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.