Lake Norman & Mooresville

Lake Norman Big Band delights bowling alley restaurant crowd

On the third Monday night of each month, a crowd will be there at the bowling alley, but not to bowl.

Inside the George Pappas Victory Lanes is a restaurant called The Finish Line. Since September 2011, the nonprofit Lake Norman Big Band has performed there monthly.

“We had about 60 to 80 people attending,” said Victory Lanes General Manager Paul Kreins. “Tonight we’ll have about 180 people. There is a $5 cover because we started selling out every show, so we require reservations and give back a $10 gift card; it can be used for food, or they could use it to bowl later. The card doesn’t expire.”

The crowd, young and old, packed the place on the third Monday of August.

Band President Jim McNabb said the band practices on three Monday nights each month.

“We were lucky to get Noel Freidline as our director,” McNabb said. “First he turned it down, but I went back and put him in a headlock. …

“It’s been really good for our band. We’re working more on the music, the interpretation, the show. … Noel teaches music at UNC Charlotte, but he’s a freelance musician, arguably the best jazz musician in Charlotte. …

“Nobody in this band is a professional musician,” McNabb said. “We take it very seriously, but we all have our day jobs.”

Dan Markley, trombone player and the band’s librarian, said, “I look forward to Monday nights. It’s really therapy.”

The group spun off from the Lake Norman Orchestra in 2002. Three original members of the group – Bill Haraden, who became a professional musician at 14 and played with Doc Severinsen; Terry Rothwell, trumpet; and Jim Singer, trumpet – are still with the band.

“We used to play on the street corner of Mooresville,” Rothwell said. “Anything to get recognition. Twelve years later, it’s just incredible now.”

Freidline gathered the band in private before the performance and said, “Ladies and gentlemen: It’s an absolute privilege to be with you all tonight. As always, the main thing: Have a good time. … If we’re not having fun, then why are we here?

“I know we have a lot of new material; that’s OK. If something doesn’t go right, it’s all right. … The main thing to do is swing.”

The new material being played that evening included music from the score “A Tribute to Artie Shaw.” Percussionist Jeff Flagg donated the music to the band because Artie Shaw, one of the best clarinetists ever, was his all-time favorite jazzman.

Ron and Marilyn Root of north Charlotte are regulars. They said coming to Mooresville was worth the drive: “We simply love the music of (the big-band) era,” Marilyn said, “because indeed it is the music that invites you to dance.”

Ron Root, who will be 70 next month, said, “We’ve been coming for four or five years, before the band played here.”

Marilyn explained: “We originally learned to dance for our daughter’s wedding. What’s great about dancing (is) it’s … a hobby we can do together that gets us in with great people and great evenings.”

People of all ages attend. Seventeen-year-old Caroline O’Connor of Mooresville, a student musician studying under Bill Haraden, said she loved big-band music because “it plays Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, … the classics. I think it is wonderful that there are people out there that still like to rejuvenate all this music.”

Ellen Kay and Larry MacLeod of Mooresville came to dance. “We like this kind of music,” Larry said. His wife added, “It brings back memories. We used to go out Saturday nights to dance.”

Virginia Wagner of Mooresville and Brenda Wallace of Union Grove are the vocalists for Lake Norman Big Band, but were in the audience last Monday.

Wallace, with the band since 2010, said, “I love the style of music from the ’30s and ’40s. It resonates with me.”

Wagner, a chorus teacher at Lake Norman High School, described performances: “It’s completely unique. There’s nothing in the area like it. I’ve invited my classes to come.

“My choruses have done some swing numbers and similar music. Here they get the opportunity to hear it live.”

The evening closed with a standing ovation for the band.