First in-person, outdoor jazz ensemble concert forced to be virtual due to bad weather

The group was scheduled to play in-person for the first time this year on Cannan Green April 8

Andrew Claybrook

Two of Washington and Lee’s musical groups were scheduled to perform live and in-person on Cannan Green during the last week of classes, marking the first live music events since the pandemic began. 

The wind ensemble and orchestra performed on Monday, April 5. The jazz ensemble planned to perform on April 8, but the in-person concert was canceled due to weather. The performance was live streamed instead.

Jazz ensemble musicians have coped with COVID-19 by spreading out on stage and playing through holes in their masks. Screenshot by Lilah Kimble, ‘23.

Still, the jazz ensemble had a triumphant performance, reminding viewers that the arts remain vibrant here on campus. The concert opened with a jazz quartet featuring Truman Chancy, ’22, Robert Masi, ’21, Walker Payne, ’21 and Will Morris, ’23. 

The performance was a dazzling display of student talent, and a welcome artistic reprieve from the hectic mood of the end of term.

The jazz ensemble commissioned composer Christopher Rochester to write a piece for this concert. The ensemble performed the world premiere of this piece, titled “B Delight” during the show.

Director Terry Vosbein’s own work was also performed, with “I’m Gonna Tell You Something” offering a series of solos to the saxophone section, likened to the movement of the ocean.

Carissa Petzold ‘21, was another featured musician during the performance,  particularly in the piece “Camel Hop.” 

Vosbein described Petzold as “our Benny Goodman,” referencing the fact that the piece was originally written for the legendary clarinetist. 

“[The piece was] a challenge at first,” Petzold said.

But the ensemble deftly manages it and revels in the “big band swing style” of the piece.

Reflecting on the year, Petzold said she is proud of the ensemble for working through whatever challenges arose, saying there may be some truth to the “go with the flow” jazz stereotype.

Ultimately though, this seems to have been the year of coming together and finding grace within the change. 

“We have spent more time in small groups,” Petzold said. “It has been immensely gratifying to get to know my peers better and watch the community build.”

Another highlight of the performance was an original piece by saxophonist Chancy, ‘22, called “Popping Popcorn.” The piece is Chancy’s first composition, an energetic and engaging piece. 

Vosbien and the musicians have been working hard to make jazz ensemble happen this year, an impressive task given the necessary adjustments and precautions to reduce COVID-19 risk and stay within guidelines. For example, performers played through masks with holes cut in them for mouthpieces. 

“It’s been an interesting year,” Vosbein said. 

He described in an interview how rehearsals were structurally changed: the jazz ensemble moved from meeting twice a week to once a week, and the required distancing for the musicians meant that there could be difficulty in hearing one another during practice. 

But the group has still been successful. Vosbein said this is the largest that the jazz ensemble has been “in a long time.”

Despite the difficulties, Vosbein congratulates the group for overcoming everything to reach such success. 

“They have stepped up to the challenge,” Vosbein said. “The band is full of talented folks.”

The evening’s program was as follows:

“There Will Never Be Another You” by Harry Warren & Mack Gordon; “Stolen Moments” by Oliver Nelson; “Armando’s Rhumba” by Chick Corea; “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy” by Joe Zawinul; “Little Sunflower” by Freddie Hubbard; “A Night in Tunisia” by Dizzy Gillespie; “Take the A Train” by Billy Strayhorn; “Swing Street” by Maria Schneider; “Li’l Liza Jane” by Doug Beach; “Popping Popcorn” (world premiere) by Truman Chancy ’22; “Latin Action” by Doug Beach; “Camel Hop” by Mary Lou Williams; “I’m Gonna Tell You Something” by Terry Vosbein; “Smooth Talk” by Maria Schneider; “B Delight” (world premiere) by Christopher Rochester.