When Bandemonium and Swing Shift members assemble at ArtSpring for a concert this Friday, their merging will represent a community music tradition having gone full circle.
Way back in 1992, Wendy and Derrick Milton started a community concert band called Bandemonium, with Wendy as its director. Many members had not played their instruments for many years. Some of the more experienced musicians who wanted a jazzier experience led to Derrick and Wendy creating the band that would soon become known as Swing Shift.
Wendy passed Bandemonium over to Dawn Hage in 1999, when it was renamed the Salt Spring Concert Band, and Keith Ollerenshaw took the reins for one season after Hage left the island in 2018.
Leadership of Swing Shift was also passed around amongst various hands over the years. But now both groups are led by the couple who started them.
“I’m at the right point in time where I’m happy to be back,” said Wendy.
Derrick has been leading Swing Shift again for a few years.
The Dec. 6 show at ArtSpring is called Bandemonium and Swing Shift: Together Again! Beginning at 7:30 p.m., it will see Swing Shift perform in the first half and Bandemonium in the second, joined by Swing Shift at the end. Bandemonium will cover more of the seasonal content.
Sue Newman and Clark Saunders will join the group as vocal soloists for The Christmas Song.
Bandemonium will also play Nimrod from the Enigma Variations by Elgar, which fits in with a theme of remembering past band members. In looking at the records, the Miltons counted some 300 people who have played instruments with the band since 1992, and a number of those have died.
This fall Wendy has focused on ensuring the band plays songs they can master and sound good at a performance level.
Derrick promises a great and non-controversial rendition of Baby, It’s Cold Outside. The group will play a cool arrangement that was performed by Tom Jones and Cerys Matthews, but Derrick says Swing Shift’s version is way better than the original, due to Newman’s participation with Saunders.
“I can guarantee that the female vocalist in our performance is far superior to the female vocalist in that one,” he said.
People can also take in Swing Shift at a New Year’s dance at Mahon Hall, featuring the Andrews Sisters (this year that’s Jekka Mack, Margo Milton and Caroni Young).