Fond Memories: Vocal Jazz Reflects on Year of Music

Vocal Jazz director Wendell Clanton’s office is a vertical time capsule. Plastered carpet-to-ceiling with glossy posters from past recitals, it’s a testament to his extensive work in the University of Victoria School of Music.

It’s also a visual nod to this year’s spring showcase title, Memories. And although the theme for each final show materializes from the selected songs, I can’t help but wonder his décor had something to do with it.

Regardless of inspirational source material, narrative and nostalgia have always been touchstones for UVic’s premier swing choir. “We’re storytellers…[our] concert is telling stories in jazz,” Clanton says.

This year’s stories center around nostalgia, love, and reminiscence in a dreamy blend of original arrangements and timeless jazz standards. Memories notably incorporates the Oscar-winning farewell ballad “Shadow of Your Smile,” as well as “One and Only Love,” a technically- advanced serenade made popular by Frank Sinatra.

The ensemble will perform in several divisions; the 12 voice UVJazz Red and the 15 voice UVJazz Blue will deliver their jazz stylings on mic, while the 22 member Jazz Chorale belts classics off-system.

Although Vocal Jazz singers work in different groups based on technical skill, Clanton emphasizes that the same high standard of excellence applies to every section. “If you build one voice up in confidence, it builds the ensemble. It doesn’t matter which group they’re in. My job is to give them an opportunity, whereby they can stretch themselves.”

His dedication to the vocalists shows in the unique structure of the ensemble; singers submit performance requests for songs, arrange charts, and make up the majority of the audition committee.

In addition to a strong student commitment, Vocal Jazz prides itself on a diverse roster of musicians from a variety of faculties. “The storytellers in our ensemble come from a variety of disciplines: engineering, biology, English, theatre, athletics kinesiology…. we have all kinds of people represented, which is what the university is striving for – and we’re doing it,” Clanton notes.

This extinguishes the preconception that extracurricular activities in the School of Music are only for music majors. Coupled with a passion for performance and a dedicated director, it’s evident the multitalented vocalists will make Memories another standout showcase, worthy of a spot on the wall.

UVic Vocal Jazz Ensemble Spring Showcase: Memories. Sunday, March 25th. 7 pm. Doors open at 6:45. Phillip T. Young Recital Hall. Admission by donation.

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