From Massey Hall to Queen Street corners to the Chicago home of a Tyrannosaurus rex – the touring list for Malvern music students ranges far and wide.
Speaking days before the Boardwalk Ball, the finale for Malvern Collegiate’s 10 bands and choirs, music council president Connor Belot said looking back, the students’ show at Massey Hall was the standout of the year.
In April, Malvern was among two dozen high schools performing there for Sounds of Toronto, which features a mass choir of some 700 singers. Malvern’s concert band got to play the closing number.
“It’s pretty amazing,” Belot said, adding that retired Malvern teacher Bill Mighton, who conducted a string ensemble at the school this year, arranged a medley of Queen songs for the show.
Belot, who plays trombone and electric bass, and guitarist Matt Denyes are the only two Grade 12s at Malvern who plan to enroll in music performance programs after graduating.
They and two more senior students have learned not only to sing or play, but also how to conduct. Most of the school’s junior bands and combos are led by senior music students.
“It takes a lot more work,” said Belot. “It’s not like you just show up and practice.”
Even if they never play professionally, music teacher Michael Falla said he always encourages students to continue performing – as the band well knows, there’s no shortage of community venues.
“This year we performed at six Christmas parades,” said Falla, noting that the marching band joined Santas in Oakville, Cambridge, Hamilton and downtown Toronto, all in one weekend.
Duets and trios from the band also played Christmas pieces along Queen Street in December, though the unusually cold winter did make it hard to hold a tune.
“The first week was okay,” said Belot. “The second week was raining, the third week was -40°C. And the last one was the ice storm.”
Like most schools, the concert and dance bands at Malvern tend to play big band music, jazz standards, or sweeping orchestral scores, though they do branch into more contemporary pop and soundtracks, too.
Some of the smaller groups, such as the strings ensemble, funk combo, and dedicated drumline also break the mold. At the Boardwalk Ball, the drumline played ‘Calabria,’ a reggae/dance club hit by Danish DJ ENUR, together with two saxophones, a bass guitar, and a rapper.
And that’s to say nothing about the bands students form outside of school.
“There’s more than I think we even know,” said teacher Laura Norris, who conducts several choirs.
“For a lot of people, the extracurricular stuff is the stuff they remember,” Norris said. “I don’t remember when I learned a fact about World War II in Grade 10 history. But I remember all the music trips I went on. I remember the songs. I can sing the exact songs with the same harmony.”