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By Barbara Black
Adam O’Callaghan spent most of his final year organizing a mammoth concert.
The event, a centennial tribute to composer-bandleader-inventor Raymond Scott (1908-1994), brought 70 participants to the stage of the Oscar Peterson Concert Hall, most of them students and alumni. The two-and-a-half-hour program included an orchestra, a sextet, a classical duo, screen projections, electronics, and dancers dressed as penguins.
One of the performers was only two months old. The baby pressed the keys of an electronic keyboard for several minutes during a selection from “Soothing Sounds for Baby.” It was a moment none of the audience, including O’Callaghan, will ever forget.
Once considered bizarre, Scott’s music is now recognized as that of a major American composer. O’Callaghan may also have sensed a personal affinity with the eccentric Scott, who split his peculiar genius between composing frantic jazz-influenced pieces with descriptive titles (“Square Dance for Eight Egyptian Mummies,” “War Dance for Wooden Indians”) and marrying music with artificial intelligence.
O’Callaghan, 36, is a self-taught tenor saxophone player and multi-instrumentalist who realized he couldn’t go any further without more education. He has benefited greatly from his music courses, but organizing the concert may have been his ultimate learning experience at Concordia.
“I spent every waking minute on it. I put in 16 hours every day, right from September. A month before the concert [in March], I hit my physical limit,” he recalled. “Halfway through the dress rehearsal, I realized that I had to explain my vision to everybody because they didn’t necessarily understand what I was trying to do. But a team had developed over time, and people stepped up.”
While his classes suffered and he regrets not doing more advance publicity, O’Callaghan said, “Everybody got a lot out of it. I’m glad I did it.” In fact, organizing concerts has become his passion. “I like a good show, [and] creating my own situation suits me better than working for others.”
The Concordia University Raymond Scott “Quintette” will play at the Montreal International Jazz Festival on July 5.