Coming soon to the Aud, swing jazz

Humphries’ orchestra spans generations and features local talent

Mark Humphries and His Orchestra will fill the Aud Theatre with dance music of the 1940s-80s at a Sunday matinee concert, Dec. 1, with band members from students to the seasoned performers.

The conductor/brass player brings a flair of showmanship in all he does, whether he’s conducting a sizzling hot “In the Mood” or bringing a side plate of humour.

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His band had a busy year, most recently playing in Brandon’s Westman Centennial Auditorium.

In Virden, local talent will play some famous tunes by Les Brown and His Band of Renown (Stardust, Let’s dance), Glen Miller, or the jazz styles of trumpeter Neil Hefty (Batman theme), maybe some Henri Mancini and more.

Brandon University music student Michelle Kyle, granddaughter of Hank and Caron Kyle, plays guitar. Virden’s Sandra Unger will warm the hall with her smooth jazzy vocals. Recently retired Reston School Band teacher Michelle Gervin is on trumpet and vocals.

Starring on the piano keys and vocals, Nicki Ford from Wawota. Another music teacher, Maureen Baird (an RCM examiner and band teacher at Melita) is in the orchestra.

Among many more, the farthest away, Drummer Kieran Wallace from Chicago is a percussion major in his last year of jazz performance at Brandon University.

Paul Archambault from Kola formerly worked with Thomas Humphries, Fusion Audio Visual. He is in charge of sound, rounding out the musicians and crew of 22.

As a conductor, Humphries learned the ropes at age 21 - the youngest band leader in Great Britain at that time.

“No one was fronting swing bands at that age.” With many band members twice his age he had “a lot of wise guys… you had to win your diplomacy badge.” He got an on-the-job education that he values today.

His tight band comes together once or twice a month for practice with musicians travelling from as far away as Winnipeg for the love of the music they play together. By day, they are nurses, teachers, house builders, retirees and many are students from Brandon University School of Music.

While swing is a sound that seniors are programed to love, Humphries says, “It’s not all retirees. There are some newer faces creeping into the audience.”

As ‘The Twist’ came along and partner dancing faded from popularity with a new generation, swing jazz seemed to go underground. “You don’t see it on the road anymore. You hear it on commercials, on jingles, that sort of stuff…”

But, Humphries says that attending a concert puts people in front of an energized brass and woodwind jazz, and that’s when the magic happens. A connection is made when you “actually see the shape, look at the size and see the format… it brings the audience in.”

© Virden Empire-Advance