symbolizes what American pop music stood for in those decades."
For Bevilacqua, taking the role of the iconic musician was a mix of nerve-wracking and exciting.
"It's a big thing to choose to do, if you think about Sinatra the way I do," Bevilacqua said. "I'm not trying to imitate him, but I have used him as a role model to try and be as good as I can. I've tried to learn his phrasing."
Bevilacqua has been singing Sinatra's songs with the Gettysburg Big Band for years, but he said, this is the first time the group has ever dedicated an entire show to the performer. Because of this, he has had to train his voice to sing for a majority of the show's two hours, as the performance is weighted more toward his singing than to the instrumentalist performances.
Sinatra, who got his start as a backing singer with the big bands of the '30s and '40s soon grew into a draw himself. Sears said the history of Sinatra is so important, because it mirrors the history of the big band itself.
"Music changed with the man, and the man with the music," Sears said. "It started off that bands were the main draw with singers behind them, but soon the singers took over and became the leaders by the end of the big band era."
Though many of Sears' contemporaries are fans of the British invasion and that era of rock-'n'-roll, he said it's the big band sound that touches him, and the music of those composers he wishes to perform.
"The lyrics were so important to the music. We had really amazing writers. These lyricists and composers were very imaginative characters," Sears said. "The music they wrote could resonate with whoever was listening. It runs the emotional gamut, with some pretty amazing stuff."
Bevilacqua said Sinatra helped make many of the big band classics the masterpieces they are.
"I do believe the era of the great musicals had some of the best songs ever written," Bevilacqua said. "Sinatra added a big, bad feel to a lot of that music that may have been just a tad more corny in the shows."
With the historical tribute to Sinatra's career, Sears said, he hopes future generations are awakened to the greatness of the musician. Sears said the youth today are luckier than older generations, because of the access to music streaming tools like Spotify and YouTube grant them.
"You can craft a playlist of your own and listen to it all day, every day and not repeat anything," Sears said. "It's important to awaken a new generation of people to this music, so they knew they can listen to it and play it. Without somebody carrying the banner of history, then history is lost. There's only one way to present music and that's in the moment."
If You Go
What: Tribute to Frank Sinatra
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 14
Where: Carroll Arts Center, 91 W. Main Street, Westminster
Cost: $15 adults, $13 Carroll County Arts Council Members, children 18 and younger and seniors older than 60.
For more information: Visit www.carrollartscenter.org or call 410-848-7272.