The Sorg Opera House in Middletown has undergone numerous renovations. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

Cincinnati’s Blue Wisp Big Band to perform at Sorg in Middletown

An Oct. 21 concert will feature Cincinnati’s Blue Wisp Big Band at the historic Sorg Opera House in downtown Middletown.

The 16-member jazz ensemble will be playing the arrangements of Billy Byers, Thad Jones, Carroll Decamp and Al Kiger as well a few from current members, said Chuck Miller, SORG board president.

“We’re banking on the Blue Wisp Big Band’s sound to really enhance the Sorg’s acoustics,” Miller said.

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Founded in January 1980, the Blue Wisp Big Band got its start in and its name from the late Blue Wisp Jazz Club. Miller said it’s fairly well known that since its inception, the Blue Wisp Big Band has been the top jazz orchestra in Cincinnati.

The hard bop-oriented big band started recording in 1981: first, an LP sponsored by the Cincinnati television station, WKRC and then four for the Mopro label, founded by Fred and Helen Morr, in the 1980s. The Mopro LP’s were reissued in the mid-’90s on two CDs on the California label, Sea Breeze, with one of the sets recorded in Los Angeles during a West Coast tour in 1984. Through the devoted and hard work of Helen Morr, the LP’s were distributed around the country and Europe, garnering notice, good reviews and airplay around the world.

Miller said the band has found a new home at the Urban Artifact in Northside, playing on Wednesdays from 8:30 to 11 p.m.

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“We are thrilled to be performing at this beautiful venue,” said Brent Gallaher, BWBB’s director of business affairs and tenor saxophonist.

Though some work may be in progress and more work remains at the 126-year-old venue, the concert offers guests an opportunity to hear the acoustics as designed along with great sight lines of the stage, Miller said.

“A tight big band on our stage with the theater’s acoustics should be a real treat,” he said. “This is the perfect venue for a Blue Wisp Big Band concert.”

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SORG’s Ken Bowman agrees and added concertgoers might want to have dinner in downtown Middletown before the show. “If you’ve not been in the heart of the city for a while you’ll be pleasantly surprised.”

Miller said the Sorg’s first concert on Sept. 24, the first concert in six years, featured the Butler Philharmonic. He described it as “a grand slam” with 545 people attending. While some little hiccups in seating have now been corrected, Miller said he appreciated the support of those attending and Kettering Health Network who sponsored the evening.

Miller said that all concert proceeds will benefit SORG’s renovation fund.

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