The Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra to honour Frank Sinatra and Tommy Dorsey

American conductor Jeff Tyzik and singer Steve Lippia are working with the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra to present “Swingin’ Sinatra,” an evening of Sinatra’s greatest hits.

The concert —which honours both Frank Sinatra and American composer Tommy Dorsey— will be held at the Jack Singer Concert Hall on Friday, March 9 and Saturday, March 10.

“It’s a concert that’s actually a tribute to two American jazz icons — well I call Sinatra jazz because he sings great standards in kind of a jazz style — but it’s a tribute to Sinatra and also Tommy Dorsey,” said Tyzik, who serves as principal pops conductor for the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra and the Oregon Symphony.

Tyzik said the reason he linked the two together is because Sinatra — in his formative years — sang with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra.

“And when he was interviewed about his particular style of singing, he always credited the time he spent with the Dorsey orchestra as his sort of laboratory to learn how to sing that music,” Tyzik said.

Tyzik, hasn’t worked with the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra in about nine years but says he thinks the concert will draw an all-ages audience.

“A lot of young people like to swing dance and they like a lot of swing music as well. So swing music and Sinatra I think crosses a number of generations, and these concerts tend to draw very well,” Tyzik said.

The concert will consist of about 60 to 75 people on stage including Tyzik, Lippia and Al Kay, a Canadian trombonist from Toronto who Tyzik calls one of the great trombone players of our day.

The ensemble will be playing 14 of Sinatra’s greatest hits, with Lippia and Kay performing some of Tommy Dorsey’s hits during the first half of the concert. Lippia will continue through the second half.

Lippia, who has performed in various casinos and with various orchestras across North America, says he began singing when he was in high school.

“On a dare, I entered into the variety show at my high school,” Lippia said.

Steve Lippia will be performing with the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra.
Photo courtesy of: Andersen and Associates, Inc.

“I didn’t have a band or any music and my buddy said, ‘Well come on over, my mom has a bunch of sheet music; maybe there’s something there that you can audition with.’ I found the song called ‘It Was a Very Good Year’ and I thought ‘Oh that’s a cool tune, I’ve heard that before.’

“Luckily, the school provided us with an audition band and so I sat and auditioned, and people were wowed. They really loved it and I ended up in the variety show,” said Lippia.

The following year, Lippia was at the same variety show when people started drawing comparisons with his singing and Sinatra’s.

“I don’t try to adopt his voice, but certainly I have borrowed heavily in terms of phrasing, styling, his approach to the music,” Lippia said.

Lippia added, “My goal is not to try to look like him or talk like him or put on a silly fedora or a pinky ring or something. I think that’s undignified to myself and the artists whose music we’re honouring.”

After a recent show, crowds were described as being ecstatic over Lippia’s performance.

“Lippia has a style [that is] all his own and has a smooth and easy voice, rivaling that of greats from Sinatra to Martin and Crosby,” said Hillary Bowler, in The Desert News’ review of Lippia’s Feb. 24 performance with the Utah Symphony.

“To me, it’s being really authentic,” Lippia said. “It’s really being true to the music and inserting enough of myself in there so I get some credit for what I’m doing up there. There’s no question, I am very fortunate to kind of reintroduce a great body of music in a way that’s very similar to that of one of the most recognizable and beloved music icons.”

For more information on the concert and ticketing, visit the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra’s website.

rkadri@cjournal.ca