Saskatoon Jazz Orchestra performs for International Jazz Day

Celebrate International Jazz Day with the Saskatoon Jazz Orchestra on April 29.

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International Jazz Day is Sunday, one day after the final concert of the Saskatoon Jazz Orchestra’s season.

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“The concert itself is meant to recognize and celebrate International Jazz Day,” said artistic director and lead trumpeter Dean McNeill.

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In a celebration of jazz and big band music, the SJO is joined by world renowned Canadian composer, arranger and musician Fred Stride and the Saskatoon Youth Jazz Orchestra.

“I just love this music. So (hopefully) my passion for big band music in particular, and in general, comes across,” Stride said.

Having worked with the SJO a few times before, Stride said he’s excited to see what comes out of the performance.

“I enjoy the different things that individual musicians will bring to the music, especially in the jazz world … where the personalities of the players are encouraged to move forward and express themselves.”

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Canadian composer and musician Fred Stride is the guest conductor for the Saskatoon Jazz Orchestra’s April 29 concert.
Canadian composer and musician Fred Stride is the guest conductor for the Saskatoon Jazz Orchestra’s April 29 concert. Photo by Steve Mynett /Supplied photo

The centrepiece of the evening is Stride’s reimagining of Modest Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition.

“In my mind, this is what this music could sound like being played by a big band, and in various jazz styles,” he said.

When Stride approached McNeill with his idea for the reimagining, McNeill knew it was the right piece for the SJO.

“It’s something new that’s happening in town in an exciting way — we’re adding to the cultural capital of the community through doing this project,” he said.

“This just seemed a great way to end off on an artistic flair and, at the same time, play a piece of music that is very recognizable and very enjoyable to jazz fans and non-jazz fans alike.”

Tied in with the piece — which tells the story of someone walking through an art exhibit, looking at the paintings — works by local visual artist Janet Williams will be on display during intermission.

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“We’re always trying to celebrate local Saskatchewan artists and help support and forward their careers,” McNeill said.

The concert includes Thank You, Mr. Douglas, a movement from Stride’s Saskatchewan Suite — a 70-minute piece he wrote for the Regina Jazz Society about the history of Saskatchewan.

As an introduction to the selection, Saskatchewan Youth Poet Laureate Lauren Klassen will read her original poem inspired by the movement, which is a tribute to Tommy Douglas and the establishment of public health care.

“It just seems, coming out of COVID, it’s never too much to continue to say thank you to our health-care workers for the work that they have done and continue to do,” McNeill said.

With the celebratory concert, he hopes to entertain and inform the audience.

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“I hope they will come away feeling like they’ve been taken on a journey to somewhere interesting … (and) feeling that they’ve been part of something special and that they’ve been part of a quality communal activity. Music builds community.”

Stride said he hopes the audience takes the time to appreciate “the wonderful jazz musicians that live and work in Saskatoon, that decided to stay in Saskatoon.”

The SJO performs Pictures at an Exhibition Reimagined Saturday at the Broadway Theatre at 7:30 p.m. The concert is also available on live stream. Get tickets at saskatoonjazzorchestra.com.


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