After a ‘brilliant’ first trip to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival last year, the Huddersfield-based Sundown Swing Band is off to Scotland once more for another series of gigs at the world-famous arts event.
The 14-piece band, formed just four years ago by a group of amateur instrumentalists, will be performing at the festival on August 14 and 15.
Band secretary Barbara Burnby says the musicians did experience some trepidation when travelling to the festival for the first time in 2014. But their catchy, toe-tapping music attracted full houses.
She explained: “It turned out to be a brilliant trip, but there was the worry that we didn’t know if an audience was going to come to the concerts. Our first performance was at St Giles’ Cathedral and we thought we would be background music and people would be wandering in and out, but people sat down to listen and by the time we finished the cathedral was full. It was marvellous. We went on to play at the Edinburgh Jazz Bar and that was almost full. We do feel more confident this year but we have a new venue as well as the places where we played last year - the artSpace at St Mark’s, which is next to Edinburgh Castle - and we don’t know if we’ll get an audience. By giving more performances maybe we will be diluting the audience.”
However the band’s fears will almost certainly prove to be groundless as its reputation has grown tremendously since its inception. As Barbara confirms: “Our services are in demand. As well as playing concerts we have bookings well into 2016, including three weddings and a 70th birthday party. We’re also excited to have been asked to play at the Marsden Jazz Festival in October.”
Sundown Swing is part of the revival of 1940s instrumental swing classics made famous by band leaders such as Glenn Miller and Count Basie.
Barbara believes that recent World War Two anniversary events have brought the vintage genre back into the limelight. “There have been a lot of 1940s events recently, at which swing music has been played,” she said, “so people are hearing it more and it’s becoming popular again. It’s also being revived by people like Robbie Williams and Michael Buble.”
This year the Sundowners have had a busy local schedule of concerts, playing at a Huddersfield YMCA 1940s night and church venues in Clifton and Slaithwaite. Last year they entertained spectators of the Tour de France and this summer they played for Tour de Yorkshire crowds.
On September 12 Sundown Swing is giving a concert at Kirkheaton United Reform Church and on October 3 the band is joining Marsh Ladies Choir as the choristers celebrate their ensemble’s 60th anniversary.
Sundown Swing musical director Neil Jowett says every member of the band has enjoyed building up a repertoire. He added: “We are light-heartedly self-critical but the main thing is we all enjoy the ensemble playing and without exception our audiences always want more.”