Monday, May 27, 2024
May 27, 2024

Bands team up for Mingus on Mars concert

When it comes to putting together a memorable musical event, the leaders of Salt Spring’s community concert and big bands don’t see a need to mess with success for their Mingus on Mars show.

Bandemonium director Ben McConchie told the Driftwood last week he is excited about next Sunday’s concert, which will see his band do the first 40-minute set, followed by the Swing Shift Big Band performing for the second half, and one piece done together. The concert band will present some classic works by composers such as Gustav Holst, Ralph Vaughan Williams and Eric Whitacre, as well as newer, innovative works by some current composers. Swing Shift, directed by Michelle Footz, will play pieces by jazz legend Charles Mingus and musicians who inspired him, and familiar songs from the band’s repertoire.

The two bands teamed up for a concert at Fulford Hall in May, and McConchie said it was “a big success.”

“We actually gained a whole bunch of new members as a result of that, so I’m stoked.”

McConchie, who is a Pender-based SD64 music teacher, has been Bandemonium’s director for almost one year.

“I’ve been blown away by how good they are,” he said of his members, who range from musicians who have been with Bandemonium since it was established 30 years ago to a number of younger players.

“We’ve got a really strong group of players right now . . . and I’ve been really focused on building the next generation of musicians and making sure that the organization stays strong and keeps with the high quality that it has been producing all these years.”

Footz, who is the Gulf Islands Secondary School music teacher, is in her first season of leading Swing Shift Big Band and is also loving it.

The Mingus theme for the Nov. 26 concert came from Footz’ interest in his music and arranging style, and the ability to explore pieces by Mingus’ contemporaries like Duke Ellington and Sammy Nestico as well. Improvization will be part of the performance.

“That’s something I’ve been having everybody do,” said Footz. “They learn that it’s not really a scary thing to do. Once you have the basics it’s about expressing yourself.”

Some Bandemonium members will also do some improvizing when the two groups team up for a Miles Davis piece.

Both Footz and McConchie observe that making music as a group strengthens the community, with people from diverse backgrounds, age ranges and different opinions coming together.

“Getting lots of people out to community art groups, or any type of group where you’re working on a common goal, is such a good way to build community here,” said McConchie.

Both bands welcome new members.

Tickets for the Nov. 26 show, which begins at 2 p.m., are $20 in advance at Mondo Trading or at the door.

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