Devon is a big place – it covers an area of 2590 square miles, and has over 8000 miles of roads. As a consequence, given that our players come from all corners, we concentrate all our rehearsals into just eight intense Gathering Days, and three days of our Residential. This really focuses the minds… not only of the players, but also of us tutors.
The obvious, public outcome of our work is the series of concerts we present through the year, but that is really a happy by-product of our primary focus, which is to equip all the players as efficient, hungry, independent learners… it just so happens that our focus is jazz and big band.
So over the course of one day, what have the two bands been learning about? DYJO1 have been having a repertoire fest with Graham, including the rock-hard Sinatra classic Bad, Bad, Leroy Brown, Buddy Rich’s Machine and a superb arrangement (recording here) of Radiohead’s Optimistic. DYJO2 had a plan which covered a chordy warm-up, Roz taking the band through their paces in modal improvisation, and a major focus on classic swing. That focus took them through Ella Fitzgerald’s Time After Time, and Count Basie’s That Warm Feeling and Cute. Oh, and as if that weren’t enough, they had a 45-minute section on ensemble direction techniques and strategies, using a nice arrangement of Billy Joel’s Just The Way You Are.
So, did we let the bands relax at the end of the afternoon? Er, no. They then performed three tunes each to assembled parents and friends, who had assembled with the lure of tea, cake, mince pies and jazz.
I think we all went home reasonably exhausted after all that, but having achieved a lot in just one day. That’s what DYJO is all about.