It was a hot balmy day as we stepped off the ferry onto Governors Island; ten minutes off the southern tip of Manhattan. As Jacqueline and I approached the great lawn in the center of the island, I was transported to another place, another time – much like Owen Wilson was when he stepped into car as the leading character in the new Woody Allen film Midnight in Paris.
Before my eyes the roaring 20’s were alive and well, pages come to life from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s book The Great Gatsby. People were in authentic garb, playing badminton; lounging with friends picnicking; and dancing to the music of the era – JAZZ!
Mike Arenella and his Dreamland Orchestra host an event here each year with enthusiastic turnouts. The band sat atop a stage constructed at one end of the great lawn, igniting the energy of the day and compelling the dance floor to fill up with couples showing off the hottest steps of the time.
The Dreamland Orchestra is authentic; their instruments, equipment, and attire. Led by Mike Arenella’s wand and at times his strong baritone, their delivery is accomplished and professional without the music losing the fun and spontaneity of an era gone by.
According to Arenella, he transcribes – by hand – their entire repertoire from period recordings.
I asked a girl (see photo right) in a black dress “What brought you out to a themed event like this?” She didn’t hesitate when she pointed to her friend
(in gray with the fan) and said, “She did!”
“Are you having a good time? Do you think you might come again“? With a wide grin she responded, “Absolutely, this is great!”
I received similar responses from several people I questioned, including one couple from England. The outfits varied from half-hearted or hurried to exceptional.
If you like Jazz, and you’re in New York during the summer, check out this event.
For more photos of past events, or upcoming events for Mike Arenella and the Dreamland Orchestra, visit their site here: http://dreamlandorchestra.com/