‘Imagine a swing band circa ‘It’s a Wonderful Life.’”
That’s how Emmy Award-winning and Grammy-nominated musician and composer John Tesh describes his Big Band Christmas concert tour, which stops Dec. 16 at the Arcada Theatre in St. Charles.
“The whole idea for us is to take people back to the 1940s and 1950s when these arrangements first became really popular,” Tesh said in a phone interview. “My dad served in World War II, and these are the songs and the type of arrangements he brought home and that I grew up on.”
The 12-piece band will perform swinging versions of Christmas classics, with a few Christmas stories in between.
“It’s sort of goofy, we even have a Christmas trivia contest,” Tesh said. “It’s very loose and fun. The whole evening is really more of an old school Christmas than anything else.”
Tesh, who also hosts the award-winning “Intelligence For Your Life” radio show featuring “little tidbits on how to live your life better,” said there are several reasons big band music appeals to him.
“Big band music to me, it really has three key elements. First, is the lyrics are really sweet, and they’re just really family friendly,” he said. “The second thing is the music is jazz music, so the music is complicated enough to hold your attention for five or six million plays. That makes the songs interesting. The last part is the fact that it’s danceable. That’s the real value of big band swing, is that it’s really hip on those three key points.”
And when you have a 12-piece swing band, there are always audience members who get into the aisle and start dancing, he said. The band also gets out into the audience a couple of times and performs.
Tesh said he and the band “take the temperature” of the audience during performances. If the audience is reacting more to the more danceable numbers, they go with it. If audience members are reacting more to slower, romantic songs, they play more of those. And often romance is on the mind of at least a few audience members.
“Every three or four shows, we have somebody that will come up on stage and propose marriage,” Tesh said.
The band also keeps a look out for the unusual.
“One night we had so many people wear Christmas sweaters that we actually had a Christmas sweater contest,” he said. “A lot of it we make up on the fly.”
Tesh, who performs between 30-35 concerts a year, is also busy developing a television version of his “Intelligence for Life” radio show with his wife, actress Connie Sellecca, and their son, Gib.
“It really is the radio show come alive. It’s the radio show on video, basically,” he said.
Set to launch in September 2014, they have been meeting with station groups over the last couple of months. Adding a television show to his busy schedule though will not impact his ability to go on concert tour in the future, he said.
“It’s all sort of joined together. We’ll tour in the cities where the radio show plays,” Tesh said. “We always take the radio show on the road with us.”
And working together as a family means they are together for the most part.
“It’s sort of the master plan of everything, to tie it all together,” Tesh said.