Sunday, 15 July 2018

North Steel and Steelettes at North Leeds Music Centre Concert

Saturday 24 March, over to Allerton CE Primary School, host to North Leeds Music Centre. We have lessons, rehearsals, then set up in the hall and our Easter/Spring concert.

We now have two beginners classes, and we put them together for the concert, starting with that old classic:

 Largo in F [all 8 bars played with variations][from the Easy Classical book], then
Whole World in his Hand [all 16 bars with variations][from the Gospel Collection], then,
 and this was awesome: I Got Shoes [also from The Gospel Collection]

Beginners and Beginner beginners were Julie, Harvey, Lola, Lucy, Debbie, Patrica, Ziggy, Charlotte, Theo, Nyal, Ginny, Darcy, with Eddie on kit.

North Steel itself was Satinder, Sylvia, Kurum, Julia, Theo again, Luke, Isha, and me, and Eddie on kit. We played Can't Smile Without You [originally by Barry Manilow, but we like our version better!], Can't Help Loving Dat Man [which was incredible, if we do say so ourselves!] and then El Condor Pasa. This was a bird, however which really fly. Well, you can't win them all.

Here's some screen shots of the video of the concert, which is so lovely [apart from the Passing Condor] that I must learn how to upload these little videos so that the players can see themselves, as they were in March 2018, because, at this rate of progress they will be some miles forward by March 2019.

Also can I mention trolleys. By this time were two - mine and Julia's. Soon they were to expand!

Finally thanks to Eddie for his drum-kit-playing, tea-bringing, cake-making, child-minding and being butt of jokes support this year. Also to his dad for the video.

Friday, 6 July 2018

East Steel, Oulton Bands, Sparrows at Rothwell Festival

It's Friday evening, March 23rd, and we are on the road to Rothwell, to the Blackburn Hall to be precise. Wanda has organised for the steelband section to take its place for the first time ever at Rothwell Festival, and here we are in this lovely Victorian concert hall.

The Federation of Festivals doesn't allow photography at its festivals. This doesn't usually deter our parents but it does stop us getting some good action shots. We got special permission for this posed joint band picture at the end, and we invited this lovely adjudicator to join us.

At the end of the Friday school day it seemed a massive effort to get to Rothwell, but really it is only what the Oulton parents do every Tuesday to get their Sparrows to Sparrows, if you see what I mean.

In the event, the event was totally worth it. All the bands sounded great and Wanda's effort to arrange this totally paid off. Here are some pictures of the bands in rehearsal or gigging elsewhere.

Wednesday, 27 June 2018

Foxwood Steel and Friends play The Hallelujah Chorus at West Yorkshire Playhouse

Of all my achievements since I joined the Leeds Music Service (now ArtForms) I think that one of the three biggies that means the most, and the one that was by far the hardest to organise, and not just musically, was teaching the Hallelujah Chorus for Geraldine Connor’s Carnival Messiah.* This consisted of two five week runs at the West Yorkshire Playhouse in 1999 and in 2002.

I didn’t just teach it note for note to 20 odd students both times; I also organised a rota of 28 players of between 12 to 23 people for each night and matinee of both runs. And in teaching it I could not have managed without the assistance of Bex Ainge (née Smith) and Hayley Miller, on the tenor (triple cello) part, Alicia Whitehead on the alto (double seconds) part, Jan Spencer and Natalie Marks, on the bass (bass pans and and tenor bass) part, and my own children, Georgia and Morgan on the soprano (soprano/tenor pan) part. All these players helped to teach their own sections.

As Jean or Michelle declaimed the words “Hallelujah” every night, I was counting in, clicking to four on my sticks (soprano/tenor sticks first run, double second sticks second time). This was the most exhilarating and terrifying experience ever. I was not just organising but performing in the piece. And totally making it special was that the band mostly consisted of my own steelband, Foxwood Steel (Bandits), plus members of my music centre and youth steelbands: East Steel and Leeds Silver Steel Sparrows.

On this recording which comes from the DVD that made of the 2002 run, the Foxwood players are myself, Bex, Natalie, Alicia, Stewart, Charlotte, Dave, Georgia, Morgan, and Sue, and from my music Centre band band, East Steel: Bassem and Tamanna, plus my own student, Thomas. The other 2002 Foxwood players but not playing on the night of this recording were Hayley and Katie, and Sparrows not playing this evening were Tanya Y and Sarah. Also, not on this clip but taught by myself or by one of my band were Melvin, Arlisha and Lianna.

raising arms at the end

The other five players on this recording were Tanya, Christine, Esther, Trish, Jan [from Dudley's College of Music steelband, Pan Explosion], and also on the rota for 2002, but not on the recording were Tracy and Chris.

Personally I also had the extra special pleasure of playing alongside two of my own children - 11 year-old Morgan and 13 year-old Georgia.

We all loved the experience, and thanked Geraldine for giving us the Chorus to play. She loved us in return, and after the 1999 run gave us this card. We got standing ovations night after night.

me, Ron and Nigel

The newspapers loved us too, some declaring we were the best thing in the show, and one thought we were the only good thing in the show. But not at all! It was all good: the dancers, the costumes, the stilt walkers, the lot, and who can forget Ron singing "I know that my Redeemer Liveth".

In 2000, for the Millennium Celebrations we were asked to play the Chorus in Victoria Gardens [in Leeds Centre]. I wasn't sure it was appropriate, but everyone was keen, and we had learnt it. And where would all that knowledge go? Despite my misgivings, we did it.

in Victoria Gardens 2000

Sadly we, Foxwood, East Steel and Sparrows weren't asked back for the Harewood run, but this in no way diminished our memories and those who have the DVD or who see this recording will have those memories refreshed.
me and Nigel 2017

And I am so grateful to Chris for putting this up. It’s not just a happy memory. . .

Click here to watch the video

*The other two biggies were when Music For Youth asked Sparrows to play the Royal Albert as National Youth World Music winners, and Sparrows and Doves to play the Festival Hall for the Festival of Britain. Both were easy organisationally by comparison!

Thursday, 3 May 2018

Leeds Silver Steel Sparrows play Leeds ArtForms Town Hall Prom

It is one of our favourites: Leeds ArtForms Schools Prom at Leeds Town Hall. We played our Music For Youth Three [Some Enchanted Evening, California Girls, Living on a Prayer] plus Mozart's Symphony Number 40. 

The Orchestra was playing Stars Wars as the joint number. I thought Rocket Man or Starman might fit nicely. Bex located the sheet music, I wrote Rocket Man out, did a preliminary arrangement, gave it to Kips and Ed, and they did an arrangement for our agreed joint moments.

On the day, I pretended to myself that I was conducting the Leeds Youth Orchestra, although really David Greed was doing that. Actually I was flapping my arms a bit, while concentrating like mad on the score, and hoping somehow that the players, eyes down in their pans, knew where they were, because they sure weren't looking at me. I only wrote this tune out into a Foxwood Songsheet ten days previously and the band has only played it once through at a practice back at Shire Oak.

Players were Owen, Kirsten, Annie, Ella, Isha, Kurum , Esme, Millie, Alice, Claudia. Natalie drummed. Jermaine and Chris guested. I found that, at the public performance I played all the songs on different pans from the ones I had played at the rehearsal. Great. Not.

I'll spare you how long it took to collect pans from practice school, load into van, out of van, into Town Hall, along to stage, and back and back and Control Z, and back. [did I say I would spare you?].

Leeds Silver Steel Sparrows at Music 4 Youth Harrogate

February 24 2018. The Sparrows are back at St Aidan's, Harrogate for yet another National Festival For Youth Regional Event.

pans in waiting

Our songs this year are 50s, 60s, 80s, Some Enchanted Evening, California Girls and Living on a Prayer. We had planned also to include Tragedy but our playing of it was just that: a tragedy!

It took us a lifetime to arrange Living on a Prayer. I asked Pippa to do the initial groundwork, then she and I ran it through on the Manchester Carnival Saturday night inbetween. This required a coupla cans. After that the Sparrows and I rearranged and rearranged till we were happy with the structure, the intros, the intros, a unison section. There was nothing we didn't mess about with. 

As ever the evening before I took the pans across, unloaded them and left them ready for an easy set up the next day. The upside of having no storage space at present for the six basses is that we don't have to take them to gigs , and this in turn means I can use my own little Transit van for the whole band.

Players were Alice on cello pans, Annie on bass and single second, Claudia on double tenors, Ella on single guitar, Isha on oversize single second,  Kurum on double guitars, Kirsten on soprano and bass, Owen on soprano and bass, Natalie guesting on kit.

Wednesday, 2 May 2018

East Steel at YAMSEN:SpeciallyMUSIC Town Hall Concert

If it is the first Wednesday in December, it must be The YAMSEN:SpeciallyMUSIC Leeds Town Hall Lord Mayor's Christmas Concert. East Steel has now become an established regular fixture at this event.

From humble and awkward beginnings perched on the risers, East Steel now stands proudly stage right [or is that stage left?] at the front. Once it was two tunes; now it is a half hour of Christmas tunes as the audience assembles, two slots, and incidental music during the prize-givings. And even communal songs, though that has yet to work properly.

This year Bex arranged Pure Imagination by Leslie Bricusse and The Power of Love by Holly Johnson. Simon Linley, former Leeds City Organist and our compere commented on how much hard work has to go into such arrangements. A compliment indeed!

Players were Bex, Trish, Joyce, Lynn, Wendy, Anne, Vicky, Wanda and Sophie with Natalie on drum-kit.

Sunday, 8 April 2018

Moor Steel at Hyde Park Book Club

Millie was asked if she could play pans for her mate's charity bash at the Hyde Park Book Club. From 8 till 8.30 on a Tuesday night. There was only room for three to four players so we decided to form Moor Steel [from Woodhouse Moor, get it?] and we were yet another [more] band.

Some people think that Woodhouse Moor is called Hyde Park, but signs have been defaced in the fight against this sacrilege.

Chill agreed to play "kit" alongside his daughter on pan. Fehmina fell for the it's only half-an-hour routine. [Chill's kit was a few irons short of a drum.] But now, we are a "new" band so the rule is it is only the agreed common songs or completely new ones [or ones that never took off].

Well, if I don't play Under the Boardwalk  ever again, it will be too soon! Lol! I guess I may recover from this feeling. Anyway, I delve into my collection of written/never really used tunes, and Millie and I select She's Leaving Home [for Chill], Wonderful World, Hips Don't Lie [Sparrows, but arranged by Millie, with most notes left unplayed on the day! Lol and double lol!], You Are Not Alone [surprisingly recognisable and a bit of a singalong], Bach's Minuet in G, Somebody I Used to Know, Go West and possibly some others

Millie and I practised for an hour on Saturday, and Mina and I practised for 15 minutes on Tuesday just before the gig. Chill forget more bits of kit than I ever do.

He walks up from down the road bringing what he remembered, and I drive us both down to collect most of what he forgot. Mina's it's-only-half-an-hour is rapidly fading. In the end, with tape and cotton wool for a clutch, Chill's half a half a kit is awesome. We are soprano, single guitar and single second for pans, and we just fit.

Millie had been there for hours already [and it was licensed premises!].I have long since forgotten what the charity was.

 Here's a few indifferent pictures as a record of the event, which we do recall enjoying.