The Epistle of Q — Chapter Fifteen

Q #1
What is it that motivates people to criticize young people for not doing enough and then these same people stay away from concerts when young people are performing them?

Last evening as part of the culture & arts overload weekend, I attended a Jazz Concert in a so-so hall (I say so-so because the place does not have permanent seats, the stage is small, and the building is old — part of an old high school). The concert was in three parts — first: PenHi Grades IX & X Jazz Band; second: PenHi Grades XI & XII Jazz Band; third: the Thursday Nigh Jazz Band (consisting of older musicians in the town).

Now I’ve heard most of the musicians in the Thursday Night Jazz Band and they are very good. In fact, many of them make up the group that leads the monthly Jazz Vespers program at St. Saviour’s Anglican church. That service regular draws well over 100 people and the music is excellent. So these folk alone should draw a big crowd.

Now the hall, with reasonable acoustics, was well-filled. But 95% were relatives (moms, dads, grandparents, etc.) of the young musicians. And for parts of the concert, the students who weren’t playing also came into the audience. While I believe this is a great learning opportunity for the kids, I think the town should be ashamed that the concert could even be held in that small hall. The organizers should have had to book the convention centre or at least a big pseudo concert venue.

I say this because the kids were good. Now the teacher in charge is not only a great musician, but also a pretty bright fellow. So the playlist for the first group was not outrageously difficult. Never mind, the kids played like they were down on the south side of Chicago. There was energy, there was a sense of fun and happiness, and the music was toe-tapping and entertaining. The soloists were competent and when the set was done the applause was genuine and it was sustained.

The second set was definitely more polished — but the students were older too. There were more instruments, more soloists, and even a singer appeared for a couple of the songs. The playlist was more complex, with some interesting choices from different eras as well as some medleys of pop music put to a jazz orientation. These students have talent, poise and a very solid understanding of jazz. Had this presentation been the end of the concert, I would have gone home more than happy. I had been entertained and I had heard great music. It was evident from the applause everyone else felt the same about the music and the musicians.

After a short intermission, the older folk came on stage. They sort of gave the kids a master class in out-there jazz. It wasn’t a case though of trying to show up the kids — the kids’ performances were too good for that. No, it was more a case of “you already know how to play, here are some ways to make your musical offerings more unique, given more interpretations”. Again it was a different playlist, again there was a great many wonderful solo offerings, again there was solid entertainment. It was a bonus — especially to all the PenHi musicians who lined up three deep at the back of the hall to take it in.

I went home happy for the music, disappointed that there weren’t more from the community-at-large. These kids, like musical students across the land, need and deserve our support. Music is the one thing that stimulates both sides of the brain simultaneously — it needs to be presented as often as possible to as many as possible. If you know someone who may be slacking off on the mental stimulation side of life — encourage them to go out to hear a high school musical performance the next time there is one in your community. You won’t be disappointed and you will be encouraging some of the next generation of leaders that what they do is worthwhile, valuable and necessary.

Q #2
What do you give your mother when it is her birthday?

Today is my Mother’s 100th Birthday. Yepp, she hit the century mark. I’m not there, nor is my brother. He visited in the autumn, followed by my daughter in December. Today a cousin came from the east which was particularly great because his late parents were very close to my late Dad and to Mother herself. In addition, Mother’s two daughters along with their kids were mostly all there with their kids, some very young…it was quite a crowd. While we did not want to overwhelm there was a deeper motivation. My one sister (Anne) looks after Mother all the time (in addition to her full-time job as a senior manager in the Alberta Health program; and, at various times in the past year my other sister (Margaret), who is a trained senior caregiver, has gone up to Cold Lake to spell Anne off for a week, so she can take a much needed mini-vacation. I thought it would be good that they celebrate this occasion together, without my big voice inadvertently dominating the conversation!! Mom is not as spry and active as she was last year when we had a really big bash to celebrate #99 and the beginning of the 100th year. So giving her a bit of space this time might also allow her to fully participate in the weekend. I will travel up to Cold Lake in the near future. My family at various times today made phone calls to talk to Mom. That gave her a break in the visiting and gave us opportunities to join in the conversation. I think this all combined to give Mom a memorable, enjoyable centenary celebration.

It’s not every day a family gets to be part of a 100th birthday. Today was special from Arizona and from Toronto and from Calgary and from Penticton all the way to Cold Lake. Through Facebook and other media we’ve shared pictures, our voices, and our love. Pretty neat.