In 1885, the businessman Henry Lee Higginson came up with an idea: He wanted to start an orchestra that performed “concerts of a lighter kind of music.” Large groups of musicians didn’t have to play just Mozart and Beethoven, he argued. They could also play tunes that people in the street would recognize. And that is the origin of the Boston Pops, one of the most beloved orchestras in the world.
The Big Band of Costa Rica is very similar – they play jazz, swing, standards, soundtracks, and Billboard chart-toppers. It isn’t nearly as old as the Boston Pops, but this week it is celebrating a major benchmark: 25 years since its founding in 1990. Its members will mark the occasion on Saturday with an anniversary concert at the National Theater.
“They’re many years of labor and sacrifice,” said Humberto Vaglio, director and founding member of the orchestra, “but more adventure, illusion, mysticism, and friendship.”
The Big Band has only a dozen members or so, yet the company is able to pull off the robust and brassy sound of a traditional big band. Some of its players have gone on to do independent projects, such as trumpeter José Carlos Sibaja, who has played with Ricky Martin.
The Big Band’s concert on Feb. 28 promises to be a smorgasbord of different songs and styles, from Steppenwolf’s “Born to be Wild” to Abba’s “Dancing Queen,” Percy Mayfield’s “Hit the Road Jack,” and Kander and Ebb’s “New York, New York.” If you’re familiar with the usual pops oeuvre, the Big Band’s set list should win an approving nod.
La Big Band de Costa Rica performs Feb. 28 at the National Theater, downtown San José. 8 p.m. 7,000-15,000 ($14-30). Info: National Theater website.