The Los Alamos Big Band, a 16-instrument 1940s Glenn Miller-style swing band, celebrates its 30th birthday this year! As a way to thank the community for its steadfast support, director Jan McDonald invites the community to a free concert and dance at 7 p.m. Friday, March 28 at Fuller Lodge.
Music was always an important part of the lives of the scientists, engineers, support staff, military members, and families who came to Los Alamos during WWII to serve in the Manhattan Project, and ‘big band’ was the popular music of the day. The Big Band began in Los Alamos in 1945 with the original LA All-Stars who played standard two-steps and slower fox trots for dances every Saturday night at Theater No. 2 in downtown Los Alamos. LA All-Stars trumpeter Ed Macmann, who is in his 90s now and still plays with the Big Band, also had a smaller combo, The Keynotes, who played for the Civic and NCO clubs. During the 50s, 60s, and 70s, Macmann would gather a big band to play for events like the annual Harvest Moon Ball.
Today’s Los Alamos Big Band has been playing at dances throughout Northern New Mexico since 1984 under the direction of Jan McDonald, who joined the LA All-Stars in 1963 and for many years was the band director at Los Alamos High School. The band features the danceable music of the Big Band Era such as “In The Mood,” “String of Pearls,” “Sing, Sing, Sing,” and “Moonlight Serenade.” The band also plays other dance music such as “New York, New York,” Latin numbers like “Besame Mucho” and “Guantanamera,” and even “Rock Around the Clock.”
Vocalist Elisa Enriquez is featured in a variety of numbers such as “Moon River,” “Sentimental Journey,” and “Let’s Fall in Love.” Sometimes one of the instrumentalists will even take the microphone to sing.
The Los Alamos Big Band has always had a drum, bass, piano, four trumpets, four trombones, and five saxophones who also double on flute and clarinet for the full classic Big Band sound. About half of the band members work or reside in Los Alamos, the other musicians come from Santa Fe and the Española Valley. Many of the band members have music degrees, several are professional musicians, and others come from the fields of physics, engineering, medicine and law.
Please come for a lively Friday evening of free Big Band music and dance and let the Big Band musicians thank you in person for keeping music alive and well in Los Alamos for 30 years!