By Donald Wittkowski
Both the USO and Big Band music helped keep the country dancing and swinging during the 1940s, even while it was in the grips of World War II.
A concert Sunday night will revive the powerful sound of the Big Band era by combining performers from the USO Show Troupe with the Ocean City Pops in what is billed as a “sentimental trip down memory lane.”
The two-hour show, starting at 8 p.m. at the Ocean City Music Pier, will feature classic songs from the 1940s and ’50s made famous by the likes of Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, the Andrews Sisters, Rosemary Clooney, Gene Kelly and other big-name performers associated with the World War II generation.
Michael Hoagland, director of entertainment for the USO of Metropolitan New York, said the concert will not only appeal to senior citizens, but will also introduce younger audiences to the music that was popular with their grandparents and great-grandparents.
“It’s a really, really classic Big Bands show. Think Frank Sinatra, the Andrews Sisters and Benny Goodman,” Hoagland said.
Hoagland credited younger singers such as Michael Buble and Lady Gaga for helping to popularize Big Band, Swing and jazz music again, the latter through her collaborative 2014 “Cheek to Cheek” album with crooner Tony Bennett.
According to Hoagland, Sunday’s concert will feature the high energy of the Big Band era during what essentially will be a “big dance show.”
“I’m hoping to have a broad cross-section of music, a little bit of everything for everybody,” he said.
Five performers from the USO Show Troupe will be accompanied by the Ocean City Pops, the homegrown orchestra now in the midst of its summer concert series at the Music Pier on the Boardwalk.
Typically, the USO performs to recorded music. Hoagland noted that the Ocean City Pops show will be the first full-fledged collaboration of live music between the USO and an orchestra in perhaps 40 years. The USO has performed with the Pops orchestras in Cincinnati, Boston and Philadelphia in the past, but not during an entire concert, he said.
“We’re sort of in unchartered territory. Something like this hasn’t been done at the USO in 40 years,” Hoagland said.
The USO, which stands for United Service Organizations, is a nonprofit organization best known for its performances over the past 76 years that have entertained countless U.S. military members and their families.
During World War II, the USO became a “home away from home” for American soldiers stationed overseas. It was during World War II that the USO began its tradition of entertaining the troops that continues today.
Tickets for Sunday’s USO Show Troupe concert with the Ocean City Pops at the Music Pier can be purchased online at www.oceancityvacation.com/boxoffice or by calling (609) 399-6111.