Their name, the Nuclear Whales, may have a contemporary flair, but their concert feels like a bit of a throwback to vaudeville. It is, in fact, just that.
Adolph Sax invented the saxophone in the late 19th century. In the teen years of the 20th century, when the sax craze was at its peak, more saxophones were purchased than guitars were purchased in the 1960?s. Numerous saxophone orchestras played the vaudeville circuits of Europe and America.
One of the few remaining sax orchestras still in existence today, the Nuclear Whales is without question the best known, drawing its staging and its humor directly from the vaudeville era. The company continues to tour worldwide.
On Thursday, Feb. 26 at 7:30 p.m., the Nuclear Whales Saxophone Orchestra will perform on the Reynolds Performance Hall stage at the University of Central Arkansas.
The Nuclear Whales concert is dedicated to the memory of the late Homer Brown. Himself a saxophone player, he was director of UCA Bands from 1958 to 1979.
Tickets are $20 for the general public; $17 for senior citizens (60+) and UCA Alumni Association members; $15 for UCA faculty, staff, retirees, and College Square residents; and $10 for non-UCA students. UCA students may receive one ticket free with a valid UCA I.D., starting February 23. Group rates are also available. For tickets, call the Box Office toll free at 1-866-810-0012 or Conway residents call 450-3265. Box Office hours are Monday-Friday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and all day on February 26.
At 1:40 pm that day, the six Whales musicians will conduct a saxophone Master Class in Reynolds Performance Hall. The class is free and open to the public. Included as part of their concert will be a Saxophone Parade, featuring a large group of local saxophone players.
The Nuclear Whales play more than 20 different saxophones, from the smallest 20-inch sopranino to the 6-foot-eight-inch contrabass sax with a 17-inch bell. Their repertoire ranges from American rags to swing standards to jazz and contemporary classics, many written and arranged especially for them. From Mozart to Ellington, Gershwin to Sousa, the Nuclear Whales leave no musical stone unturned.
The UCA performance will feature a full range of musical repertoire, including a Duke Ellington Medley, Danny Boy, Gershwins? Summertime, and specialty numbers like the Tiger Rag, Limbop, and the Casbah Shuffle.
Don Stevens, who plays soprano, alto, and the large contrabass sax, originated the Orchestra and is still the driving force behind it. Other members include Kelly Hart Jenkins (sorpranino, soprano, and alto sax), Kristen Strom (soprano, alto sax and kazoo) Dale Mills (tenor and alto sax), Kevin J. Stewart (baritone sax), and Art Springs (bass and tenor sax).
The Nuclear Whales concert and Master Class are part of UCA?s College of Fine Arts & Communication?s Artist in Residence program. Dr. Jackie Lamar, professor of music and saxophone instructor at UCA is the faculty sponsor. The concert is the sixth performance on the 8-show series of UCA Public Appearances. For more information, contact the Reynolds Performance Hall Box Office toll free at 1-866-810-0012 or go online at www.uca.edu/cfac or www.nuclearwhales.com.