Return with us now to those fabulous days of yesteryear, back to a time when America was not going to let a little thing like World War II get in the way of everyday life on the home front. The 1940s were a time when the American public got the majority of its news and entertainment from out of the air by way of the family radio. It might be a bit tough to imagine in our current cell-phone-fax-machine-high-speed- modem-Internet-zillion-channel-satellite- system-always-wired world that once upon a time, people would just sit and listen to the radio, where the family would gather to hear all the reports from Europe and the South Pacific from Lowell Thomas or Edward R. Murrow. Just as important, it was radio that lightened the mood with comedy, drama and especially music.
Radio Days, featuring Five by Design, which plays this Sunday afternoon at the Sundome, is a loving tribute to the music of that era. The recent revival of interest in all things swing has served to highlight the lasting appeal of 1940s-era music. But the neo-swing movement really only scratched the surface of the varied styles that sprang from those days. Notably missing amongst the work of Cherry Poppin' Daddies, Brian Setzer Orchestra and other swingers-come-lately are examples of the smooth harmonies of the vocal groups that worked with the original big bands. Groups such as the Andrews Sisters and the Pied Pipers were as much a part of the musical landscape as the bandleaders themselves. It's those sounds that are the centerpiece of the show. Performed in vintage clothing, with live re-creations of broadcast programming from the era, Radio Days brings to life a little bit of the flavor of those times.
The Minneapolis-St. Paul-based Five by Design has been performing together in various forms since 1982. Starting out as Hot Jazz, the group worked on material that focused on the members' love for vocal harmonies. Eventually transforming into the current lineup around 1986, Five by Design started touring Radio Days using prerecorded backing tracks. In time, this led to a string of appearances with pops orchestras and symphonies around the country. Played by some of the best orchestras in the land, songs such as "Jukebox Saturday Night," "Sentimental Journey," "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" and "Moonlight in Vermont" can really burst to life.
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Radio Days with Five by Design is scheduled for 2 p.m. Sunday, March 5, at the Sundome, 19403 R.H. Johnson Boulevard in Sun City West. For ticket information, call 623-975-1900 (the 'dome) or 480-503-5555 (Dillard's).