A Jazzy Evening at Studley

Photo by Matt Nash.

It’s an age-old adage that opposites attract. The most unlikely pairs, like breakfast for dinner or dancing in the rain, join forces to excite and delight the senses. 

On Nov. 1 at Studley Theatre, the Department of Music hosted their annual “Fall Vocals” concert featuring jazz and classical music. The first half of the evening remained devoted to jazz vocalist Teri Roiger’s applied vocal students performing “The Modern Musings of Thelonious Monk,” while the second half showcased choral conductor Colin Britt’s Chamber Singers and Concert Choir presenting “The Byrds & the Bs.”

“The fact that both sets were sort of a cohesive whole, had their own individual unity, worked really well,” Britt said. “It’s all vocal music. It’s all telling a story.” 

Roiger’s students took to the stage first to sing swinging Monk tunes. This year she longed to implement a theme different from the seasonal ones of the past. Roiger wanted the group to tackle Monk. The influential pianist composed 72 different arrangements instrumental to the development of the bebop jazz style. Over the years various musicians, including Roiger, put lyrics to his tunes.

“The music of Monk is some of the most loved music in the world, especially in the jazz world,” Roiger said. “He’s like the eccentric genius of modern jazz.”

Six out of her 12 private prodigies captivated the crowd with songs such as “Ask Me Now,” “Pannonica” and “In Walked Bud,” the last number being about jazz pianist Bud Powell. It depicts a lively scene of several great bebop generation jazz artists getting together for a jam session. 

“Jazz is like taking everything you’ve been taught about music and throwing it out the window,” fourth-year jazz performance major Gabby Frometa said. 

Each vocalist belted out their selected songs, occasionally scat singing and sometimes sounding almost choppy because of the tricky, angular rhythms. One duet undertook “Pannonica” about a baroness famous for her patronage of jazz. A blues medley ended their set displaying the soloists as a whole. 

Britt’s Chamber Singers filed on stage next followed by the Concert Choir. Filling the sabbatical replacement for professor Edward Lundergan, Britt admitted that he initially planned on going through the school’s entire musical library as per Lundergan’s suggestion. 

However, after an hour and a half of perusing the selection alphabetically he only made it through the Bs. Coming all the way from Jersey City, Britt decided to play around with the concept of “The Byrds and the Bs.” Byrd refers to renowned English composer William Byrd.

According to Britt, the two choirs started their twice-a-week, hour and a fifteen-minute-long rehearsals on Aug. 29 to prepare for the show, unlike the improvisational jazz vocalists who, like Roiger said, started officially rehearsing for this show a few weeks prior. 

Chamber Singers set focused on earlier music from the 16th century and one composition from the 19th century. The groups advanced repertoire can be heard in “Sing Joyfully,” composed in six parts instead of the common four. Concert Choir’s large size and more traditional pieces enticed the audience through melodic harmonies. They also executed 20th century selections and spirituals. 

“I thought it was great,” Britt said. “It’s always fun to share a program.”