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Strike up the holiday bands

St. Albert Community Band and Saint City Big Band deliver new music at Dec. 13 holiday concert
St. Albert Community Concert Band partners with Saint City Big Band for their annual Christmas concert on Wednesday, Dec. 13 at Arden Theatre.

The St. Albert Community Concert Band and Saint City Big Band need very little introduction. The two bands are once again partnering for Whispers of Winter, a double bill on Wednesday, Dec.13 at the Arden Theatre. 

The St. Albert Concert Band’s big difference this season is Kyle Swenson. The Sturgeon Composite High School instructor is temporarily replacing Dr. Angela Schroeder as artistic director while she is on a one-year sabbatical. 

“I like to present a wide variety of good music. I’ve spent a lot of time during the summer listening to high-quality music that is appropriate and at challenging levels. I look to a wide variety of musical styles, and I also think of composers from different generations and different demographics,” said Swenson. 

“There’s a lot of value in bringing in composers who haven’t been featured before and are not well known. There is so much culture and benefits to learn from non-classic European composers.” 

One of the pieces is Eric Whitacre's The Seal Lullaby, a gentle work inspired by a Rudyard Kipling poem that musically cradles the listener in its voices. 

“It was originally written for choir but adapted for band, and it sings so beautifully,” Swenson said. 

As artistic director, he believes strongly in introducing new composers to both the band and the audience. In this vein, the band will play Japanese composer Satoshi Yagisawa’s March-Bou-Shu.  

Yagisawa was commissioned to write a piece based on folk songs from Chiba Prefecture. He discovered a folk song sung with Japanese bamboo flute and shamisen (three-stringed instrument). It formed the basis of his composition. 

“If you could imagine a mix of typical concert band music with a pentatonic scale and sweeping melody lines. It’s challenging and very high calibre.” 

Jason K. Ntisch’s Danse Perpetuo is also rooted in the large ensemble context. Based on folk music, Danse Perpetuo is an infectious melody with a blazing acrobatic clarinet solo. Michelle Swenson plays the clarinet solo. 

“It’s a fast-paced, energetic dance number. It’s very fast, very lively and it gets you moving your feet.” 

In a novel concept, the 85 musicians will be joined by eight vocalists from the St. Albert Singers Guild. Together, they will perform a four-song medley titled Christmas from the Fifties. 

“They’ll be nice nostalgic vocals. We’ve been trying to make connections, and this is our first joint effort with the singers’ guild. Without saying too much, we’re looking to potential larger involvements in the New Year.” 

Instead, Brian Demuynck, conductor for Saint City Big Band, a jazzy throwback ensemble, takes the listener on an uplifting, trendy journey of holiday music.

Showtime is 7 p.m. Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for seniors/students. Visit or call 780-459-1542. 

Anna Borowiecki

About the Author: Anna Borowiecki

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