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Gala Jazz will have a distinct Yuletide flavor this year

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by Erin Bradley

NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – Bethel College Jazz Ensembles I and II will perform Nov. 30 at 8 p.m. in Krehbiel Auditorium as part of the annual Christmas Gala.

Gala is an event that faculty and staff plan and host for students, when they can enjoy a special dinner, hear some jazz, visit the president (and Santa Claus) at Goerz House, and dance a little bit.

Since the jazz concert is for everyone, not just students, it’s a way to connect the bands with the larger community.  Christmas Gala Jazz is free and open to the public, with a freewill offering taken to support jazz study and performance at Bethel.

“I always try to keep in mind that this concert is part of a larger event,” said James Pisano, Bethel associate professor of music, who directs the jazz ensembles. “Christmas Gala Jazz follows the dinner and I think it’s awesome that we have a bunch of students who come out and see the jazz ensembles perform. Also, it’s wonderful for [the musicians’] peers to hear them playing at this really high level. It’s important for the campus community and the community as a whole.”

For this concert, the groups will play a Yuletide-centered repertoire including “The Christmas Waltz” by Jule Styne (arr. John Berry), “Santa Baby” by Joan Javits and Phil and Tony Springer (arr. Roger Holmes), selections from Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” by Ralph Blane (arr. Alan Baylock).

The Nutcracker selections comprise one of the larger pieces Jazz I will play. Instead of the traditional setting, this is Duke Ellington’s version and represents his signature style.

“He wrote this wonderful arrangement and all his Duke Ellington-isms are applied to this traditional classical work,” Pisano said. “He took his interpretation, which is jazz-influenced with an emphasis on swing, and applied it to Tchaikovsky.

“Duke Ellington wrote for each member of his band,” Pisano continued. “He was always thinking about how their unique sounds contributed to the ensemble as a whole. So what the Bethel groups do is interpret that. Obviously Carl Lehmann [Bethel junior and saxophonist] is not Harry Carney, but he is doing a great job of pulling that vibe off and making it his unique sound, too.”

Jazz I’s program will feature “Mama Llama Samba” by Gordon Goodwin and “Magic Flea” by Sammy Nestico, in addition to the “Overture” and  “Arabian Dance” from Nutcracker and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”

Jazz II will perform “The Lady is a Tramp” by Lorenz Hart and Richard Rodgers (arr. Mark Taylor), featuring Renee Reimer, senior from Sioux Falls, S.D., on vocals, and “Nardis” by Miles Davis and Paul Murtha, along with “The Christmas Waltz” and “Santa Baby,” again with vocals by Reimer.

Jazz I personnel are:saxophones, Paul Voran, Newton, Danny Barrera, Newton, Joel Boettger, Hesston, Jordan Ortman, Marion, S.D., and Carl Lehmann, Marion, S.D.; trombones, Rebecca Trumble, Newton, Issei Tsuji, Andrew Thiesen and Tim Shade; trumpets, Evan Koch, Colorado Springs, Colo., Kyle Doesken, Derby, Braden Unruh, Goessel, and Tim Regier, Newton; piano, Ian Gingrich-Gaylord; guitar, Megan Siebert, Topeka; bass, Landon Bartel, Newton; and drums, Levi Miller.

Jazz II personnel are: alto saxophone, Carl Lehmann; baritone saxophone, Andrew Unruh, Valley Center; bassoon, Jessie Pohl, Moundridge; trombone, Sarah Evans, Colorado Springs, Colo.; trumpets, Ethan Knight, Moundridge, and Andrew Ewy, Parlier, Calif.; piano, Renee Reimer; bass, Rachel Evans, Bel Aire; and drums, Adam Voth, Wichita.

Bethel College is the only private college in Kansas listed in the 2012-13 analysis of premier colleges and universities in the United States and ranks in the top five “Best Baccalaureate Colleges” in the Washington Monthly annual college guide for 2012-13. The four-year liberal arts college is affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. For more information, see

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