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Opinion: MacEwan music composition students show-off and show-out at the 2022 Composition Concert

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MacEwan University’s third-year music composition majors put their talent, creativity, and passion on full display at the 2022 Composition Concert this past January. The show was streamed on YouTube due to COVID health measures.

The students showcased original compositions by performing their own songs or having other musicians perform their music. The concert featured seven songs in total and in just over 30 minutes, listeners heard a piano ballad, a show tune, plenty of jazz, and more.

Seeing as though I neither know anything about music composition or how to play an instrument, I have no critiques to offer, only praises.

The concert opened with a funky seven-instrument track that featured a memorable guitar solo and a bouncy trumpet performance. The musicians on stage appeared as though there was significant disagreement on what to wear —some folks jammed in hoodies and sweats, and others looked as though they had fancy dinner reservations after the concert. Clothing is wholly unimportant here; I mention it only because it best describes how a range of personas came together to play this encapsulating groove that clearly benefited from the style fusion.

I think this song would perfectly fit a montage scene in any feel-good movie. Superb.

The second song was the aforementioned piano ballad. The concert emcee stated that the tune was inspired by Greek mythology and the three Fates. 

The tune was slow, reserved, and subtle — not the words I immediately equate with mythology, but the performance was quite comforting to listen to. 

Piloting the return trip from Ancient Greece — but stopping perhaps in the 18th century to pay respects — was Karen Donaldson Shepherd and her rather stunning violin performance in the third song of the show

Shepherd’s violin (accompanied by Ryan Johnson on piano) sounded so deep and stable that it made me feel like I was being hugged for the first time in years. The song Shepherd and Johnson performed was composed by Peace Joshua. Kudos to Joshua, Shepherd, and Johnson.

Marking the halfway point of the concert was Ryan Johnson’s musical theatre composition. Johnson’s song, called “I Do,” featured the only vocal performance of the show. 

The show tune reminded me of the fantastic cadence of broadway hero Jonathan Larson, and Johnson’s lyrics are jaw-droppingly brilliant. Simply put: this was my favourite performance. I wish I could write like that.

Following Johnson’s Tony Award-worthy piece, which I thought was going to be no easy feat, was a glorious composition by Karen Donaldson Shepherd that made me think I was listening to Vince Guaraldi.

Shepherd’s song features the kind of tones and tempo that, at least for me, calm anxiety. It was enchanting.

The last two songs of the concert were somewhat similar Jazz/Rock/Groove compositions. 

The first of which was performed by MacEwan’s own Noise Pending. The composition featured ever so subtle changes in each of the three sections. Although the track was described as being about the stages of anxiety, it had a sneaky sound to it; I feel like it would be an excellent addition to any heist movie. 

The 2022 Composition Concert closed with a guitar-heavy jazz song composed by Dylan Campbell. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention how much I loved the piano solo near the end of the track. 

In all, the music composition students put on an entertaining and replayable show that highlighted just how much variation and incredible skill there is amongst MacEwan music students. I can’t wait to hear more.

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