The chance to perform in the Great Outdoors is like a breath of fresh air for Ken Lavigne.
The famous Chemainus singer is on the agenda as the headline performer Friday, Sept. 2 with the Vancouver Island Repertory Jazz Orchestra during the three-day Nanaimo Big Band Festival at Maffeo Sutton Park in downtown Nanaimo.
“It’s a lot of fun, it’s a different kind of energy and atmosphere,” said Lavigne. “In previous years, I would generally do a few outdoor venues.”
The event gets going Friday at 5:30 p.m. with King of Swing, featuring the music of Count Basie with the VIRJO and guest singers Ty Koch and Teighan Couch.
Lavigne then returns to the stage at 7 p.m. for his first in-person show on the Island in two years with his presentation of Let Me Be Frank, celebrating the music of Frank Sinatra, Michael Bublé and other crooners, and backed by the VIRJO.
Lavigne said he doesn’t attempt to sound just like Sinatra, but to invoke a certain swagger that always went with his tunes.
“There’s certain stylistic things I try to hook into that Frank was famous for,” he explained. “I’ll be working really hard to capture that energy, for sure.”
Lavigne has done the Let Me Be Frank show in numerous locations in previous years, including the Chemainus United Church in 2019, but this one will be quite different mainly due to the presence of the orchestra for his show and the others.
“It’s quality entertainment,” he said. “This is really rare for a full 18-piece big band doing all of those selections for the entire weekend.
“Being in front of a big band, now I’m just along for the ride,” Lavigne quipped.
And the outdoor setting just takes it to another dimension.
“This I think offers a big opportunity for people to hang out and enjoy some spectacular music in a spectacular venue,” Lavigne indicated.
And, he added, for those trying to make long weekend plans, “an alternative to battling traffic.”
Lavigne warmed up in a sense for the outdoor performance with a show in Abbotsford Aug. 12. That one, as everyone has been experiencing, involved difficulties with cancelled ferry sailings just to get there.
Lavigne has a busy travel schedule planned later in the year with shows in B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan and one in Manitoba.
“We’re all over Western Canada this fall and winter,” he indicated. “It’ll feel good to be out in some ways on the road.”
The rest of the Nanaimo long weekend schedule includes: Night and Day, honouring the Great American Songbook with the Nico Rhodes Jazz Orchestra at 5:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 3 followed at 7 p.m. by headliner Joelle Rabu in Come to the Cabaret with the Nico Rhodes Jazz Orchestra.
Sunday, Sept. 4 is Big Band Sunday – In the Mood to Swing. The Nico Rhodes Trio opens at 11 a.m., with Dock Side Drive playing at 12:30 p.m. and the headline show at 2 p.m. from the VIRJO with music from the golden era of swing.
Three-day passes and single tickets are available through the Port Theatre for $20-$149, including two albums. Go to https://www.porttheatre.com/events/nanaimo-big-band-festival-2022-3-day-festival-pass/
For every ticket sold, $2 goes to the Marianne Turley Memorial Fund – supporting the Vancouver Island Symphony’s Grade 4 Music Education Program (The Pictures Project).