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Five By Design Entertains in Fine Arts Center

Linna Jones
Arts & Entertainment Editor 

Photo by Eric Bell
Club Swing - Five By Design performed Big Band music in the Fine Arts Center Oct. 24. The group began in the 1980s and have performed for 17 years.

    Five By Design, a group of five singers, performed “Club Swing,” a variety show with various selections of music from the big band era accompanied by the Robert Baca Jazz Orchestra Oct. 24.

   The singers for Five By Design included Kurt Niska, tenor; Terrence Niska, bass; Lorie Carpenter-Niska, soprano; Michael Swedburg, baritone; and Sheridan Zuther, alto. 

   Alton Accola, narrator and artist representative, said the singers work well together and enjoy making the show. 
   “We’ve been around for 17 years, and we enjoy doing (performances),” Accola said. “The music is the only reason we enjoy doing it.”  

   The performance of “Club Swing” included songs from the 1930s to the 1950s and the decline of swing music. The fictional club brings the audiences to a night club on the verge of demolition - drops cloths cover the tables and bar and five radio-style microphones from the 1940s stand center stage. But before the wrecking ball falls, Joe Sullivan, played by Accola, worked for the club as a mixologist, a bartender, at the club during the heyday of swing.

   Sullivan visits the establishment one last time and as the drop clothes are removed, the club springs to life. The audience sees the club when it first opened and entertained customers with the who's who of  singers and bands in the Big Band Era. The band opened with the frenetic pace of Benny Goodman’s “Bugle Call Rag” and closed with Lois Prima’s “Sing, Sing, Sing.” 

   Swedburg said the group didn't struggle to keep up the pace of the show with help from the audience. 

   “I felt the audience gave us a lot of energy,” Swedburg said.

   Five By Design celebrates the swing movement from 1937-1955. The stage design evokes the ambiance of a night club from an old movie. Each decade highlights the songs, events and personalities that defined the era. 

   The singers wore clothing from 1937 to 1955, including vintage clothing and clever reproductions. The group created an outfit worn by Lindley Armstrong "Spike" Jones also known as Spike Jones from yellow material and painted red lines on the materials. They took the material and a picture of Jones and created the suit for the “Cocktail for Two” performance. Kurt Niska played the part of Jones.

   Jones played satirical arrangements of popular songs with his bandSpike Jones and his City Slickers” through the 1940s and 1950s. Jones changed ballads and classical works by adding sounds to the songs, including gunshots, whistles, cowbells and ridiculous vocals.
   “Cocktail for Two” starts out a calm, melodic song, but soon turned into a scene of mayhem. The singers clinked glass together and performed other crazy additions to the song. The song ended just as it began - calm and melodic, as if the mayhem never happened.   

   “(The music) means so much to people who lived in the era,” Carpenter-Niska said. 

   Many of the songs and themes performed included: 

The 1930s:

  • “Traffic Jam/Bugle Call Rag” by Teddy McRae, Artie Shaw, Jack Petis, Billy Meyers and Elmer Schoebel
  • “Begin the Beguine” by Cole Porter
  • “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got that Swing)” by Duke Ellington and Irving Mills
  • “Woodchoppers Ball” by Woody Herman and Joe Bishop

Back Stage at Club Swing:

  • “Hut Sut Song” by Leo Killion, Ted McMichael and Jack Owens
  • “Dream” by Johnny Mercer

The 1940s Canteen Broadcast:

  • “American Patrol” by F.W. Meacham
  • “Dig Down Deep” by Walter Hirsch, Gerald Marx and Sano Marco
  • “Choo Choo Ch’ Boogie” by Vaughn Horton, Denver Darling and Milton Gabler
  • “Colgate Tooth Powder” a radio commercial
  • “(Give Me) Five Minutes More” by Sammy Cahn and Jule Styne
  • “In the Mood” by Joe Garland and Andy Razaf


  • “Bumble Boogie” by Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov and arranged by Jack Fina

Spike Jones and His City Slickers:

  • “Cocktails for Two” by Arthur Johnson and Sam Coslow

Your Hit Parade:

  • “Be Happy, Go Lucky” a commercial
  • “In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening” by Johnny Mercer and Hoagy Carmichael
  • “Goody, Goody” by Johnny Mercer and Matt Malneck
  • “Mona Lisa” by Jay Livingston and Raty Evans
  • “Open the Door Richard” by Dusty Fletcher, John Mason, Jack McVea and Dan Howell
  • “So Long for a Awhile” the closing theme

The 1950s Live at the Club:

  • “Somethin’s Gotta Give” by Johnny Mercer
  • “Carioca” by Gus Kahn, Edward Eliscu and Vincent Youmans
  • “Cara de Payosa” by Luiz Abnegado Reis and Haroldo Barbosa

Closing the Club:

  • “One for My Baby” by Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer
  • “Sing, Sing, Sing” by Louis Prima

   Senior John Gladden, a student worker in the FAC, has seen several shows and said this one topped the charts. 

   “I’ve worked here for six years, and this is one of the best performances we’ve had here, bar none,” Gladden said. 

   The group began when brothers Kurt and Terrence Niska, childhood friend Michael Swedburg and Lorie Carper-Nika, Kurt’s wife,  joined forces while at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire as member of the vocal ensemble Hot Jazz. After completing their studies, the friends and Accola started Five By Design.

   “We loved being here and we hope we can come again,” Carpenter-Niska said. 

   Five By Design performs on the road about 200 days a year. Other member of the group include Phil Henrickson, sound engineer since 1987; Daniel Ellis, technical director; and Catherine Scott, artist representative.

   Sue Martin, president of the SEARK Concert Associations and professor in the School of Education, said she enjoyed the show. 

   “It’s been fantastic," Martin said. "People have even said they want to go and dance up front even." 

   For more information about Five By Design please visit its Web site.


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ŠThe Voice 2007
Revised 09/17/2007 08:12:03 PM —