Columbus Jazz Orchestra hopes to instill a sense of joy through music
“We’re going to imbue people with music,” says Byron Stripling, artistic director of CJO
When the artistic director of the Columbus Jazz Orchestra, Byron Stripling, listens to the music of composers George Gershwin and Irving Berlin, he hears lessons for the present.
Berlin, who was born in 1888, and Gershwin, who was born in 1898, each experienced the influenza pandemic of 1918.
“What better people could we turn to to help us figure out how to live our life after this? said Stripling, who this weekend will lead the orchestra in a concert that celebrates the music of these and other composers.
“Gershwin, Berlin & Beyond”, the orchestra’s season opening concert, will be performed October 14-17 at the Southern Theater. Masks and proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test will be required for all participants.
Music written in the aftermath of the last century’s pandemic was often resolutely – albeit counter-intuitive – forward-looking, Stripling said.
Celebrating the post-1918 pandemic
“After that flu pandemic, a great song was written called ‘I Want to be Happy’,” said Stripling, referring to a song by Vincent Youmans and Irving Caesar. “What were these guys supposed to be happy about (about)?” They found this piece of happiness and turned it into a song. That’s what this concert is for me: reflecting on the past and learning from these lessons of history.
Among the pieces to perform are “Blue Skies” from Berlin; “Oh, ma’am, be wise! By Gershwin; and a host of other songs that Stripling and company hope will be pure enjoyment for the listeners.
“We’re going to imbue people with music, and for some people, this will be the first musical joy (since the pandemic),” Stripling said. “It will hopefully be a reminder to help them get through their day.”
Lena Seikaly honors Ella Fitzgerald
Guest singer Lena Seikaly, making her third appearance with the orchestra, will be present throughout the 90-minute concert, which will run without an intermission.
“It’s America’s unique music,” Seikaly, a 35-year-old Washington, DC resident, said of the contending tunes, many of which were first heard in Broadway shows.
A number of songs Seikaly will sing have also been recorded by Ella Fitzgerald, whom the guest artist considers her musical “queen bee”. Seikaly wants to emulate Ella’s style while staying true to herself.
“It’s really fun trying to sing like Ella,” Seikaly said. “I don’t think I sound exactly like her, but … she’s definitely one of my biggest inspirations. There’s that rope to walk on: paying homage but also making sure you look the same. .
And Stripling has a lot of praise for Seikaly’s own gifts.
“There is depth in his voice and experience in his voice,” he said.
Saxophonist Patrick Bartley Jr. to share the stage
In his first appearance with the orchestra, guest solo saxophone Patrick Bartley Jr. will be presented.
The South Florida native took a long, winding path to the saxophone: He grew up pursuing the visual arts, but while still in elementary school, he was encouraged to play music. He chose the clarinet, then switched to baritone saxophone and finally to alto saxophone. The key to his decision was to attend a concert with alto saxophonist David Sanborn – and there were other influences as well.
“Charlie Parker and Cannonball (Adderley) and all the people I was with – they all played viola,” said Bartley, 28, who resides in Fort Lauderdale.
Less important than how Bartley came to the instrument, of course, is the magic he does with it.
“I was blown away by the quality of this guy,” said Stripling, who was impressed with Bartley’s YouTube videos and will give the guest artist plenty of leeway for the show.
“I’m just going to say (to Bartley), ‘You do your thing, and when it looks like you’re done, then I’m going to bring the band back,” said Stripling. “I want him to have that flexibility to do his thing on stage.”
Columbus Jazz Orchestra’s “Gershwin, Berlin & Beyond”
Or: South Theater, 21 E. Main St.
When: 7:30 p.m. Oct. 14, 8 p.m. 15-16 Oct. and 3 p.m. 17 Oct .; the performance at 8 p.m. on October 15 will be broadcast live on www.jag.tv
Tickets: $ 10 to $ 68, or $ 20 for live streaming
COVID-19 policies: Masks and proof of vaccination or negative COVID test required