Gosh, isn’t that a lovely thing to be able to write, after over two years of no gigs! Let’s just say that the past two years have not been without their challenges, even for such a resilient organisation as DYJO. Even this season has had its ups and downs: no actual residential, no gigs since the start of the season in September, the first part of the season only half day rehearsals for each band…
But, despite all that, young musicians just want to play music, and to learn how to do it better. To cut a long story short, both DYJO2 & DYJO1 brought joy to parents and music lovers in Dartmouth today, with two brilliant sets of music. In DYJO2’s case, all the more remarkable, as not one of the band had played in public for DYJO before! Both bands needed a little assistance from ex-DYJO players, but with stonking sets from both bands, and excellent solos from many players, it was vintage DYJO!
Fingers crossed, we’ll be playing in the Transit Shed on Exeter Quay on Sunday 12 June at 2pm, so do pop down and hear us and say “Hello!” if you’re around!
As with all other educational organisations, DYJO is doing all it can to get back to a ‘new normal’, bearing in mind the ongoing virus situation. Normally we’d be at the end of a three-day residential at Heatree at this time: for obvious reasons that couldn’t happen this year, so instead we’ve got a two-day ‘non-residential residential’, one day for each band, trying to replicate some of the experience of our normal Heatree activities.
Today we had an initial whole-band short first session, followed by intensive sectionals, with the saxes tutored by the legendary Ken Parr (who led DYJO for many, many years), rhythm with Graham, and Brian taking the brass.
After lunch, came the surprise for band members: a session on swing dance, led by Charmaine, who taught an increasingly enthusiastic band though a detailed sequence of steps for Sing, Sing, Sing, emphasising the link between dance and swing music.
The end of the day saw the band come back together again to rehearse the seven tunes they’d been working on earlier, and the difference between the first morning session and this last session was extraordinary. DYJO2 is definitely Go! Tomorrow will be DYJO1’s turn!!
Apologies for the length radio silence – I suspect it won’t come as a shock to you that Covid has had a profound affect on DYJO’s activities! Indeed, the previous post, about the Crediton concert was the last time we played together, and to look at those photos now brings the reaction “Gosh, look at all those people so close together!”
Like the rest of the country, we went into enforced hibernation, then in the autumn term gently re-emerged into the cyberworld via Zoom, through which medium we’ve been running monthly ‘Jazzoom’ sessions, with Matt Carter directing the improvisation programme, and Graham and Brian doing big band repertoire sessions for the more & less experienced players. It’s obviously a mile away from the normal experience of bouncing jazzy ideas off each other in the same room, but it has kept the sense of the DYJO community going, and had really positive educational results.
How do we know that? Well, today, after much planning (not least in finding the big airy barn at West Town Farm, Ide), we had our first in-person meeting since February 2020, and it was pure joy: the players came all prepared with all they needed to play, and we hit the ground running, each band managing to play through eight pieces with a good degree of aplomb, and bags of enthusiasm. Equally pleasing was seeing several players who only joined us first during the Jazzoom sessions, and who we met properly for the first time today.
Who knows what the next few months hold? Well, we don’t, but we’ll be doing our utmost to make the most of any safe opportunities to carry on what we do best: helping young musicians to bring the joy of live jazz to Devon audiences! Watch this space!
DYJO returned to the Congregational Church in Crediton on Saturday for a concert in aid of Second Sight, an amazing charity that puts 100% of the money it raises towards restoring the sight of people in India: it has no administration or management overheads at all, so that the money raised from the concert, over £1000, will mean more than 50 people will have their sight restored as a result.
And the music? Both bands, as usual, pulled off an amazing night of joyous jazz! Enormous thanks to Crediton Congregational Church for donating the use of the church for the concert, and to Francisca for organising the concert for DYJO!
Both DYJO2 and DYJO1 played at a concert at the Church of the Blessed Sacrament on 24 January 2020, in aid of the wonderful Children’s Hospice South West. A packed church resounded to the sounds of the bands who later in the year will be taking this music to the jazz festivals at Vienne and Montreux.
It’s always exciting to hear the news of past DYJO players, especially when its of the magnitude of that of Matt Hollick, who played electric and double bass with DYJO (in both DYJO2 & DYJO1) for several years. Just before Christmas, he was given the exciting news that he’d been offered the bass chair in the National Youth Jazz Orchestra, based in London. NYJO includes players up to the age of 24, for many bridging the time after music college as they launch their professional jazz careers. NYJO’s list of alumni reads like a who’s-who of British Jazz, so Matt will be joining an extremely select group!
Matt is currently studying a Bachelor of Music in jazz at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, and playing with big bands such as Fat Chops, various small bands across Birmingham, The FlyBoys and orchestras such as the Welsh Musical Theatre Orchestra.
From a musical family with five older siblings, Matt started his musical life learning the cornet with his father, soon moving onto the trombone, gaining his Grade 7 when he was 13. After picking up the electric bass in the same year, Matt was encouraged to join the Devon Youth Jazz Orchestra (DYJO) by his teacher at the time, Michael Isaac. This was the start of his love for jazz. For the five years during which Matt was part of DYJO, he gained much performing experience including venues and festivals such as the Royal Albert Hall, Birmingham Symphony and Town Halls, Montreux, Vienne and Nišville Jazz Festivals.
At the age of 16, Matt began classical lessons on the double bass in order to achieve equal playing ability between the two basses. In the same year, he gained grade 8 on the electric bass. Now in his third year at the The Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, Matt is extremely excited by the opportunities and challenges that being a member of NYJO will offer. Over the last 12 months, Matt has been part of 4 album recordings / releases, and many more are already planned in 2020. He is also hoping to develop a career as a composer for film and other media.
And so this season’s new DYJO bands have launched properly, with their first gig of the season! An absolutely packed house at Abbotskerswell, in aid of their twinning association (many thanks to Julie Arrow for arranging everything!), saw both DYJO2 and DYJO1 perform barnstorming sets to an enthusiastic audience – keep an eye on http://www.dyjo.org/gigs-dates/ to see what gigs we’re doing later in the season!
A great last day of a great Residential: it started with a vocal workshop led by the brilliant Emma Watson, while the Ambassadors had their skills stretched even further by Matt Carter. Then both DYJO bands went into full rehearsals before the afternoon giglet for proud parents… and they had every reason to be proud with all the progress the two bands made over the three days.
Many thanks to everyone involved: the DYJO Association and volunteer pastoral carers; the tutors, who all bring their individual talents to a great team; to Heatree, for hosting us again, now for about the 15th year; but most of all, to the players and parents, for making this all possible! Without you, there would be no DYJO!
Anyway, to cut a long story short, we know it’s going to be a vintage year!
We try to make the most of our days here at Heatree: it’s a crucial point in the season, where not only the bands play lots of music, but really start to gel as groups of people. At the heart of that, of course, is the music, and everyone’s love for playing it.
The morning and first part of the afternoon was busy with three sessions of full and sectional rehearsals with the complete team of tutors Graham, Brian, Alex and Matt, in the afternoon Matt assembled the new Ambassadors for the first time, whilst Graham, Brian and Alex did rhythm games and salsa dancing with everyone else, and then the traditional jazz jam took place, with a pile of solos from players from both DYJO1 & DYJO2. I think that’s enough for one day!
I’ve been somewhat tardy in noting here the start of the new DYJO season! We’re two Gathering Days down, and now at the Residential, one day having been completed already!
It’s an exciting season in store: not only have we got two new bands (pretty full in every section – though a trombone or two more would be welcome!), but we’ve got the prospect of a foreign tour too! (More news on that in due course.)
Our first day at Heatree (roughly our 15th year here) got off to a flying start, with both bands launching into rehearsals, including the regular ‘Learning Thing’, where we mix up the bands, and they go off and teach themselves a new tune. And most excellently they did it too!