The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

November 25, 2011

Christmas colors: MSSU, PSU feature jazz concerts

By Joe Hadsall
Globe Features Editor

JOPLIN, Mo. — A big part of the holidays is music, and for many, there’s nothing better than live musicians playing beloved favorites.

And because the semester is coming to an end, universities and colleges with music programs are offering plenty of concerts.

Missouri Southern State University and Pittsburg State University will kick off holiday music seasons with jazz concerts. As they say, the holidays don’t mean a thing if they ain’t got that swing ...

That’s what they say, right?

A swingin’ show

After Missouri Southern lights up the night with a tree-lighting ceremony at the oval, the Southern Jazz Orchestra will perform a concert of holiday favorites.

“Swingin’ Holiday Show” will feature a mix of big band favorites and traditional tunes done with a bit of jazz.

“We have a few swing arrangements including ‘O Tannenbaum’ and ‘I’ll Be Home for Christmas,’” said director Jeffrey Macomber. “We’ll play about an hour’s worth of a mix of holiday and non-holiday selections.”

The program features mostly Christmas music, including two selections that will feature the vocals of Chelsea LaNore, a senior music major from Purdy. She will sing “The Christmas Song” and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”

But it’s more than a Christmas show, Macomber said Ñ this will be a big-band show.

“All of these were done with a stylistic nod to the big band era,” he said. “Woody Herman, Stan Kenton, Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey and those kinds of swing style. Some are more traditional, some are more modern. There’s a nice balance.”

The show, in its fifth year, has become a tradition alongside the tree-lighting ceremony. It kicks off a season of campus concerts for the holidays, Macomber said.

“It’s usually the first holiday program we have in the music department,” he said. “It marks the start of the holiday seasons musically.”

What makes it challenging is the number of concerts coming up. But the members of the orchestra have worked hard on the show, despite their involvement in other shows.

“It won’t be over-rehearsed,” Macomber said. “There’s a number of different programs to prepare for in the fall semester. But the students knew it was coming, and they love the program.”

Even more jazz

Though members of the jazz ensembles at Pittsburg State University won’t play much Christmas music during a concert next week, they will have a program packed with jazz.

Two ensembles will present a jazz concert on Thursday that features music arranged by modern legends such as Quincy Jones and Herbie Hancock.

Oh, and Radiohead.

The band’s song “Everything in its Right Place” is part of the concert. Director Bob Kehle said that the song, from the band’s “Kid A” album and featured in the movie “Vanilla Sky,” has been a hit with high-school audiences during a recent tour.

“Radiohead is interesting,” Kehle said. “It’s a heavily jazz-influenced band. There’s one part of the arrangement where our players actually have to sing.”

An arrangement of “Tea for Two” by Quincy Jones turned out to be a special kismet for Kehle. Hearing so many styles of the song, he jumped when he heard the unique version of Vincent Youmans’ song arranged by Jones and sung by Vanessa Williams.

But he couldn’t find sheet music anywhere.

“I went to Jones’ website, and they were able to dig up only the score,” Kehle said. “I said that I’d take it. I don’t mind writing the parts down.”

Stella Hastings is the guest vocalist for the arrangement, Kehle said. Trombonist Chris Goddard and saxophonist Russell Jones will also be featured soloists.

The concert caps off a tour the ensembles took to Topeka and neighboring areas.

Other upcoming concerts

~ “A Seasonal Choral Flourish, 7:30 p.m. Dec. 2, St. Peter the Apostle Catholic Church, 812 S. Pearl St.

~ Madrigal Dinner, 7 p.m. Dec. 2, Crimson and Gold Ballroom, PSU campus.

~ Timmons Chapel Christmas concerts, 7:30 p.m. Dec. 7 and 9, Timmons Chapel, PSU campus.

~ ”A Winter Choral Concert,” 7:30 p.m. Dec. 6, Taylor Performing Arts Center, MSSU campus.

Want to go?

“Swingin’ Holiday Show,” a concert by the Southern Jazz Orchestra, will begin at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Corley Auditorium.

Details: 417-625-9635

~ The Pittsburg State University Jazz Ensembles will perform at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Memorial Auditorium in Pittsburg.

Details: 620-235-4466.