Natatorium Big Band Benefit: Swing Dance with Us on Aug. 11

The legendary Harry James Orchestra – the big band that gave Frank Sinatra his first big break – is coming to Hawai’i to play a benefit for restoration and reopening of the War Memorial Natatorium.

Join us to swing dance — or just to listen — on Sunday, Aug. 11, 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. at the Honolulu Elks Lodge. NOTE: ADVANCE TICKET SALES HAVE CLOSED. TICKETS ARE AVAILABLE AT THE DOOR FOR $45.

Since superstar trumpeter Harry James formed the ensemble nearly 75 years ago, the Harry James Orchestra has been one of the world’s great swing bands, with a big, brassy sound built around the trumpet – tight, technically flawless, but with spirit, élan, humor and flair.

Benny Goodman, Betty Grable – and Frank Sinatra

James himself was one of the biggest stars of the era. He played with Benny Goodman before starting his own orchestra. He married Betty Grable at the height of her fame, after they (and Harry’s band!) appeared together in one of her biggest musical hits, Springtime in the Rockies. In all, he made more than a dozen movies and dozens of records.

It’s hard to think of a much more important record, though, than one of the first, All or Nothing at All. Recorded in the orchestra’s first year, 1939, with Frank Sinatra – then making $75 a week as James’ vocalist – the song was re-released a few years later and sold more than a million copies. This is the original recording:


The Harry James Orchestra Today

Harry James died in 1983, but the orchestra lives on under the direction of James’ protege and former principal trumpeter, Fred Radke.


Radke keeps the band true to the James legacy, on the bandstand and off. He considers it a great compliment that his own performing style is often compared with that of Harry James, but he has also built his own distinct and distinguished career as a solo performer, bandleader, educator, composer and arranger, and producer. He has performed on all the major television networks, produced for television and radio and entertained three U.S. presidents.

We’re proud to say that Fred is also the father of Friends of the Natatorium President Mo Radke. And Harry James Orchestra guest vocalist Gina Funes — a distinguished opera and jazz singer in her own right — is Mo’s mother.

This fabulous event is made possible by a generous grant from the Bruce and Jolene McCaw Advised Fund. Mahalo to the McCaws for their support of the Natatorium and Big Band dance fans!

Here are the Details

  • What: Music and dancing with the Harry James Orchestra, led by Fred Radke.
  • Why: For a blast of a good time! And to support the Friends of the Natatorium’s efforts to preserve, restore and reopen the Waikiki War Memorial Natatorium.
  • When: Sunday, Aug. 11, 6:30 p.m.-9:30 p.m.
  • Where: Honolulu Elks Lodge at 2933 Kalakaua Ave.
  • Beverages: Will be available for purchase.
  • Questions? Call 808-254-1828.
Categories: Events, Friends of the Natatorium, and Uncategorized.


  1. Richard Sun

    Aloha, Just purchased 2 tickets to your fundraiser and blogged it in “Town Dancer.” Very exciting event for a great cause.

    There was no mention as to seating arrangements. I would prefer something close to the dance floor if there is going to be set seating.

    Mahalo, Richard Sun

    • admin

      Hey Richard, we really appreciate your support and spreading the word about this exciting event. We hope the room is filled with dancers!

  2. Honolulu Dance Guide

    We have also posted this once in a lifetime even in our dance blog. Some of our readers asked whether this event will be held upstairs in the Grand Lodge at the Elks Club or downstairs. Also of concern was whether dancing couples can sit together on the same table, so will there be assigned or just general seating (sit wherever)? More information would be appreciated. Thank You!

    • admin

      The dance is upstairs and there will be ample seating, though not reserved. The music will be so good, no one will want to sit for long!

  3. Jeri Bernadette Manulani Louis Wiliiams

    Please no give up the fight to save the Nat – I support all your efforts in memory of my mother Violet Louis (also a big band singer) who grew up and watched the Natatorium being built – this place is like a cousin to me – Please share my ticket with someone who will enjoy and support the fight , since I am ‘stuck’ on the mainland. Dance, dance dance ! Mahalo and Aloha

  4. kiwidog

    I purchased tickets online. Will we receive tickets in the mail or is there just a list you will keep at the door?

    • admin

      Online ticket sales generate a receipt. This can serve as your ticket. No other “ticket” will be mailed to you. We will also have a list at the door of people who purchased tickets in advance. Thank you for your support. See you Sunday!

  5. Jeff

    Is this a formal event? I dont want to show up in my crisp Aloha attire and be under dressed.

    • admin

      attire is likely to range from aloha to ballroom dance-style outfits. Wear what you are most comfortable dancing in!

  6. kiwidog

    are we able to park inside the Elks compound? are we able to order food at the Club? thanks….

  7. Donna

    Parking is first come first served at the Elks Club. Parking at Kapiolani Park in metered spaces is free after 6pm.

  8. Willow

    Hi, I ordered my ticket thru the pay pal receipt was given,,,Am I on the list..also, what time do the doors open for seating? Thank you

    • admin

      We got you covered, Willow. Doors open at 5:45. Music starts at 6:30

  9. Donna

    Willow, our treasurer, Jim does not have a record of your payment — at least not under the name “Willow Blake.” Please call him to at 349-6688 to try to reconcile.