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University of Huddersfield Big Band to perform at Lawrence Batley Theatre

Watch them performing Norwegian Wood

Big Band music will fill the Lawrence Batley Theatre on Saturday, April 16, when members of the University of Huddersfield Big Band showcase their talents.

The annual concert, a firm favourite with audiences, promises an evening of vibrant tunes – from the golden days of the Big Band tradition in the 1930s and 1940s right up to the present day.

There’s every shade of swing and jazz, as well as improvisation, on the programme, which includes some of the most famous Big Band pieces ever written – Benny Goodman’s Don’t Be That Way and Count Basie’s April in Paris.

Sean Miller, a part-time music tutor at the university and leader of the band since 2003, says the ensemble explores the original sounds of swing and jazz, which were the forerunners of rock and roll and rhythm and blues, but also enjoys performing modern works.

As a young musician studying at Huddersfield University he was a member of the Big Band from 1995 to 1998 and says his interest in jazz began at an early age.

“At that time the Big Band was the only thing I could get into to play jazz,” added Sean, who joined as a pianist.

“Then I left university but was asked to come back to run the band. The Big Band sound has become more popular again, with people like Michael Bublé and Robbie Williams getting into the sound. I think social media has helped a lot of young people discover it.

“They can use things like iTunes and Spotify to dip their toes into the water and try it out, whereas we had to go out and buy it. A lot of music students begin to realise that in the jazz world a lot of skills are needed; not just reading skills but improvising as well, and they enjoy the Big Band because they are playing all the time and it’s so vibrant.”

Huddersfield University Big Band with Sean Miller at the helm

The Big Band sound has its origins in the swing music of the 1920s and 30s. Sean explains that the term ‘Big Band’ probably arose because up to that point musicians played in much smaller groups – although most big bands have no more than 20 players.

He added: “The 30s and 40s were the heyday – it was the music that rallied the troops in World War Two – and the music was at the heart of popular culture. It was what the kids were listening to. In a sense it was the beginnings of pop music.”

Huddersfield’s Big Band has five saxophone players, four trombonists, five trumpeters and a rhythm section. They will play a selection from every decade, including work by contemporary composers.

Sean says that part of the function of the band is to teach students about the music they are playing. “We try and figure out how the pieces were originally played, how the musicians were thinking and what they sounded like.

“We are playing Count Basie and Benny Goodman pieces because I want the students to capture the sounds these bands made. It’s fun to do this. In other pieces they can be themselves.”

As well as items by the full band, the concert will feature improvised works by a septet of students and a special performance of the Artie Shaw Clarinet Concerto by final year student George Winsall.

Click here for tickets to the concert, which starts at 7.30pm. Tickets are £7 and £12.

Meanwhile a free concert, The Sounds of Time, to celebrate the 175th anniversary of Huddersfield Mechanics’ Institute has been put together by Huddersfield University’s Department of Music.

The programme on Friday, April 15, at 7.30pm in St Paul’s Hall, will feature both music from the early 1840s and contemporary pieces by students.

Included in the programme will also be works by Slaithwaite-born Haydn Wood alongside those of Vaughan Williams, Parry and Elgar – to be performed by the University Brass Band, Saxophone Ensemble and Chamber Choir.

Tickets are available through Eventbrite



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