On Tuesday, a trio of musical ensembles graced the Memorial Hall Auditorium, filling the stagnant air with flowing jazz beats. This end of the year affair celebrated jazz classics and the talented students performing them.
The Vocal Jazz Ensemble, consisting of nine energetic, engaging, and professional students, directed by Joel Schreuder, associate professor of music, filed on first. All performers shared the spotlight equally between musicians and vocalists, emphasizing the evening was an apogee for every performer. The informal transitions and friendly atmosphere never detracted from the obvious effort each member exerted in their pieces.
The vocalists never left a note moribund, but always moved the melody through complex and precise acrobatics, with crescendos in all the right places. Armed with remarkable harmonies, the group preformed such notable songs as “I Don’t Know Enough About You,” where the group showcased their scatting abilities. The group was committed on fostering some smooth jazz fire in their songs, so they performed above common choir standards. For instance, Zachary Henderson, one of the evening’s scatting soloist, played his microphone like a trumpet.
Despite faulty microphone issues, the group concluded with an upbeat, utterly entertaining version of Earth, Wind, and Fire’s “September,” wherein soloist Brendan Mead’s vocals were as golden as the song’s title month.
You could tell they were all having fun, and that essential element, paired with the group’s infectious attitude, uplifted the audience from their pre-summer doldrums.
Jazz Band followed after the vocalists, filling the stage with 21 musicians. As their performance unfolded, it became obvious that the CSC Music Department has filled its ranks with talented, multi-faceted gems. Many students had stocked their belts with diverse, sharpened talents. Some of the Jazz Ensemble students made a repeat appearance, and even if a student wielded a singular instrument, they did so well.
Although lengthy, the pieces carried the audience through lively, dynamic musical landscapes. One particularly dapper trumpeter wore a sequined vest and bow tie – accentuating the evening’s eudemonic feel. To conclude their performance, Michael Stephens, assistant professor of music, recognized some of the graduating performers.
“The Spring Concert is the culmination work for us,” Stephens said, as he thanked the audience for attending.
As the jazz band filed off and the guitar ensemble rolled their amps into place, the sparse student attendance became evident. As the lights faded up to facilitate the stage change, only around 80 people could be seen, standing, stretching, and chatting with their neighbors. Many of these faces were students from the other two ensembles, who had taken to the audience to support their peers.
But if the students who support jazz are few and far between, the ones who do are enthusiastic.
This was obvious when the Guitar Ensemble took the stage. The crew faced many roadblocks in preparation for the spring concert. Charles Carey, the group’s director, had a sprained wrist, and Jeffery McFarland stepped in (a week before the show) to fill in an absent student’s gap.
The performance started off rough but caught wind as performance progressed. By the middle of “Phase Dance,” Thomas Frear’s and Tanner Johns’ impressive guitar manipulation won over the audience. Entirely electric guitar ensembles rather selective niche, but Carey chose accessible songs to appeal to the plebeian masses. Carey’s supportive exuberance gave the show some important levity. The acoustic crew powered through any discrepancies, and the audience recognized their effort.
To cap the evening off, the Guitar Ensemble preformed “Carry on My Wayward Son,” a song familiar to me from my Guitar Hero proficiency. My paltry virtual performance doesn’t hold a candle to the ensemble’s enthusiasms and spirit. Johns and McFarland’s contagious excitement bubbled over during the iconic song’s peak, enervated the entire audience.
The evening concluded on a high note, and as the audience dispersed into the unseasonably warm night air, the looming threat of finals didn’t seem so hideous, knowing there is always good music to be had.