Arts & Culture

Jazz band charmed in Ireland

Contributing Writer
Monday, April 11, 2011

When one thinks of Ireland, one might imagine green fields, pots of gold and a pub or two. But for the Brown Jazz Band, the country is more a miniature mecca of improvisational beats and bluesy rhythms. Over spring break, the 20 members of the ensemble and Matthew McGarrell, senior lecturer in music and director of the jazz band, traveled to Dublin for six days to soak up the local jazz flavor and perform with Irish musicians.

The band takes  similar trips every other year, recently visiting Portugal, Iceland and Italy. “We like to go to one city and stay there,” McGarrell said. “We pick places with active jazz scenes of some kind because we like to interact with local musicians.”

“The jazz scene in Dublin is small but it was good because we could easily navigate it in a short period of time,” said Rosalind Schonwald ’12, the group’s singer and a former Herald arts and culture editor.

The group was especially excited about the opportunity to play with Jim Doherty, a world-renowned jazz pianist who has long been integral to Dublin’s jazz scene, McGarrell said.

Dublin not only offered a local professional jazz scene, but also the Newpark Music Center — a music school affiliated with the Berklee College of Music.

“Interacting with the students at the music school was a highlight,” Schonwald said. The group practiced together with students from the center and attended the senior recital, which quickly became a jam session for all, McGarrell said.

The band also gave a concert at a church in South Dublin to support the Dublin Housing Mental Health Association.

“This concert had a very large audience, and we were able to raise almost 3,000 euro,” McGarrell said. They played a wide selection of repertory pieces, including works by Duke Ellington. The band also performed in the bar at the Conrad Dublin Hotel preceding the Dublin City Jazz Orchestra’s concert at the National Concert Hall across the street.

“Performing together night after night was a really neat experience,” said Brett Anders ’14, a trumpet player in the band. “As an ensemble, we started to sound better, our sound got a lot tighter over a couple nights.” Schonwald said the trip was “a huge success” and believed this to be “largely because Irish people are very welcoming.”

Students also had time to wander around Dublin and take in the city and its surrounding areas, including sightseeing and a hiking trip just outside the city, Anders said.

McGarrel said the trip’s funding, which totaled about $22,000, came from a number of sources, including the students themselves, money sent in from Brown Jazz Band alums, the wind symphony and jazz band instructional account, the Sarah and Robert A. Reichley endorsed fund  and the Office of the President.

At a rehearsal early on the evening of April 7, the Brown Jazz Band were already hard at work on their next major event, rehearsing with celebrated jazz clarinetist and trumpeter Anat Cohen for a concert which took place in Salomon 101 on Saturday night.

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