WATERVILLE — The Elm on College Avenue will ring in the new year Dec. 31 with music and dancing as the Al Corey Big Band revives the sounds of Glenn Miller, Artie Shaw, Tommy Dorsey, Woody Herman and Count Basie.

Sponsored by GHM Insurance, the event marks the first time in years that a big bash has been held in the city on New Year’s Eve.

test

Bill Mitchell

Bill Mitchell, owner of both The Elm and GHM, has brought back dinner dances, live acts and other functions at the building, which was constructed after World War II for veterans, their families and the community to celebrate the war victory.

“I’m not aware of any New Year’s Eve galas in the recent past, so we’re happy to sort of revive the spirit of New Year’s Eve in Waterville, and we’re very happy to host it at The Elm, ringing in the new year,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell, who has been active in downtown revitalization efforts, bought the former American Legion post and transformed it into the events center with a focus on providing a place for all sorts of functions, including family gatherings, weddings, concerts and other live performances. The center opened in September.

“The Al Corey Band was one of the premier swing bands in central Maine and throughout the state after World War II, performing here many times,” Mitchell said Monday at The Elm.

“My mother and father, their siblings on both sides, also veterans of World War II, came to many dinner dances and functions here over several years, including multiple performances by Al Corey who was such a great part of the fabric of our community in Waterville. He was a music icon in central Maine.”

The New Year’s Eve gala is planned for 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. The band will start at 7 p.m. and play three sets. Tickets are $37.50 a person, and groups of 10 may reserve a table. Those who buy four or more tickets by Friday receive a 10 percent discount, Mitchell said.

Amici’s Cucina will cater with a selection of appetizers, desserts and a champagne toast to be included in the cost, according to Mitchell, who said a cash bar also will be available. The 10,000-square-foot space can accommodate  between 300 and 350 people, Mitchell said.

Tickets are available online at TheElmMe.com, by calling (207) 616-6881 or by stopping at GHM Insurance at 51 Main St.

“There will be a large dance floor right in front of the stage for folks to enjoy a fun evening of dancing,” Mitchell said.

Brian Nadeau got an early start with Al Corey and his band, performing at age 7 in 1974. Nadeau, the current leader of the band, will bring the big band sound to The Elm on New Year’s Eve, resurrecting the sounds of an era that stretches back to World War II. Photo contributed by Brian Nadeau

 

THE AL COREY BIG BAND

Brian Nadeau has been playing trumpet with the Al Corey Big Band since he was 7 and has been its director since Corey, a saxophonist, died in 2003. Now 52, Nadeau, of Bangor, said the 15-piece band will play pieces on New Year’s Eve that central Mainers will remember from performances at the former Colby College outdoor shell, as well as at governor’s inauguration balls and at Island Park, on Lake Cobbosseecontee, in the mid-to-late 1950s.

“I try to always program the band the way Al used to do it,” said Nadeau, who plays trumpet. “There’s lots of good dancing material.”

Corey operated a music store on Main Street in downtown Waterville where he sold many musicians their first instruments and did magic tricks for children. Nadeau’s first gig with Corey was at the Robert A. LaFleur Municipal Airport where the band often performed at July 4 celebrations. Nadeau was 7.

“My very first performance was in the hangar,” he recalled. “I’ve been in the band for years.”

Nadeau and Corey became lifelong friends.

Brian Nadeau, leader of the Al Corey Band.

“Al was a very special person,” Nadeau said. “He was an effervescent, happy, bubbly guy all the time.”

The band has been in existence 75 years and a lot of band members have passed away, but several, including Gerry Wright, Lee Prager, Jim Winters, Andy Forster, Ralph Norris and Rick Gordon, are still active, as is Nadeau’s father, Les, who also plays trumpet.

“Al always had some of the very best in New England, and I’m trying to keep that trend going,” Nadeau said. “I’m grateful, because they’re all very seasoned musicians. The band is still very much in sound the way it was when Al had it.”

Band members come from all over the state, including from the Bangor area, Portland and the mid-coast, according to Nadeau.

Guest vocalist Dec. 31 will be Steve Fotter, who will perform Frank Sinatra-style songs, he said.

The band, which performs at the Waterville Elks Lodge every June and annually at Granite Hill Estates in Hallowell, stays alive because people continue to hire it for events. Audiences are loyal.

“I’m really appreciative of the people that continue to hire the band and the audience that keeps flocking to us,” Nadeau said. “I hope that we have a great turnout at this event. How many places can you go to hear good big band music, live, with a band that has such a rich history behind it? As long as people will have it, I’ll keep doing it.”

Mitchell recalls going to Corey’s music shop when he was a child and watching him do his magic tricks with coins.

Since opening Sept. 12, The Elm has made music a priority, starting with the Emmett Harrity Jazz Quartet, pictured here, and Rolling Stones and KISS tribute bands. On New Year’s Eve, the Al Corey Big Band will perform at The Elm. Morning Sentinel file photo by Michael G. Seamans

“He would let me move around the store and play different instruments and enjoy the music experience,” Mitchell said. “Al was a magician as well as a musician. As a boy growing up, I’d ask him to do his magic tricks where he would pull a coin out of your ear. To this day, I still don’t know how he did it. He was a great guy. He was very good with people, full of life, loved music and loved to connect kids to music.”

The larger objective of what is happening in downtown Waterville, according to Mitchell, is to reinvigorate the heart of the city, following in the footsteps of Colby College and the Harold Alfond Foundation, which early on launched investments downtown.

Millions of dollars are being invested in building construction, renovations, plans for a new art and film center, redesign of Castonguay Square next to City Hall and preparing for the city’s implementation of a $7.37 million federal BUILD grant to improve streets and walkways.

The changes are expected to bring thousands of people to the city, according to Mitchell.

“We’re really positioning downtown and the city of Waterville for a solid and bright future,” Mitchell  said. “It’s an exciting time to live and work in downtown Waterville. It’s just amazing, the transformation, and we’re just starting to see it, really.

“There’s an energy and excitement and enthusiasm around this revitalization that we’re seeing in real time. The really exciting and fun things are yet to come and the economic impact, the investments that are being made by Colby and others, is going to be very meaningful and beneficial for longtime vitality of the city of Waterville.”

Comments are not available on this story.

filed under: