Students and staff spent their lunch packed into the EWU music hall for just one reason: the faculty.
Take Rory McDonald, for instance. He isn’t a music major, but the sophomore from Port Townsend still chose EWU for its music programs. He wanted to play cello in the orchestra and study with renowned EWU cellist Dr. John Marshall.
He also likes that EWU is “a small town with a relaxed atmosphere” similar to Port Townsend, but that he can quickly get into Spokane, grab some sushi and catch the Spokane Symphony at the beautifully restored and historic Fox Theater.
The music department hosts concerts every month, but today is special. On this blustery Wednesday the noon faculty concert was happening. This was such an odd time for a concert I half expected to find the recital hall empty, so you can imagine my surprise when I ducked in at the last minute to find a full house!
The musicians didn’t waste any time. Exactly at noon, an ensemble filled the hall with the jazz of Quincy Jones. Riley Gray, instructor of jazz piano, ripped into a gorgeous organ solo, handing it over to the five others: grand piano, upright bass, sax, trumpet and drums. They all leaped in with solos that carry on a conversation.
Another faculty group took the stage. This ensemble consisted of Dr. Feller-Marshall on bassoon, Dr. Marshall on cello and Andres Jaramillo and Jody Graves, alternately, on piano. “I would seem to be a moment to quote Monty Python and say ‘And now for something completely different,’ but we will be playing a tango,” Feller-Marshall said to laughter and applause. They eased into a mysterious, intense tango called “The Butcher’s Death,” followed by “Libertango,” and ended with the rousing “Bamboozler.”
As a non-musically inclined person I was surprised by how engaging the songs were. I couldn’t take my eyes off them, and looking around I saw the audience was enraptured as well. As soon as each performer left the stage the room was filled with the kind of thrilled murmurs of amazement that always marks an exciting event.
The highlight of the concert was the so called “Jazz Vocalese” number. Director of choral activities Kristina Ploeger explains vocalese as arrangements of words laid over preexisting jazz music. While the flow of words might sometimes “not make any sense,” this time they were spot on. In a jazz number called “Four,” highlighting four keys to life, “truth, honor, happiness, and love,” and once you understand these you may “relax, knowing the gist of life.” Renowned Jazz Bassist Scott Steed replied to her vocalese with a wild, yet controlled “speech” of slap bass. As they walked off the stage the audience erupted into applause, whistles, and one student shouted “yes!” I agree fully with him, and hope that you too will say “Yes!” to the amazing musicians of EWU.
Concerts are almost always free for EWU students, and it’s a fantastic way to spend your lunch.