09
Aug

” … madam we’ve found your bag.”

After completing the third lap round the baggage carousel  the daunting realisation that our suitcase had somehow not made the short hop from Bristol to Dublin with us began to sink in.

An almost sympathetic woman in lost luggage took our details and a detailed bag description namely ‘big black suitcase with multi-coloured label’.

Dublin is a city in which to have fun and hang out with your mates, instead we headed to Grafton street on a toiletries, trolleys and socks run.

The next day I was straight into rehearsals with the glorious RTE Concert Orchestra conducted by Guy Barker, wearing the same stripy T-shirt, jeans and comfy trainers I’d travelled over in, so it was poor Mud who was left to deal with bag-gate.  As the hours went by with still no word she set off again to Grafton Street to look at replacing my gig clothes.

Amazingly with all the travelling we do it’s never happened before, but then we always pack evenly between 2 suitcases so that, should anything go missing, we’ve both always got something to wear, always that is except on this particular occasion where we’d managed to ensure that every possible necessary item – sheet music for the gig, all our clothes, wash bag, hair bag and contact lenses was in the case that went AWOL.

Sax player Ben Castle said I should tweet about it because businesses don’t like negative press.  So I asked the ‘aer’- line to pretty please help find my bag urgently.  They replied immediately asking me to message them with the reference number, which I did, they wrote back to say they were still looking.

At 7pm the night before the concert, Sharon rings from the airline, “Is your case big and black with a multi – coloured label?”  “Yes – yes it is.” Pause, “Ah we’ve nothing of that description here.”  Thanks.

By 10pm I’d just about finished re-typing out all the lyrics for the show.  I know about 95% of the songs I just never know which 95% it’s going to be.  Sharon rings again at 10pm “I’m away home in a minute but if I find the case before I leave I’ll bring it with me.” Thanks.  Half an hour later a chap calls, “Is your case big and black with a multi-coloured label?”  “Yes – yes it is.” Pause, “Great – madam we’ve found your bag.”

27
Jul

Note to self – don’t be scared to try something new…

Jazz singer Ella Fitzgerald, would have been 100 years old this year.  Many of you might know I worship the ground this woman walked on.  Ella could do it all, she had a wonderful warm tone, incredible range, ridiculous dexterity and the ability to improvise like a demon.

I collect as many of her albums as I can, and much as I love the cozy intimacy of the studio albums it’s the live recordings that I get most enjoyment out of, but as I am wont to say, “Live music – it’s the best thing for you!”

One of my favourite concerts took place in Berlin on February 13th 1960.  For my money, Ella, then aged 43 was vocally untouchable at this point in her career. Accompanied by her excellent quartet Paul Smith on piano, Jim Hall guitar, Wilfred Middlebrooks on bass and Gus Johnson on drums every song is fantastic but one in particular has captivated music lovers to this day.

Ella sings Mack The Knife in front of 12,000 people but forgets most of the words, so she makes them up, her tone never falters for a second even though most singers would be cowering in a corner.

Over time a cynical voice at the back of my head has been quietly asking, “Was it a set up? Could a spontaneous performance be that good?”

So I was thrilled to recently read an interview with Wilfred Middlebrooks Ella’s bass player.  He said Ella would rarely deviate from the set list on tour. She might change the encore every now but only occasionally would she call a tune out of the blue. Earlier that day Ella had played a concert in Brussels before flying to Berlin, everyone had been up for 22 hours and were fading fast, everyone that is except Ella, “Let’s do Mack the Knife”.  Wilfred looked on in disbelief, he knew Ella didn’t know the tune. Paul Smith kicked off in the key of G, Wilfred’s just settling into the tune when she signals to modulate to Ab, she proceeds to sing right through the keys ending in Db forgetting and recreating lyrics as she goes.  Her fabulously refreshing on the spot performance garnered 2 Grammys in 1961 and was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1973.  Note to self don’t be scared to try something new… just maybe not in front of 12,000 people.

12
Jul

Discover Bell Ringing …

Standing at the back of Thaxted Church waiting to go on, the trio and I – Jim piano, Simon bass and Ben drums stand looking up at the infamous bell tower which has a ring of 8 bells with a tenor weighing 15 hundredweight – I know a few of them.  This prompts a discussion about bell ringing, and as none of us has actually properly ever had a go, the theories are varied.

Because these particular bells are so high up believe it or not they can be difficult for the ringers to hear so they have installed a dedicated sound system to further amplify the otherwise deafening tones.

Ben and I have always fancied having a go at bell ringing, so I’m on a mission to try and make that so, I notice that Thaxted are keen to recruit new ringers, “especially people who would be able to handle heavy bells”, intriguing but as Thaxted to Chippenham is a 302 mile round trip I’m going to have to look closer to home.

According to the website “Discover Bell Ringing” this activity is proven to improve agility and co-ordination it apparently tones core abdominal muscles and glutes – hurrah, and also works bi-ceps, quads and calves.

I remember standing outside York Minster one Sunday morning you could physically feel the vibrations of 12 bells it was amazing.

Some special bell ringing performances can last up to 3 hours so I would imagine you build up a bit of stamina too.  Although the ringers of Netherbury, West Dorset pushed their neighbours to the limit with a 12 hour marathon of continuous ringing to raise funds to refurbish their own peal in what was coined “bell-hell.”

Of course there is a musical element too.  New ringers learning the ropes, so to speak, are often taught with a silenced bell I can imagine it takes a while to get to grips with what to pull, when and how hard!

I reckon it would prove an excellent opportunity to make new friends despite a survey I read mentioning risk of repetitive strain injury and other associated problems from manual handling, indeed Ian Bowmen had to be winched to safety from Worcester Cathedral after his foot got caught up in the ropes in a freak accident, but on the whole campanology would seem a relatively safe hobby providing you keep your feet on the ground.

26
May

#WeStandTogether

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

www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/westandtogethermanchester.

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.

22
Mar

The Making of ‘Twelve O’Clock Tales’ – Clare’s upcoming album

To whet your appetite, here’s a little taster of what’s to come … enjoy!

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

Twelve O’Clock Tales launches at The Bridgewater Hall concert April 30th 2016

Pre orders are available now from Bandcamp