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Bethel jazz continues holiday tradition with Christmas Gala concert

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NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – The Christmas jazz tradition continues at Bethel College with the annual Christmas Gala concert.

Jazz Ensemble I and Jazz Ensemble II will perform Friday, Dec. 10, at 8 p.m. in Krehbiel Auditorium in the Fine Arts Center. The concert is free and open to the public, with a freewill offering taken to support jazz music and performance at Bethel.

“The students have worked very hard,” said James Pisano, associate professor of music and director of jazz studies at Bethel, who leads both groups. “We look forward to presenting an exciting and varied concert, which will include classic big band arrangements, contemporary works and holiday favorites.”

“Jazz I will open the program with ‘Big Dipper,’ a hard-swinging composition by Thad Jones,” Pisano said. “This will be followed by ‘The American Express’ by trombonist and composer Bob Brookmeyer. This work is especially interesting in that it is programmatic, and the music depicts the various sounds and sights one associates with traveling on a train.”

Jazz Ensemble II will follow with a funk arrangement by Bob Mintzer, “Techno Pop.” Mintzer, a jazz saxophonist, composer, arranger and big band leader based in Los Angeles, will be artist-in-residence at Bethel College, including a performance with Jazz Ensemble I, in March 2011.

“Jazz II will also perform a unique arrangement of ‘We Three Kings’ that I’m sure the audience will enjoy,” Pisano added. Jazz Ensemble II will conclude their portion of the concert with “Day In, Day Out,” a classic Johnny Mercer standard.

Jazz Ensemble I will return to the stage to finish out the program, first with two movements from The Nutcracker Suite, “Overture” and “Arabian Dance,” by Tchaikovsky, arranged by Duke Ellington.

“We are thrilled to present this arrangement that incorporates Ellington’s specific and personal style of voicing instruments and thus creating unique timbres,” Pisano said. “This arrangement is considered the most often-performed jazz big band arrangement of holiday music.

“The concert will conclude with the up-tempo and exciting Sonny Stitt bebop tune, ‘The Eternal Triangle.’ We’re going to have a lot of fun on this one.

“The concert will feature several student soloists,” Pisano concluded, “who will showcase the improvisational study they’ve continually and diligently been working on. Don’t miss out!”

Members of Jazz Ensemble I are: alto saxophones, Daniel Barrera, Newton, and Paul Voran, Newton; tenor saxophones, Joel Boettger, Hesston, and Jordan Ortman, Marion, S.D.; baritone saxophone, Heather Garrison, Haysville; trumpets, Kyle Doesken, Derby, Evan Koch, Colorado Springs, Colo., Austin McCabe-Juhnke, North Newton, Taylor Stucky, Moundridge, and Kyle Unruh, Goessel; trombones, Eric Goering, McPherson (bass), Benjamin Harder, Hesston, and Rebecca Trumble, Newton; drums, Nathaniel Yoder, Kalona, Iowa; bass, Landon Bartel, Newton; and piano, Ian Gingrich-Gaylord, Newton.

Jazz Ensemble II personnel are: saxophones, Amy Flax, Brownell, and Carl Lehmann, Marion, S.D.; trumpets, Garrett Byler, Hesston, and Matt Shelly, Newton; trombone, Sarah Evans, Colorado Springs, Colo.; cello, Anna Cook, Lawrence; drums, Ryan Cummins, Joshua, Texas; bass, Tim Martens, Inman; guitar, Megan Siebert, Topeka; and piano, Renee Reimer, Sioux Falls, S.D.

Bethel College is the only private, liberal arts college in Kansas listed in the 2010-11 analysis of top colleges and universities in the United States and is in the first tier in its category in the U.S. News & World Report annual ranking of “America’s Top Colleges” for 2011. The four-year liberal arts college is affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. For more information, see

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