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Golden age of swing and jazz returns for two-day event in Nanaimo

Nanaimo Big Band Festival will be held at the Port Theatre on May 18-19
Toronto-based singer Ori Dagan will perform crooner classics for the second day of the Nanaimo Big Band Festival at the Port Theatre on Saturday, May 18. (Photo by Dan Brown)

Lovers of jazz, swing and big bands can journey through the golden age once again this weekend.

The Nanaimo Big Band Festival returns Friday and Saturday, May 18-19, with two performances at the Port Theatre.

Opening day will see A Yesteryear of Big Band Swing with the Vancouver Island Repertory Jazz Orchestra. A release for the festival invites audiences to join the musicians when “big band jazz was king, bandleaders wildly popular personalities, music was infectious and swing dancing was life.”

During the show, A History of Big Band Swing will be narrated by vocalist Joëlle Rabu for audiences to relive the music of Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Tommy Dorsey, Glenn Miller, Artie Shaw and Benny Goodman. Members of the Nanaimo Ballroom Dance Society will also take the stage and perform dance moves of the era. The release also noted the jazz orchestra will play hit songs such as In the Mood, One O’ Clock Jump, I’m Getting Sentimental Over You, It Don’t Mean a Thing if it Ain’t Got That Swing, and Sing Sing Sing.

The second day of the festival will see Toronto-based award winning crooner Ori Dagan perform selections from the Rat Pack songbook along with the Vancouver Island Repertory Jazz Orchestra – which he’ll be meeting for the first time earlier that day.

“That’s the way it works in jazz, and I love doing that,” Dagan said. “I love being able to work with new people whenever I travel … It’s kind of the magic of jazz because we all speak the same language.”

He and the jazz orchestra will be playing music made famous by Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr. and Dean Martin.

“My two favourite things in life are music and people and I was drawn to this particular songbook because over the years, as I’ve been performing jazz, everywhere I go in the world, I find people love Frank Sinatra,” he said, adding that when he performed in Macedonia and didn’t speak the language, as soon as he mentioned Sinatra, the crowd started cheering.

“I just love the songs, I love the way they make people feel, I love connecting with older audiences who appreciate these older songs.”

The Port Theatre performance this weekend is part of Dagan’s B.C. tour through Burnaby, Victoria and Vancouver.

Tickets for the Nanaimo Big Band Festival can be purchased online at

READ MORE: Nanaimo’s first-ever Big Band Festival on its way to the waterfront

Mandy Moraes

About the Author: Mandy Moraes

I joined Black Press Media in 2020 as a multimedia reporter for the Parksville Qualicum Beach News, and transferred to the News Bulletin in 2022
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