'A Prelude Christmas' returns to Blues Alley

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Photo - Christmas Music
Christmas Music
Entertainment,Music,Marie Gullard,Holidays

For many years, band leader and trumpet player Dave Detwiler, along with his group of highly skilled and experienced professional musicians that called themselves Prelude, would perform at the White House as Christmas party entertainment.

A thrill indeed, but Detwiler and the guys noticed that, increasingly, no one ever listened to a note they played. And so these musicians -- all of them current or former D.C.-based military band members -- made a change. They jazzed up the tempo of these beloved carols and even recorded an album of their upbeat arrangements, calling it "Christmastime in Washington." The album was a hit, and for the last 10 years Prelude has performed these songs at Blues Alley. The group will do so again Sunday night for two shows.

"We have a ball playing this stuff," said Detwiler, who after 32 years in the business continues to be one of the most highly sought-after lead trumpet players on the East Coast. "The music is fantastic and well-written; the guys are top professionals in the business.

Onstage
'A Prelude Christmas' with Dave Detwiler
Where: Blues Alley, 1073 Wisconsin Ave. NW
When: 8 and 10 p.m. Sunday
Info: $18; 202-337-4141; bluesalley.com

The band, consisting of seven players including Detwiler, comes to the stage with an arm's length of credentials. Chris Vadala is a Yamaha saxophone artist who traveled with Chuck Mangione for 14 years and is director of jazz studies at the University of Maryland. Mark Cook at the piano heads up the music theory department at Shepherd University in West Virginia, while bassist Glen Dewey is chairman of the bass department at George Mason University. Guitarist Ken Hall is chairman of the music department at Westfield High School in Fairfax County.

Two female vocalists, Mercy Diez and Shivani Bhatt, join the band on Sunday night. Detwiler, calling the show "exciting," gives a few samples of the material to be performed. "Jingle Bells," he said, will be done as a New Orleans street march, "O Christmas Tree" will rock, and "Away in a Manger" will have the tempo of a jazz waltz.

"We get a nice crowd every year," he said. "It's an annual event that people love to come to and that we enjoy playing."

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