A musician has travelled from Los Angeles to hear an Avondale College vocal ensemble perform his jazz arrangement of “Amazing Grace” at Sydney Opera House.
Despite a busy schedule, composer Greg Jasperse accepted an invitation from senior music lecturer Dr Robb Dennis and boarded a plane just days before The Promise were to sing at a concert organised by United World Concert Tours. The vocal ensemble had performed Greg’s arrangement of the hymn—in its southern hemisphere debut—during a concert at Avondale College Seventh-day Adventist Church less than three weeks earlier.
“Amazing Grace began 15 years ago as a vanity project that just sat on the shelf, says Greg.
“Amazing Grace” began 15 years ago as a “vanity project that just sat on the shelf,” says Greg. He eventually submitted the arrangement to Hal Leonard Corporation when he began working for the music publishing company. While acknowledging the timelessness of the hymn, Greg says he “wanted to write something that took us to a new place.”
The tension of chords and notes between parts and the blossoming and dissonant harmonies in the arrangement give the hymn what Greg describes as an “otherworldly, celestial kind of sound.”
Greg has extensive experience as a conductor, a pianist, a music director and a vocalist. He has worked on television shows such as America’s Got Talent, Glee and movies such as Star Trek, The Wolfman and The Last Airbender. He currently sings baritone with Los Angeles-based vocal ensemble Sixth Wave.
Greg’s visit to Australia, his first, included teaching a master-class on vocal jazz for Avondale students and practising with The Promise in preparation for its performance. The ensemble’s vocal power impressed Greg. “It’s an impressive sound,” he says, attributing it to Robb’s teaching and to the professionalism of each member of the ensemble. “Everyone in The Promise cares about the music and for each other. If a group like this finds a home at Avondale, it speaks volumes for the college.”