When John Stetch thinks back to his childhood, he remembers a simpler time.
A time when there were only two or three television stations to watch and if whatever was on wasn’t your fancy, you had to go and find something more creative to do.
If he wasn’t watching the television it was usually on in the background.
As he got a little older he also remembers making his friends laugh by playing television theme songs on the piano.
Now the six-time Juno nominee will be bringing his love of theme song music from the 1970’s and 1980’s to the ACT in a show that will bring back the nostalgic feeling of innocence that Stetch is reminded of when playing the songs.
“I consider that kind of a golden period of TV music because that’s when there were big budgets to pay lots of musicians to actually just be there and even write music for the incidental background music for the show,” said Stetch.
Now, he says, they don’t do that, instead relying on one person on a synthesizer. Or the themes will be really short with hardly any musical composition.
Songs from the earlier decades were more like jazz standards, said Stetch.
One of his favourites is the original theme song for the show Star Trek that was originally composed by Alexander Courage.
Stetch says the song is a great composition, “in terms of a short tune that is perfect in many ways.”
He enjoys the mystic chords in the Star Trek theme, chords first used in compositions by famous Russian composer Alexander Scriabin.
“To me the harmony almost sounds like outer space,” he said.
He also enjoys the theme song for The Love Boat, a song that he describes as a great standard.
Stetch first recorded an album of television theme songs in 2008, a project first suggested by his manager at the time.
Initially Stetch said no. He thought the songs were too simple with little substance. But when he sat down and started working on them and rearranging them, he got into the project.
“I changed a lot of them,” said Stetch.
“And made them into almost new compositions in a way, just by arranging them and rearranging them. So even though you can recognize the songs, they definitely sound like almost new compositions in some ways,” he said of the album.
Stetch’s love of the piano only hit him when he around 16 years old. Before that the Edmonton native used to play the clarinet, the flute and the saxophone.
Because of his late start, he said, he had to work really hard to catch up to his peers. He struggled until he found a teacher in New York that helped him transform his technique.
Now he has written more than 50 compositions for solo piano, jazz combo and classical chamber formats. He has played on different continents, worked at the top clubs in New York City and toured Canada dozens of times.
Stetch has also won the Prix Du Jazz at the Montreal Jazz Festival in 1998, he was a finalist in the Thelonious International Monk Competition twice – once as a composer and once as a performer.
Currently he divides his time between Vancouver and NYC.
What draws Stetch to the piano is that he is able to play all the symphonic parts of a song all on one instrument.
“You can play two different rhythms at once. You can entertain yourself that way and be the whole one-man-band,” said Stetch.
One of the more challenging theme songs that Stetch will be performing is the song from The Six Million Dollar Man.
“I had to do several different things at once,” he explained.
“I had to do the melody and the bass and the chords, just because the original arrangement had a lot of things going on in it,” Stetch noted.
For the concert Stetch will be performing with jazz all-stars Steve Kaldestad on saxophone, André Lachance on bass and Dave Robbins on drums. They will be performing songs from most of the television genres of the 70’s and 80’s including The Waltons, The Price Is Right, All My Children and The Flintstones.
Stetch says the group has known each other for at least 30 years and play well together.
“It’s just a great group of musicians and no matter what we play it’s already a great jazz show.”
John Stetch TV Trio + 1 takes place at 8 p.m. on Fri. Oct. 18 at the ACT in Maple Ridge, 11944 Haney Place.
Tickets are $27.50 and $22.50.
To purchase call 604-476-2787 or go to theactmapleridge.org.