photo from the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra’s facebook page.
Saturday night, October 14, 2017: This was my first time attending a “Jeans ‘n Classics” concert where the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra joins together with a rock band to do some pop/rock music and I was so very happy to be there! I love so much of David Bowie’s music and it was great to have it all brought to life at the concert with all the colours of the orchestra and the band on stage.
Mark Turner (SSO’s Executive Director) introduced the concert with reference to similarities between David Bowie and Beethoven, Debussy, and Stravinsky – that they were all busy “pushing the envelope” and challenging their audiences with their new approaches to creating music and defining music. I love all of Mark’s enthusiastic introductions to SSO concerts – Mark, I have to say that in my world, you are one of my fav Rock Stars!! Thank you for always being so awesome!!
The “David Bowie Overture” was a beautiful way to open the concert and to open our ears to the sounds of David Bowie! Janna Sailor was our guest conductor for this concert and I couldn’t stop grinning from the joy I felt seeing her at work on stage! Janna!!! You TOTALLY ROCKED THIS!! Great energy, great professionalism and enthusiasm on stage – both as conductor and as on the spot interviewee! Beautiful words about choosing a palate of colours regardless of style – from one who conducts so beautifully!
Jean Meilleur did a fantastic job as lead singer singing David Bowie’s parts and as host for the night. He was very professional in the role, comfortable on stage and well grounded in an inviting way. He worked the crowd a bit – gently and invitingly and even did an impromptu interview with Janna at one point during the concert. And, his voice was so well suited to Bowie’s material as well! Thanks for a fun and entertaining evening, sir!!
Both Set 1 and Set 2 were packed with David Bowie Classics – included in Set 1 were: “Rebel Rebel”, “Let’s Dance”, “Modern Love”, “Blue Jean”, “Starman”, “China Girl” (co-written with Iggy Pop), “Ashes to Ashes”, “Five Years”, and “All The Young Dudes”. Jean Meilleur did a lovely intro to “China Girl” for our modern audience, which was both appropriate to do, and necessary as well since today’s general public would not necessarily find the metaphors and images used in this song about addiction acceptable.
photo from Shaun Dyksman’s facebook page.
During the set break, I chatted with sound tech, Shaun Dyksman who let me know that this was the first one of these concerts where he was stationed on the same level as the orchestra rather than in the sound booth up top. It was interesting for me to hear how his positioning changed how he approached the sound and the resulting sound as well. Apparently, being positioned high up, less of the bass carried up there so the tendency was to have too much bass put into the mix for the main floor. I’m happy to say that from row C, the sound was just great – well balanced and definitely not too heavy on the bass. The best sound techs are often overlooked because they are doing their job so well that we don’t notice them – when you don’t notice the balance, you know it’s just right – thanks for doing a great job, Shaun!!!
Set 2 included: “Space Oddity”, “Golden Years” (wap wap wap), “Sorrow”, “Young Americans”, “Life on Mars”, “Suffragette City”, “Fame”, and “Changes”. And, since Jean Meilleur hit and held a beautiful high note in “Life on Mars”, they could have technically included my fav David Bowie song, “Cat People” where Bowie holds the last syllable of “gasoline” for several life-fulfilling measures.
I must say that the band was wonderfully solid! They collectively brought together a wealth of experience and stagecraft to bring David Bowie back to life on stage through his music. I love the communication between Janna and the drummer, Paul DeLong – this kept everyone comfortably together on stage! We had Mitch Tyler on bass, we had Dave Dunlop on guitar, we had Donald Paulton on keyboards, we had Kathryn Rose and Lis Soderberg on backup vocals, and we had “JnC” Founder Peter Brennan on guitar – these musicians, along with Jean Meilleur on lead vocals, and help from charts on stage, made for a solid evening of Bowie Classics!
The Back up singers really caught my attention – not just because this is part of what I do on stage with my various projects but because they were just SO good!! Excellent energy on stage especially at the beginning of the concert! I like that they were right up front in front of the grand piano – their harmonies and coordinated dance moves really made the show! And I loved how Kathryn, Lis, Jean, and Janna all changed outfits during the set break – all about sparkles and black and white and greys!
The Orchestra – nicely done! You created the wall of sound necessary for some of the songs and more intimate sounds necessary for others! I even noticed some members rocking out here and there – especially toward the end of the concert!
I was so delighted to see Sheldon Corbett take some rockin’ sax solos (“Shel-Cor” as J M called him on stage)! As always, Sheldon, your solos were unassumingly and musically performed – beautiful and exactly what the songs needed!
We also got to hear solos from SSO members Don Schmidt – a beautiful ending trombone solo in one song, and Terry Heckman whom we heard do a solo in one song on piccolo trumpet – nicely done, both of you!!
I liked how things were changed up here and there in terms of instrumentation on stage. There was one song with just piano and vocals, and at least one other song that didn’t include the orchestra. This was good to clear the aural palate and reawaken it as well. And, it gave people on stage a break too.
After the final song of Set 2, we were on our feet – we gave our typical Saskatoon Standing Ovation (truly well-deserved!) and the Encore was “Under Pressure” by David Bowie and Queen. The opening almost universally known bass line had the whole crowd cheering – (I’m sure that more than a few people had “Ice Ice Baby” go off in their heads … the Vanilla Ice hip-hop song that borrowed from “Under Pressure” in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s …). This performance of the 1981 song “Under Pressure” gave Kathryn Rose a chance to truly shine singing Freddie Mercury’s part in this duet and she absolutely owned this! Good Vibes All Around!!
My one and only reservation about this concert was that I had hoped that Saskatoon would stand up and dance at this concert! Oh well … my friend Dawna and I did our version of chair dancing for much of it anyway!!! Thanks for a great evening, ALL!!!
Thanks for reading!! Rock On!!
edited by Kevin Buzinski, PhD
– Anna Bekolay, BMusEd, ARCT
soprano, violinist, teacher, adjudicator
Anna Marie Bekolay has her Bachelor of Music in Music Education, Orff Level 1, a gold medal ARCT in Voice Performance, and grade 10 Violin RCM. Anna has performed as a soloist and in a variety of ensembles over the years, including Saskatoon Opera Chorus, National Youth Choir of Canada, Collegium Musicum, Voci Strane, and the drowned. Ms Bekolay is continually advancing her musicality through attending and performing in concerts. Her current projects include: Back of the Bus, Troubadours du Bois, The Whiskey Jerks, Mac Talla Quartet, The Stephanies, and her most recently released album “Songs In Loving Memory of My Father” – a recording project of classical vocal pieces exploring the grieving process and dedicated to the memory of her father – recorded under the stage name: Anna Maria Soparlo. Anna is also involved in a variety of freelance collaborations that come up here and there, including this past summer’s Fringe production of “Brel”, and the upcoming SWAG – Saskatchewan Wearable Art Gala.
In addition to rehearsing, performing, and recording, Anna is an adjudicator for the Saskatchewan Music Festival Association and runs Anna Bekolay’s Studio – a very busy Music Studio at her home teaching Voice, Violin, Recorder, and Fiddle. Anna makes her home in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.