"The venue, the dance floor, and the great variety of music was a treat. I have performed with a number of big bands over the years and your band sounded GREAT. The music was tight and the tempos were great for dancing."

Alana Hock,
Dance With Alana Studios


Swing into Spring with SRO in Perth - Saturday, May 2nd

Standing Room Only is excited to once again take part in the Swing Into Spring fundraising dance for the Classic Theater Festival in Perth. Join us at the Civitan Hall (6787 HWY 43, Perth) on Saturday, May 2nd. Doors open at 6:30 pm, with a free dance lesson at 7:00 pm and silent auction during the event. 

Tickets are $27.50 (including ticketing fees) and are available online. Click here to order. 


Thank you for joining us in the 2014/2015 Tea Dance Season! We look forward to seeing you again next year. 


We're looking for your feedback...

Thank you to everyone who completed our online survey. We always welcome your questions, feedback, suggestions and comments. Please drop us an email at srobigband@gmail.com or follow us on Twitter @SRObigband.


Standing Room Only is ...

... a 15-piece big band plus vocalist Sandy Faux, with members from the Almonte area and Ottawa. The band is best known for its popular 'tea dances', which it organizes and for which it provides the live big band music. The Sunday afternoon tea dances - now in their NINTH! season - are held monthly from October to March in the historic Almonte Old Town Hall, a beautifully preserved venue with a clean and spacious wooden dance floor, natural lighting, and wonderful acoustics. New this season, the band will aso be playing two tea dances at the Glebe Community Center in Ottawa. Click here for more information about the SRO tea dances.

The band also plays for a variety of public and private functions - for example the Ottawa Swing Dance Society (OSDS) Live Band Friday night swing dances, Merrickville's Jazz Fest, Almonte's RiverEdge Festival, and Spencerville's 'A Country Christmas Remembered' festival. Click here if you are interested in booking SRO for your event. Click here for the band bio.






SWING INTO SPRING with Big Band Extravaganza

(by Matthew Behrens, photos by Jean-Denis Labelle)
 APRIL 14, 2014
Mike Rowe (with trumpet) and his new bride Erin Morel-Rowe (with saxophone) are the newest members of Standing Room Only.
The myth that musical performers usually stick to their own kind – trumpets only hang out with trombones or French horns, but not so much with those clarinets or violins – has been thoroughly demolished by Erin Morel-Rowe and Mike Rowe. The duo make beautiful music together both onstage and off as a recently married couple and the newest members of Standing Room Only (SRO), the big band which headlines the annual spring fundraising dance for the Classic Theatre Festival in Perth on Saturday, May 3. “Swing into Spring,” the annual gathering featuring what most consider the finest big band in Eastern Ontario, will feature free dance lessons, a silent auction, and swinging renditions of tunes from the 1930s through the 1960s. Doors will open at 6:30pm, with dance lessons at 7pm at the Civitan Club, 6787 Lanark 43 in Perth.
Mike Rowe (with trumpet) and his new bride Erin Morel-Rowe (with saxophone) are the newest members of Standing Room Only.
Mike Rowe (with trumpet) and his new bride Erin Morel-Rowe (with saxophone) are the newest members of Standing Room Only.
Those who have attended the enjoyable annual event in the past – either to dance or just to sit and tap their feet – will note some of the group’s lineup changes, including tenor saxophone Erin Morel-Rowe. Having moved to this area last year from Sudbury, Erin first had a semester’s replacement contract at PDCI and is currently a supply teacher in the Upper Canada District School Board, hoping to eventually land a full-time gig teaching music to high school students. In the meantime, her passion for playing led her to join a saxophone quartet in Almonte that featured Elizabeth Sampson (a founding member of Standing Room Only) and, eventually, to join the big band. Along the way, she convinced SRO that a big band normally has four trumpet players and her husband Mike would make a perfect fourth.
“As a saxophone player, jazz is my favourite music, and I learned it early through a fabulous music teacher in Sudbury,” she says. “Playing with Standing Room Only is awesome, because I get to play my instrument every week.” Erin grew up in a musical family, with both parents playing in the Sudbury Community Band. “The turntable was always on, playing everyone from Glenn Miller and Benny Goodman to Colin James.” When she was in grade 7, her father started playing music from Big Band Spectacular, turning her on to a different sound while many of her contemporaries were jiving to ’n Sync, Jennifer Lopez and Pink.
She met her future husband, trumpet player Mike Rowe, at the age of 15. They dated for the following decade until they got married last summer, writing and arranging the music for their wedding. Their path took them together through the rest of high school and into the McMaster University music program, where Erin was inspired by the intensity of playing music every day.
“I love the feeling of working with a group, because you can express yourself individually while still working in the context of a larger collection of players. And big band music is so fun for us to play and audiences to dance to or just listen to. It’s easy to get distracted when you play for a dancing group because you see people having so much fun on the dance floor. I think a big reason this music is so popular is because it is so accessible: people quickly get it and they love it.”
Mike grew up in a family where both parents were ministers, and at age 11, he joined the Salvation Army band, which is all brass. He began to learn more contemporary tunes in grade 8 from a teacher who also played in a Sudbury jazz band, “which pushed me into a wider spectrum of music.” While he honed his musical chops in high school, he got accepted into both the university physics and the music program; however, he chose music because the intensity of practice time in high school “made me realize how much fun I had playing music, so this is what I wanted to do.”
For Mike, playing in Standing Room Only “is great. In university, a lot of the music was more academic, with audiences who were there just to listen. With SRO, people know the songs, they are there to have fun, they’re happy and excited, so it’s win-win for everybody involved.”
Swing to the sounds of Standing Room Only on Sat. May 3 at the Perth Civitan
Like Erin, Mike loves the cohesiveness of playing in concert with others. “There are different feelings in different bands. I was principal trumpet in a 90-100 piece orchestra, but then you just work in your section and coordinate with the other section leaders. You don’t worry so much about what other people are doing, whereas in SRO you need to listen to what everyone else is doing.” And while music remains his primary passion, Mike is also enrolled in the Culinary Management Program at Algonquin College.
The annual Swing into Spring big band night is an occasion for those who love both the music and the opportunity to dance, just
The annual Swing into Spring big band night is an occasion for those who love both the music and the opportunity to dance, just like the Classic Theatre Festival’s Matthew Behrens and Ann Hawthorne of Tickets Please.
Those attending “Swing into Spring” will get to see first-hand the talent of this dynamic couple, celebrating the arrival of (hopefully) warmer weather with the rest of their big band colleagues on May 3. Tickets to “Swing into Spring” are available at Tickets Please (613-485-6434) for $25. Further information is available atclassictheatre.ca/big-band-2014

BIG BAND Extravaganza May 3 in Perth

(by Matthew Behrens, photos by Jean-Denis Labelle) 

MARCH 1, 2014

Swing into SpringIt’s a remarkable testament to staying power that tunes first topping the music charts in the 1930s and 40s remain popular today. Indeed, the work of big band leaders like Benny Goodman, Count Basie, Glenn Miller and the Dorsey Brothers continues to find life and a broad range of fans from all age groups via modern swing orchestras such as Standing Room Only, the 16-member big band that will be performing at the annual Classic Theatre Festival fundraiser Swing into Spring event at the Perth Civitan Saturday, May 3 at 7 pm.


Now marking its 11th anniversary, Standing Room Only started in 2003 when trombonist and Almonte resident Catherine Illingworth brought some musical friends together under the direction of a former Glebe Collegiate Institute music teacher, Stan Clark. Among the original band members was Elizabeth Sampson, who will be playing alto saxophone and clarinet on May 3.





Sampson represents that growing corps of musicians worldwide who remain entranced with big band and swing music, defying the popular wisdom that anything older than yesterday’s twitter feed could possibly interest anyone. In fact, as Sampson and Standing Room Only members point out, the interest is shared by everyone from octogenarians to pre-teens, all of whom show up at their popular monthly tea dances at the Almonte Town Hall. (Sampson’s 12-year-old son also plays clarinet and enjoys selling tickets at the tea dances).


A member of her high school band, Sampson recalls playing marches and Beatles tunes, but never anything from the golden age of swing. Following a 20-year hiatus from music, during which she studied architecture at Carleton and went on to work both for the federal government and in private practice, Sampson answered the call from Illingworth and got back into the cycle of weekly band rehearsals, often in her basement, and a growing list of concert and dance commitments.


While Standing Room Only’s authenticity is often based on finding the original arrangements for classics from In the Mood and One O’Clock Jump to Mack the Knife and the Pink Panther, the band is open to new arrangements from the like of Michael Buble’s band.


Sampson particularly enjoys the way in which the instruments in the band complement each other, building in melody while allowing for improvisation. Asked whether her architectural background influences her approach to music, Sampson agrees with the analogy, noting “there is a structure to the music, with 12 or 16 bar phrases. We have lots of engineers and computer people in the band.”


While Sampson must pay attention to the music and her band director during performances, she cannot help but notice the infectious enthusiasm on the dance floor as couples and individuals foxtrot, waltz, and tango to the band’s tunes. “This music is a lot of fun to dance to,” she says, “and it’s very democratic. Everyone dances with everyone else.”


Those with a film background will also recognize members of the band in the recently-released 1930s-set film, “Ming.”


Sampson says that for the film, the band spent an evening at the Sala San Marco on Preston Street in Ottawa, with the inside done up like the fabled Cotton Club. They were provided white dinner jackets and went through the motions of playing music while dancers took their lead from a piece playing over the radio. “But everyone was very stiff because we were pretending to play this music that was coming out of a radio and everyone was getting frustrated,” she recalls. “So we collectively decided that we would strike out and play ‘In the Mood’, and the dancers started dancing like they hadn’t been dancing all night. The director came up and exclaimed, ‘That’s what I’ve been looking for from you!’ So they ended up having us perform a live piece which was a lot of fun for us.”


On May 3, free dance lessons will be provided from 7-8 pm.

The show, a benefit for the Classic Theatre Festival, will also feature a silent auction with items ranging from tickets to the Stratford and Shaw Festivals to other surprise goodies.


Tickets to Swing into Spring are on sale for $25 at Tickets Please (39 Foster Street in Perth) or by calling (613) 485-6434. 


Putting the Almonte Tea Dances and SRO on the Map

Check out the published web article on the Almonte big band tea dances on Linda Mondoux's website MyNewWaterfrontHome.com. Her website profiles Ontario's waterfront communities, of which there are more than four hundred. One of the approximately one hundred profiles she's written to date is on Almonte. Linda recently came across our website and decided to write a follow-up feature article on the tea dances. We really like it.