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Energetic crowd greets SJO

Saskatoon Jazz Orchestra's lively take on Stevie Wonder's music fired up the crowd.

Erin Brophey was glad to finally watch live music again as she joined hundreds of other music fans crowding the TD Mainstage Bessborough Gardens Tuesday night to see the Saskatoon Jazz Orchestra perform in the 34th SaskTel Saskatchewan Jazz Festival. The annual musical festival, cancelled last year due to the pandemic, opened Saturday and ends on Sunday.

SJO performed songs popularized by Motown legend and multi-awarded R&B singer Stevie Wonder with musical guests Mark Dejong, Heidi Munro, and Todd Martin. A packed crowd, anxious to watch live music again, also greeted Saskatoon’s own Wide Mouth Mason last Saturday as they took the stage with The Sheepdogs, another home-grown group.

“What a pleasure to see live music again and to feel the energy. It was nice to see other people dancing and enjoying such exceptional music. They have wonderful soloists, great orchestra. It is such a great pleasure," said Brophey after seeing her friend Martin perform with the Saskatoon Jazz Orchestra.

Brophey knows how it feels of having no performances for more than two years being a classical musician herself as a principal oboist with the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra. She is also a lecturer at the University of Saskatchewan and the Saskatoon Youth Orchestra’s woodwind coach.

“I’m a total music fan and I love jazz. It is so great to hear the [SJO] play again and performing Stevie Wonder’s music. It means a lot to watch live music again,” she added.

Martin, who also played the harmonica handed to him by his grandfather when he joined the Dean McNeil-led SJO, said being able to sing again in front of a vibrant crowd gives him the energy to put in a great performance.

“Seeing the crowd dancing, clapping, and just having fun gives you that energetic vibe. The energy of the crowd is really wonderful.”

“The best part of performing music is playing it in front of a live crowd, because it is really a group experience. I feel the energy coming from the audience and I try to give back the best that I can. It’s kind of like, in a way, surfing. You kind of surf that wave of energy and emotion from the people.”

He added that it was a pleasure being one of the guests to perform on stage with the SJO.

“To be able to perform again, after a year-and-a-half, and doing it here is excellent. It’s a gorgeous setting and the musicians here are excellent. Everybody is so welcoming. It’s just great and I loved it!”

Martin is from Winnipeg and aside from being an accomplished singer also plays the French horn, violin and piano.

“Lucky for me I work in a music store and I’ve been employed to keep my mind off of what I’m not doing, performing live, during the health restrictions due to the pandemic.”

“It’s been slowly coming back in Winnipeg. I had four gigs last week for the first time in a year-and-a-half, so that was nice. And I got back in playing piano. It was nice to play music just to myself and for professional reasons. Just for my own soul and take care of my own self.”