Over the past 20 years, much has changed within our band, from the outfits…
“My first gig with the band was in Canmore and I was given what I guess was the smallest white tuxedo jacket that the band kept for new members or subs. I normally wear a size 38 and I swear this was a size 44 and when I put it on the bottom of the jacket was at my knees. I looked like the Incredible Shrinking Man. The folds of the jacket flowed onto the floor. I think it was stepped on a few times.”
– Ihor Kolomijchuk
“Our [band] name has also led us to our wardrobe choices over the years. From the beginning, we wanted to look like a cohesive group, and all dress similarly. Our first wardrobe was a dark blue golf shirt with our logo. We’d wear that with jeans. As our gigs got fancier, we went with a black, long-sleeved button-up shirt, with black pants, and we looked like a band of Johnny Cash wannabes. For formal, we went with a white top and black bottom. After the golf shirts, we went with a black/teal bowling shirt. As the band evolved we stepped it up a few notches and formed a wardrobe committee. Men got matching suits, for ladies we invested in our bling, jewelry of sapphires and diamonds, and matching tops. When we all dress the same, wow, we look amazing.”
“Celebrating this milestone, I feel very fortunate. I‘ve always loved the idea of playing trumpet in a big band and here I am still doing that after all this time. And with a group of people that are encouraging, accepting, inspiring and just generally fun to hang out with.”
– Gerry Hopfner
…to the events, to the mode of transportation, however, there is one constant: our culture. We are committed to creating a safe, inclusive space for our musicians to grow and connect.
When we asked our members to describe the Midnight Blue Jazz Society’s culture, we saw a few common themes:
A key from the start was scheduling a drink and snack break (Hawkins Cheezies and Twizzlers required, healthy snacks prohibited) partway through the rehearsal. This fifteen minutes of socializing enables the group to learn about each other’s humanness as well as assisting to take an informal survey about how things are going within the band itself. When we asked Emily Kuss about her experience with MBJS, she said, “I truly feel accepted and I am very thankful for that. Sometimes I don’t feel good enough to be in the band if I am being honest and think maybe I don’t fit in, but every time I see you all that changes for me and the connection everyone has makes the band what it is. And that in itself makes the music so much better!”
Our members have found long-lasting friendships here, and that is something we are incredibly proud of.
“I thank all my new friends for the commitment and time, and welcoming me to this close-knit group, despite the fact that I didn’t really know some of them very well before this past year started. The fact that I had Monday evenings as a bright spot in what has been an extremely difficult year (both personally and professionally), was really a saving grace.”
– Karen Heaton
Midnight Blue Just Wants to Have Fun
Fun is ingrained in everything we do – it should be in our name. Every day, we strive to make this band as fun as possible, and this is our x-factor. When we talked to Shelley Langdon about ‘fun’, she said, “Sometimes it’s nice to just play music… MBJS puts the people first knowing that happy people having fun will make the music more memorable for the musicians and the audience in the end.”
“MBJS’s other HUGE claim to fame is fun. The band continuously receives comments about how much fun we have on stage while playing; which definitely left an impression on the audience. Gotta be those infectious smiles we practice each week.”
– Barry How
“I like being a member of this team, and I like that I can revel in being the most senior member and all the banter and joking that goes with that status. I’m assuming it is banter and joking.”– Dave Philpot
In addition to rehearsing and performing, we make sure to get together on a regular basis for social events. These include a summer golf tournament, a year-end barbeque in a beautiful back yard with pot-luck traditions such as Gerry’s carrot salad and Sheilah’s deviled eggs; a Christmas party with snacks and beverages at a local pub. You may also see us out and about at local establishments for a post-performance refreshment. We will never forget Emily and Sarah’s rap battle in Yellowknife.
Ahoy Me Hearties!
MBJS has always had an amazing sense of camaraderie and one of the most enduring and humourous examples of this is our ‘pirate’ identity.
To the best of our recollection, this came to pass during one of our AGM’s when we were all together for a performance in Canmore. As Paul Howard remembers – in voting on an agenda item, he articulated the affirmative by emoting “ARRR”, which was way more fun than saying “YES”. From that point on, we have been a ‘band of pirates.’
When invited to perform in Canmore for a Halloween gig, we thought it would be fun to all wear costumes. It was suggested that we should dress as pirates, but as Sheilah remembers, it was also mentioned that if you didn’t have a pirate costume, it would not matter.
We checked into the hotel, everyone changed into their costume and met in the lobby prior to the performance. As Sheilah entered the lobby, she discovered that everyone was dressed as a pirate…except her. Sheilah was wearing a very finely tailored…penguin costume. It may have been unnoticeable, except for her location smack dab in the middle of the band during the performance. One of our band members was asked (quite seriously) if he was aware that there was a penguin infiltrator in the band of pirates.
Being a ‘pirate band’ has remained a great source of amusement and identity for MBJS. New band members must attend a tutorial (YouTube video) on how to learn to speak and act like a pirate, and we recognize International Talk Like a Pirate Day annually. During the COVID pandemic, one of our Zoom meetings had everyone dressed like a pirate while together we watched the movie “Fisherman’s Friends” which featured sea shanty songs.
“The truth is far too much fun.”
It’s incredible to have a group that is this committed to its art form and each other. Without a shadow of a doubt, we always have full attendance for practice and that’s a testament to our culture. We consistently challenge and push our personal limits – whether it’s learning a new instrument or an arrangement we would never imagine ourselves playing – it makes us better as a group and as musicians.
“I feel very privileged to be part of this fun and committed group. The people, the fun music, the way we are pushed outside our comfort zones and sometimes our abilities yet always rise to the challenge all make for a great group to spend time with.”
– Myrna Michieli
You may wonder why people play in this band, and to be quite frank:
“The joy of playing music I like with people I like. It’s as simple as that.”– Sheilah Hammerton
“I’ve always appreciated the sense of dynamism which we have. That’s the best way I have to describe the ethos of this group. Always something going on, something to be interested in, something to take us forward.”– Dave Philpot
“I came back because I was being challenged, people were nice, there were always interesting projects on the horizon, and it was fun.”– Cherilyn Michaels