The 120-odd choral and band students from Sturgeon Composite High School never do anything in half measures.
In March they are booked for a choral festival and the Alberta International Band Festival. Flipping the calendar to April, they’re performing at the Rotary Festival followed by a mini-tour to the distinguished Nelson Music Festival in B.C.
And they’re testing the waters for these high-calibre events with a pre-show Festival Concert at the Arden Theatre on Tuesday, March 2.
“This is a nice opportunity to showcase students and show where they are in their growth and in their musical journey,” says musical director Darwin Krips.
Opening the show is the magnificent 60-piece concert band, slated to play a solid 22 minutes of music. One of their more aurally stunning pieces is Aquarium, a composition from Netherlands composer Johan De Meij.
“It’s a reflection on fish, a pictograph of fish in an aquarium — guppies, electric eels, angel fish, sea horses and zebra fish. There’s a lot of tone and colour that mimics the behaviour of fish. It’s quite lush. It opens with a gentle allegro. The second movement is more dark and edgy like a shark stalking them. And the third movement is very energetic with the flight of the guppies.”
In addition, they perform Southern Hymn, a Kentucky folk tune. Their final piece is Tournament, a rhapsody that depicts a medieval jousting fair.
Following is the 64-member mixed choir with the powerfully electric Bright Morning Stars, a traditional Kentucky bluegrass hymn sung in the same vein as O Brother Where Art Thou.
As a companion piece, Krips has chosen Famine Song, a melody sung by Sudanese basket weavers that expresses the pain and hope of those in the famine of the 1980s.
“It has a haunting opening that turns more spiritual in the middle. Two girls, McKenna Swanson and Emma Frazier, will improvise lamenting solos. There’s a call for rain and the students create the sound of rain. They stop singing but the sound of rain continues. It’ll be the evening showstopper.”
The 14-piece jazz ensemble struts out a vocal a cappella rendition of Send in the Clowns, a song popularized by jazz legend Peggy Lee, and the swing tune It Ain’t Gonna Rain.
Closing the two-hour concert is the 20-piece jazz band with Passado, a complicated number that challenges the drum and rhythm section. “It’s a long chart and is quite unrelenting.”
For added interest tenor saxophonist Cody Dudzic and guitarist Marshall Dexter play a mean solo. “It’s a nice opportunity for them to open up in an odd metre.”
They bring the evening to an end with L’il Basie, a chart in the Basie style and Otra Vez, a Spanish mambo with conga player Cody Nisbett soloing. “He’s an amazing player. He’s got the ones, the slaps, and the groove right. He’s got them licked.”
Festival Concert<br />Sturgeon Composite High Choral and Band Program<br />Tuesday, Mar. 2 at 7 p.m.<br />Arden Theatre<br />5 St. Anne Street<br />Tickets: $5 Call 780-973-3301 or at the door