Music department celebrates Mardi Gras


Jene Thomas – General Assignment Reporter 

From the toss of the beads to the performances themselves, the SCSU music ensembles kept the audience cheering through their renditions of New Orleans themed music in honor of Mardi Gras.

“Normally at these kind of events, nobody’s really sitting down,” said Will Durant, senior electric bass player for the SCSU Latin Jazz Band. “I think I got—we all got everyone to have some fun.”

The Garner Recital Hall hosted the 19th annual Mardi Gras concert on Feb. 17 at 8 p.m., despite an earlier fire alarm that delayed rehearsal. Performing was the Latin Jazz Band, the Blues Band and Jazz Standards band, under the direction of small ensemble director, David Chevan.

Despite never having been in New Orleans on the actual Tuesday, Chevan has seen the performers and heard the music either a few days earlier or later. He believes the band’s performances did the celebration justice with high energy and fun environment.

“I think we’ve captured the spirit,” he said. “We focused on creating a family friendly environment.”

All year long, citizens and visitors of New Orleans get a feel for jazz and blues music. Saxophones and trumpets fill the streets, just as they filled the stage. (it said the but think should be they.) The only things stationary on the stage were the drum sets.

Jordon Watson, lead vocalist for the Blue Bands, a.k.a. Dope Sauce, sang classic blues hits to the sounds of the bass and drums like “Big Chief” and “How Long Has the Train Been Gone,” both composed by Professor Longhair. However the band requested the audience’s help in singing the final number, “When the Saints Go Marching In.”

“Welcome to the Dope Sauce Experience,” Watson shouted to the crowd.

Anyone who’d seen The Hangover or Mission Impossible: II was familiar with the Jazz Band’s rendition of “Iko Iko,” by “Sugar Boy Crawford. “Manha de Carnaval,” the New Orleans funeral march, and “Tipitina” were among the set list.

Audience members said that despite how much snow was outside, they still wanted to get a taste of Mardi Gras. In the audience was Patty Schroder, who came to see her son perform.

“With tonight being Mardi Gras,” Schroder said, “to have a Mardi Gras concert is wonderful. We can’t necessary get to New Orleans and this doesn’t feel anything like New Orleans, not with this snow so I’ll take what I can get.”

Chevan said that due to the copious amounts of alcohol often provided during the celebration and vulgarity, Mardi Gras caters more towards adults so he wanted to capture its spirit for people of all ages.

In the traditional sense, Mardi Gras, French for “Fat Tuesday”, preluded the ritual of Lent. Christians would consume large amounts of food in preparation of weeks of fasting.  Food is not the only thing people over consume now.

In recent years, however, it has been more about people from all around travelling down to New Orleans, La., with more of the events centered in the French Quarter around Bourbon St., to participate in the festival, get drunk and have women lift their tops for beads.

That wasn’t the vision Chevan had. He said wanted to capture the spirit by experiencing it through the music.

To increase audience participation, Chevan and the band members asked the audience to clap a variety of rhythmic beats that would introduce a new set of songs.

The energy filled the room as the performers would their Mardi Gras themed jester hats. In their entrance, members would place beads around the audience’s necks, without needing to remove any clothing.

“I just came for the beads,” Schroder said with laughter.

Photo Credit: Jene Thomas

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