Saturday, 31 December 2016

North Steel play their Christmas Concert

December 3rd, it's Christmas Concert season. First up it's Elaine and the orchestra.

Second up it's North Steel from North Leeds Music Centre. Kurum was poorly for the morning rehearsal but determined to make the evening concert. V proud. I brought 6 yr-old Niall the pink pan jumbie pan to play for the event. It's not a bad-sounding little pan, but very little use outside its key [G].  Andreas [David's father] was just trying to escape with those famous last words, "Is there anything else you need?" when I appeared swinging the van keys.

They all laughed, explained he was just trying to make good his escape, and then he collected the three extra pans we needed.

setting up earlier on
On the day we were Satinder, Sylvia, Luke, Emma, Kurum, Ella, Julia, David.

We played African Noel, In the Bleak Midwinter, and, as  homage to Leonard, Hallelujah. And, of course, we were ace!

I invited the audience to sway with arms and smart phone torches, and it was really really lovely, if not moving to see them do so.

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Sparrows at Leeds West Indian Centre November 2016

As November 19th 2016 was also the date of Katie and Vic's wedding, Bex is unable to accompany the Sparrows to the West Indian Centre today. So Wanda has agreed to come with us [and actually play], and also Fehmina [whom I bribed with a lift to Katie's wedding]. It was Emma W who invited us to play at this event which is being run by Cameo. And, yay, Yi Bai is back. He got a hug, whether or not!

Because I also had a music centre class before the gig and Katie's wedding after, today takes some precise planning and some teamwork. In the morning I take over the pans and kit to Gildersome, meet Vicky and leave her to stack now and set up later. At NLMC Julia, Satinder and the gang are up for setting up and down. Next I go back to for a final load and collect Fehmina. .  .  .  .

Fehmina phones me as I pull up outside the West Indian Centre. She gets a taxi over.

This is an event to celebrate Yona Knight Wisdom's Olympic achievements. An English Jamaican, or is he a Jamaican Englishman, he won a medal for springboard diving at the Rio Olympics, and because he was, for technical reasons, unable to represent his country of residence, he dived for his country of parental origin.

We are always pleased to be asked to play at the West Indian Centre as we play West Indian instruments. Originally a pianist, I learnt guitar, then played bass guitar with various bands, made the most basic attempts at drum-kit but adopted pans as my main instrument and music and pan teaching as a career  many moons ago now. And love it! Pans is just the best. Full stop.

Players today are Ashley, Owen, Lucy, Isha, Kirsten, Claudia, Annie, Ella, Bella, with Yi Bai [ex-Sparrow anyway], Wanda [satellite Sparrows leader anyway] and Fehmina [ex-Sparrow anyway]. It was Isha, Ella and Annie's debut gig, and they were fine, playing where they could and miming where they couldn't. It was also Prince Buster's Wings of a Dove debut for us [after we abandoned it at St Paul's, for reasons to do with our reputation].

Because I also had a music centre class before the gig and Katie's wedding after, today takes some precise planning and some teamwork. In the morning I take over the pans and kit to Gildersome, meet Vicky and leave her to stack now and set up later. At NLMC Julia, Satinder and the gang are up for setting up and down. Next I go back to for a final load and collect Fehmina. .  .  .  .

Fehmina phones me as I pull up outside the West Indian Centre. She gets a taxi over.

PS Players are always welcome to join the Leeds Silver Steel Sparrows. Best to be high school age with some pan experience, or other musical instrument, or desperately keen, and promise to work hard!

Monday, 26 December 2016

Fledglings at Trinity

It's Sunday 6 November and there's a steelband playing at the Trinity Centre, and all I have to do is take photos. Yippee! Well done Wanda. This is Wanda's up and coming satellite Sparrows. The Silver Fledglings.

These players are a combo of present and ex-Oulton Primary School players, and very fine they are too.

They were collecting for St George's Crypt who support the homeless in Leeds.

To do this one hour performance for charity Wanda drives across Leeds a couple or six times to deliver pans, collect players, all that stuff, so, as we all now one hour's plating usually occupies most of a day, and the Friday before loading, and the Monday after unloading.

Always good with some good parents, and there are plenty of those. Sorry not to write more but, not being on the inside I just see the show. Yay!

Saturday, 17 December 2016

Steelpan Workshops at Roundhay School Leeds


It is Friday 21 October 2016 and after four gigs inside six days I have rearranged my vans n pans at ridiculous o'clock a.m. and am speeding towards Roundhay School, Leeds for some staff well-being steelpan workshops. Well they were just the best!

Tim, ic 6th support and other things, contacted me, found out that 6th-former, Bella was about to play St Paul's Cathedral; so we enlisted her support for the staff who usually support her.

Between the Little Blue van and the Big White I had the Foxwood pans for M and S Monday and the Chemic Thursday, the Sparrows pans for St Paul's [London, actually!] and now also some workshop pans for the lovely support staff at Roundhay. Good thing we use the same kit for all things pan! And that the van robbers only took a snare, its cradle and a little tom.

Well, we did the usual Largo in F, Largo in G, Au Clair de La Lune, when, before you could say Scooby Dooby Doo, we were onto Next to Me and Yankee Doodle.

Does also need saying that I am doing this workshop on behalf of Leeds ArtForms Music Service and using my Foxwood Songsheets. Along with the most lovable Roundhay staff, that is a winning combination.

Best moment was possibly when I asked the headteacher if he was the caretaker. Neil took this as a compliment [which, in some ways, it was], announced this to the staff and invited me to elaborate publicly. Lol.

Sunday, 6 November 2016

Foxwood Steel at the Chemic

It's the Last Lap, when your all your energy is gone but you pick yourself up from the floor of St Paul's Cathedral, and say Leeds Chemic, We will be there!

Of course we had to move half the audience out of the way just to create space for our eight piece! Yay! We were me [Victoria ], Bex, Vicky, Bart, Gary, Amy, Charlotte and Holly.

We set up as best we could, swinging up most pans on their stands, in the darkness of the carpark and took our place as quickly as we could. Nice to see colleague, Alice there and also Chama [Holly's friend, and my ex-City student] in the audience, and at the bar!

After we play all the songs we don't to need to sight-read, Mike says that there were onstage lights. Oh well. C'est la vie!

In the absence of a spare stand a compere kindly holds up our banner for us. V kind, and, of course, theatrically v effective.

Packing away in the carpark

One drink and home. Need to repack the vans for a workshop on the morrow. For the others, work as normal.

Friday, 4 November 2016

Leeds Silver Steel Sparrows Play St Paul's Cathedral

Well, a few years ago, the adjudicator at the Wharfedale Festival handed the Sparrows a Festival winners sticker. The next thing I knew we were being to ask to play a Barnado's Event at Leeds Town Hall, consisting of us and other Festival of Festivals winners. Then another one, and then we play in Harrogate for the International Festivals Adjudicators Conference. Wherein I am asked to go teach in Sri Lanka. [Alas became ill, and that not happened - yet!] And now here we are at St Paul's, at the Gates of Death. [V dramatic].

first arrivals

Well, not so simple. We have to get players, staff and students out of schools and universities, time and book all trains from Leeds, Derby, Huddersfield and Manchester to arrive simultaneously in London [in one case, George only found out at Stevenage that he was actually on the same train as the first Leeds contingent! Lol!].

I go down a day earlier with van full of steelpans and drum-kit so as to make sure our instruments are southerly in place, and have also to stay over in London on the day itself. That is three days devoted to this one little, but lovely, performance. Has to be treated as an adventure.

We need also to plan our repertoire and rehearse our chosen pieces. Alas again. We have lost our rehearsal space of the last seventeen years, and not able to get into the next one without jumping through a few bureaucratic hoops. Luckily Shire Oak School Leeds offers us a rehearsal venue  [thanks Jane and Liz], and we are also able to hire a space at All Hallows [thanks Beanz and co], Hyde Park [Leeds].

Rehearsing at All Hallows with East Steel

Alas again. These come too late for the uni Sparrows and so some of them are about to sight-re-read some of the tunes at St Paul's in London. Just as well they are such excellent players, and the others are able to practise. East Steel agrees to support the Sparrows rehearsals by playing the tunes-in-common with them.

Finding out from Jane at the reccy that quiet playing will just get lost, I ask Varshika, Amy and Vicky to join us [me-Victoria, Bex, Millie S, Millie C, Chloe, George, Georgia. Claudia, Alice, Bella, Natalie]. Sophie appears as a carboard cut-out - literally! Lol!

Simon L tells me there's an eight second delay, and just to play to play and hold our nerve. Eight seconds. We can't imagine how that will sound. In the event, we love it. Finish the song and listen to it roll on.

Diane comes as support. Parents and other relatives are Jenny plus her mum and sister, Sarah and Rosie, Judy. Grafton, Charlotte and Skye come from London. Grafton makes and tunes our pans, so great for him to hear them in action.

I am just driving to Clapham Junction when George phones from Euston; I pull over [not easy when you're on the red route!]. He has two choices: leg it down to Kings Cross and join the Leeds contingent, or stay in Clapham Junction. Diane gets him another ticket and he survives to get to Uni the following day. I don't have to share the wine. And it needs more than one glass to celebrate an event such as this. Thanks to Jen for asking us, thanks to the schools who let staff and students out, thanks to Sparrows old and new] for being so wonderful.

Monday, 31 October 2016

Foxwood Steel play for Moortown M and S 25th anniversary

We know it is going to be tricky for many players getting up to Moortown after work in time to play. And, to be honest, despite all the plans, the notebooks, the message groups and the texts, I have long since forgotten who is playing and who isn't. And before I set off to Moortown, Rick, Vicky and I have half-loaded the white van for London.

This, as it is to turn out, is mine, Bex, Vicky's and Amy's second of four gigs inside six, three in Leeds and one in London [!]. It is for M and S Moortown, Gazza's place of work.

So first-up it's obviously Gary, then me and Vicky, then Charlotte walks in and Bex and Amy drive in - separately. We are contemplating who's likely to be our drummer when Sheeks drives past, apparently oblivious to our presence. We stand back.

We are just wondering how to tell Varshika that she is our main drummer when Number One Drummer walks. Yay! Natalie! Well, now that Sophie is here as well, we have turned into a creditable nine-piece. So good. And I was wondering who would make it this late Monday teatime!

Emma is also here from Cherry Bee; she films a wonderful version of Is Heat, which, although it is nearer to soprano pans and kit, still gives the essence of how well we play this wonderful tune, arranged for us initially by our friend Xanthe some decade or so ago, and generally added to over the years as people discover more bits of interest.

Thanks to Emma W for some/most/all of the pictures above.

Sunday, 30 October 2016

Foxwood Steel wave the Barges off to Liverpool

It was a coldish day when the barges set off from Leeds to Liverpool. Would Foxwood Steel like to play Leeds Waterfront to see them off? Oh yes certainly, we love a Waterfront gig!

So here we are, seeing the barges off. They went, so did all of those who had come to watch them go. We played to the three people in the Canal Trust gazebo, and a couple who obligingly sat on the seat next to us. We think we also woke up a few of the residents of the waterside flats.

In a band of eight potential drummers, three were teaching music centres, one was unavoidably detained on business, one was at uni in another town, one - well, one was saving lives on the Hospital Front, but we at least we had Jermaine, newly car-owner.

Alas when Jermaine rang to say he was near the station, our collective hearts sank. You would have to be a map-reading genius or a light aeroplane to get from the station to the waterfront in less than a day.

We abandoned him to his tour of Hunslet, and that left Eight and Nine. Bex did a great job on Dead or Alive. And Charlotte played some rhythms.

We were me [Victoria], Bex, Vicky, Charlotte, Amy, Sophie, Holly, Georgia, Katie and Gary.

After a while frost bite set in, the Canal Trust unfurled their gazebo, we packed up ready for the next gig - in two days time at Marks and Sparks, from 6pm to 7pm. Now who would be able to make that one, after work, in the dark, on a Monday night?