Muddy recently asked how long I’d been writing for The Yorkshire Post. My first column appeared exactly 10 years ago. At the time I was signed to Sony and as part of a six-week album campaign, they asked the good people at the YP if I could write a few pieces and you’ve been stuck with me ever since, all 173,200 words of me to be precise!
We’ve all seen many changes since April 2007, and from a purely arts related point of view I’m gutted at the thought of schools cutting arts and in particular music from their curriculum due to lack of funding. It’s going to have a devastating effect on the musical landscape, something must be done before it’s too late.
On Friday I had the pleasure of co-presenting Radio 2’s Young Brass Award with Frank Renton at the Royal Northern College of Music, or Royal College of Northern Music as I’ve heard it affectionately called.
The competition is open to brass players between 16 and 21. From those initial entries eight are selected for the semi finals, four of whom go on to perform at the final.
The standard of playing was jaw-droppingly good, and what a fantastic opportunity for any musician to be accompanied by the world famous Foden’s Band, under the baton of Michael Fowles. Foden’s have been entertaining audiences for over a hundred years and a nicer bunch you’d struggle to find.
First up was Ellena Newton on trombone who will be taking up a place at RNCM in September. I’d have been quaking in my boots but she took to the stage with aplomb and delivered her 2 pieces brilliantly, as did all the finalists. Next on the block James Nash delighted us with a stunning Philip Nash work Moon Song Sun Dance on flugel horn. Third to the stand was traditional brass band instrumentalist Siobhan Bates doing marvellous things with tenor horn and finally Isobel Daws took on a fantastic and difficult composition written by Gordon Langford for the great Don Lusher – Rhapsody for Trombone. This unassuming young woman treated us to her phenomenal rendition with effortless skill, technique and beauty. After much deliberation from the judges Isobel scooped the coveted Radio 2 Young Brass Award. I felt as I drove home that the future of music was safe in the hands of these talented youngsters but for how long?
Well that ended up taking longer than I thought and now it’s April! I don’t know about you but 2017 seems to be hurtling along at a ridiculous speed, it’ll be Christmas by Easter. It has been a bonkers busy work period for us, but moving house is the main reason for my unexpected sabbatical. Glastonbury is a wonderful place to live and we’ve enjoyed our four and half years there very much. Not long after relocating to Somerset my weekly radio show went live and the number of annual gigs rose. We worked out, based on 2015-2016 mileage, if we moved just over an hour northeast back to the M4 corridor we’d get 12 days back a year! That sounds like a holiday to me.
So January and February were spent packing and we upped sticks during a handy 10 day gig free window in March. Muddy devised a fantastic colour coded packing plan so we could pretty much find everything we needed as soon as we landed in the new place, a couple of days into our move however I was to perform at Dame Vera Lynn’s 100th birthday party concert at The London Palladium the brief was to wear something bright and cheerful. I generally wear black which I have found brings out my cheerful side, but looking at the mountain of boxes the chances of finding anything remotely not black were slim to none.
It was an incredible gathering – hundreds of singers, musicians, dancers, comedians and actors, all there to celebrate the great lady’s centenary even HM Queen Elizabeth II was in attendance and when the mighty RAF Squadronaires started up and came over all goosebumpy and emotional.
Another great lady who would have celebrated her 100th birthday on the 25th April is first lady of swing Ella Fitzgerald, my absolute hero. It was a great pleasure to present and sing at a special Friday Night is Music Night concert at The Hackney Empire last week with the BBC Concert Orchestra and The BBC Big Band alongside Mica Paris, Louis Marshall and Emma Kershaw.
2017 is a big year for centenary celebrations singer, actress and civil rights activist Lena Horne, jazz giants Buddy Rich, Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk and rumba quinto master Mongo Santamaria to name a few. Now there’s a brilliant excuse to indulge your ears with some of the finest music ever created.