A group of Garden City Collegiate singers are getting a chance to share the stage with one of Canada’s premier jazz vocalists.
The Garden City Groove vocal jazz ensemble will perform alongside Juno Award-nominated artist Denzal Sinclaire and the Winnipeg Jazz Orchestra (WJO) on Feb. 9 at 2 p.m. at the Winnipeg Art Gallery (300 Memorial Blvd.). River East Collegiate’s Vocalease will sing with Sinclaire and the WJO on Feb. 8 and 9 at 7:30 p.m.
Garden City Groove will perform two songs arranged by American jazz educator Jeremy Fox, You Make Me Feel So Young and I Love Being Here With You.
"It’s quite a thrill, getting to play at the Winnipeg Art Gallery and getting to be a part of a professional concert series. It’s quite an honour to be asked and it’ll be an awesome experience," said Garden City Collegiate choir instructor Stacey Brown.
Brown, better known as Stacey Nattrass (her maiden name), the Winnipeg Jets national anthem singer started Garden City Collegiate’s choir program in 1999, and she now leads it with fellow instructor Alisa Wiebe.
She said about 60 students were involved in that first year, but that number has since ballooned to approximately 200, including seven different ensembles.
Garden City Groove is an auditioned vocal jazz ensemble, consisting of Grade 10 to 12 students. Brown said Garden City Groove rehearses two to three times a week at lunch. She believes music is an important aspect of a student’s education.
"I think music in particular, whether it is singing or band, taps into a part of your education that you can’t really reach through math or science," Brown said."It’s emotional. Music is such a universal language, to learn and to perform music taps into that emotional side of us, which connects everybody. I think it’s extremely valuable, and it’s fun."
The group annually takes part in Vocal Jazz Choralfest and the Brandon Jazz Festival.
"I really liked to sing harmonies that I wouldn’t usually get the chance to, and that’s what you get with jazz, because it has really interesting chords and what not," said Groove member and Grade 12 student James Degurse, 17.
"Also there’s a real sense of community in vocal jazz because the groups are so small. I think our group has 14 or 15 people, so it’s almost a familial kind of thing."
Like Degurse, Groove member Sarah Mitchell said she likes the camaraderie the ensemble offers.
"We’re all close friends and it’s really fun to sing together," said Mitchell, 17, a Grade 12 student. "It’s nice to really see our progress. We’ll have a song that we’re going to learn, and piece by piece it comes together."
Both Mitchell and Degurse have been in the school’s choir program since Grade 9. Degurse said the program has been instrumental in shaping his views on music.
"It’s really taught me to go deeper into music and not simply experience it as a passive listener but as an active part of music," Degurse said.