The Manitou Opera House will swing back in time when the Opera House Foundation hosts the Mark Humphries Orchestra on Sunday, September 29 at 2 p.m.
Billed as “one of the few touring bands playing 1940s – 1980s swing music, served with a side of comedy”, the orchestra’s repertoire ranges from the music of Frank Sinatra and Glen Miller, to big band legends Guy Lombardo and Quincy Jones.
“It’s a big sort of cross-section of tunes,” Humphries says. “We’re trying to touch a fair few arrangements and a few different bands.”
Mark Humphries is not new to the music scene: “I joined the army as a musician in the UK,” he states. “I then formed a band with former professional musicians. . . I also played with The Syd Lawrence Orchestra (UK’s premier Big Band).” Musical directing, as well as producing up to seven musical shows a year, all became part of Humphries’ early career.
The Mark Humphries Orchestra was formed in 1987, and toured the UK until a big decision was made by Humphries and his family. In 2008, they sold their horse-riding centre and fully licensed zoo, and emigrated to Western Manitoba.
Once they had settled into their new life running a greenhouse and exotic animal farm, Humphries again felt the call of the big band. He re-entered the orchestra scene via a chance conversation, which led to him shining up his trumpet and going to play for the Brandon-based Scotty McIntosh Big Band. Taking over as leader after McIntosh’s retirement, Humphries reinvented the band, bringing in players from Brandon University, Winnipeg, Shilo, Melita, Swan River and Saskatchewan.
The 16-member swing orchestra, which performs across Manitoba and Saskatchewan, now consists of five saxophones including alto, tenor and baritone, three trumpets, three trombones, a rhythm section – piano, bass, drums and guitar – as well as vocalists.
A versatile musician himself, Humphries can be seen playing anything from trombone to trumpet or clarinet, with some vocals on the side. He quips, “I have been known to play a kitchen kettle when needed!”
Proceeds for the show will support the ongoing work of the Manitou Opera House Foundation, as they continue to upgrade and restore the historic landmark building.
Admission for the concert is $30 ($20 for under 18) and reserved seating tickets are available by calling or texting 204.242.4287.