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The Annual Big Band After Christmas Dance will be from 7:30-10:30 p.m. Dec. 27 at the Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish Hall, 3700 Canyon Road, Los Alamos.
The dance is a memorial for Catherine LeClaire, who was a longtime member of the quartet, the Mountainaires. Proceeds from the dance will be used to purchase a new organ fro the church, in her name.
Music will feature the Los Alamos Big Band and for this dance, the featured vocalist will be Rene LeClaire, Cathy’s widower. Rene was also a member of the Mountainaires. The Los Alamos Big Band has played at dances throughout Northern New Mexico since 1984, under the direction of Jan McDonald, who for many years, was the bandleader at Los Alamos High School.
The band features the music of the Big Band era, such as “In the Mood,” String of Pearls,” Sing, Sing, Sing” and “Moonlight Serenade.” They also play other music such as “Moon River,” Latin numbers like “Besame Mucho” and even “Rock Around the Clock.” Several Christmas tunes will be featured at the dance.
Decorations and refreshments at the dance will be provided by the IHM Youth Group.
The Big Band started in 1984, when Dick Souder retired from Chrysler in Michigan and started working at Los Alamos National Laboratory.
Souder headed a Big Band in the Detroit area, called The Executives. He said his only regret about coming to the Land of Enchantment was that he missed his Big Band.
Some said a semi-professional Big Band could not survive in a small town like Los Alamos, but Souder teamed with McDonald and later Ralph Bennorth, to organize the band and start playing at dances throughout Northern New Mexico.
Each year, the band gives the Souder-Bennorth Memorial Scholarship, in memory of Souder and Bennorth, to a high school student from Los Alamos or Española. Many of the recipients have gone on to become professional musicians.
Although half of the band members work in Los Alamos, others come from Santa Fe and Española. Many band members have music degrees.
Others have technical degrees including several doctorates and Los Alamos National Laboratory managers. The band also includes a physician, Mike Wagner on trumpet; a retired attorney, Gerald Becker on saxophone; several retirees and music teachers.
The band has always had a drum, bass, piano, four trumpets, four trombones and five saxophones, who also double on clarinet for the full Big Band sound.
Admission to the dance is free, though contributions to the Catherine LeClaire Memorial Organ Fund will be accepted. For more information or to receive email notices of upcoming dances, contact John Hendricks at firstname.lastname@example.org.