Spring concerts offer an aural feast for the ears

With the advent of spring comes a rich aural feast for music lovers on York’s Keele campus. Kicking off a series of year-end performances are a gospel extravaganza, world music festival and jazz festival featuring a combined total of 30 different music ensembles. With a wide-ranging schedule of daytime and evening – shows the majority free of charge – it’s a fabulous opportunity to support rising young artists and celebrate the diverse talent in York’s Department of Music.

The York University Gospel Choir, directed by Professor Karen Burke, brings an evening of inspired singing melding traditional gospel with edgy, contemporary Caribbean rhythms in Gospel from Classics to Reggae on April 28 at 7:30pm in the Tribute Communities Recital Hall, 112 Accolade East Building.

The 100-voice choir performs gospel favourites chosen from a repertoire that has been recorded in the past two decades by some of North America’s top gospel groups. Composers such as Marvin Sapp, Kirk Franklin and Hezekiah Walker take pride of place in the program. The choir’s new bandleader, Corey Butler, leads the rhythm section accompanying the soaring vocals.

The Gospel Choir’s special guest for this concert is young urban gospel reggae artist Jermaine Cowan. The Jamaica-born, Toronto-based singer and songwriter is much in demand, lighting up local stages with his unique blend of reggae groves and heartfelt lyrics. York music student Joy Lapps performs on steel pan, bringing some additional Island flavour to the Gospel Choir’s last concert of the season.

An authority on the history and performance practices of gospel music, Burke is a prolific composer and arranger and the principal conductor of the Juno Award-winning Toronto Mass Choir. She is the founding director of the York University Gospel Choir and also teaches jazz vocals in the Department of Music.

Admission is $15 or $5 for students and seniors. Visit the York University Box Office Web site or call 416-736-5888.

The World Music Festival also makes a stop in the Caribbean on its global sonic tour spotlighting musical traditions of five continents.

From klezmer to Cuban ensembles, from Balkan songs to West African drums to classical Chinese orchestra, the festival presents a sampling of more than 20 international cultures represented in York’s world music program. Produced by Matt Vander Woude, it packs 14 free concerts into two full days April 30 and May 1. Concerts are scheduled back-to-back from 10am to 8:30pm in the Martin Family Lounge (MFL),  219 Accolade East Building, and the Sterling Beckwith Studio (SBS), 235 Accolade East Building.

Thursday, April 30

  • 10am Steve Mancuso’s Cuban Music Ensemble (SBS)
  • 11:30am Brian Katz’s Klezmer Ensemble (MFL)
  • 12:30pm Isaac Akrong’s West-African mande drums with Larry Graves’ Ghanaian drum & dance (SBS)
  • 2:30pm Rick Lazar’s Escola de Samba (MFL)
  • 4pm Cuban Music Ensembles directed by Paul Ormandy and Ruben Esguerra (SBS)
  • 5:30pm Anna Melnikoff’s West-African Mande Drum Ensemble (MFL)
  • 7pm Bassam Shahouk’s Middle-Eastern Ensemble (SBS)

Friday, May 1

  • 10am Caribbean Ensembles directed by Gareth and Lindy Burgess (SBS)
  • 11:30am Catherine Wilson’s African-American piano (MFL)
  • 12:45pm Chinese Orchestra directed by Kim Chow-Morris (SBS)
  • 2:pm Charles Hong’s Korean Drum Ensemble (MFL)
  • 2:30pm Linda Caplan’s Japanese Ensemble (SBS)
  • 4pm Roger Scannura’s flamenco guitars (MFL)
  • 5:30pm World Music Chorus directed by Judith Cohen (SBS)
  • 7pm Balkan Ensemble directed by Irene Markoff (MFL)

Hot on the heels of the World Music Festival, the York University Jazz Festival features 15 large and small ensembles directed by leading lights of the Canadian jazz scene. With midday and evening performances running four consecutive days, May 5 to 8, the festival offers fans an opportunity to catch the next generation of jazz artists, right here on campus and with no cover charge.

The Jazz Fest launches in the Tribute Communities Recital Hall (TCRH), with the majority of concerts taking place in the Martin Family Lounge.

Tuesday, May 5

  • 7:30pm York University Jazz Choirs directed by Mim Adams and Bob Hamper (TCRH)
  • 8:30pm Jazz combos directed by Frank Falco, Mark Eisenman and Kevin Turcotte each take the stage for a 30-minute set (MFL)

Wednesday, May 6

  • 12:30pm Vocal ensembles directed by Richard Whiteman (MFL)
  • 8pm Jazz combos directed by Artie Roth, Mike Malone and Kelly Jefferson (MFL) 

Thursday, May 7

  • 12:30pm Vocal ensembles directed by Frank Falco (MFL) 
  • 8pm Jazz combos directed by Mark Eisenman, Lorne Lofsky, Roy Patterson and Kevin Turcotte (MFL)

Friday, May 8

  • 7:30pm York University Jazz Orchestra led by Al Henderson and Mike Cadó (MFL)