Obituary of Vernon Eugene Parker Bell
VERNON EUGENE PARKER BELL March 27, 1936 – August 31, 2015 The song is ended but the melody lingers on. Vern played his last chorus on earth on August 31, 2015 and left to join his fellow music makers in that big band in the far blue yonder. Vern was 79. Vern Bell began his journey on earth in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan Vern worked tirelessly for the arts in this province and contributed so much as an arts administrator, musician, band leader and educator. He also worked in the media as a writer/producer and wrote many jingles for radio and television. He came from a musical family; his mother and two aunts played piano and his one aunt was a church organist and played accompanying music for silent films in the local movie theatre. Vern played trumpet, fluegelhorn, saxophone, flute and clarinet but his passion always was the trumpet. He was an excellent composer and arranger for jazz bands, concert bands and for Saskatchewan Express, a young people’s Musical Theatre Company. It was during his high school days that he first became enamoured with jazz music, but he began his professional playing career at the age of 15 with the country band of Curly Delarond and the Silver String Rangers, the Jack Cennon Band and Nora Howard’s Club Aces. He formed his own jazz combos in high school and played with the Ballantyne brothers and the Setka Brothers. His favourite place to play in the summer was the Dance Hall in Waskesiu National Park. He played euphonium in the Prince Albert Collegiate Institute Band and won a scholarship to the Cincinnati College of Music where he finally had the opportunity to play trumpet, his first love, under the tutelage of former Sousa Band trumpet soloist, Frank Simon and Henry Wolgemuth, formerly of the Berlin Philharmonic. Vern returned from the Cincinnati College of Music and worked at radio station CKBI in Prince Albert. He then moved to CKCK Radio in Regina. During this time, he played with and fronted various groups. He left to play in a band at Clear Lake, Manitoba and then went to Vancouver for a year to pursue his musical career. He eventually made his way back to Regina and CKCK. He continued playing music and along with Jim Moffat formed the house band at the Hotel Saskatchewan where it played for dinner dancing and touring acts. Vern also fronted a very successful Dixieland ensemble, the Vern Bell Dixie Six. For several years he played with the Bob Moyer Big Band and the Moyer-Steel Connection. The first live jazz broadcast on CKCK Radio featured the Vern Bell Quintet. He also co-hosted and produced a weekly jazz show when CKCK radio opened its FM station CKIT. Vern performed in bands for visiting stars including Bob Hope and toured with Mart Kenney and his Western Gentlemen, B.J. Thomas and the Lippizan Horse Show. He also played in the orchestra of the Grandstand Shows at the Regina Exhibition. In 1957 he entered a Downbeat Magazine competition with his jazz quintet playing his own compositions. There were entries from 27 countries and Vern was one of three winners from around the world. The prize was a scholarship to the Berklee School of Music in Boston. Vern had the opportunity to perform a DuMaurier Presents concert with his sextet and the Regina Symphony. He composed Symphony for Jazz Sextet and Orchestra for the occasion. Vern has written original music and arrangements and directed bands for several special events such as the R.C.M.P. 125th Anniversary. Vern was a founding member of the Regina Jazz Society and the first president of the organization. He was instrumental in founding The Attic, which was the first jazz club in Regina. For six years, from 1965 to 1971, Vern led the Swan River School Band. He returned to Regina to become Music Consultant for the Saskatchewan Arts Board and Director of the Saskatchewan Summer School of the Arts at Fort San. He later became Executive Director of the Arts Board. He also found time to conduct the Regina Lions Jazz Ensemble and the Assiniboia Community Band. His career path led him back to the media and he joined Foster Advertising as a creative writer. In 1980, Vern helped found and became Music Director of Saskatchewan Express. Vern has taught and mentored many fine young Saskatchewan musicians who have gone on to successful careers. He served as Vice President of the Regina local of the American Federation of Musicians for more than a decade, retiring in 2008. In 2005, Vern received the Centennial Arts Pin and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee medal in 2009 in recognition of his contributions to the music and cultural life of the province. Vern was predeceased by his father and mother, Eugene St. Clair Bell and Ruth Elsie Isabell Parker of Prince Albert, his sister, Irene Jacek of Comox and his nephew Gary Kemp of Prince Albert. Vern’s passion was music, but the love of his life was his wife, Carol, with whom he shared the years and success of Saskatchewan Express; his son, Brett (Hildy), of whom he was so proud and loved unconditionally and his five amazing grandchildren who filled his life with laughter and humour, Chesney, Ben, Kai, Madeleine and Lena. Vern also will be lovingly remembered by his nieces and nephew, Marlene Pahl of Edmonton, Linda Chopping of Australia (his goddaughter who shared his sense of humour) and Doug Kemp of Prince Albert. Vern will be oh-so-missed by his faithful and adoring canine companion, Jazz. Vern loved to walk, ride his bike (with Bell’s Angels, his female friends), read and listen to jazz and write and arrange music. He felt very fortunate to have had a life filled with good friends, vibrant young people, great music, love and laughter and a wonderful family. Vern will be remembered for his kind, gentle and wise ways, his exceptional humour and sharp wit, his dedication to young people and his love of the arts. Most of all, he will be remembered as a consummate musician – no one played with more heart and soul – and as a loving and supportive husband, father and grandfather. The song has ended but the melody will linger on in our hearts…forever. The Celebration of Vern’s Life will be held in Speers Funeral Chapel, 2136 College Avenue, Regina, on Monday, September 7, 2015 at 1:00 p.m. Interment in Riverside Memorial Park. In lieu of flowers contributions can be made to the Vern Bell Memorial Jazz Trumpet Scholarship at the University of Regina, c/o External Relations, 210 North Residence, 3737 Wascana Parkway, Regina, Saskatchewan S4S 0A2, telephone 306-585-4024, or on-line www.uregina.ca/external/donor-relations or, you can remember Vern with a donation to the Saskatchewan Express Theatre Fund, 2272 Pasqua Street, Regina, Saskatchewan S4T 4M4, telephone 306-522-3406.
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