Friday, 7 April 2017

Leeds Silver Steel Sparrows play for Music For Youth at Brooksbank School Elland

winning performance 2009
Last year the Sparrows lost their rehearsal space of seventeen years. It was 1999, I was a parent, a teacher, a peri and a governor at City of Leeds so it seemed like a good place to place the band. Based at this school, and with half the band [as it will happen] coming from the school, we won through to the National Festival of Music For Youth in the Birmingham Conservatoire [now that does sound posh!] every year from 2005 to 2010 inclusive, and, as is well known, there we won the overall World Music Award  in 2009 and thus played at the Royal Albert Hall.
Chamberlain Sq 2010

25 players, 19 nationalities
Chamberlain Sq 2006

Royal Albert Hall 2009

marching onto RAH stage 2009

After 2010, despite our standards remaining as high, we never made it through again. We think there are just many more steelbands around, but were disappointed as a whole cohort came and went without the pleasure.

 . . . Although the Music For Youth team did recommend us in 2011 to the Southbank Festival Hall, London to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Festival of Britain and Trinidad All Stars Percussion Orchestra's first UK gig. So not all bad!

Here we played two sets with our two bands [Sparrows and Doves] and then led the other three steelbands in a massed rendition of We Nah Goin' Home. After which the man from Trinidad shook my hand quite a lot and said a lot of nice things.

aerial view of Sparrows 2011 at Festival Hall for Festival of Britain anniversary
leader Trinbago at Festival Hall
So we keep on entering, and different doors keep on opening, especially at Harrogate International Festival, and here we are again, this time at the Halifax Festival which is actually in Elland.

Meantime, City of Leeds has become an academy, and now an award-winning steelband doesn't cut the mustard. We did try another school, but the PFI firm weren't impressed either. It was November before we located the lovely Shire Oak Primary where we have been allowed to take root and flourish.

Cooperative Concert
And then enter the lovely Jess, Ronita and Ellie from the Co-operative Academy [ex-Primrose School], taught by v supportive Mrs Shaw. I taught our three chosen songs at their school, then in the three weeks leading up to Music For Youth, first Bella [from Roundhay], then Annie and Ella and Bella [all from Roundhay] came up to the Coop; Ronita and Ellie got over to Shire Oak.  . . . . .

Meantime, Claudia, not quite finished her run in Romeo and Juliet, comes for one practice, learns the lot; and Millie S, in her last year of "Youth" comes up from Derby Uni, does the same at a Foxwood practice at New Moorsides [thanks Raj for the rehearsal space] while a birthday party decorates the function room around us. Lol.

And on Sunday March 26th 2017, Mothers Day, here we all are at Brooksbank School. We are me and Bex with support from YiBai and Vicky, and parents: Ellie's mum and dad, Alice's dad, Annie's mum, Ella's mum, Owen's mum, Kirsten's mum, Bella's mum.

And here is Hazel and Vicky from Trinity in Halifax where I helped them set up their pans a couple of years back. We lend them YiBai for one number, and they play three songs that I gave them. Just too exciting!

The Sparrows were Georgia, Millie, Claudia, Ronita, Ellie, Alice, Kirsten, Annie, Isha, Ella, Owen. And they were awesome. We played part of Mozart's Symphony Number 40, Sean-Paul and Clean Bandit's Rockabye, and then Wings of a Dove by Prince Buster.

Every song was the best we ever heard them, and we couldn't have been more proud.

Monday, 3 April 2017

Foxwood Steel Play Cafe Bliss

We had planned to play in a gazebo outside the café on Chapeltown Road, but a hurricane announced its intention to blow the north down so we took over half the café inside instead.

The acoustics were surprisingly good. We expected to drown everyone out. Not so.

We were me [Victoria], Bex, Vicky, Fehmina, Gary, Charlotte, Amy, Sophie, George, Natalie, Millie S.

Gary complained he was always at the back. Amy was wondering why she was at the front again. And why oh why do drummers have to be where no one can see them! Not that the drummers ever complain. [We need a mini light-weight stage.]

You can please some of the people all of the time and all of the people some of the time . . . . .

I must admit the second row is my favourite, but if you're counting in to an ending, it's not a place to do it from.

We got out the Christmas books out and sight-read our way through thirty odd songs, collapsing heaps of hysteria as we trashed a couple of the harder ones. Sleigh Ride and I Believe in Father Christmas were casualties.

Thanks to Peter for the space; thanks to Ted for me permettre a parler en français; thanks to Emma for filming; to the rest of the audience [though I think we may have outnumbered them!] for tapping their feet; thanks to my wonderful band for being such great players and such lovely people.

Sunday, 2 April 2017

Foxwood Steel in City Square

We have played in City Square either once or twice before - for the NUT and TUC rallies. Sunny days, warm. Now it is December 22 in the north of England; it is at least dry.

We were me, Bex, Natalie, Amy, Fehmina, Vicky, Millie S, Gary, Charlotte. We played loads of Christmas tunes, interspersed with odd favourite calypso. We, without realising had brought back our tribute to George Michael by restoring Last Christmas to the Christmas set, just three days before he died - at Christmas. Very sad. At 53, so young.

We thought it would be nice to play for commuters as they were catching their trains home. We thought there would lots of people and we would make lots of money busking. Quite wrong.


We think we sparkled up lots of Christmas commutes, and it was hoot playing till we thought our fingers might freeze off.

Saturday, 7 January 2017

Coop Steel play Coop Winter concert

Over the last decade I have been a peri at the Primrose/Cooperative School/Academy, been acting Head of Music during a maternity leave, and been the part-time second music teacher. And on a regular basis the Sparrows have played the Awards Evenings and International Days.

And each time I look at the set of pans that Xanthe bought for the school with our help from the Music Service help nearly twenty years ago. And give them a little stroke of love and hope.

Now with the arrival of Sharleen pans, and hope, are back on the agenda. Yippee!

excitement in my back room
We had the pans tuned in September. Grafton and I went to the school one Friday evening: G tuned the basses and guitars on the spot. I took the seconds and soprano pan home where Grafton tuned the soprano, but, in the excitement of doing StClair and Melvin's pans, we missed the double seconds.

Carrying one half, trolleying the other

I took these to London in the van when the Sparrows played St Paul's, gave them to Grafton, then he brought them to Kings Cross when I went down to an NUT meeting and staggered back to Leeds with them on the train - to the surprise of my union colleagues.

Awards Evening 2014

Awards Evening 2015

International Day 2015

All these efforts were more than rewarded by the arrival of Ellie, Ronita and Jess on the scene. They started learning on September the 19th and played the winter concert on December 14th. We performed as a quintet: me on the tune, the girls on chords and bass and Ben on kit. All I can say is power and accuracy. What a team!

I teach steelpans through Leeds ArtForms Music Service where I am
Steel Pan Development Officer and Head of Steelpans

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Foxwood Steel play Miggy Family Centre - Loverly

The Elves dismantling the gazebo
So, if it's Thursday, it must be the third gig in three days. Yay.

After the Town Hall [one rehearsal, two gigs] it is a relief to arrive at Middleton Family Centre. It is dark, a bit wet and it is cold and they have erected a gazebo in the front garden.

And Natalie and Georgia have just pulled up! Stand back.

I explain to Tom that it can't happen, and he agrees; we play inside a
little office; Gig and Natnat return to normal.

If we appear not to be smiling, well . . . we aren't; we are all sight-righting like-crazy stuff we haven't played for twelve months;

We are me, Natalie, Vicky, Georgia and Charlotte. We played for nearly hours and tried not to repeat any Christmas songs. However we only had Vicky's one book and a few odd copies of this and Christmas that. Some songs we have never played before. Georgia kept asking, "So how does this go?"

The audience loved us, and sang along with Jingle Bells and some others. And we loved them.

We ate mince pies and loverly cups of tea, and went home happier than we expected.

East Steel play the YAMSEN:SpeciallyMusic concert at Leeds Town Hall


Final judging

This is my second year coordinating the YAMSEN:SpeciallyMusic Concert and Art Competition. So, in between rehearsing with Bex with East Steel, I, with the rest of the Christmas concert team, am sorting out 352 art competition entries, prizes, tickets, framing the winning pictures, booking Father Christmas, and all the rest.

Accords rehearsing at St Chad's
Tony and Tinker framing the pics

Yorkshire Post Band rehearsing

Pinning down Father Christmas! Very hard. He is so busy at this time of the year.

Sue was whizzing round so fast!
Alyosha with Yorkshire Post Band

The Minster Choir

display by the back doors

The YAMSEN:SpeciallyMusic Christmas concert committee: myself, Mavis, Pat, Anna-Marie, Diane C, Diane P, Sue S, Joanna. Framing the winning pictures were Josh and Tony from St Anne's Road Framers. Judging the competition were Anna-Marie and Cath. Special guest was Alan,

Sophie T
David H

Shirley from the Box Office organised the tickets. Making the mince pies was Val; buying the wine and generally doing the sums was Anne; rattling buckets, selling tickets and cards on the day were Liz, Chloe and parents and sister,  Barbara, Colette, Irene, Elsie, Emily, Pat, Margery, Lyn, Ann; Nativity scene was from Lucy and the kids from Queensway. Liz from the Town Hall administered us; Olwyn stewarded us safe; Eric, Steven, Michael, Mark and  Robert rearranged the furniture on an industrial scale!

Off the Cuff were Philip, Alex, Michael, Alice, Bart, Joanna, Diane. The Yorkshire Evening Post Band were Diane, Rebecca, Matt, Tom,  Samantha, Paul, Steve, Glyn, Julian,  David, Steve, Kathryn, Alyosha.
Father Christmas just to right of the pillar
Leading the Accords were Joanna, Sophie and Clare; leading Off By Heart were Mavis, Alosha and Joanna; leading East Steel were myself and Bex. Conducting the Yorkshire Evening Post Band was Alyosha, with Diane C organising it. Leading Off the Cuff was Diane.  Simon compered, and conducted when Alyosha wasn't; David played the organ, and conducted the Minster choir.

Queensway rehearsing their Nativity

Prize-winners were congratulated on stage by Lord Mayor, Cllr Jerry Harper.

Meanwhile, really this is a blog for steelband concerts, so back to East Steel: For our featured tunes w e played Dance of the Hours by Ponchielli and Rolling in the Deep by Adele.

East Steel were Bex, me, Lynn, Wanda, Joyce, YiBai, Anne, Trish, Maddie, Josie, Vicky, Sophie. Gill, alas, ill on the night.

East Steel is a Leeds ArtForms Music Centre band, who rehearse Thursday evenings at Swarthmore College, Park Lane, Leeds. Followed by a beginners class, beginning January 12th. Beginners welcome.