The Big Band sounds of the Lincoln Pops Orchestra will help ring in 2022, when the group performs at a New Year’s Eve celebration at the Lincoln City Cultural Center.
The Lincoln Pops, a longstanding part of Lincoln County’s musical performance groups, sprung from an idea in 1980 and got going as a symphonic ensemble in 1981. A few years later, music from the Big Band sound was brought in at rehearsal, and the band changed from a symphonic orchestra to a swing/big band group in 1985.
John Bringetto, Lincoln Pops bandleader and trumpet player, noted the band now has 23 members — four trumpets, four trombones, five saxophones, and a six-member rhythm section (bass, piano, drums, guitar, vibraphone and congas), along with four singers. The longest performing band member is drummer Rick LeDoux, who joined in 1990, Bringetto said.
Bringetto took over leadership of the band from David Hutson about 13 years ago. “We had just moved to Newport, after spending 10 years sailing around the world,” Bringetto said. “I planned to take a job as band director at Newport High School — I interviewed for the job in Tonga from a phone booth that was actually a refrigerator box. When we moved here, I started playing trumpet with (Hutson) in the band in 2006-07, and when David became ill, I took over as band leader in March 2009.” Bringetto was band teacher at Newport High for six years as well.
Prior to the pandemic, the band practiced twice a week and held monthly dances at the Gleneden Beach Community Club. The band canceled its March 14, 2020 dance when COVID forced the community club to shut down two days earlier. And the band did not hold any rehearsals until June 2021.
Bringetto’s wife, Amanda Berks, is treasurer and in charge of publicity for the band. She noted the group is a volunteer charitable nonprofit, and she’s glad to see the musicians back on somewhat of a regular schedule, saying that in addition to the New Year’s Eve event, the band will hold a Valentine’s dance on Feb. 12 at the Lincoln City Cultural Center.
But the schedule has been definitely subject to change. “We err on the side of caution,” her husband said in reference to COVID guidelines.
On June 10, the Gleneden Beach club said the band could rehearse there again, only to find COVID numbers rising shortly afterward. The club closed down again, and for a while, the band rehearsed outdoors at the Beachcrest Brewing Company at the Salishan Marketplace in Gleneden Beach, with its first performance since the COVID shutdown at Oktoberfest — or OktoberCrest — at the brewery. The band has not played anywhere since then.
With the arrival of colder weather, the band has been rehearsing at the Taft High School band room, thanks to the band teacher at the school, who is a Pops member.
Lincoln Pops adheres to the state’s COVID rules, and Bringetto said every band member has been vaccinated. He noted that all of the brass players use horn covers as well.
“After the pandemic, everyone was anxious to start playing again,” Bringetto said, adding that the members kept up their skills by practicing at home. And in spite of not performing for almost a year and a half, he said the band sounds great.
“We don’t know if we can have dances again,” Bringetto noted.” The problem is policing the vaccination records. We’re trying to decide what to do. It will all depend on people getting vaccinated. But at least we can play a few times a year at the (Lincoln City) cultural center, and maybe at Beachcrest outside in the spring.”
Originally from Fresno, Calif., Bringetto has bachelor’s and master’s degrees in performance and composition. He spent the first 10 years of his professional life in show bands.
“This band is pretty good for amateurs — and many of us have played our whole lives,” he said.
“It’s wholesome entertainment,” Berks added.
Bringetto, for example, has played trumpet for 60 years, and also plays the accordion — and there’s always a polka at a Pops Band performance. Indeed, he has played the accordion since he was 4-1/2, keeping up an old family tradition. His first performance was at an Italian men’s club in Fresno when he was 5 years old. At age 13, he shifted over to trumpet, but look for him on accordion as well on New Year’s Eve.
He noted that band members encourage youths to get involved and help preserve that art form. “We’ve had quite a few students in the band over the years,” Bringetto said, and they currently have one — 17-year-old Dylan Rodriguez — on third trombone.
“Some of the kids started with us at age 12 in middle school and are now adults,” Berks added. “We’re like a big family.”
Band members come predominantly from Lincoln County, Berks said, but currently they have performers from Warrenton, Manzanita and Albany as well. At present, members range in age from 17 to 80.
What’s likely for Lincoln Pops dance party-goers to hear? “We play old favorites, but also cutting edge,” Bringetto said. Songs on a typical evening might include standards such as “Sweet Georgia Brown,” “Summertime,” “How High the Moon,” “New York, New York” and “As Time Goes By,” as well as Latin music, tango, and ballads.
“New Year’s Eve is a tradition for the band at the Lincoln City Cultural Center,” Bringetto said. “We’re happy to be doing it again this year.”
The Lincoln Pops New Year’s Eve dance runs from 7 to 10 p.m. on Dec. 31, with music from the Big Band era. Tickets include light appetizers and a champagne toast at East Coast midnight (9 p.m. in Lincoln City). At East Coast New Year’s, the band will perform “Auld Lang Syne” and will follow it with “Sing Sing Sing,” by Louis Prima, and another full set before closing at 10 p.m.
Masks and proof of vaccination are required. Beer and wine will be sold separately. Dress varies, with some dance-goers decked out in gowns and tuxedos, while others choose much more casual attire. For this year’s event, the band will be wearing black shirts and black pants.
General admission is $35, with tickets for seniors and students at $32 and $20 for ages 6-18. Lincoln City Cultural Center membership discounts apply. Tickets are available at the cultural center in the former Delake School and online at Lincolncity-Culturalcenter.org.