Start new year at the Speakeasy Ball

Published 10:39 pm Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Dip into the roaring ’20s this New Year’s Eve with the Southwest Michigan Symphony Orchestra’s Speakeasy Ball on Dec. 31 at Vineland Center in St. Joseph.

The evening starts at 7 p.m. with a casino, buffet dinner, live music, dancing and midnight champagne. Music will be provided by Dave Bennett, who’s back to entertain SMSO’s audiences for a third time.

Bennett sets set the mood as he jams to the hits of the great clarinet swing kings. A backdrop painting of Benton Harbor’s Ferris Music storefront will serve as the artfully casual secret hideout of the Speakeasy Ball. Photographer Greg Rizzo will be on hand to capture attendees’ photos in front of the nostalgic, prohibition-era scene.

The evening’s Prohibition vibe will be brought to life starting with The Gin Joint (casino), which operates from 7 to 11:30 p.m. Guests’ tickets will provide the password needed to gain entry into The Gin Joint. Chips won in the Gin Joint will be redeemable for prizes, including, but not limited to: an assortment of fine cigars, tickets to the Senior PGA in May 2012, spa packages, and Whirlpool appliancs.

A “bootleg” buffet, catered by the Vineland Center will start in The Swing Club at 8:15 p.m. with the Dave Bennett Trio providing background music. At 10:30 p.m., Bennett’s Clarinet Swing Kings takes the stage and will help ring in the New Year, playing into 2012. Throughout the night, guests can sip on an array of signature drinks and flow back and forth between The Gin Joint and The Swing Club. At 11:30 p.m., complimentary champagne will be served in anticipation of the celebratory countdown to midnight.
1920s attire is optional; however, attendees are encouraged to dress the part. Retailer Alexa Claire Boutique and Tux Shop (formally The Tux

Shop at 2811 Niles Ave. in St. Joseph will donate 15 percent of rental sales on tuxes and special occasion dresses to the SMSO.

Dave Bennett

Bennett, a Michigan clarinetist, is an authentic musical prodigy who brings to life the classic sound and music of Benny Goodman with incredible technique, style, beauty of tone and naturalness.
Born in 1984, Bennett began playing at age 10 on a clarinet given to him by his grandparents. He then taught himself how to play Goodman songs by ear, listening to a tape given to him by his grandfather. At age 12, Dave was invited to the bandstand of the famous Sweet Basil jazz club in New York to sit in with the trumpet great Doc Cheatham.
As an early teen, a tape of Bennett’s playing sent to another hero, Pete Fountain, resulted in an unprompted telephone call to Bennett by Fountain, encouraging this young talent that he was “on the right track.” By age 14, Bennett started traveling frequently around America as a member of Saginaw’s popular New Reformation Dixieland Band.
Over the past seven years, he has played in more than a dozen American states and on Caribbean cruises with that group and other Dixie-style bands.
Bennett’s mature stage presence, knowledge of the dates and details of Goodman recordings and his penchant for wire-rim glasses, spats and double-breasted suits, transport listeners back to the time and mood of Benny Goodman’s swing era.
He resides in Waterford.
Tickets to the Speakeasy Ball, held at the Vineland Center, 1155 Vineland Rd., in St. Joseph, are $85 ($40 tax deductible) and include appetizers, dinner, music, dancing, midnight champagne and some starting cash for The Gin Joint.
Call (269) 982-4030.
or visit
The Vineland Center is located at 1155 Vineland Rd., St. Joseph.