“Things Ain’t What They Used To Be’ — unless you listen to this big band

The Saints of Swing Big Band displays a row of Sax Box, a stand display reminiscent of the 1940s set decor.

LINO LAKES —St. Joseph’s of the Lakes Catholic Church was in full “swing” as the brass section of the Saints of Swing Big Band filled the Grand Hall with 1940s era tunes, Saturday, March 25. Quick dance lessons before the lights dimmed filled the hardwoods with couples ready to show off a Lindy Hop, or perhaps, just a basic right turn.

The band was organized in 2012, the brainchild of Harvey Karth, a choir member of the church. “I was walking down the hall one day with the priest, and I said I wanted to start a big band for the church as a fundraiser,” Karth said. “He said that sounded like a good idea.”

One conversation led to another, and it was discovered Mike Snell, another member of the church, was a band director at White Bear Lake schools.

Karth contacted Snell on a Friday and said, “This is what we’re going to do, if you’d be interested in being the director.” Snell replied along the lines of, “That sounds like fun, let me check with my wife.”

Karth opened his email Monday and found the message from Snell, “We’ve got to do this and this and this and this …”

The big band was put together, and it’s been music to their ears ever since.

Snell said the band plays swing, jazz and Latin-style music, mostly from the big-band era. “In the Mood,” “Mack the Knife” and “Night Train” are standards, as are requests for “faster swing songs.”

The band also features vocalists for select tunes.

Karth said he polled the musicians during the first year, and they had a collective 792 years’ experience. Their website (www.saintsofswing.org) lists future events and has audio tracks of their music, including “Sway” and “The Lady is a Tramp.”

Saints of Swing is performing again 7-8:30 p.m. June 21 at Como Dockside, 1360 Lexington Parkway N. in St. Paul. They’ve played there several times since their inception. They have also performed dance music at the Parish Festival at the church every summer, this year’s is scheduled for Sunday, Aug. 13.

“We’ve performed at events at the Withrow Ballroom in Hugo. We were invited to perform along with jazz ensembles at White Bear Lake High School’s ‘Night Club,’” Snell said.         

Karth, whom the musicians have nicknamed “The Founder,” doesn’t play an instrument. “I play the radio,” he laughed. “I grew up with big bands and I really enjoy them, so why shouldn’t we have our own big band if we can do it? And we could, as it turned out!” he exclaimed. “It’s been in forward gear ever since!”

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