In a dual performance, the BYU-Hawaii Street Band and Salsa Orchestra displayed their catchy, jiving, soulful sounds of New Orleans funeral music. Band director said everyone is welcome to join street band and develop improvisation and music skills.
After the opening prayer the mood of the room quickly picked up. The opening debut song, titled “Street Band” and composed by Daniel Henderson, an associate professor of music, and director of the street band, began with a big greeting of “Alooooha!” With an opening note, the rest of the band members joined in by playing and walking in from the back of the auditorium.”
Almost immediately, the audience members were dancing, swaying, and clapping. Once they all reached the front, Henderson individually introduced each member by saying what instrument they played and where they were from. Decked out in their beige trousers, white button-up shirts, suspenders, and individually decorated bowties, the street band members danced and swayed to their tunes. As they were introduced, each played a short piece highlighting their individual instrument.
This is the first year of Street Band. Henderson said, “Looking at BYU-Hawaii, we needed a versatile group. I wanted to create a group that had room for anyone who can play an instrument. Street band is styled after New Orleans street jazz and is mostly improvised. It’s creative and spontaneous. Anybody with an instrument can play with us.”
Ryo Funajima, a senior in clarinet performance from Japan, and member of the street band. “Playing in street band is really fun. Along with receiving a music score, Dr. Henderson lets us improvise what we play.” He said Henderson is kind and very experienced. “I’m actually pretty bad at improvising and he knows that, but he still gave me the chance to have a solo.”
A big highlight of their concert was performing three songs that showcased New Orleans funeral music. During “St. James Infirmary”, trombone player Tom Lam’s harmonies sounded like actual crying and wailing. You almost looked for a tissue. The music told a story. During “Just a Closer Walk With Thee” you would’ve have thought you were actually in New Orleans. The band members showed they are multi-faceted as they both played and sang the lyrics of the third song titled “Just Over in the Gloryland”. Likewise, Henderson’s strong vocal vibrato filled the room and he invited the audience to sing along towards the end.
Marissa Jones, a senior in secondary art education from Arizona attended the concert and said, “I came tonight because I am a fan of live music. I loved the New Orleans parade song. It was fun to get up and dance with them, then they started singing as well! It was great. I come to these performances because I know they’ll be fun, exciting, and entertaining.”
The street band recently returned from a four-day trip to Maui, They played for various LDS congregations, two shopping malls, and a middle school. Henderson said, “Most of them are new to playing by improvising. I give them a general idea of the sound they are going for. Then they create their own ideas. They’ll even bounce ideas off each other. It allows them to be more creative; usually in music you execute someone else’s idea, but now you are the one coming up with the ideas.”
Henderson said exploration lies in the future for Street Band. He said, “The focus this concert was funeral music, but our next performance could be Mardi Gras. This is perfect for a school like ours that has students who play random instruments. Our roots are in New Orleans, jazz, gospel, and soul but we are looking to explore other street band traditions like Brazilian and Klezmer [Jerusalem based] street band sounds.”
Henderson said, “We are looking for students to join! By December only two of the current members will still be here. Students don’t have to be a music major to join. They don’t need to have a jazz background either.”