Summer Concert Series Ends On Swinging Note



Payson's annual summer Concert Under the Stars series ends this week on a swinging note with a performance by a 19-piece orchestra and two vocalists known as Sonoran Swing.

Gary Cordell of Payson is the group's lead vocalist. He said the members love coming to Payson because of the great reception they get from Rim audiences. The last 2005 Concert Under the Stars is from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., Saturday, July 23 at the Green Valley Park amphitheater.


Sonoran Swing will bring big band sounds of old and more recent times to the Green Valley Park this Saturday, July 23. The group is presenting the final performance of the 2005 Concert Under the Stars series for the Payson Parks and Recreation Department. Admission is free, the concert is from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. in the park's amphitheater.

"We started as the Motorola Dance Band, sponsored by Motorola to play at nonprofit events to help them make some money," Cordell explained.

When Motorola was sold to General Dynamics the sponsorship ended, but the group decided to stay together and became an independent band about six years ago, he explained.

Almost all 21 members of Sonoran Swing are full-time employees of either Motorola and General Dynamics with previous band experience.

"We all just love the music," Cordell said. They rehearse once a week and some members are also involved in different orchestras and quartets.

Sonoran Swing is one of the few big bands performing in the state and gives about 20 performances annually. The group goes all over the state and once a year it travels to Poway, Calif., outside of San Diego, for a show. One of their biggest jobs is the annual Italian-American Club event at the Ritz-Carlton, attended by such notables as Gov. Janet Napolitano and Jerry Colangelo.

Not many of their shows are outside though. However, the band has performed at the Mesa Amphitheater and provided the music for the Relay for Life walk in Ahwatukee.

Cordell said while the bandstand at Green Valley Park is small, they have played on smaller stages, and the sound system is great. He said the Payson audience can expect to enjoy excellent acoustics with the music of Sonoran Swing.

"Our performances are from two to four hours and a lot of what we do are dances," Cordell said.

As the band's singer, he said he has some favorites he likes to perform, including "It Had to be You," "What Kind of Fool am I?" and "Satin Doll."

The group has a repertoire of about 32 songs planned for its Payson performance, Cordell said. Among the songs to be presented are "Embraceable You," "Summertime," "How High the Moon," "As Time Goes By," "New York, New York" and "When I Fall in Love."

Normally the band, which has only one regular female member -- playing the baritone saxophone -- along with a female singer, performs in tuxedos.

"I suggested we wear them up here, but everyone else thought it would be too hot to be playing in tux apparel, so we'll all be in black slacks and white shirts," Cordell said.

The average age of the members is somewhere in the mid-40s, he said, and they all love the music. "It's why we play together."

Cordell promises the audience at the July 23 Concert Under the Stars will have a lot of fun.

"The sound will be great in the park and will resonate very nicely," he said.

While the Concert Under the Stars series may be ending, the Tonto Community Concert's 2005-2006 season will be starting soon.

The TCCA's 27th season begins Aug. 21 with a performance by the acclaimed men's chorus, Spirit of Phoenix.

Future guest artists will be singer Susan Egan, known as The Belle of Broadway, Oct. 14; guitarist Edgar Cruz, Nov. 3; pianist Cristiana Pegoraro, Nov. 22; the review, Country Tonight, Jan. 28; singers Nathan Granner and Lisa Williamson, who present both opera and musical theater pieces, Feb. 11; The Coats vocal band, March 6; and the Manhattan Rhythm Kings, who will have the joint jumping with popular music from the 20s, 30s and 40s, April 3.

  • Spirit of Phoenix performs at 2 p.m., Sunday, Aug. 21. The afternoon's show is, "Let's Celebrate -- A Celebration of Life, Love and the American Way." The men's chorus is said to be among the best sounds ever to come out of the Phoenix area. The program mixes love songs, old standards, Broadway tunes, gospel music and a tribute to the Armed Forces.
  • Susan Egan performs at 7 p.m., Friday, Oct. 14. She has appeared in a wide range of roles on Broadway and in Disney animation. Egan has made numerous recordings and lent her musical talents to television and feature films.
  • Edgar Cruz appears at 7 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 3. This "Guitarist Extraordinaire" will present The Greatest Hits of the Guitar with precision, speed and complexity.
  • Cristiana Pegoraro performs at 7 p.m., Tuesday, Nov. 22. A pianist, Pegoraro is acclaimed as one of the most gifted musicians of her generation. The Italian-born artist has performed at Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall, in Europe, South America and Australia.
  • Country Tonight comes to Payson at 7 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 28. Expect the PHS auditorium to buzz with this exciting country music review. The group includes 21 entertainers presenting songs, comedy, dance and instrumental music.
  • Nathan Granner and Lisa Williamson are the TCCA's treat for Rim country hearts with a performance at 7 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 11. The couple will bring beautiful music and comedy to Payson through both opera and show tunes.
  • The Coats bring more variety of music and comedy to the TCCA at 7 p.m., Monday, March 6. The group presents a high-energy stage show with both improvisational comedy and a multiple range of vocal stylings.
  • Manhattan Rhythm Kings bring musical memories alive at 7 p.m., Monday, April 3. The group sings the American popular music of the 20s, 30s and 40s in lush, three-part harmonies, play an impressive array of instruments and top it off with their own Broadway-inspired tap dancing.

Season tickets are $60, plus the TCCA has a variety of contribution plans in which to participate and provide additional financial support for its programs.

For further information about season or individual tickets, call Marilyn Wolfe, (928) 474-6115 or Eloise Jones, (928) 478-4363 or check out their website at

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