Lake Norman & Mooresville

Midtown Sundries getting into the swing

It's 7 p.m. on a Monday at Midtown Sundries in Cornelius. For hours, the sound system has filled the restaurant with the music of Eric Clapton, Van Morrison, Tom Petty and Michael Jackson.

Suddenly, the system is shut off and the music of 20 live musicians fills the room with the Glenn Miller classic "In the Mood."

Throughout the building, toes are tapping, fingers are snapping and dancers are dancing as the Lake Norman Big Band kicks off another Monday night.

The air once again is filled with the music of artists such as Duke Ellington, Stan Kenton and Les Brown, courtesy of 20 part-time musicians who make up the Lake Norman Big Band.

"Once the sound of the big band is in your heart, it's always there," said band President Jim McNabb, 53, of Mooresville.

McNabb - a family physician with Piedmont Health Care by day - plays trombone and says he looks forward to Monday evenings with great anticipation.

"We practice every Monday except for the nights we perform at Midtown. This is a very special experience for all of us, and it's so rewarding to see the crowds enjoying the music."

The concerts at Midtown have attracted a standing-room-only crowd since the big band started playing there earlier this year. Even the Midtown staff notices the guests' enthusiasm.

"It's a mixed but somewhat older crowd than we normally see here," said waitress Jennifer Zucker. "But the nice thing is watching them gain new friends as they enjoy the music.

"They reserve early, eat well and absolutely love the music."

"Once I heard them start playing 'In the Mood' I knew this was going to be a special evening," said Bob McAuliffe, 75, from Cornelius. "This is my kind of music."

And just who are the musicians in the Lake Norman Big Band?

They are doctors, accountants, engineers, high school students, even a minister, who step away from their full-time professions and studies to enjoy a few hours of big band sound every week. They range from age 16 to the mid-70s.

Formed in 1988, the band is a nonprofit charitable musical arts group formed by volunteer musicians. The band performs the full spectrum of jazz, including Dixieland, swing, bebop, Latin, jazz-rock fusion and pop.

The group consists of four trumpets, four trombones, five saxophones, a rhythm section and a vocalist.

Band members receive no compensation, just the satisfaction of entertaining. The modest stipend paid to the band for performances is used to cover expenses, according to McNabb.

McNabb, who lives in the Old Town section of Mooresville with his wife, Liz, says the band is really excited about the 7-9 p.m. Dec. 20 concert scheduled for Midtown.

"We're going to be presenting a Christmas Jazz Program that I think everyone will enjoy," he said.

McNabb gives much of the credit for the band's success to Music Director Scott Ireland, a pastor affiliated with Williamson's Chapel United Methodist Church in Mooresville.

"As our music director, he really pulls together our arrangements and playlists."

In addition to the Midtown Sundries Monday night concerts, currently scheduled for the fourth Monday of each month through June 2011, the band is seeking additional venues and events.