I’d never of heard the term ‘Mercury retrograde’ till a few years ago when dear friend Guy Barker explained a bit about this astrological phenomenon, which happens about 3 times a year. A planet in retrograde looks like it’s moving in reverse, an illusion occurring when a faster moving planet overtakes it, like if you’re on a speedy train going past a slower train it can feel like that slower train is going backwards. We’re slap bang in the middle of one now. It started on July 26 and will end on August 18th although there’s a two week revving up/down period either side.
People all over the world for centuries have maintained that during this period, communications breakdown, some experience travel delays or lost items, technology can go haywire, emotions run high possibly leading to anxiety disagreements and misunderstandings of mammoth proportions. There are websites by the dozen advising you to tread carefully during these three week cycles, try not to make any important decisions or sign any big contracts. Hold your tongue, don’t take things to heart.
I’ve never knowingly been affected before but genuinely feel I’m being clobbered from all sides by this one like a ticking emotional time bomb and I’m not alone. Alan the dog seems more restless and proper barky… but then maybe he’s feeding off me… not that I’ve knowingly been barking …although!?
I just put a search for Mercury Retrograde into Twitter – it’s not just me, folks all over the globe are blaming the plodding smallest planet for pretty much everything and in every language, from being late to work, or worse losing their jobs to falling out with their partners and friends or having the worst haircut imaginable. Much as it’s useful to have an astrological occurrence to pin every bad move you make on, I do believe there’s no smoke without a fire.
From as early as the mid 1700’s the term ‘Mercury retrograde’ has been knocking about astrology circles causing untold mischief, but astronomer Dr. Mark Hammergren of the Adler Planetarium in Chicago takes this modern day superstition with a pinch of salt, questioning if people looked at any twelve month block would these periods in question all be especially catastrophic, or do misinterpreted messages and technical problems occur throughout the year, “when things go wrong and Mercury isn’t in retrograde, we don’t get that hashtag. It’s called Monday.”
So, as I skulk about in the sweltering temperatures this bizarre heat spell is relentlessly inflicting on us, it strikes me as ironic to think that all over the world, songwriters are busy composing and nurturing this year’s crop of Christmas songs.
We recorded our Festive album during the hottest weeks of July 2013, I remember thinking there was something so comforting singing about snow and frost, wearing shorts and t-shirt in a baking hot studio. The photo shoot for the album took place during the recording and involved us all sitting down to a full roast turkey dinner with all the trimmings in 30 degree heat – nice.
Many of our seasonal favourites were written during the hottest months, Leroy Anderson started work on Sleighride in a cottage in Connecticut in the Summer of 1946 whilst just 100 miles south in New York, The Nat King Cole Trio would record 2 versions of The Christmas Song (Chestnuts roasting on an open fire…) in June and August that same year. One of my favourite singers, Mel Tormé co-wrote the song with lyricist Bob Wells, Mel recalled walking into Bob’s house and seeing the first 4 lines of the song on a writing pad resting on the piano, Bob is quoted as saying, “It was so damn hot today I thought I’d write something to cool myself off. All I could think of was Christmas and cold weather.”
In his autobiography “It Wasn’t All Velvet” Mel goes on to say that whilst he was thrilled that Nat King Cole was making his song a terrific success, he couldn’t help notice that he had sung the last line of the bridge, “To see if reindeers really know how to fly.“ Grammatically speaking it should have been “To see if reindeer really know how to fly.“ Ever the perfectionist Nat King Cole, corrected this mistake on the 3rd and 4th versions he recorded in 1953 with Nelson Riddle and 1961 with Ralph Carmichael. The earlier recordings from 1946 have now become valuable collectors’ items, which goes to show doing something wrong is sometimes worth more to some people than doing something right!
Curiously when Judy Garland sang The Christmas song with Mel at the piano on her TV show in December 1963, her take on the same line was “To see if rainbows really know how to fly.” Factually and grammatically correct in Oz perhaps?
“Music is what feeling sounds like. Music is what healing sounds like. It has the power to bring people back to life. I’ve seen it. I’ve experienced it. It is powerful, and beautiful.” These inspirational words are taken from a letter written by a young woman called Alisha, a patient in a children’s hospital to her friends at the Melodic Caring Project.
The Melodic Caring Project (MCP) is a not-for-profit organisation set up by husband and wife team Levi and Stephanie Ware in Seattle, USA more than a decade ago, offering children and young people in hospital, isolated by their illness’ the opportunity to have live concerts streamed to their rooms free of charge. The performers give shout outs and dedications throughout the show to the viewers who are called RockSTARS, the kids and their families can watch anonymously or participate in a live chat with other viewers all over the world.
We had the pleasure of having our Leeds Town Hall concert streamed around the globe via MCP to said RockSTARS or JazzSTARS as we renamed them for that particular evening. Reading the comments and feedback from people in the UK and further afield after the show was mind-blowing, not to mention deeply touching. As I am wont to say every week on my radio show, “Live music is the very best thing for you” it’s a statement I have always lived by and to have the opportunity to share the music we care about with an unexpected and receptive new audience is a truly wonderful thing.
MCP has only recently launched in the UK thanks to a hook up with James Marples, Marketing Manager of Chesterfield College in Derbyshire. Media and Childhood Studies students work alongside MCP and Sheffield Children’s Hospital to shoot and stream the concerts, work is ongoing to establish links with other hospitals and hospices across the country.
It’s a win win situation, rewarding for the artists and children watching, but also the students filming our concert, who were a lovely bunch and very grateful to be a part of the project, they gave 100% in both skill and attitude. Also let’s not forget the audience who paid to come to Leeds Town Hall and who played a massive role in creating a warm and noisy live atmosphere they too enjoyed being part of the process. Music is a universal language and works best when shared.
We’re swinging into 2018 with the ‘Swing’s The Thing’.
This brand new show sees Clare and her excellent musicians effortlessly traverse a rich landscape of timeless and sparkling material, with standards from the grand masters of the Great American Song Book, Cole Porter & Rodgers & Hart, to witty urbane song stylists of the 50’s & 60’2 Cy Coleman & Carolyn Leigh & Dave Brubeck, there’s always a not to more contemporary writers and originals too.
So check out our listings page for a venue near you and join us for a celebration of popular music from the golden age of song that guarantees to be upbeat and uplifting to the extreme!
The winners of the British Jazz Awards 2017 were announced late on Wed 8th November. Featuring a broad array of jazz talent and now in their 31st year they are the only poll that gives jazz lovers up and down the country the chance to vote on who their favourite musicians, bands and albums have been in the last 12 months.
Teal, who has previously won the British Jazz Awards for vocals in 2005, 2007 and 2015, is a sought after singer throughout the country with her stunning voice, encyclopaedic knowledge of jazz, swing and big band music, and her innate warmth as well as a prolific recording artist and popular BBC Radio 2 broadcaster.
Clare Teal says ‘It is an honour to win any award and as the British Jazz Awards are voted by the public it is pretty special to win for a fourth time particularly with the stellar line-up of nominees. So a big thank you to those who gave me their vote and a massive congratulations to all the other winners and nominees’.
All of Manchester’s communities stand together in strength, resilience and love.
In this most musical of cities, Manchester’s orchestral musicians from the Hallé, the BBC Philharmonic and the Manchester Camerata will come together with The Bridgewater Hall for a concert in support of the families and friends of the victims of last Monday’s atrocity.
The event details are:
Thursday 1 June at 8pm
The Bridgewater Hall, Manchester
Sir Mark Elder and Stephen Bell will conduct members of the Hallé, Manchester Camerata and BBC Philharmonic orchestras
Performances by Clare Teal, Alice Coote and Guy Garvey
The evening will include inspiring and uplifting classical music, a performance by Alice Coote – one of the world’s finest mezzo sopranos – as well as songs from international jazz star Clare Teal and award-winning singer-songwriter Guy Garvey.
Everyone involved with the event are giving their services free. Tickets for the concert are free, but you MUST have a ticket to gain entry.
We are asking people, if they are able, to make a donation to the WeStandTogetherManchester Justgiving page at
You can get the latest information, details on admission and book tickets by visiting www.halle.co.uk/westandtogether. You can also contact the box office on 0161 907 9000. The Bridgewater Hall has waived its usual ticket charge. You will need your tickets to gain entry to the building.
Please check the Hallé link above for updated information as it is confirmed.
To whet your appetite, here’s a little taster of what’s to come … enjoy!
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Accompanied by the renowned Hallé, conducted by Stephen Bell and arranged by British composer and trumpet maestro Guy Barker and celebrated jazz pianists Grant Windsor and Jason Rebello, Twelve O’Clock Tales’ rich jazz infused repertoire includes songs from Cole Porter, Billy Strayhorn, Van Morrison, Tim Rice, made famous by the likes of Ella Fitzgerald, Nina Simone, Nancy Wilson and Peggy Lee, the songs include ‘Sans Souci’, ‘Secret Love’, ‘Feeling Good’, ‘Lush Life’, ‘It Might As Well Be Spring’, ‘Wild Is The Wind’, ‘Into The Mystic’ and ‘Paradisi Carousel’