Composer creates jazz tribute to budget cuts

“Inspiration” isn’t exactly the right word for it, said local composer Malcolm Bell, but he was prompted to create an original jazz-rock fusion piece called Budget Cuts after provincial reductions to education funding last spring.

“Inspiration” isn’t exactly the right word for it, said local composer Malcolm Bell, but he was prompted to create an original jazz-rock fusion piece called Budget Cuts after provincial reductions to education funding last spring.

If the Red Deer College music instructor’s new work sounds a little odd when it premieres at a faculty recital on Saturday at the RDC Arts Centre, it’s because it’s one note short for every measure of music.

“Instead of there being 16 sixteenth notes, there are only 15 sixteenth notes,” said Bell, who believes the reoccurring gaps will be very noticeable to listeners.

“You hear it. It’s like watching a person walk normally and then watching someone walk with a limp,” added the instructor, who teaches composition at the college, as well as jazz, percussion and music theory. Bell believes the audience will get used to hearing this reoccurring silent “limp” after a while, and “somehow (the piece) works.”

He was indirectly affected by the deep cuts made to health and post-secondary education last spring by Alberta’s Conservative government. At the college, this resulted in layoffs of some support staff after a decision was made to try to lessen the impact on students.

Bell said he and other RDC music instructors continue to have similar workloads in the classroom, but now have more peripheral work to do because of the loss of these clerical, reception and communications positions.

“You can either not focus as much on the education or get less sleep every night — and if you’re like me, it tends to be the latter,” said Bell — which is not good for preventing long-term burnout.

Budget Cuts will be performed along with two original compositions by fellow RDC music instructor Ruston Vuori.

They are part of a mixed program that encompasses Claude Debussy’s Claire de Lune, as well as music from operettas, sacred music, blues, pop by Roy Orbison and The Animals, and jazz medleys by Herbie Hancock and others. Eight RDC music instructors will perform.

Vuori’s original works, Infant Joy and Holy Thursday, are based on William Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience poetry collections.

While the two poetic works were not specifically linked by Blake, Vuori believes performing the two pieces together makes thematic sense because they are like two sides of the same coin. The poem Infant Joy is about an innocent baby being born with a happy outlook, while the poem Holy Thursday is about children growing older and sadder while being exploited during England’s Industrial Revolution.

Vuori said the joyful-versus-somber moods of the two poems set differing tones for his piano compositions, which will accompany soprano Danica Hoffart singing Blake’s poetry.

Vuori has already set all of the poems in Blake’s Songs of Innocence to music and is working on his Songs of Experience. He said he enjoys the opportunity to perform them for the community.

Regular faculty recitals keep instructors’ skills sharp while showing students that their teachers can do more than teach, Vuori added.

The recital also includes performances by vocalist Sharon Braun, pianist Cheryl Cooney, guitarist Jeremy Doody, flutist Val Sherman, bassist Kim Lesaca, trumpeter Steve Sherman, and pianist Janice Gerdts.

Tickets for the 7:30 p.m. concert are $23.10 ($18.90 students/seniors) from the Black Knight Ticket Centre.

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