concert in Calgary

Music by The Duke and Harry Connick Jr., A CJO Concert Review

Another migration. The Calgary Jazz Orchestra wrapped up its concert season April 10, 2011 by performing big band jazz by Duke Ellington and Harry Connick Jr. to a full house.

Free Summer Concerts by the Calgary Wind Symphony

Enjoy a relaxing afternoon with family, friends and the Calgary Wind Sym

Calgary Wind Symphony Apollo Sings Concert Review

The Calgary Wind Symphony wrapped up its 2012/13 season with sweeping melodies, dramatic harmonies and rich contrasts.

Video Game Jazz Music at The Runaway Five's First All Ages Show

Driving, funky jazz versions of video game music were on tap when The Runaway Five performed in concert in Calgary, Alberta at the National Musical Centre Saturday, April 6, 2013. It was the jazz group's first "all ages" show.

This concert featured Johnny Summers on trumpet and flugelhorn, Shane Statz on tenor sax, Sheldon Zandboer on piano, Brendan McElroy on bass and Karl Schwonik on drums. It was the group's first performance in a quintet configuration.

Jazz Arrangements of Classic Video Game Themes Played by the Runaway Five

The quintet opened the first half with two songs from the SNES game Earthbound (AKA "MOTHER 1+2"): "Sound Stone" and "Threed". This particular arrangement of the "Sound Stone" melody was quite lively, complete with stride piano. It featured solos by Shane, Johnny and and Sheldon.

In contrast, "Threed" was a laid back bossa nova. One of the neat moments in this arrangement was the transition between the flugelhorn and tenor sax solos. There was a lovely dialogue between the two instruments, which weaved and bobbed like someone floating aimlessly in the pool or ocean. I could have sworn I heard a "quote" from "Rainy Days and Mondays" by The Carpenters for a fraction of a second.

Next game on the set list was SimCity 3000, which is known for its jazz and new age soundtrack. "Updown Town" was a toe-tapping medium upswing. The trumpet solo began in the lower registered with shots that gradually led the listeners higher and higher. This was followed by an extremely chromatic piano solo, complete with rapid-fire blues riffs and shakes. After a very catchy vamp, the tenor sax solo gradually built up higher and higher, like a skyscraper.

"Into the Darkness" from Final Fantasy IV was a lazy jazz waltz. The ensemble played upon the rhythmic ostinato from the introduction, working it into their solos. The flugelhorn solo was soft and mournful. In contrast, the tenor sax rose and fell like waves. The piano solo had punchy riffs and crunchy chords, while the bass solo played upon the theme, leading the audience deeper and deeper, lower and lower into blackness.

Another highlight from the first set was "Love Song" from BioWare's Dragon AgeThis slow jazz waltz featured a beautiful duet between the flugelhorn and tenor sax. The sax solo began simply, who lush long tones, but the rhythm grew in complexity, building the tension. In contrast, the piano solo featured tender chords that rose and fell like a sigh. It too gradually grew in intensity with crunchier harmonies. The gradual deconstruction of the theme was a neat effect, just before leading the audience back to the head.

Three more video game themes were performed in the first set. "Buy Something Will Ya" (Earthbound) was a moderate swing number. "Zelda's Lullaby" (Zelda), which showcased the flugelhorn and piano. The Runaway Five closed the first set with the "Overworld Theme" from Super Mario Bros 2.

Soul Jazz, Ragtime and Swing Video Game Music in The Runaway Five's All Ages Concert

The Runaway Five did their best to make the audience forget the miserable weather outside with "Koopa Troopa Beach" from Super Mario Kart 64. Was I the only one pretending to drive my Mario Kart around the beach during the performance? I hope not.

The tenor sax solo was wavy, with splashes up into the higher register. The  flugelhorn solo kept the mood high and bright, not just with playing in the higher register, but with the introduction of a different rhythm. The piano took that rhythm and changed it even more. When the head returned to lead us back to the finish line, it was a nostalgic moment.

Another highlight from the second half of the show was "Muscle Soul" from Battlefield Bad Company 2 Vietnam (Hill 137). This isn't a game I'd normally play, so hearing this theme was my introduction to the music of Anders Lewen.

This number opened with the bass and drums vamping on that opening riff until one by one, the rest of the company stepped in. The trumpet solo traversed a wide range, like a unit marching to their next mission. The sax solo was as soulful as the original recording. The piano solo had a little Motown, a little funk and a hint of disco.

The Runaway Five closed the show with "Air Platform - The Athletic Rag" from Super Mario World. The quintet had fun playing around with the two main themes from this classic video game. The trumpet solo used the A theme as a springboard to new riffs.

The tenor sax took the last rhythms played by the trumpet and then improvised on the B theme, then back to the A theme before tossing it to the piano, where we heard a chromatic treatment of the B theme, complete with zippy runs. The drum solo was playful, exploring different rhythmic and timbre combinations.

Three more VG themes were featured in the second set, including the "Figaro Castle Theme" from Final Fantasy III (VI), "Green Hill Zone" from Sonic the Hedgehog 2 opened with the drums and music from Street Fighter.

About The Runaway Five

Founded by Brendan McElroy, the Runaway Five performs jazz music arrangements of classic video games, including Super Mario Bros., Final Fantasy and Zelda. In 2008 and 2009, the group performed at Massey Hall in Toronto during the Video Games Live tour. The ensemble members change, increasing or decreasing depending upon the needs of the show.

The Runaway Five performed an intimate concert open to all ages on Saturday, April 6, 2013 at the National Music Centre. The interplay between the musicians was a delight to hear, while the themes left the audience feeling nostalgic about games past and present.

If you missed the show, you can check out some of group's earlier performances on their Youtube Channel. The Runaway Five will perform later this year. Details to follow.

Concert Review of the Calgary Wind Symphony's Hilarious Holidays

The Calgary Wind Symphony performed a selection of upbeat and amusing band music at its Christmas concert on Sunday, December 2, 2012 at the University of Calgary's Rozsa Centre. Cellphone soloist Wendy Freeman and pianist Julie Jacques drew the crowd in with their energetic performances.


The CWS Set the Stage for an Afternoon of Hilarity


Various members of the Calgary Wind Symphony glittered. Literally. There was a wide assortment of blinking and non-blinking elf caps, Santa Claus hats and reindeer antlers, which set the tone for a lighthearted musical afternoon.


It only gets more garish as the afternoon goes on,” quipped CWS Music Director, Dr. Jeremy Brown after walking on stage with his fire-truck red cummerbund beneath his tux.

The Calgary Wind Symphony's "Hilarious Holidays"  Concert on December 2, 2012. Photo by R-M Arca.

Fanfare and Cell Phones Highlighted at the Calgary Wind Symphony Concert

The CWS its Christmas programme opened with Jim Colonna's “Fanfare on Adeste Fidelis”, a lively number that featured a witty fugal fanfare in the brass. This was followed up with Jan Van der Roost's “Flashing Winds”. This energetic number contained sweeping themes reminiscent of the classic TV show “Bonanza”.


One of the highlights from the first half was the “Concerto for Cell Phone” by James M. Stephenson. Yes, you read that correctly – cell phone. Soloist Wendy Freeman scoured the malls to record “the six most epic ring tones”. Each ring tone was “introduced” by the cellphone and then developed by the CWS. The fugal treatment of the infamous NOKIA® ring tone was beautifully done.


The first half ended with “Pequeña Suite para Banda” by Luis Serrano Alarcón. This suite featured some polytonality, instruments played in extreme registers and catchy rhythms. The flute solo in the “Rana” was simply exquisite, while the melodic themes in “Galop” weaved a twisting soundscape, punctuated with energetic, Batman-like “SPLATS”.


The CWS Presents the World Premiere of Le Tombeau de Liberace and More Season Favourites


The hilarity reached epic levels in the second half, beginning with the world premiere performance of Michael Daugherty's “Le Tombeau deLiberace”. This suite in four dances is scored for piano, flute, clarinet, French horn, violin and percussion. Julie Jacques of Calgary took on the role of Liberace at the piano.


It showcased everything you'd expect for a Liberace tribute – glittering rings, feather boas, candelabras and trademark Libarace piano riffs. The first dance, the “Rhinestone Kickstep”, featured a dialogue between the marimba and the piano, boogie woogie rhythms and crunchy harmonies.


How Do I Love Thee” is named after Elizabeth Barret Browning's sonnet of the same name. Liberace often recited this poem at performances. It featured a mournful melody on the French horn, glittering arpeggii on the piano and some lush Debussy-esque harmonies.


Sequin Music” is a classic example of dodecaphonic music. The 12-tone motive was presented and then developed through various permutations, such as transposition, inversion and retrograde. It became more embellished once the piano cadenza was reached.


The final dance in the suite is “Candelabra Rhumba”. The Spanish-flavoured theme weaved between the instruments against heavily syncopated rhythms played on the piano.


The stage lit up even more for the next piece, with a sudden increase in blinking Christmas hats and antlers. The CWS performed “Canadian Brass Christmas”, arranged by Luther Henderson and adapted for band by Howard Cable.


This upbeat number opened with the Big Ben clock theme before launching into a contrapuntal treatment of “Ding Dong Merrily on High”. The medley also included “Here We Come A Wassailing” as well as “Huron Carol”.


Another highlight from the second half was “A+: A Precise Prelude and an Excellent March” by Thomas C. Duffy. To set up this number, trombonist and band teacher, Jim Kramer shared this quote by baseball legend Ted Williams: "Baseball is the only field of endeavour where a man can succeed three times out of ten and be considered a good performer.”


With “A+”, Duffy wanted to demonstrate the difference between a performance in which everyone is trying to play as proficiently and expressively as possible (A+) and a performance akin to Williams' 3/10 game stats. Suffice it to say that Duffy and the Calgary Wind Symphony proved that getting 3/10 notes right in music is unacceptable.


The final number on the programme was Leroy Anderson's “Sleigh Ride”. As an encore, the CWS performed Karl L. King's “Circus Days – Galop”, featuring Monica Leong on bicycle honker horns.


About the Calgary Wind Symphony


The Calgary Wind Symphony is a 60-member ensemble, directed by Dr. Jeremy Brown of the University of Calgary. Formerly known as the Calgary Concert Band, the ensemble has been active in Calgary's musical community since 1947. The band went on a European tour in 2011, performing to enthusiastic audiences in Italy and Austria.


In the summer of 2012, the CCC changed its name to the “Calgary Wind Symphony”, operating under the Calgary Concert Band Society.


Music aficionados can check out the Calgary Wind Symphony's upcoming concerts for the 2012/13 season. On Sunday, March 3, 2013 at 2:30 p.m., the CWS presents “Music of Mysteries, Legends and Ritual”. On Sunday, June 2 at 2:30 p.m., the Calgary Wind Symphony presents “Apollo Sings! Music that Soars”. Both concerts will take place at the Rozsa Centre on the U of C campus. For more information and to buy concert tickets, please visit the CWS's website.


The Calgary Wind Symphony's “Hilarious Holidays!” concert in Calgary on December 2, 2012 boasted a lively and amusing programme guaranteed to elicit giggles and chuckles from the audience. From the downbeat, the CWS had audience members tapping their toes, chuckling and cheering in appreciation for not only a proficient performance, but a highly entertaining one.

Concert Review of CJO's An Evening of Romance

The Calgary Jazz Orchestra performed a selection of popular love songs made famous by Billie Holiday and Chet Baker on Sunday, February 12, 2012 at River Park Church. Calgary vocalists Johanna Sillanpaa and Johnny Summers heated up the stage with their sultry vocals.

The E.P. Scarlett Big Band kicked things off with “Happy Go Lucky Local” (Duke Ellington), an medium swing number. This was followed by a funky number called “There's the Rub” (Gordon Goodwin). The E.P. Scarlett Big Band of Calgary is directed by Jonathan Bell.

Johanna Sillanpaa and Torch Songs Featured in CJO's Opening Set



Calgary vocalist Johanna Sillanpaa sings with the Calgary Jazz Orchestra. Photo by R-M Arca.

During his patter, director Johnny Summers, explained the inspiration for the change. Last month, the CJO had the opportunity to work with Grammy winning musician Maria Schneider. These arrangements are the first to bear the fruits of their time with Schneider. “We're just scratching the surface,” said Summers. “Stay tuned. It's gonna get crazy up here!”The CJO with two arrangements for small jazz combos. The group welcomed guest artist Johanna Sillanpaa of Calgary to the stage to bring some of Billie Holiday's memorable love songs to life. “My Man” (M. Yvain) featured Gerry Hebert on clarinet, Al Muirhead on trumpet, Sarah Matheson on bari sax and Willy Joosen on the piano. “Crazy He Calls Me” (C. Sigman), a sultry love ballad, featured  Jeremy Brown on sax, Johnny Summers on trumpet, Willy Joosen on piano, Kodi Hutchinson on bass and Greg Baker on drums. The other members of the Calgary Jazz Orchestra came on-stage for the remainder of the first set. From the opening bar of F. Andre's “Dream a Little Dream of Me”, it was apparent that something was different. The group got in to the music a little more, while the solos by Al Muirhead and Jeremy Brown were melodious and featured new licks. This number gave Sillanpaa a chance to showcase her rich, warm low register. The Brahms' “Lullaby” quote at the end was a nice touch.

“He's Funny that Way” by R. Whitting and “What a Little Moonlight Can Do” by H. Wood rounded out  the first half. Whether singing in a small combo or with the entire jazz band, Johanna Sillanpaa's strong and sultry voice projected clearly, seemingly without effort.

Billie Holiday and Chet Baker Love Songs and Surprise Guest Raffi in CJO's Second Set

The second half of “An Evening of Romance” also featured small combo arrangements before moving on to big band music. “You Go to My Head” by F. Coots, a soulful love ballad, featured Shane Statz on tenor sax, Kodi Hutchinson on bass and the vocals of Johnny Summers.

Raffi and CJO (Photo by R-M Arca)

Children's entertainer Raffi surprised the audience when he stepped up from the audience to sing “A Wonderful World”. Chuckles and cheers resounded when he sang “I see friends shaking hands, saying, 'Yo what's up?” Raffi did a quick plug for a cause close to his heart, the Centre for Child Honouring.

A nice trumpet solo opened “Let's Get Lost” (J. McHugh) before switching off to saxophone. This medium swing number featured soulful solos by Al Muirhead, Shane Statz and Willy Joosen, along with the vocal styling Johnny Summers.

The programme drew to a close with the sexiest version of “My Funny Valentine” that I have ever heard. The very sultry introduction featured Willy Joosen on piano and Al Muirhead on flugelhorn and Greg Baker using softer mallets on percussion.  One could imagine smoke wafting through a jazz club on a hot summer's night during Al Muirhead's solo.

Three more numbers rounded out the second half: “You'd Be So Nice” (Cole Porter), “The More I See You” (H. Warren) and “Isn't It Romantic” (R. Rodgers).

About the Calgary Jazz Orchestra

The Calgary Jazz Orchestra is a 17 piece big band founded by Johnny Summers in 2004. Arrangements for “An Evening of Romance” were written by Johnny Summers and Greg Baker.

The fresh arrangements and easygoing demeanour of the Calgary Jazz Orchestra members at “An Evening of Romance” left me with two impressions: 1 – I must buy some music by Maria Schneider and 2 – I can't wait to hear what the CJO is going to do next.

In September, the CJO presented a concert featuring swing, Latin and Cuban music. In December, the big band performed Christmas hits made famous by Frank Sinatra.

Jazz lovers will have two more opportunities to hear the Calgary Jazz Orchestra in the 2011/12 season. On February 25, 2012, the CJO will perform at 18 Degrees of Jazz. Proceeds from this fundraiser go to benefit the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Calgary and Area. Blues tunes and numbers written by CJO members will be featured at the May 6, 2012 concert.  You can buy concert tickets on the Calgary Jazz Orchestra website.

(c) Rhona-Mae Arca, Musespeak(TM), Calgary, AB. All rights reserved.