Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Foxwood back in Seacroft

Foxwood back where it all started in Seacroft for Margaret's big birthday 

Well, two gigs in one day. And Bex not taking the kids to either! What decadence! What madness! The upside of this is that it halves the number of times that we have to carry basses [and the rest!] up and and down a wet November garden.

 Leaving the Victorian grandeur of Morley Town Hall [where we have just played with East Steel] we head for a gazebo next to the bouncy thing in Margaret's back garden. This is the first time we have played since Sonny passed, so Margaret's birthday, the day after what would have been their wedding anniversary is very much tinged with sadness.

Natalie and I are both poorly with some sort of bad muscles; Margaret's recently broken arm is only just out of the pot, so it falls to Hazel to be the brawn of this outfit. She says she was too busy being naughty at school [ah, yes, I remember!] to learn anything about pans, playing, transport and care of. Well, she's not doing a bad job here!

When we come back later we are me, Bex, Natalie, Daisy, Sophie, Charlotte and Amy. Joe has given us a box of hats with lights on, which means not only can you see the music and the notes you are playing in the dark [but not at the same time!], but also the slug tracking its away across B flat [but as someone once said, we don't use B flat, so the slug lives].

This gig involves beer, and spending the following day on the sofa for me, but we played our socks inside our wellies off, and then Chloe and Natalie did a little duet. We secreted the pans away in Sophie's car, under tables and under the gazebo.

Rick. Diz and I recovered them the following day [a break from the sofa], after which the van gave up working. Good timing little blue van!

Please get better for next gig or tuning trip!

Sunday, 23 November 2014

East Steel and Steelettes at Morley Town hall

Saturday Christmas Fair at Morley Town Hall. East Steel were me, Bex, Sophie, Anne, Lynn, Wanda, Kirsty, Pippa and Trisha. Yi Bai drummed for us, and the beginners' class, the Steelettes made their debut.

Steelettes were Joanne, Amanda, Jill, Kirsten and Lucy.

There was a large mirror at opposite end of hall, and I took some pics of us backwards.

The load in from the back doors was great. Onto the stage without having carry lumps of metal through the audience. Super.

We interspersed Christmas tunes with some of favourites. Best moment was when we played The Holly and the Ivy, with both Bex and I thinking the other must have taught it. We put a brave face on it.

The Steelettes joined us for a few numbers then we wound up and I I took the van over to Seacroft for the Foxwood gig in the evening. Next!

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Leeds Silver Steel Sparrows play Awards Ceremony at the Headingley Experience

I had to go to an MU conference in Cardiff, so, I left the Sparrows [Leeds ArtForms city-wide steelband] for the second time ever just with Bex [with support from Tim and Y Bai]. Rick, Y Bai and I took the pans over [that's shorthand] to the Cricket/Rugby Ground at lunchtime; I left Y Bai there to set up on his own, and satisfied that I had facebooked, phoned and hassled everybody as much as I could, I had to leave them to it. Though I was still arranging a taxi for Claudia with Josie and Annette as |I was leaving  .  .
I managed not to text them at all that day, but just kept saying, I wonder how it's going to Diane every so often.
Y Bai is ex-Sparrow from the Albert Hall days, back from his three year holiday in Scarborough, I mean his Music Technology degree from Hull, Scarborough campus! He is doing Work Experience with us at ArtForms, yippee!
Sparrows were Claudia, Millie S, Chloe, Millie C, Ash, Georgia [G2]; staff were Bex, Tim, Y Bai. The event was organised by Josie and her team, and was an Awards for Excellence Ceremony for Children's Services. I'll put up the pics as soon as I get them. Meantime here's Claudia with some balloons.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Foxwood Steel play Metropole Leeds

I love city-centre venues, especially Leeds city-centre. Wherever you live everyone can get a bus to the centre, walk, cycle or even drive - but parking is sometimes a hassle, or expensive. And I love early evening gigs at the weekend because there is just the possibility that we might get together socially afterwards for once!
So when asked would we like to play the Metropole, yes we would. And it was a late enough start to get us all from our daytime jobs, and an early enough finish to get Georgia up to her evening one. Yes, Debs, we were thirteen Foxwood players! Imagine that!
We were me, Bex, Daisy, Sophie, Stewart, Katie, Vicky, Natalie, Tim, Georgia, Fehmina, Charlotte and Varshika. The room lent itself to some lovely pics, and we had moments of four soprano pans at the same time.
Then we went out for a "debrief" at Carpe Diem. I walked home in the rain, and Tim left his new bike chained up in town. Some of them had to get up early the next day for music centre, and some of us didn't!


Sunday, 19 October 2014

This week I have mostly been playing Redemption Song

 It's Black History Month, and Mr Stewart wanted some steel pannistes playing all the different year assemblies at Allerton Grange School, Leeds.

So we did. We played Redemption Song [one of my favourites] every morning for four days. At first it was just me and Claudia, then fortunately Josie and Sophie appeared and we were a quartet.

Can't show the audience as this a school assembly, but I can assure you there always was one.

By the end of the week, we had got quite good, and received our first round of applause [thanks, Year 11]

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Leeds Pan Central play Little London Community Centre

Now then Debs - not in Carriacou, not in Dubai, but here in Leeds, and what's more right in the middle of this excellent "another fine mess". Yippee! Not only that, Debs, coming here today from Huddersfield you were here first. Ever thus.

When Lisa asked me to play Culture Day, celebrating the Day of the Older Person [actually October 1st], it was because she had seen Foxwood and Sparrows at Unity, and when I heard the good cause, I knew I wanted to do this one. Gig and workshop for older people with dementia, or with learning difficulties or with none of the above. And in Little London. Inner -city, local. [And it appears that the centre is soon to be demolished! Hmmm!]

Just needed to find a bandful who were part-time, flexi-time, out of work, on holiday or, in your case, Debs over here for some medical treatment. In the end we were me, you, Trish, Wendy, Georgia and Tim. I collected a few spare pans for the workshop; Little London Community centre was in the middle of a massive great building site; parking was tricky and limited; Wendy and Tricia agreed to meet up earlier and come down in the one car; I grabbed another pan from Sacred Heart, called in at home to pick up Gig, who wasn't there; found you: Deb; we unloaded, then I spent sometime parking in a tight spot.

When Tim texted to say he was at the Children's Centre Meanwood Rd, I read that to say Community Centre, Meanwood. After the parking and discovering that you and I appeared to be a duo, my stress levels rocketed. Then Trish and Wendy appeared; it turned out that Tim was at Little London Children's Centre, Meanwood Road, and then Gig appeared out of nowhere, but all too late. Set list! Never!

Debs, as you know, we went down a storm. The audience were enjoying the tunes so much they didn't want the workshop. We found as many songs as we could, that we all could play, or in some cases, couldn't! It was a success; I was proud. We didn't play every note properly, but we played as a team. People danced, clapped along, asked for an encore.
Leeds Pan Central is the name we have given to when our three Foxwood Panyard steelbands play together, and Foxwood Panyard is our Leeds Centre of Steelpan excellence. Foxwood Steel is private semi-pro, and Leeds Silver Steel Sparrows and East Steel are funded by Leeds ArtForms Music Service, but they all help each other out all of the time. And they're all great [not that I'm biased]

Sunday, 28 September 2014

East Play Elland Road New Police Station

Well, Debs, Harehills is behind us, now over to Beeston. Today we are me, Bex, Wanda, Kirsty, Anne, Lynn, Sophie and Trish. Trish is nervous cos this is one of the places that she works at, and Lynn's nervous cos her daughter works here, and is in fact here in person.

John drumming for us
After our wonderful playing yesterday, we are braced for today, and again are outside on concrete and in front of a large obelisk. Buses and cars constantly passing on the busy main road; today's bouncy castle is safely at the back of our pics.
John as Conductor
We don't have a formal drummer so it's me and Bex again, of which Bex is a really drummer and I just beat time, nervously contemplating fills that I never pull off!
But hark, what do we setting up opposite ready to play after us. T'is the Police Band! To cut a long story short, John their conductor becomes John our drummer for a few tunes. And what a lovely supportive drummer he is.

East Steel rocks Coldcotes Avenue Harehills Leeds

setting up
Well, I kinda wondered what sort of fine mess we were letting ourselves in for. Three hours in a church in Harehills. It seemed like a long stretch on your day off. Well, I need not have worried. Apart from the fact that Coldcotes Avenue is nowhere near Coldcotes Terrace, Coldcotes Circus, or Coldcotes Every other Street.
I said to a postie I saw trying to catch up on his round, "I bet you know where Coldcotes Avenue is", and, Debs, he did. Yes I was late.
We were at St Cyprian and St James Church. The church grounds on this bright September morning were empty apart from the rest of the band and a bouncy castle. Why don't they fit more naturalistically into their surroundings? Do the castle-makers assume children won't bounce unless they are bright orange and purple? Or blue, as it today?

Lynn meets fellow ex-ambulance driver
Well, Debs, I should have had more faith [atheist that I am!]. This was indeed the gig from heaven. It was one long stream of mugs of tea, plus buns and sandwiches, and more buns. Children paused on their way to the big purple blob and asked us if they play on it; Chris the care-worker became Chris the Photographer.
It was so warm we could play outside, had a nice little paved around a cross, with brick walls to amplify us cleanly.
We sold 2 CDs and a couple of people said they would go to Natalie's class at East Leeds Music centre.


Having no drummer until we harassed Ashley long enough on the mobile, Bex and I swapped kit for tune; Pippa and Sophie managed a few tunes each; Wanda, Lynn and Anne enjoyed some passive smoking. We got excited when Ash appeared on his bike, leathers and helmet, moaning about a hangover. Who cares! It was time for The Flood, We Nah Goin' Home and Clocks.
Sophie texting by cross
Unable to cope with the dropped packets and bottles, at the end, Anne suddenly appeared with a bin liner, and a small group of them [East Steel] litter-picked. Nice.

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Foxwood Steel play one last time for Sonny

Well, on Sunday evening Margaret decided she would like us to play one last time for Sonny, and by Thursday we had myself, Vicky, Bex, Sophie, Katie, Daisy, Stewart and Natalie herself until Tim cycled over from the last school of his day in Bramley! Besides all the pics which ex-student, Peter took for us, here below are the tributes from Yorkshire Evening Post and from Pan Podium.
We played Always On My Mind [for obvious reasons], Three Little Birds [to some dancing!], a couple more Bob [Marley], Electricity and then  
some Trinidadian calypsos.
This time I forgot the drum irons bag, so we upturned the new drum chair to be a snare cradle again [as Bex remarked, "It's getting too easy to recover from now . ."]. Still Natalie seemed quite pleased to see Tim scooting across the floor in his red shirt, and Tim didn't seem at all surprised to see what passes on this particular occasion for a drum-kit.

Tributes to Leeds steel band musician with a ‘heart of gold’

Sonny  Marks pictured (centre back) with members of The Caribbeans.
Sonny Marks pictured (centre back) with members of The Caribbeans.
TRIBUTES have been paid to a Leeds car mechanic turned professional musician whose life was transformed after he appeared on a TV talent show.

Sonny Marks, who died last week aged 73, was a founder member one of Leeds’s first steel band combos The Caribbeans. The band performed in working mens clubs in Leeds before getting their big break on Opportunity Knocks in the late 1960s. They went on to tour Europe and the Middle East.
Mr Marks of Seacroft, who travelled to Leeds from Caribbean island Saint Kitts in 1957, worked as a car mechanic as a teenager while playing with The Caribbeans in his spare time. He was a professional musician from his early twenties until the first of a number of stroke five years ago left him struggling to walk and unable to use his right arm.
But his musical legacy lives on as his daughter Natalie Marks. 34, of Little London, now teaches steel pans at schools across Leeds and granddaughter Chloe Marks, 11, is also a talented steel band musician. Natalie Marks said: ”My fond memories always touch my soul when remembering my very first drumming experience which makes me the talented drummer I am today.” She added: “He was loved by many and had a heart of pure gold.”
Mr Marks’ widow Margaret, 59, said: “He was so kind to everybody and he always helped people. A lot of people loved him.” The Caribbeans band leader Wilfred Alexander, of Little London, Leeds, said: “He was a good singer and he learned very quickly. He was a very nice person.”

YEP Letters: September 25

It was good to see your article (YEP, September 19) about the passing of Sonny Marks.

Sonny was one of those remarkable unassuming unsung Leeds heroes, who contributed so much to the Leeds steelband scene from the late fifties to the present day. And he did that while still being a great family man.
What singled Sonny out in Leeds and indeed in the UK was his total commitment to both music and to his family, and his dismissal of petty politics. There have been times in Leeds and indeed in UK when it was either suggested that only black people or only West Indians could play steelpan. When we met I was running a steelband from Foxwood School, which was necessarily entirely white apart from Sonny’s own daughter, Natalie (who, at the time was the only non-white student at our school).
Sonny and wife, Margaret, invited us time and time again to play for us - at his 60th birthday party, and for many a family barbecue at home. They lived, a mixed race couple in Seacroft, but such was Sonny’s sunny nature, they never encountered any racism.
A car mechanic by training, Sonny was forever fixing people’s cars, mending the local kids’ bikes, making steelpan stands for me. One minute he was spraying your bodywork silver, the next minute he was on tour in the Middle East. The success and fame of his band, the Caribbeans, never went to his head.
Unsurprisingly St James Church was packed to say goodbye to this wonderful man. So sad to lose him, but so very glad to have known him.
Victoria Jaquiss

UK Sonny email                
Published on September 21st, 2014 | by Victoria Jaquiss

Sonny Marks – drummer, singer, car mechanic extraordinaire, husband, father, grandfather.

This month sees the passing of Sonny Marks, drummer, singer, car mechanic extraordinaire, husband, father, grandfather. Sonny came across from St Kitts to Leeds in 1957 and he was a founder member of one of Leeds’ first, possibly and longest- lasting West Indian steelband combo (using pans, vocals, keyboards, percussion).
In the daytime Sonny trained and worked as a car mechanic, and in the evenings he joined up with fellow Kittitians: Wilf, Willie, Irvin, Shaun and Robert for a bit of Caribbean music making. Wilf and the others played pans, Irvin played keyboards and Sonny at that time played bongoes and sang. First they played just for pleasure, and to bring back sounds of home,  then some of their neighbours, who had been enjoying the sounds through the walls, suggested they took their act to a wider public. Later Sonny played full drum-kit.
After a number of years they all quit their day jobs, and went professional, touring round the UK and round the world, mainly in Europe and the Middle East,  for a while spending every Sunday in Scotland doing a children’s tv programme. At one point they went on tv talent show, Opportunity Knocks, and won The Caribbeans have continued to tour, with slightly different line-ups to this day.
Sonny had two successful marriages and leaves seven children, of whom daughter, Natalie and granddaughter Chloe are both also musicians and pannistes.
I met Sonny in the nineties when daughter Natalie appeared in my music class at Foxwood-East Leeds High School. Shortly after that Sonny began mending my car, and then cutting down the tenor basses that were too tall for primary school kids, and making metal steelpan stands for us. He was also at this time fixing the bikes and scooters of the local kids who would call at his door, and whatever the weather, he would go out and oblige.
He always painted the stands he made silver, and he took to spraying bodywork repairs the same colour, sometimes with bizarre results. Once he mended a baby buggy for me as I turned it into a steelpan trolley. Yes, it came back silver!
It was at this time that  on a family holiday in Skegness, Sonny came top in a talent contest, singing. The prize was another family holiday! Where he won the contest again. This was probably unfair on the other contestants but it kept them in family holidays for years to come. In fact after five years, they asked Sonny if he would still sing for them, but stop entering the competition. Back in Leeds Sonny then made a CD of songs with steel pan backing.
Sonny died on Thursday September 4th 2014, two weeks short of his 73rd birthday, and 6 years after the first stroke which took this extraordinary, talented, generous and modest person away from the world of performance.
What singled Sonny out in Leeds and in the UK was his total commitment to music and to his family, and his dismissal of petty racist politics. There have been times in Leeds and indeed in UK when it was either suggested that only black people or only West Indians could play steelpan. When we met I was running a steelband from Foxwood School, which was necessarily entirely white apart from Sonny’s daughter ( who, at the time was the only non-white student at our school)
Sonny and wife, Margaret, invited us time and time again to play for us – at his 60th birthday party, and for many a family barbecue at home. They lived, a mixed race couple in the Seacroft Estate and, as Margaret reflected this week, they never encountered any racism. Perhaps it was that Sonny was, as was often noted, Sonny by name and sunny by nature. He is already sorely missed.
Sonny in cap Sonny Nat MargaretCaribbeans