Franz Klaber Orchestra runs in the family

Four generations play big-band sounds.

HAMILTON — The Franz Klaber Orchestra will return to the Fitton Center for a hometown concert in Hamilton on Saturday, Jan. 23. The concert, which is sold out, will feature a selection of big-band music.

Erika Klaber talked about what fans can expect from the concert. Klaber, the granddaughter of the band’s founder and current business manager and leader of the group, plays steel drums in the band.

“We were really excited that the Fitton Center contacted us again. They received a lot of great feedback about the show last year. A lot people said they miss hearing these songs performed live, so I think there’s a real audience for big-band music,” Klaber said.

As far as the history of Klaber’s group, the band was started by Franz Klaber Sr. in 1930 as a five-piece act. His vision was to create a band that mixed popular music with traditional German songs. His sons, Bill and Franz Klaber Jr. both joined the band while they were in junior high school. Franz Jr. took over the band in his early 20s after Franz Sr.’s untimely passing in 1963. Under his leadership, the band affectionately became known as The Klaberheads.

“Our Fitton Center performance will be a little bit bittersweet, because my uncle, Bill Klaber, who is Franz Klaber Sr.’s youngest son, is going to retire. This will be his final performance with us. He is going to be retiring after 50 years. He’s been one of our main singers. He is our Frank Sinatra of the polka world, so it will be a bittersweet concert for us on the bandstand,” Klaber said.

The group’s lineup includes three trumpets, three saxophones and a rhythm section. Four generations solid, Erika’s daughter, Emily Muench, performs regularly with the band, and several of Franz Jr.’s and Bill’s children and grandchildren have been apprentices, or serve as active members.

We will be doing some standards, as well as some Michael Buble big-band arrangements, she said.

The Franz Klaber Orchestra, or The Klaberheads, have not only kept a family tradition going strong, but the group has also helped to keep a German heritage alive in southwest Ohio. They also host their own New Year’s Eve dance, a popular event in Hamilton that draws a sell-out crowd.

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