Canadian Big Band – Part 3 of the history

Part 3 of the history
by Charles Bell

Read Part 1

Read Part 2

The popular music performed in the dance pavilions gracing the Lake Huron shoreline from the 1920-80s was a cherished period of time for popular dance music and is what the Canadian Big Band Celebration after 25 years has become. Many people reminisce that they found their true love at these summer dance pavilions. Combine warm summer nights at the beach, dancing under the stars to a beautiful love song or “struttin’ your stuff” to an up tempo barn burner, wonderful live bands, a summer romance or a good time with friends and you have the perfect summer evening with cherished memories in the wake.

Now celebrating its 25th year the CBBC offers 4 main events, Friday Night Jazz, Saturday Big Event Afternoon Show, Saturday Big Event Evening Show, and Sunday Jazz Brunch, September 20-22, 2019.

“Hats Off to the Pavilions”

Part 3 of 3

Summer dance pavilions were part of the Lake Huron shoreline for many years from the early 1920s through to the 80s. Through that time period the popular dance music of the day was performed. It became clear to the Canadian Big Band Celebration (CBBC) committee that celebrating the popular dance music of the day was not complete without including a “tip of the hat” to the local shoreline pavilions which included; Kincardine Pavilion, Inverhuron Pavilion, Cedar Crescent Casino-Port Elgin, The Breakers Annex-Southampton, Sauble Beach Pavilion, and McKenzie’s Pavilion-Oliphant.

In 2010 two local history enthusiasts Larry and Julie Cardif wrote a one act play based on the anecdotal accounts of “locals” who once attended the dances at the local dance pavilions during the Big Band Era, 30s – 40s. The Cardifs entitled the one act play “A Good Time at the Dance Hall”. Popular music of the Big Band Era was added to the play and it wasn’t long before the play was presented at the Bruce County Museum as a venue for the Friday Night Jazz event.

In addition to the play local visual artist Linda Bester was invited to share her watercolor depiction of the Sauble Beach Dance Pavilion as well as create on site her interpretation of a big band performing at Saturday’s Big Event. In 2012 Ken Thornburn a local artist created depictions of Port Elgin’s Cedar Crescent Casino.

Canadian Big Band

Big band music can be challenging to perform especially when using original arrangements or transcriptions from the Big Band Era. Finding a group of 17 musicians to perform the music is in itself a challenge. By 2010 the “local” big bands participating in the Canadian Big Band Celebration began having difficulty maintaining the specific instrumentation required to perform this challenging music. As such, after 25 years, the local Stardust Big Band, also the host band for the CBBC, performed its last gig in Thornbury in April of 2011. To continue presenting the great dance repertoire of the Big Band Era the Canadian Big Band was established for the festival in 2011. The band includes many of the finest jazz and big band instrumentalists in Canada performing some of the very best big band dance repertoire available including more contemporary arrangements as performed by the likes of Michael Buble, Diana Krall and Paul Anka.

Since 2011 special guest vocalists from near and far have been featured with the Canadian Big Band including Carol Welshman, Heather Bambrick, and local crooners Rebecca Binnendyk, Ethan Salmon and this year Aria 21, a local ensemble, will be featured singing hits of the Andrews Sisters.

The Lulus Band

Saugeen Times archive photo

2011 also marked the year the CBBC committee approached the very popular Lulu’s Band and Men in Black Brass to perform the Classic Rock hits of the 50s-80s at the Saturday Big Event. The show was a resounding success with an overflowing dance floor of “Boomers” struttin’ their stuff to the popular music of their youth. The committee felt they had hit a “home run” with the changes and the audience comment cards overall gave a big thumbs up to the committee to continue with the bands performing the dance styles of music presented in pavilions from the 20s-80s.

Today, crossing many generations of supportive music lovers and musicians, an arts-friendly business community, a host of community volunteers and local service clubs, the CBBC is truly a local celebration of our cherished musical heritage.

CBBC 25th Anniversary Line-Up

The 25th anniversary edition kicks off the September 20-21 weekend with Friday Night Jazz. Hop on the SS Trolley at 7 p.m. at the CIBC corner in Port Elgin or 7:30 p.m. at the Southampton Post Office and travel to any of the 5 Jazz and Blues venues in Saugeen Shores. Shows begin at 7:30 or 8:00 p.m. depending on the venue and end at 11:00 or 11:30 p.m. respectively. Queens Bar & Grill presents the 9 piece Noodle Factory Jazz Project, jazz and rhythm & blues; Chester’s Bar & Grill presents Howlin’ Dog Vintage Jazz; The Wismer House presents Bobby Dean Blackburn and Sons, blues, soul and rhythm & blues; Duffy’s Fish & Chips presents Tyler Goertzen Trio, jazz standards; Walker House presents Sarah Jerrom & Friends, jazz standards.

For larger views, Click on Images
(Saugeen Times Archive Photos)


Ethan Salmon                        (Saugeen Times archive photo)

Saturday Big Events afternoon show 2-5 p.m. dance to the Canadian Big Band with London crooner Sonja Gustafson, Saugeen Shores’ crooner Ethan Salmon, as well as Aria 21, a local trio performing an Andrews Sisters tribute.

Saturday night 8-Midnight dance to The Lulu’s Band with Men in Black Brass and a salute to Elvis with Peter Irwin

‘Elivis’ (a.k.a. Peter                     Irwin)

Both of these events are at the UNIFOR Main Assembly Hall.

Wrapping up a busy weekend, enjoy a fabulous Sunday Jazz Brunch in the UNIFOR Dining Room from 11:00 a.m to 1:30 p.m. while listening to the fabulous jazz group Midnight Ramblers.

For more information and online ticket purchasing visit or call the Saugeen Shores Chamber of Commerce 1-800-387-3456.