By MARTA HEPLER DRAHOS
TRAVERSE CITY —
"Moon River." "Moon Dance." "Fly Me to the Moon."
If a song has a "moon" in it, the Bay Area Big Band All-Stars likely will play it at the Moonlight on the Bay Generations Gala. The Grand Traverse Pavilions Foundation fundraiser comes full circle this year when it returns to the big band music theme it started with 10 years ago.
"It's music that's uplifting," said Chris Bickley, founder and director of the Bay Area Big Band, which features vocalist Miriam Pico. "When things were uncertain, it brought a sense of peace and unity, and people remember that."
This year's gala is Saturday from 6-10 p.m. at the Hagerty Center. Its big band music — and the opportunity to dance to it — already have attracted more than 200 attendees and record corporate donations of over $42,500, said Grand Traverse Pavilions development and marketing coordinator Patti D'Agostino.
Guests can nibble on hors d'oeuvres like brie en phyllo and smoked whitefish canapes, and dine on dishes like Old Mission Chicken, garlic and poblano mashed potatoes, and carrot cake served with carmelized pineapple chutney. They also can bid on nearly 200 live and silent auction items ranging from a one-hour flight over northern Michigan with a private pilot to season opening night tickets to the Detroit Pistons vs. Houston Rockets basketball game.
But the big draw is the big band, a favorite at the Pavilions' summer Concerts on the Lawn series. The band's music reaches across generations, cultures and musical tastes, but Bickley said big band music continues to be most popular with "mature" audiences.
"It came out of the war era when there was a closeness that represented something we hold very dear: our independence and freedom," said Bickley, a saxophone player and Interlochen Arts Academy alum who has performed and recorded extensively over 30 years, including a touring stint with singer Kenny Rogers.
The band builds on the tradition of historical bands of Duke Ellington, Woody Herman, Count Basie, Glenn Miller, Stan Kenton and others. Its arrangements and rich orchestrations — from swing to contemporary, ballads to Latin — highlight both the ensemble and individual local talents.
The Generations Gala first took place in 2002 at the Park Place Hotel. Called "Jump, Jive & Wail," it starred the Bill Sears Duo, Harry Goldson and dancers Paul Paradis and friends. Later galas featured 1950s, 1960s and 1970s themes and a different location, the City Opera House.
"This year people wanted to be a little more formal and dance and go back to the big band," D'Agostino said.
Along with dining, dancing and dealing for auction items, attendees can have their pictures taken in front of a moon backdrop by photographers Don and Pat Rutt. Posers pay $20, which goes to the Pavilions foundation, to receive the images on a computer disk.
Money raised during the gala helps support the generations of people who live at the Pavilions, a senior and intergenerational residential care facility that offers medical support and assisted living care. Past funds helped purchase an MV-1 Mobility Vehicle, a new gazebo and pathways for the arboretum and blanket warming cabinets, D'Agostino said.
Approximately 30 percent of residents in assisted living receive financial support from the foundation, which also provides scholarships to community members who participate in adult day services, she said.
Gala tickets are $75 per person. For reservations or more information, call (231) 932-3027.