CU ensembles give it all they’ve got

CU Denver Ensemble Fest fills campus

In its second semester of production, the College of Arts and Media Ensemble Festival took place on April 30. Migrating between St. Cajetan’s and a meager dance studio in the King Center, the festival displayed the Music and Entertainment Industry Studies’ best and brightest—and all their hard work from over the course of the semester—to their peers and the public. Unfortunately, the arrangement of performances was the downfall to what could be considered a great thing.

Students gather to watch an ensemble performance near the Tivoli. Photo: Madison Daley · The Sentry

The festival kicked off with CU Denver’s A Cappella Voices ensemble, directed by Leslie Soich. Meanwhile, the CU Denver Signature Jazz Guitar Ensemble, directed by Drew Morell, began their performance in the reverberating hall of St. Cajetan’s. Performing a mix from covers of Miles Davis to original songs, the group—surprisingly consisting of only three guitars—seemed to be more complacent with their covers rather than the original songs that were performed. The one original, named “Limbo,” written and arranged by the drummer, was perplexing. While each individual musician was certainly talented on their own terms, the interlocking of each individual piece of the arrangement together was unpleasant and offbeat—literally.

The next performance in a day of music was a newly arisen ensemble at CU Denver. Django Jazz took the stage in a small dance studio present in the King Center—a peculiar venue due to the climate outside on a chilly Tuesday. Directed by Gregory Garrison, who was also one of the few professors to perform with their group, the group led the modest audience on a journey through the genre of gypsy jazz. Gypsy jazz got its start in the 1930s in Paris from the Romani guitarist, Jean “Django” Reinhardt. The gypsy jazz sound, commonly heard in Disney soundtracks like Ratatouille, features mostly string instruments, like guitar and violin.

Third to last in the festival, Andy Guerrero’s Pop Rock Ensemble, took the stage in St. Cajetan’s and transported yet another modest audience into the land of funk music. Performing mega funk hits like “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)” by Sly & The Family Stone or “Higher Ground” by Stevie Wonder, the group managed to recreate and pull off timeless hits while still including the audience in their performance. Despite some glaring problems with the live sound mixing, like flagrantly loud guitars that often made it difficult to hear more delicate parts of the song like background vocals, the group managed to still pull off an enjoyable performance with the energy each musician exuded on stage.

As the day progressed through more ensembles and musicians, like the Hip Hop and R&B Ensemble, directed by Guerrero, or the Claim Jumpers ensemble, directed by Robert Staffeldt, the talent in each ensemble that took the stage grew. However, the lineup timing got the best of the festival. Many of the performances on the lineup overlapped with each other’s time, and were in different venues. The overall schedule of the festival and the resulting late performances were mildly unprofessional and made it difficult to indulge in the music being performed before being rushed on to the next performance without a minute to spare.

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