‘A train’ in sidings as Big Band gets into the swing
Nineteen amateur musicians aged between 13 and 75 have been chosen from over 100 hopefuls to join a new Yorkshire Big Band.
They have until October 30 to get good enough to perform before a paying audience at Leeds Town Hall alongside Keighley-born jazz singer Clare Teal, pop star Olly Murs and Grammy-nominated jazz singer Gregory Porter.
Saturday was the first day of rehearsals and already the nerves are building.
“There are big butterflies in my tummy but mainly from excitement – it’s going to be an incredible experience,” said Teal.
She was feeling “really nervous” at the start of the project after a BBC friend let slip that a similar project some time ago had fallen flat.
But after just a few hours, the musicianship of the band members calmed her nerves.
“The real stars of this concert will be the band. They are wonderful and are really reaching above their current level and are not taking anything for granted.
“I could not believe how much they were improving as the day went on.”
The set list has not been made public but is expected to be wide-ranging and will include Teal singing Why by Annie Lennox.
“This won’t be a clichéd Big Band. As much as I love Glenn Miller, we will not be doing that.
“There will be commissioned works, some old stuff like Count Basie and some Motown, Latin and Gospel.
“There will be some classic Big Band grooves.”
Fans of Olly Murs will get to hear his latest single as well as some of his previous hits, all done in a swing style.
But Teal won’t reveal any more from the two-hour show.
“I hate telling people what they will hear as that’s part of the fun. I have done three-hour shows before and people get numb bums so the secret is to have it just long enough to leave people wanting more.”
She is confident the end product will be fantastic and has already put one or two doubters in their place.
The BBC Radio 2 presenter said: “I spoke to someone at Radio 2 who said ‘what have you done?’, that it has been done before and it was terrible.
“I said ‘have some faith’ – if you can’t put a brass section together in Yorkshire, where can you?”
In fact, the 19-strong band so impressed Teal that she would like to take them on tour. “They are too good to not carry on.”
The band’s musical director, Grant Windsor, is equally enthusiastic, declaring: “It has been absolutely amazing and inspiring; the exponential curve of development with these guys has been astounding. It has blown away my expectations.”
The band is made up of five saxophone players, five trumpeters, five trombonists and four rhythm players alongside five professional musicians.
As well as the band there are five soloists chosen by Teal.
The youngest, aged just 13, is Andreas Wong, a guitarist from Wetherby who is a fan of the Red Hot Chilli Peppers and Leeds band the Kaiser Chiefs.
The most senior soloist is 75-year-old Helena Wilson, a singer from Leeds who takes her inspiration from the greats of the 1940s including Doris Day. “She sings for the joy of it and is not formally trained,” said a band spokeswoman.
“She came along to the auditions on the off chance that Clare and Grant would see her although they were only looking for instrumentalists.
“They so loved Helena’s voice that they invited her to be a soloist in the band.”
Amateur band members include 14-year-old Christopher Adsett (tenor sax), Scott Stockdale, 16 (trombone), Lizzie Rogozinski, 16, who plays baritone sax and is a member of Leeds Youth Jazz Orchestra, Neil Jowett (trumpet) who used to play for the Slaithwaite and Linthwaite Brass band in Huddersfield and Jake Jones from Shipley.
They will be rubbing shoulders with Jude Abbott from Leeds band Chumbawamba who describes herself as an “accidental pop star”.
The concert is raising money for BBC Children in Need and will be recorded for broadcast on BBC Radio Leeds and on Radio 2.
Tickets are £14 and £15 and can be purchased from Leeds City Centre box office 0113 224 3801.