I’ll be doing a series of posts here about past DYJO players. I’ve been with DYJO now for 14 years, and in that time I’ve had the pleasure of working with not just an amazing array of fabulous young musicians, but wonderfully interesting people, who never cease to surprise me with their many talents.
The assorted collection of DYJO alumni has so many people who could feature here, but I’m going to start with one person who was at the very first concert I went to where I heard DYJO (in fact, it was Gerry Swainger’s ‘DYJO Too’, as it was then called). The very small, and very young pianist, Gerry announced, had travelled all the way up from South Brent to play at St James Church Exeter, in a showcase concert: it was an 11-year-old Chris McMurran.
In due course, Chris naturally progressed to DYJO1, where as well as becoming as truly outstanding pianist, he also took his trumpet to a high level, switching easily between the two places in the band. And as if that was not enough, he also started turning his hand to big band composition and arranging, as well as conducting. And following that, the natural thing for him to do was to conduct his own arrangement of Bouncing With Bud with DYJO at the Montreux Jazz Festival, in 2010. As you do.
You might have imagined that Chris was destined for a career in music with that background and achievement. You’d be wrong. Instead, he headed off to Cambridge University, where he gained a First in Medicine, and is now doing a PhD there on ‘Remyelination and the microbiome’ at the Cambridge Stem Cell Institute.
Not that he’s given up the jazz – far from it! As well as keeping up a busy playing schedule, he’s also still composing, and last year won the Dankworth Prize for Composition, with his piece Continuum.
Anyway, that’s enough from me – now for some reflections from Chris himself…
“I first sat behind the piano in DYJO Too at age 11, where I was surprised to find music with no notes on it! After a quick lesson from Gerry Swainger in “how chord symbols work”, I was soon completely taken by the music and the atmosphere of DYJO.
For the next seven years I looked forward to Saturdays of music-making and seeing friends from across the county. The passion of Graham, Brian, Gerry and others for the music they were introducing us to was contagious, and I always thought we were having far more fun the the other county ensembles next door! The tours and residentials helped forge friendships that have continued long since.
DYJO was also full of opportunities: I rotated between piano and trumpet, had chances to run rehearsals and conduct, and an ensemble eager to play my first ventures into big band writing. These were all instrumental for my musical life since DYJO, which has involved directing the Cambridge University Jazz Orchestra, and winning the Dankworth Prize for jazz composition. The lessons I learned in DYJO also span from musical to medical: teamwork, attention to detail, performing and teaching skills to name a few.
I’d like to say a huge thank you to everyone who has contributed their time and energy to DYJO over the years – long may this continue!”