That’s the message that University of Saskatchewan (USask) music professor Dean McNeill and members of the university’s jazz combo want to pass on to the frontline health-care workers and first responders of the campus community.
While live rehearsals have not been possible due to social distancing in response to COVID-19, the group has put together a novel video featuring members of the combo each recording themselves playing in isolation. The resulting virtual performance of the jazz standard On the Sunny Side of the Street is a tribute to the current times, while also having a special historical significance during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to McNeill.
“It’s certainly a carefree, happy-go-lucky type of tune, but like so many songs in pop culture, there is another context to it. It becomes far more poignant,” said McNeill.
“It was written during the Great Depression, a very rough time for North America. It was during a time of drought and a stock market crash and great upheaval, and along comes this tune that helps to lift people’s spirits, which is something that music tends to do.”
The performers featured in the video are graduates and current USask music students, and are all alumni of the USask Jazz Ensemble, which is a larger group of 20 musicians under the direction of McNeill.
While noting that virtual performances will never ultimately replace the live performance of music, McNeill said that the techniques used to record the jazz combo may be used for future educational opportunities for performance ensembles across campus. He notes that similar techniques are already being used by USask groups such as the Greystone Singers, who similarly came up with a novel way for the choir to perform together virtually.
With Wayne Giesbrecht, senior media developer with USask’s Media Production unit, helping to edit the piece, McNeill said that the video was a great opportunity to share a recording process, while bringing together members of the campus music community.
“The message of this tune was a lovely way to say ‘thank you’ to all the first responders and essential workers in our own campus community and our greater community in Saskatoon and Saskatchewan.”
"On the Sunny Side of the Street" performers include:
Silas Friesen - trumpet
Rory Lynch - saxophone
Anika Sukkhu - vocals
Emmett Fortosky- bass
Rhett Schroeder - guitar
Eric Redekopp - drums
Matt Arsenault - piano
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