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Sleeping Around: Dancing in the Grand Ballrooms - Michael Arenella
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This project is funded by the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation, through the generous support of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.

+ About the Performance
This program was recorded 05/09/2014 at Symphony Space.

Glittery gowns, tails flying, the haze of cigarette smoke, the clink of glasses. The grand ballrooms of the great New York hotels were the site of romance, mystery, and magic, with the dance band providing the soundtrack to it all. Join Michael Arenella and His Dreamland Orchestra with period music and fashion from the 20s to the 50s. Cole Porter, Frank Sinatra, Fred and Ginger, all come to life on the Peter Jay Sharp stage.



From This Moment On (Cole Porter)

Night & Day (Cole Porter)

Just One Of Those Things (Cole Porter)

Anything Goes (Cole Porter)

Get Out Of Town (Cole Porter)

Manhattan (Richard Rodgers/Lorenz Hart)

How About You? (Burton Lane/Ralph Freed)

Cheek To Cheek (Irving Berlin)

I'll Take Romance (Ben Oakland)

Penthouse Serenade (Val Burton/Will Jason)

I Wished On The Moon (Dorothy Parker/Ralph Rainger)

I'll Be A Friend With Pleasure (Maceo Pinkard)

There's A Small Hotel (Rogers/Hart)

I Know That You Know (Vincent Youmans)

Goodnight Sweetheart (Ray Noble)

+ About the Artists

Michael Arenella & His Dreamland Orchestra is the world's premier Jazz-Age dance orchestra, steeped in the hot-dance band tradition of the 1920s and early 1930s. Their size ranges from a full dance orchestra to smaller incarnations. They play their "Hot-and-Sweet" music anywhere that fine and eclectic tastes meet.

The Dreamland Orchestra is authentic. Arenella transcribes by hand their entire repertoire from period recordings. Their delivery, as well as their instruments, attire, and equipment — are faithfully accurate. Arenella's strong yet vulnerable baritone lacks pretense or sarcasm. He treasures each lyric, and has faith in the songs he sings. Even the most optimisic Tin Pan Alley tune has a disarming quality in his hands.

Though certainly anachronistic, the orchestra's presence invokes the vibrations of something unmistakably timeless. While authentic to a "T", Michael Arenella prefers not to be labelled a recreationalist. He takes an antiquated template and infuses it with the immediacy of the present. Spontaneity is what gave the original music of the era its magic, and it is also the imprimatur of the Dreamland Orchestra.

His men are dapper dandies; hair pomaded and shoes shined. They are based in New York, which with London were the halcyon capitals of decadence. All of this allows them to capture the essence of what this music and times were all about: joy, romance, modernity, and possibility.

These are essential themes, just as valid today as eighty years ago. Ask the punk and heavy metal kids who end up liking the orchestra more than the bands they originally came to hear at the same venue. Truly, this music was the rock ‘n’ roll or punk of its day: rebellious, reckless, and in the eyes of the older generations, dangerous. The Dreamland Orchestra’s mission is to mine the forgotten yet vital beauty of the past and bring it into the light of today — to be danced and romanced to by a new generation of flappers and sheiks.

Michael Arenella grew up in Georgia with parents who were artists from New York City. He sang in the church choir and studied music from an early age, working as a professional musician by his teens.

Among his formative influences is his life-long obsession with times past. He has always loved trains and jokes that he was a brakeman in an earlier life. As a boy he could often be found exploring abandoned railyards. The story of those trains’ forgotten routes was illuminated when he heard this old music. Suddenly he saw new worlds.

Michael is also a composer, with a considerable body of work written for string quartet up to large chamber orchestra. His style is comprised of elements gleaned from Baroque through to Impressionism. This background helps him to break-down and reassemble the fragile orchestrations of '20s dance music. He knows that Claude Debussy and Bix Beiderbecke would have really dug each other.

Like his Jazz-Age avatars, he moved from rural America to New York, where he entered music school. Disenchanted, he shortly made his departure from the gloomy conservatory halls and set out to bring his lost music into the daylight. Though his initial audiences were subway commuters, he eventually made his way above ground and founded his Dreamland Orchestra.

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