So here’s a picture of 80 some-odd people looking happy. That’s because the closing concert at the 2014 JazzWorks jazz camp has just finished and they’re happy with how they played or sang and they’re maybe just a bit relieved that it’s over too.
There’s nothing quite like it in most of our lives, this business of preparing to perform, anxiety sneaking up on us, or sometimes just barging noisily into the room while we’re trying to sleep; then practising, practising, thinking you’re ready, thinking you’re not; and finally, because there’s no choice, walking out onto the stage and trying to get it right.
And then, getting it right, or close enough, hearing the applause and having your friends, and a few strangers, tell you how well you did. No wonder all those people are smiling.
When we talk about camp, we talk about workshops and master classes and trying to learn new things and do the old things better, and generally broadening our education in the music. But there’s this other dimension too, the ego thing.
Some call it empowerment, but that’s too academic a term. What it is, is spending a few days of the year in a space where other people are openly appreciative of what you do. Whether you’re a hot-shot kid with lots of chops, an aging instrumentalist with vague memories of chops, an experienced player who is just starting to play jazz or a total beginner — whichever category you fall into, you are likely at camp to encounter people telling you how well your are doing or, after the concert, how well you did.
What a concept. Imagine if, in real life, people were frequently praising you (particularly when you deserve it). It doesn’t happen, which is why it is so nice that it happens at camp and why we come away smiling and spend the next few days with what has become known as “the camp buzz.”
At camp there is very little of the sniping, one-upmanship and second-guessing that are such a feature of the civilian life. People support each other and don’t judge. If you’ve been there, you know that some of the performances that get the biggest applause at the final concert are by the people with the least experience and the biggest musical hurdles to jump over.
So that’s another reason to love it. My highlights this year, in addition to frequent access to red Jell-O, include getting to play with the scholarship winners, work with and listen to the indefatigable and inspirational Rémi Bolduc, listen to Doug Merriam sing Stardust at the Singer Intensive Concert, be present at the composer’s section of the camp and hear Mary Moore’s great song, Better Be Good or Be Gone take shape, meet and hear some new musical friends, like Ted Phillips from Montreal and Gilles Belliveau from Moncton, and enjoy the renewed presence of veteran players like John Haysom and Lloyd Hiscock.
The jam sessions I was at were great inter-generational collaborations. The boathouse, though never a convivial place acoustically, had a friendly, co-operative vibe, and some stirring performances, with great help from faculty members like Nick Fraser, Nancy Walker and Kevin Barrett. There was a Charlie Parker tune that had Rémi, Kevin and Gary Elliott on djembe that just about floated the boathouse into Lac McDonald. I looked in on the beginner’s jam and it seemed like good things were happening, people were getting up and playing who might not have done so otherwise. That’s an innovation that should stick.
As for the faculty concerts, the choices are limitless, but it’s hard not to be moved, cheered and inspired by Rob Frayne’s version of Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen. It has been almost 10 years since the accident that threatened to take away his musical livelihood. Last year at the faculty concert, he played a little and that was big. This year, he sounded goooood. Another camp miracle. In big and little ways, they happen every year.
I left out a left of stuff in order to make room for your highlights. There’s an Add Comment button below. What did you think?
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About this blog
Tune Up won't be a calendar of events — Ottawa Jazz Happenings takes care of that. But it will discuss events and issues of interest to the JazzWorks community. Journalist, author, trumpet player and a jazz camper since 1999, Charley Gordon is a former vice-president of JazzWorks.