On Sunday June 28th, some of the finest musicians in South Gloucestershire joined forces for a special ‘Symphonic Jazz’ Day.
Starting at 1pm, these young musicians had just 4 hours to learn the repertoire they would be performing in a concert at 6pm, and they really did rise to the challenge – complete with soloists from the orchestra. As if this wasn’t enough, at 3pm they were joined by jazz trumpeter and tutor at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, Gethin Liddington. Gethin has played with many of the great bands and soloists of the modern jazz world, and gave many words of advice about improvisation to the orchestra, as well as briefly working with a select group of soloists on a daring quasi-improvisatory work… But more on that later!
The concert began with some brilliant student soloists. Principal oboe Sophie opened the concert with ‘Alexander’s Ragtime Band’, delivered with style and confidence. This was followed by a solo jazz and blues piece by Ellen – with some very jazzy slides and rhythms. The last of our soloists was Principal clarinetist Katie, performing ‘Gypsy Dance’ on the alto sax which built from a gentle start to a frenzied finish with impressive handling of fast passages which wowed the audience.
The first half of the concert was closed by a specially-formed jazz quartet, featuring the orchestra’s tutor Dury Loveridge on bass, joined by Gethin, Mark (Head of Music at the Royal High School in Bath) and Adam (Head of Jazz Studies at Bath Spa Uni). They performed 4 pieces, ‘All the things you are’, ‘I can’t get started’, ‘There will never be another you’ and ‘Footprints’. With a variety of styles and virtuosic shows in the solos, it was the perfect mood for a summer’s evening.
The SCYO performed the second half of the concert. There was a great mixture of styles for the orchestra to get into. The concert opened with Shostokovich’s arrangement of ‘Tahiti Trot’ (or ‘Tea for Two’). The story goes that Shostakovich arranged the music in under an hour as a challenge from a friend – showing why he is one of the greatest musical orchestrators to have lived. We were then transported to the world of Gershwin’s ‘Porgy and Bess’ in the composer’s original version. This included some strong soloists, and concluded with the ever-popular ‘Summertime’.
Remember that off-the-wall piece? Yarde’s ‘Wah-Fi’ was next. If features seven lines for the various sections of the orchestra to choose from, with section leader’s signalling which line they should play next – it’s not easy to signal ‘7’ with your fingers whilst playing a cello! With three soloists from the orchestra standing to play their own free-form solos it really showed what the players were made of – some definite jazz soloists in the making!
The concert closed with Count Basie’s staple ‘Jumpin’ at the Woodside’ with fantastic dynamic control from the orchestra in an arrangement that featured every instrument to the fore at some point.
Well done to everyone involved, and that you to our visiting jazz specialists.
Have a brilliant summer, and we look forward to seeing you all at the next SCYO course starting in October, where the jazz theme will continue with Bernstein’s ‘Mambo’!