Rockford’s famous ballroom band The Bill Engberg Orchestra is all set to perform for one last dance Aug. 21 at Veterans Memorial Hall.
Coordinator John Russell (Ghrist) of WTPB LP 99.3 FM said: “It will be a free afternoon of dancing to the city’s best-known orchestra. It will be a no frills event, and people are welcome to come out and listen or dance.
“We wanted to have some dance instruction before the event and even a jitterbug contest, but no businesses in the city wanted to participate or provide any token prizes,” Russell added. “We’ll just go ahead and have a nice afternoon where the folks can just enjoy this fine orchestra.”
The event came about some months ago, when long-time band member and sax player Vito D’Angelo said at a luncheon that he wished he could play those great band arrangements “one more time.” Local DJ John Russell began to look for a possible venue for an event like this, and after being turned down a few times, inquired at Veterans Memorial Hall in downtown Rockford.
“The manager of the hall, Scott Lewandowski, was very receptive to the idea and graciously welcomed the band to play there,” Russell reported.
Members of the Bill Engberg Orchestra will also attend two practice sessions to prepare for the dance. Angie Fellows, who coordinates the city’s Senor Follies event, will sing, and Mark Rose will lead the band. Doors open at 1 p.m. and the band will play from about 2 to 5 p.m.
While the public is enjoying the memorable music, they are also invited to view the hall’s many historical displays. Refreshments will also be available.
“There are plenty of events around for younger audiences, but this will be something that everyone can enjoy,” Russell said. “Lots of people like to dance to ballroom music, and other folks can just come and sit and listen to these great tunes. The Bill Engberg Orchestra was very active in the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s, and played for many city events, class reunions and at the Waterfront. The band was directed by Ken Flodin for many years.”
Filling in the band will be as many original members as possible with some substitutes who are willing to play for this one performance. The list includes local musicians like Ken Stein, Guy Fiorenza and Don Larson. Vito D’Angelo is coordinating the rehearsals. It is hoped someone will volunteer to record this historical event. It will also be a time to socialize and meet up with old friends.
“I hope that lots of people come out to hear this fine orchestra for what may be its final performance as many of its members are getting up there in age,” Russell said. “Spread the word that the Bill Engberg Orchestra is back to play ‘One More Time!’”
From the Aug. 17-23, 2011, issue