A few thoughts on what it was like to be part of yesterday’s MFY Prom at the iconic Albert Hall. Brian found the mot juste: it was indeed a privilege to spend a 21-hour marathon in the company of such a great group of talented and eager people: DYJO1 (Class of ‘15), who hit the SW7 ground running and threw themselves into an incredible day of professionalism and musicianship. The evening audience? Around 2,000. DYJO opened the second half and had eight minutes to fill one of the world’s best known and best loved concert halls with their own brand of sound and it’s something I’m fairly certain none of us – players, parents and Association staff – will forget. They took that vast stage in that cavernous hall and made it their own. As did youth groups from all over the UK, from the Belfast Symphony to the Birmingham Conservatoire to a Welsh choir and a young London brass group.
The day was memorable for so much fun and excitement it would be impossible to list here. There were four particularly slick operations which, in their different ways, helped to make the day work: 1. Maria’s excellent planning; 2. Graham’s quite intense vocal rehearsals for the two pieces, conducted in Dressing Room 8 deep underground at the RAH; 3. the extraordinary feat performed by the army of RAH staff who kept close to 1,000 young musicians constantly ‘in spin’ around the house, through the subterranean warren of corridors and dressing rooms to the auditorium itself, such that every single person was in the RIGHT place at the RIGHT time instead of the SAME place at the SAME time. (Anyone interested in a career in venue management probably could do worse than to enquire about work experience here!); and 4. Graham’s interview for Radio Devon (http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p0375s3j, beginning 02hrs:11mins:30secs) just after midday, live from the RAH.
DYJO’s participation yesterday is a testament to the amazing work Brian, Graham and Roz perform and it’s also a testament to this fantastic set of young players and their willingness to take on big challenges. If there were nerves they didn’t show! Thanks. It really was a privilege.
The previous time that DYJO played in the Schools Proms, in 2008, we were still very much part of Devon Music Service, and the Friends of DYJO were a wonderful support. It’s a sign of how far we’ve travelled that yesterday the entire operation was masterminded by the DYJO Association, and with expert pastoral care from Maria and Tim on the day. These things just would not be possible without the superb team the Association provides.
It’s also great to know we’ve got the moral and financial support of Devon Music Eduction Hub. So it’s nice to be able to be able to demonstrate on a national level the outcomes of that support, and to say “thank you” publicly for it in the best way we can: through great music.
Also in due course, you’ll see photos from the superb Nigel Cheffers-Heard – he endured a 20-hour day to capture our special day in pictures.
And last, and most importantly, thanks to the players and their parents: truly, without you and your support, the exciting stuff that’s happening in DYJO would simply not happen.
And now there’s just space for a few more tastes of yesterday…
It’s tempting to leave you with that one word. And though it’s a pretty good description of what we’ve just experienced in the Royal Albert Hall, maybe I’ll flesh it out a little, given that it’s been one of the biggest days in DYJO’s history.
Playing at the Schools Proms is certainly as good as it gets: taking part in a concert in one of the world’s most famous halls, with an audience of thousands is something no-one can forget.
The players can be proud of playing their socks off, to the delight of the audience. And those of us who were there in support, and Graham, at the helm, had a blast, not only from hearing such a stonking band as part of a superb concert, but from having the privilege of working with such a delightful group of young people, who flew the flag magnificently for Devon tonight.
It’s a big day for DYJO today… it’s the day when DYJO1 is playing at the Schools Prom at the Royal Albert Hall. After an early start from Exeter, we’ve arrived in London, and before battle commences, we are sitting down for lunch.
There’s great excitement amongst the band: the last time this band played together (it’s last year’s DYJO1) was in Serbia, and they’ll be playing two of their favourite tunes from that fabulous tour.
Today was the first rehearsal with this season’s DYJO Ambassadors. For those of you not familiar with our set-up, the Ambassadors are our outreach and small band section of DYJO, which sprang out of the Devon Jazz Explosion project many moons ago.
In that project we used full DYJO bands to run workshops for clusters of primary schools, but given the complicated logistics of that model, we decided thereafter to take a small band for the workshops. Typically the band will present a short gig to the whole school, explaining how jazz works, then goes into a longer workshop session with a class, or a group of specific instrumentalists. Of course, a happy offshoot is that we have a small band that can do gigs in their own right, but at heart it’s a group for passing on their skills and enthusiasm to the next generation of jazz musicians.
So today was split into two parts. First off, we had a session to choose tunes and related topics for the general jazz presentation – tunes included are Red Clay, One Note Samba and Shaw Nuff. Then we talked about the structure of the workshops: such sessions serve both as a taster, but also (we hope) to develop an appetite for more learning beyond the workshop.
After that, Roz Harding, who leads the musical development of the Ambassadors (as well as being the impro and sax specialist in the DYJO big bands) took them through Sambossa 2-5-1 and Haitian Fight Song. Roz is deliberately delivering these as much as possible in the same way as we run the school workshops: peer-to-peer learning, and oodles of aural learning.
Anyway, a very productive first day, leaving us all plenty to think about and do. Watch this space for how this year’s Ambassadors get on!
Gosh – that was quite a gig! Last night DYJO2 & DYJO1 made the walls of Teignmouth Methodist Church resound to all manner of big band jazz, with the help of our special guest Kevin Figes on alto sax. A capacity audience heard Kevin play through the classics of Miles Davis’s All Blues and John Coltrane’s Naima with DYJO2, in a set which featured plenty of Latin and funk charts, as well as the 1997 Zoot Suit Riot. As well as Kevin’s outstanding solos, many members of this young band had the chance to solo, and did so with great style.
DYJO1 certainly raised the roof from the start of their energetic set, with their stylish ‘Sing, Sing, Sing’, as fashioned by Pete Long at the October Residential. The set hardly let up for the next hour, with great solos from around the band and Kevin, including an amazing extended solo for ‘Black Friday’.
On a personal note, it was one of the least stressful and most enjoyable Teignmouth gigs I can remember. Being so early in the season, our work is cut out to produce a concert of the sort of quality which is DYJO’s trademark. But a combination of really responsive and musical bands, and Kevin’s sympathetic and inspiring work with us, gave the audience a real treat, and perhaps the walls with a few cracks in them, from the enthusiasm of the music making to which they had resonated.
A couple of photos, courtesy of Ken Holland, for now…
Tonight is the night we make our annual appearance at the Teignmouth Jazz Festival, this year with guest soloist Kevin Figes. For many years our gigs were at the Carlton Theatre, but its rebuilding means that this is the second year when we appear at a different venue: this year it’s at Teignmouth Methodist Church, here, on Fore Street. The gig starts at 8pm – we hope to see you there!
The early part of DYJO’s season is always exciting: how many new faces we’ll see and who; what music will be in the repertoire for the new bands; how they will all start gelling at the Residential. And, of course, every year, since time immemorial (well, a long time), DYJO gets to play a gig with a star soloist in November at the Teignmouth Jazz Festival. It’s always a pleasing challenge to get everything together by then. This year we’ll be joined by Kevin Figes, on Friday 13 November. Details here
But this year DYJO1 have a couple of extra gigs: one was tonight, at Exeter University Great Hall (photos below). The other one will be in the Royal Albert Hall, on the last night of the Schools Proms on Wednesday 25 November. You’ll hear more about that in due course.
So it’s really quite a month for DYJO. Perhaps you’ll come to hear us, in Teignmouth or London – it would be grand to see you!