FROM THE CD LINER NOTES: During the half-century preceding the stock market crash of 1929, tens of thousands of musicians were employed in the "legitimate," vaudeville and silent movie theaters of America. The largest venues in New York and Chicago employed entire symphony orchestras, while the smallest places made do with a pianist or sometimes an organist. Even small theaters would often engage an extra wind player or two along with a violinist and perhaps a drummer for Saturday nights. Solo keyboard players in these settings were free to improvise, but ensembles, regardless of size, needed printed music. Operettas, musicals and even a few silent films had originally composed scores, but most of the music played consisted of arrangements of established classics, popular songs, dances, piano rags and marches. There was nothing approaching a minimum theater orchestration, and publishers of theater music made extensive use of cross cues, doubling, and the all-important piano to cover key parts. In this way, the essential outline of the original was always audible regardless of the performing forces at hand. Faithfulness to the original score was not very important as long as the spirit of the music was clear. Sometimes, when parts were missing, players made them up as they went along. A theater musician had to be flexible and it helped to have a good imagination. Imagination was important for the audience, too. A handful of players could never re-create the wall of sound envisioned by Wagner, Verdi, or Sousa, but that didn't stop the "little"orchestras from playing big repertoire. Conviction was a satisfying substitute for volume when a handful of players threw their energy into a rousing favorite by Herbert or a romantic waltz by Strauss. It was live music-a luxury in our time, but a way of life in the "good old days.' ABOUT THE ORCHESTRA: Named for a former vaudeville house in the orchestra's hometown of Bay City, Michigan, The Bijou Orchestra is one of the nation's most versatile small orchestras. Players drawn from throughout Michigan and beyond perform 19th century salon arrangements, ragtime, tin-pan alley favorites, tangos, swing, and popular folk-based forms including klezmer, zydeco and gospel. The Orchestra consists of flute, pairs of clarinets and cornets, trombone, percussion, piano and string quintet. Based on standard ragtime orchestras of the era, this combination (with saxophone occasionally replacing a clarinet) is ideal for performing American and European popular music of the period. Tastes change over time, of course, and even The Bijou is caught up in the perpetually shifting musical interests of the public. Our foundation may be with historical favorites, but modern music lovers have broader musical interests than ever before. As a result, The Bijou Orchestra has developed new musical skills to complement the old, performing Latin Jazz, classic Rock and Roll and even a little country now and then. There is simply no other ensemble performing this range of music in concert. We play a little of everything, and we do it all live, reaching into whatever style suits us to further the musical interest of our concert.. It is this stylistic versatility coupled with technical virtuosity that makes a Bijou concert memorable. This album captures a tiny sliver of that variety; future releases will gradually reveal more of this incredible variety. ABOUT LEO NAJAR, ARTISTIC DIRECTOR OF THE BIJOU: Leo Najar is an outstanding example of the modern American conductor, bringing excitement to the wide range of music enjoyed by today's audiences. Thoroughly grounded in the standard works of three centuries of European and American concert repertoire, he is equally at home with the varied traditions that comprise contemporary American musical life. An accomplished arranger and conductor, he has served in artistic leadership positions with several orchestras and is a frequent guest conductor in the United States and Europe. He has conducted many premieres including works by Astor Piazzolla and Philip Glass among many others. Under the auspices of the American State Department, he performed as special advisor and principal guest conductor of the National Orchestra of El Salvador. In 2003 he was awarded the prestigious Cikker Prize by the foundation of that name in Slovakia.