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Music program thrives

UCC ensembles are flourishing in a series of live performances.
The Festival Symphonic Band from Years 8 and 9 performed in the regionals of the Ontario Band Festival in mid-February, one of 153 different groups participating before the judges at the Chinese Cultural Centre in Scarborough. The band played three pieces —  Joy by Frank Ticheli, Matters of Kindness by Kenley Kristofferson and Tides of Fate by Ryan Meeboer — as a way to showcase their skills with various styles as they competed against a national standard, rather than other bands. Their performance earned them a trip to the nationals, scheduled for May 15 in Niagara Falls.

“The boys felt really good about what they did,” says Tony Gomes, chair of the arts and music coordinator at the Upper School. “It was the first live festival in three years and the first time these performers were able to enjoy the festival experience. It gave them an opportunity to see themselves in a larger context.”

On Feb. 8, jazz groups from the Prep and the Upper School collaborated for a Jazz Café held at Weston Hall, which was arranged like a café with coffee and dessert available to patrons. The Prep’s junior and senior jazz bands performed, as did the junior, intermediate and senior jazz bands from the Upper School. The UCC Blue Notes and the Prep senior choir added a vocal component to the evening. The musical selections included selections by Stevie Wonder, Glenn Miller and George Gershwin.

“It’s an attempt to tone down the formality of a concert and it’s a fairly relaxed evening,” Gomes said of the café experience. 

Next on tap will be the April 15 Coalition of Independent Schools’ Music Festival (CISMF) that draws the best players in Years 8 to 10 from each participating school to perform together in a concert band, a string orchestra, a symphonic band or a jazz ensemble. There will also be junior and intermediate choir performances featuring students in Years 5 to 7. All groups are co-ed, which is a great change of pace.

“Our students go as ambassadors for UCC and work collaboratively with other students they’ve never met,” says Gomes. “They have three rehearsals and then it’s time to perform at Roy Thompson Hall, which is a real thrill. It certainly challenges their skills and their organization and preparation.”

Gomes says that watching the students prepare and perform has made it obvious that, post-pandemic, “we’re back. It feels brand-new and familiar at the same time. There are some aspects of the routines and expectations that haven’t been a concern for the past few years, but everyone is working hard and demonstrating their musical creativity.

“Chris Cijolea, Peter Smith, Daniel Webb and I at the Upper School and Caroline Heo and Paul McGarr at the Prep are very pleased.”

Members of the UCC community will be able to see this creativity for themselves at Nuit Bleue, scheduled for Thursday, April 13 from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. The one-day arts festival showcasing talent in visual, theatrical, musical, literary and film arts will culminate in a 7 p.m. concert that includes more than 250 musicians, nine musical groups and featured soloists from Years 8 to 12.
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