Angela Kelman and her all-star band The Polyester Philharmonic – featured in the April 7 show Mirrorball at Blue Frog Studios – enjoy revisiting the funky sound of the `70s disco era. Lee Halliday photo

Angela Kelman and her all-star band The Polyester Philharmonic – featured in the April 7 show Mirrorball at Blue Frog Studios – enjoy revisiting the funky sound of the `70s disco era. Lee Halliday photo

The (disco) beat goes on

Angela Kelman and The Polyester Philharmonic recreate ’70s sound

Bubbly, vivacious Angela Kelman doesn’t apologize for her love of the disco era – and she admits she continues to have way too much fun recreating it with her all-star band of retro-specialists, The Polyester Philharmonic.

“These are the songs that made me want to become a singer when I was 14 years old,” she says of a playlist that includes songs created and popularized by such bona-fide stars as The Bee Gees, Donna Summer, Stevie Wonder and Earth, Wind and Fire.

In spite of the lame and glitter excesses associated with the Saturday Night Fever period of the late ’70s, the songs themselves – as well-worn vinyl copies attest – were well-crafted.

And the validity of the hypnotic, energizing beat and horn-riff-heavy sound in today’s market needs no better demonstration than the mega-hit scored with by Mark Ronson’s ’70s-influenced Uptown Funk, featuring Bruno Mars.

“It is great music,” Kelman adds – and it’s evident a lot of people agree with her.

Her April 7 Mirrorball concert at White Rock’s Blue Frog Studios, with an eight-piece version of the Philharmonic, has already sold out the 7:15 p.m. show and is close to selling out a 9:15 p.m. show.

That pleases Kelman to no end. She admits that the end of a 10-year period when the Great Canadian Casino chain hired pro bands like hers – they ultimately found staging battles between up-and-coming bands cost them less – has sent her in search of more supportive, intimate venues across B.C., such as Blue Frog, as well as pitching corporate theme-nights.

“But I always loved the 100- to 1,000-seat theatre venues and the connection with the audience,” said Kelman – a North Vancouver resident, but no stranger to White Rock from her days with colleagues Jake Leiske and Shauna-Rae Samograd in the fondly-remembered country vocal group Farmer’s Daughter.

The now-defunct trio went out on a high note – a reunion tour in 2009 was greeted by sold-out shows and the BC Country Music Association inducted them into the Hall of Fame in 2016.

That accolade took a lot of the sting out of what had become, by the early 2000s, a bittersweet partnership, Kelman acknowledges.

“Fences were mended,” she said. “In every band there’s always a little bit of ego involved. But everyone’s lives were going in a different direction – and the music industry had changed so much as well.”

Kelman knew that she wanted to become a mom (Alex, her son with husband and former CFL player Doug von Dersch, is now 15).

She also began a career as a teacher and vocal coach, which led to authoring the 5 Point Singing System manual.

But the end of the Farmer’s Daughter experience still left the Brandon, Manitoba-raised, Hollywood, California-trained singer feeling “a bit lost” musically.

“I forgot who I was,” said Kelman.

Fortunately, her association with guitarist/producer Allan Rodger – a mainstay of The Polyester Philarmonic – helped her recover and reshape her musical identity with two albums covering pop classics in jazzy, lounge-y latin style, the bossa nova-influenced Cafe Brasilia, and Casa do Samba.

Their producing partnership has continued with the latest album, Mirrorball, in which their love for the funky style of the ’70s – stock in trade of the dance band version of The Polyester Philharmonic – resulted in eight originals that sound as though they could have come from the era.

“Alan used to go home every night and listen to what we had done in the studio and compare it to the sound of the old original vinyl albums so we made sure we got the sound we wanted,” she said.

The Mirrorball originals, coupled with classics from the era, will form the basis for the Blue Frog shows, Kelman said.

In addition to her powerful vocals, the songs will highlight the musicianship of the group, which, in addition to Rodger, includes bassist Shane Hendrickson, drummer Harvey Kostenchuk, keyboardist Kristian Alexandrov, back-up vocalist Catherine St. Germaine and a “killer” horn section – saxophonist Tom Keenlyside and trumpeter Derry Byrne.

Keenyside and St. Germaine live on the Semiahmoo Peninsula, Kelman noted.

“These are all top-notch people, all lifelong musicians who have been in the industry – like me – since they were in their teens, and all, also like me, experienced in recording,” Kelman said.

“They’re playing disco – and they’re loving it.”

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