Live and kicking... the joys of all kinds of music

Roller Trio.
Roller Trio.
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The Yorkshire Live Music Project is dedicated to bringing classical music and jazz to a wider audience. Chris Bond applauds its work.

“JAZZ in a former flogging cell.”

This was the intriguing note that accompanied a press release from the Yorkshire Live Music Project (YLMP) to promote its latest gig featuring Leeds-based jazz band Roller Trio, who are playing at the historic Wakefield Chantry Chapel on Sunday.

The famous Wakefield landmark was built more than 650 years ago on a bridge over the River Calder and has, in its time, been used as a warehouse, cheese shop, a flogging house for the unruly and a music venue – as well as a place of worship.

“It’s one of only four remaining bridge chapels in the country and it’s worth a visit in its own right, but it also provides a really wonderful, intimate space for the musicians to perform in,” says, Sandra Carlon, YLMP’s administrator.

This weekend’s concert is the latest in a string of performances organised by the Yorkshire Live Music Project since it was set up in 2009. The Wakefield-based project is run by volunteers with the aim of promoting live professional jazz and classical music right across the county.

“It was established in response to dwindling audiences for live classical and jazz music and in response to the dwindling number of spaces where young people, in particular, could go and listen to this kind of music,” explains Carlon.

“We’re not some crazy organisation that has an art director with an unpronounceable surname, we’re about creating opportunities, making music fun and getting rid of the elitist tag that’s often associated with this kind of music.”

The project, which works with public and private music agencies, as well as schools, colleges and community groups, has organised events at all kinds of venues from The Hepworth, Wakefield Cathedral and Yorkshire Sculpture Park, to local bars and cafes.

It has proved very popular, with highlights including jazz pianist Gwilym Simcock at the Walton Arts Festival last year, and a performance by the Ligeti String Quartet at the Hepworth in January.

“We’re very nomadic, we use all kinds of venues right across Yorkshire from a chapel to all kinds of nooks and crannies, and every single venue we’ve used have invited us back so it seems we’re doing something right.”

The idea is to seduce new audiences by hosting concerts in more intimate surroundings. “We’re trying to encourage people to go out and discover new music for themselves because music should be part of everyday life not just something they enjoy a couple of times a year. If you go to Eastern Europe, for instance, music is woven into the fabric of people’s lives,” says Carlon.

“It’s also about making sure that, as far as possible, young people who are learning to play a musical instrument have access to live classical and jazz music, because otherwise they won’t progress.”

As part of its drive to bring this music to the masses, YLMP runs a “Gigs for Kids” scheme that allows under-18s in free at their ticketed events and accompanying adults at half price. “It’s one of the most massively overlooked areas of musical education. There’s a real need for young people to be inspired by fabulous professional musicians because that inspiration then feeds their own interest, which will hopefully stay with them for the rest of their lives.”

The fact it receives Arts Council funding, as well as support from Wakefield Council, has given it kudos at a time when many arts organisations have been hit by cutbacks while others have gone to the wall.

Carlon says there is a “DIY spirit” about the project. “It’s a way of flying the flag for music in Yorkshire and the north and the massive cultural output that we have, because there is a real passion for music here.”

Despite their success, Carlon says they don’t try and bite off more than they can chew. “We have a lot of young people involved and they help keep things fresh and innovative, but without being financially foolish. We’re just trying to add a bit of zest and excitement to the traditional image of jazz and classical music.” So far it seems to be working.

For more information about forthcoming events visit www.ylmp.co.uk

Yorkshire Live Music Project – what’s coming up

March 25 – Roller Trio, Chantry Chapel, Wakefield.

May 8 – Tegen McGrahan (viola) Andrew Dunlop (piano), Wakefield Cathedral.

May 12 – Sue Lowe cello Master Class, Barnsley Music Centre.

May 27 – Miriam Roycroft (cello) Reamonn Keary (piano), Woolley Hall, Wakefield.

October 27 – Simon Rowland Jones (viola) Andrew Ball (piano), Viola Master Class and Recital, Halifax Square Chapel.

March 16, 2013 – Endellion String Quartet, St Oswalds Church, Filey.