Jazz hands reach out to community
MRU’s jazz choir rings in second year with new leadership
by Nathan Ross
Last year — to very little fanfare — a vocal jazz choir started at Mount Royal University.
Consisting of students and non-students alike, they met every Tuesday night in room Q304 under the direction of David Grimstead. There were only about 14 in this group. They had two performances in their inaugural year, and played to limited audiences.
However, ask any member of the choir and they will tell you they loved it.
Jazz at Mount Royal was previously limited to students in the conservatory programs. The idea was to open doors to the public to come and practice jazz singing in an informal environment.
The group has seen a dramatic change over the summer, though. First and foremost, David Grimstead is no longer at the helm. He has retired to Vancouver Island, and Colin Haydu has taken over. Word of the choir had spread far enough that auditions became a necessity, which was a big change.
Only five of the original members remain, including current MRU student Ian Ridewood. He said he has definitely noticed a change in the directions that the group is taking.
“Haydu is definitely has a different teaching style than Grimstead, as well as some interesting song choices,” noted Ridewood. “Last week, we began on some Top 40s hits from Glee, which was a questionable choice, personally, for a jazz ensemble.
“But many of our younger crowd seemed to recognize and enjoy it.”
Taking into account Glee really isn’t known for any challenging jazz repertoires, it would be surprising to see this trend continue.
“It works well for teacher-student connections,” said Ridewood of starting off with songs such as Just The Way You Are. “Hopefully, we’ll be singing some jazz staples as well as the ones we’ve already begun, and can pull our group skills together.”
Whereas Grimstead knew the singers he was working with and dove right into jazz at varying levels to build the group’s chemistry and harmony, Haydu does not have this advantage. He has to assess where each group member lies. So, much of jazz singing revolves around the balance of perfect harmony, which is one of the main reasons it is appealing to listen to.
Kari Ree, a non-returning choir member, explains the allure of jazz singing:
“Often, singers are so inclined to be in tune that harmonies are challenging and this is where the fun lies. This translates into the deeper rhythms and intricacies as an audience member that you wouldn’t normally get from other genres.”
Taking an essentially new group and raising them to a level where they can accomplish some feats takes a lot of passion, and that is something the these singers needs to build in order to move ahead as a unit. With the dedication that is being put in every week, make sure you keep your ears open for performance dates as the vocal jazz choir continues to make strides in establishing themselves here at Mount Royal.