Sunday, March 19, 2017

“Sisters of Swing Musical History of the Andrew Sisters" in Bigfork

The Andrews Sisters were a WWII era musical trio that brought close harmony music to stages in the U.S. and around the world entertaining armed forces throughout the war. Their story and music is brought back to “life” by the performance of three very talented singers in a show titled  “Sisters of Swing The Story of the Andrews Sisters.” The original sisters were from Mound Minnesota and are considered by many as the most successful female singing groups of the first half of the 20th century. This show includes their story,  and 20 plus hit songs like “Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree” and “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.” At The Edge Center in Bigfork on Saturday April 22nd at 7PM. This musical is suitable for all audiences. Ticket prices are $10 adults and $5 children.

The “Sisters of Swing The Story of the Andrews Sisters” program features the Andrews Sister’s music of Laverne, Maxine, and Patty, played by Cat Brindsi, Kati Hahn and Jen Burleigh-Bentz (above). Also in the show is the very talented Jake Elders, who plays Lou Levy, Danny Kaye and Bing Crosby. The show is brought to the stage by The History Theatre on Tour a St. Paul based organization that is a three time IVEY award winning theater that produces new and existing works which explore Minnesota’s past and the diverse American experience.

In conjunction with the performance there will be an opportunity for visitors to share remembrances of the WWII veterans to whom the show is so closely connected (above period photo). There will be a Wall of Heroes display in the gallery which will consist of letters, photos, and memorabilia from WWII service men and women, brought in by Edge Center patrons.

The Andrews Sisters and their close harmony music were a product of the “swing and boogie-woogie eras.  The sisters were, singing “contralto”, LaVerne Sophia (1911-1967), singing “soprano”, Maxine Angelyn (1916-1995), and, singing “mezzo-soprano”, Patricia Marie “Patty” (1918-2013).  The group throughout their career sold over 75 million records, which was the last official count by MCA Records in the mid-1970s.  Their harmonies and songs are still influential to the industry today.  The group was inducted into the female group hall of fame in 1998.  

Lead singer. Patty, was only seven when the group was formed and only 12 when they won their first prize at a talent contest at the local Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis. LaVerne played piano accompaniment for silent films at the Orpheum in exchange for free dancing lessons for herself and the rest of her sisters. They went on the road entertaining to support the family after her father’s restaurant failed.

At first they made their career by imitating an earlier 1930s group called the Boswell Sisters. They sung with dance bands and toured in vaudeville with various groups. As one might expect in the 1930s, the big break for the Andrews Sisters was radio. National attention was brought to the group via a major Decca record hit, “Bei Mir Bist Du Schon".  It was a Yiddish song that became popular with English lyrics but retained its Yiddish title (above).

It was songwriter Sammy Chan, who heard a performance of the song in Yiddish, had it “reworked” into a swing rhythm number, got rights to it and convinced the still unknown Andrews Sisters to perform it.  It was recorded in 1937 and became the sisters first major hit. This song has an interesting history by it self. If you want to read more go to:

After that there was no one to compare the group with and they became huge stars. The song earned them a gold record, the first ever to a female vocal group.  It became a world wide hit.

During the war they were everywhere with Allied Forces. America, Africa, and Italy saw a lot of the trio. They worked at the Hollywood Canteen and News York’s version Side Door Canteen.  They recorded a series of Victory Discs for distribution to allied forces, often treating random service men out to dinner and were dubbed the “Sweethearts of the Armed Forces Radio Service” for their many appearances on shows such as “Command Performance”, “Mail Call” and “G.I Journal”.  For more background:

This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund, and a grant from the Blandin Foundation, and with operating support made possible from a grant through the Arrowhead Regional Arts Council.

The above is just the surface of the Andrews Sisters career.  To get a singing introduction to them and their work, come to the Edge Center and get more. Edge Center in Bigfork on Saturday April 22nd at 7PM. It is the “Sisters of Swing The Story of the Andrew Sisters.” This musical is suitable for all audiences. Ticket prices are $10 adults and $5 children.

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