Clare Teal: Feeling festive and about to realise a long-held dream

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Rehearsals have begun in earnest for our Festive Fiesta, now in its fifth year. The costumes have certainly improved since that first tour.

I love Christmas music – I always have. In our house the second the tree emerged from the special upstairs cupboard Bing Crosby would begin to sing – how did he know? We carefully unwrapped nan’s “ancient” glass baubles from the 1940s from their tissue paper along with the pink and gold velour rocking horse and the weird wonky robin that was just a little bit too realistic and frankly a bit menacing – all to the strains of I Love That Christmas Feeling. To house our Nativity figurines, Dad crafted a stable out of bits of wood knocking about in the cellar, but unlike your regular lowly cattle shed ours had electricity and was tastefully lit by a Christmas tree bulb.

In keeping with tradition, baby Jesus wasn’t allowed entry till Christmas Eve so loitered around the back or in the bureau drawer.

Alongside Bing, my other favourite was the Bert Kaempfert seasonal selection.

I knew one day I’d make a Christmas album and I wanted to incorporate the same values and sentiments imparted by Bing, Bert and Perry Como. So this year’s Festive Fiesta coincides with the release of said long- awaited Christmas album Jing, Jing-a-Ling. As I write, the boys are in the study warming up. A super talented bunch, they sing as well as play. The backing vocals on the record were provided by three amazing singers – queen of bebop Anita Wardell, king of session singers Andy Playfoot and young jazz star AJ Brown from Halifax and are rangy and complex.

It’s a tough act to follow, so I’m very lucky indeed to work with three excellent musicians who, in addition to playing like gods, are also able to hold down very difficult harmony lines with aplomb.

Our tour starts in Chipping Sodbury, followed by Bath, Blackpool, Exeter, a slight diversion to the Royal Albert Hall for a charity concert, then back on the sleigh to Eastleigh, two nights in Soho, Deal, Maidstone, Farnham and finishing up in Huddersfield with the Lindley Brass Band. So, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll get back to steaming my Dickensian frock coat, ironing the tinsel, and this turkey isn’t going to blow itself up.