Monday, 14 May 2012

EKOS Choir: 6 piece Band

The EKOS choir's season-ender concerts, this year had a 6 piece band. Three horns (Trumpet, Tenor Sax, and Trombone). Since it was a New Orleans theme I thought we especially needed a trombone. Previous to that we were tossing around things like one sax/clarinet traditional jazz player with a guitar or (and/or) banjo. The material though did not really fit that kind of instrumentation and we finally decided to bite the financial bullet and hire 2 horns (trumpet and tenor). The New Orleans theme though prompted the thinking of adding trombone. What a great idea — a superb idea as it turns out. The EKOS board allowed the extra funds to do that. I must say that we had an excellent band. Very fine players: D.P. on drums, M.B. on bass, D.B. on trumpet, D.Babs. on Tenor and Soprano Saxes, and happily we had R.N. on trombone. They played so well, so in tune, so stylistically classy, and were a class act unto themselves.

I had been writing for small groups of horns/rhythm/vocals for years while at MacEwan so it was nice to have 3 horns to work with. It gave me a chance do something with some very fine players (most of whom were graduates of MacEwan Music). The arrangements for the choir were adapted from available publications one way or another. All I had to do was create scores for the 6 instruments (I played piano) and mostly I featured the band when the singers weren't singing so much but with some pads and figures where needed. The arrangements worked out so well that I wished I would have written them in even more songs than I did—at least 2 or 3 more. The band really added to the aura of a professional presentation and positive musical energy to the whole concert.

I might have a story or 2 about the songs with the band, but the most memorable one was the last number which featured 3 songs in total. It started with a slow drag tune, 'St. James Infirmary.' I had written out the melody 4 times featuring piano, Trombone, Tenor, and Trumpet and they all nailed it in fine style. There were 2 concerts, one on Saturday night and Sunday afternoon, so we had a crack at it for a 2nd time on Sunday. It's funny how things come to you. In the first performance, I played it bluesy with a fairly big sound and lots of time delays just dragging it out. In retrospect the next day I ended up playing it (I thought) more sincerely and gently with full simple chords, thinking that this is for real: a New Orleans funeral march and life is good, life is tough, and may we all have St. James Infirmary played at our respective funerals in this heartfelt way (or any other appropriate music for that matter). There is this way to get there: "I think and therefore 'I' am."—there playing a funeral march, even a jazz funeral march for somebody, or all of us. Then the message has a chance to get across.

That's not the last tune in the closer, it's the first and is followed by "Swing Low Sweet Chariot." I have just thought of what that actually means and I think I get it for the first time (Amen). The final song is of course: 'Oh When the Saints' complete with a rousing ending. The band did a great job and I hope I get a chance to write for them again. It left us all with a good good feeling. Very memorable it was as I still have many of these songs in my head days later (in a good way—an uplifting way) !!

1 comment:

  1. I loved that part in St. James Infirmary where the beat changed ! ! ! - ! ! ! - that was so good. Goosebumps. I never thought about the meanings of those three songs either while they were happening, but they were even in the right order, weren't they? Seems a bit morbid now, but they were so much fun to sing.