The Happiest Band on Earth will perform Disney music at the 2018 WestCoast Big Band Festival in Surrey, in a concert on Sunday, Nov. 18, starting at 5 p.m. (submitted photo)

MUSIC

Disney tunes, metal fusion and more at Surrey’s WestCoast Big Band Festival

Mostly free concerts in fourth annual event, to feature 16 bands at a church in Fleetwood

With the WestCoast Big Band Festival set to return to Surrey, Christian Morrison applauds the diversity of sounds that will be heard this year.

She’s a co-founder and organizer of the fourth annual event, a showcase at Northwood United Church from Friday, Nov. 16 to Sunday, Nov. 18.

For three days, the 350-seat church sanctuary will be filled with 16 bands from around Metro Vancouver, including some that bend and twist the definition of what most people might consider big-band music.

“There’s a big range of big-band music now,” Morrison explained. “A lot of people think of big-band music as that Glenn Miller swing era, and Benny Goodman, that sort of thing, and that’s all there and it’s great and I love it, and there’s a whole crowd that loves that but they’re getting older.

“So in recent years there have been a lot of talented musicians writing more kinds of styles for big bands – taking that instrumentation and saying, ‘What else can I do with it?’ So there’s really a range of repertoire, you know, right from the swing era stuff to jazz, fusion, rock kind of stuff, to pop tune arrangements.”

For example, she said Space Elevator, which opens the festival with a Friday-evening concert (Nov. 16), is taking the music to more of a teen- and young-adult audience.

“They’ve got heavy metal kind of merged into swing merged into funk, electronica, et cetera,” Morrison said, “so it’s fascinating instrumentation that you can do so much with musically. A young man named Mike WT Allen conceived of (Space Elevator) – he’s the director and has written all the music for it, and they’ve just recorded their first album. This is a group of young professional musicians, graduates of the jazz program, who are just getting going in their career, and it’s going to be something very, very different.”

(STORY CONTINUES BELOW VIDEO)

Morrison, who lives in North Vancouver, travels to Surrey every Wednesday evening to rehearse at Fraser Heights Secondary with Mighty Fraser Big Band, which is again featured at this year’s festival.

She also conducts Jazz Connexion, which will open the festival’s headline concert on Saturday (Nov. 17). Also featured that night, as closer, is Vancouver Groove Orchestra and its tribute to Hugh Fraser, the Victoria-born jazz musician known for his work as a pianist, trombonist and composer.

The headline concert is the festival’s only ticketed show, at $20 per person, with proceeds going to the Fraser MacPherson Jazz Fund for young jazz musicians. All other performances and daytime jazz-improv workshops are free to attend at the church, at 8855 156th St. in Fleetwood. Complete event details are posted online at westcoastbigbandfestival.com.

The Sunday-afternoon “Festival Finale” will feature The Happiest Big Band on Earth, which promises “an audio-visual big band celebration of Disney for the whole family,” starting at 5 p.m. The Matt Grinke-led band, according to a bio, includes “17 outstanding musicians who are all big fans of Disney.”

Other ensembles at the fest include FAT Jazz, The Other Big Band, Moonliters Big Band, An Accidental Jazz Band, Urbana, Creek Big Big, Inlet Jazz Band, Golden Ears Jazz Band, Impressions, New Westminster & District Jazz Band and Deep Cove Big Band. A “Rising Star” guest artist, Maya Rae, will perform with Morrison’s Jazz Connexion during the festival’s headline concert.

Event organizers note that most of these bands offer year-round rehearsal and performance opportunities for musicians who wish to continue playing big band jazz beyond their secondary or post-secondary school programs.

This year’s festival has been expanded from two to three days.

“It was very well attended last year and we got really positive reaction,” Morrison said. “We had a couple of bands on the waitlist last year, and we investigated whether we could keep the venue for the extra day, and that looked good, so we threw it open to the whole big band community and waited to see how many we would get in, in terms of registrations. We ended up with a couple on the waitlist again, even with the three days, so it’s been really popular to participate in.

“And audience reaction is good, too,” she added. “Last year, in particular, with our headliner, Jill Townsend Jazz Orchestra, the energy there was just incredible – we had a sold-out house. Something like that feeds the organizers to want to do it all again.”

• RELATED STORY: ‘Shared passion’: WestCoast Big Band Festival sounds off in Surrey for second time, from 2017.

The festival will be held in Surrey for a third year; the inaugural event was held at a venue in Vancouver before event organizers shifted their attention to Northwood for the second year of concerts, in 2016.

“It’s a good space for us, with lots of room for workshops and networking and performing,” Morrison noted. “And the folks at Northwood are so supportive of us. Every year they help, they volunteer and they’re excited to have us there. It’s a great place to be, and they have a history of supporting jazz, with the Jazz Vespers held there on Sunday afternoons, for the past four or five years.”



tom.zillich@surreynowleader.com

Like us on Facebook Follow us on Instagram and follow Tom on Twitter

 

Space Elevator plays the 2018 WestCoast Big Band Festival in Surrey. (submitted photo)

Vancouver Groove Orchestra is among bands featured at the 2018 WestCoast Big Band Festival in Surrey. (submitted photo)

Just Posted

Surrey prayer vigil planned to honour hundreds killed in Sri Lanka bombings

The event is set for 6:30 p.m. Monday night at Holland Park

Gas prices in Metro Vancouver hit 172.9 cents a litre

And one analyst expects it to only go higher this week

Semiahmoo students to raise awareness about acid throwing

The Grade 11 students are to host a fundraiser for victims

Senior swimmer leads White Rock Wave with world record at provincial championships

Betty Brussel, 95, sets new world mark in 200-m breaststroke at Victoria meet

Subdivision, townhome proposals for Cloverdale neighbourhood move forward

Cloverdale Community Assocation opposes subdivision, agrees with BIA’s support of townhomes

Sri Lanka invokes war-time military powers after nearly 300 killed in Easter bombings

Sri Lanka’s minister of tourism says 39 foreign tourists were killed in the Easter Sunday attacks

Ex-mayor of northern village claims its drivers are overpaying ICBC $1,800 a year

Darcy Repen says data shows Telkwa households are being ripped off for car insurance

Deadly synthetic drug found in Kamloops that puts users in ‘zombielike’ state

Interior Health warning says substance causes ‘speedy, trippy-like symptoms’ and hallucinations

Chilliwack library hosting Star Wars-themed escape room

Participants asked to summon the force for week-long attraction

Trudeau to be portrayed on ‘Simpsons’ episode

Toronto journalist who’s posted videos of himself doing impressions of the PM voiced him for the show

Elizabeth May’s wedding dress a ‘walk through a garden’ on Earth Day

Green Party leader set to get married in Victoria

5 to start your day

Gas prices soar to new heights, no major incidents at Vancouver’s 4/20, and more

Bodies of 3 mountain climbers recovered after last week’s Banff avalanche

The men disappeared while attempting to climb the east face of Howse Peak in the Icefields Parkway

Happy birthday: Queen Elizabeth II turns 93 on Easter Sunday

Sunday is the first of two birthday celebrations each year for the queen

Most Read