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Big band has big show soon

By: Anna Borowiecki

  |  Posted: Saturday, Dec 07, 2013 06:00 am

JAZZ IT UP – One of the loveliest local Christmas traditions is the St. Albert Community Band’s annual winter concert.
JAZZ IT UP – One of the loveliest local Christmas traditions is the St. Albert Community Band’s annual winter concert.
FILE PHOTO/St. Albert Gazette

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Across the Pond
St. Albert Community Band and Saint City Big Band
Wednesday, Dec. 11 at 7 p.m.
Arden Theatre
Tickets: $12/adults; $8/seniors, students. Music students receive free admission when accompanied by an adult
Call 780-459-1542 or online at

December is the busiest time of year and coupled with rock bottom cold temperatures, it’s surprising more people aren’t saying “bah, humbug.”

However, beautiful music has the power and charm to warm the heart of any Scrooge. One of our loveliest Christmas traditions is the St. Albert Community Band’s annual winter concert.

Both St. Albert Community Band and Saint City Big Band join forces on Wednesday, Dec. 11 at the Arden Theatre to bring a slice of peace, comfort and merriment to the hectic holiday season.

Now in its 43rd year, this musical adventure dubbed Across the Pond flips back and forth highlighting both American jazz icons and venerable British band composers.

The Saint City Big Band, under the rhythmic direction of Tom Smythe, opens the two-hour concert with original arrangements from the Count Basie, Duke Ellington and Stan Kenton big bands.

The 17-piece jazz band swings into Basie’s rhapsodic Queen Bee before sliding into the languorous Katy, a soft ballad the bandleader wrote for his wife.

As a way of challenging his musicians, Smythe has added Stan Kenton’s arrangement of Almost Like Being in Love, a trumpet-heavy chart with independent lines and a counter melody that goes through most of the piece.

“A lot of the piece is not terribly difficult, but at the end it gets very high and the last 20 measures are very demanding,” said Smythe.

In the jazz world, Thelonious Monk is an institution, the second-most recorded jazz composer after Duke Ellington.

“We’re doing Blue Monk by him. It has interesting rhythms. Everything gets thrown off-kilter. There are short discordant shots,” Smythe said.

On the lighter side with a nod to Christmas, the jazz band salutes a cool version of Winter Wonderland and God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.

The St. Albert Community Band picks up where the jazz band leaves off playing one of the most popular contemporary scores every composed – Vince Guaraldi’s Charlie Brown Christmas.

“We want to put people in the mood,” said community band conductor Dr. Angela Schroeder. “I just love this piece. It has such a good jazz feel and it makes a natural transition.”

The rest of the concert dips into Britain’s rich musical heritage, a culture that profoundly influences Canada’s foundation.

The 80-member semi-professional concert band, stocked with woodwinds, brass and percussion, pays homage to music composers from Ralph Vaughn Williams and Leroy Anderson to Mark Comphouse and Pulitzer Prize winning Michael Colgrass.

One of the pieces, Vaughn Williams Folk Song Suite is a work written in the early 20th century style of concert marches that contrasts the dark and ambient with beautiful and thoughtful movements.

The enrapturing Greensleeves and Anderson’s Sleigh Ride “are like an Old World trip to a Christmas party,” Schroeder chuckles.

And American composer Mark Comphouse composed Three London Miniatures for his daughter after his experience with London’s people and environment.

“He wanted to portray that in the music. It’s such a rich musical culture. We have the vernacular of that music and it is part of who we are, who I am as a musician.”

Schroeder has programmed a vast array of musical ideas that are diverse and unexpected and are bound to create a few goose-bump moments.

She is particularly excited that the band is organizing an overseas trip to Austria in 2015. The band is slated to attend Mid Europe Festival, an international band-fest held in the mountainous city of Schladming.

A fundraising silent auction will be held in the Arden lobby. Numerous items such as free piano tuning, spa items, jewelry, Oiler tickets and a signed Wayne Gretzky print of his final game in Edmonton are among the items on auction.

In closing Schroeder said, “The evening will be a magical musical experience and I encourage everyone to attend.”


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