It's time to get in the mood for a Valentine's tradition.
Each year, the weekend before Feb. 14, the Chattanooga Symphony & Opera takes us back in time for "Big Band Fever."
"We're just going to keep doing it until we get it right," said CSO Pops conductor and music director emeritus Robert Bernhardt.
Local singer Neshawn Calloway will join the band for the second act, performing several songs, including "At Last," by the recently deceased Etta James. Calloway chose from among a selection of numbers.
Whether a singer joins the band, Bernhardt said, typically depends on the availability of time to plan and coordinate.
"I always enjoy when there's a chance to break up the flow," he said.
Big-band singing is a proud tradition. Bernhardt cited Frank Sinatra, Rosemary Clooney and Ella Fitzgerald as those who began careers singing for bands before they were fronting them.
"It feels totally right to do it," he said.
As is tradition, the program will begin with Glenn Miller's "In the Mood," and will include "Tuxedo Junction," "Take the A Train," "One O'Clock Jump," and "Stompin' at the Savoy."
"This is music that dares you to stay still," said Bernhardt.
Fortunately, there's no need. Audience members are welcome to wander or to go up onstage to dance in a section reserved for swingers of all ages.
"It's our most intergener-ational show," he said.
Bernhardt said he would be interested in incorporating more contemporary swing music, such as Brian Setzer or Big Bad Voodoo Daddies, into his program in the future, but for now, he's more than satisfied with leading the band in the classics.
"I think the players would love to branch out into some of the more modern stuff," he said, "but the big idea for this is that everyone should feel comfortable on the dance floor."
Though it's not listed on the program, Bernhardt said audiences can count on a certain song named for a certain train to be played as an encore. He jokingly referred to it as "Voldemort's theme song -- the song that shall not be named."
"It just has a habit of showing up," he said. "It will be there."
IF YOU GO
What: "Big Band Fever" by the Chattanooga Symphony & Opera.
When: 8 p.m. today and Saturday.
Where: Tivoli Theatre, 709 Broad St.
Holly Leber is a reporter and columnist for the Life section. She has worked at the Times Free Press since March 2008. Holly covers “everything but the kitchen sink" when it comes to features: the arts, young adults, classical music, art, fitness, home, gardening and food. She writes the popular and sometimes-controversial column Love and Other Indoor Sports. Holly calls both New York City and Saratoga Springs, NY home. She earned a bachelor of arts ...