FOR big band music delivered with style and energy, look no further than a gig in Huddersfield this time next week.
Huddersfield University Big Band returns to the main stage of the Lawrence Batley Theatre with some of the best young talent in town.
And this year, after a string of big concerts at the venue featuring a guest artist or the music of a particular composer, the band has decided to return to the roots of the big band tradition.
“We’ve had such great audiences that we wanted to do some more traditional stuff to show our appreciation of their support” said university lecturer and director of the band, Sean Miller.
The band’s big date at the LBT is a week tonight, Friday, February 3, and will highlight the development of the big band in the golden age of swing. Its Fifties’ feel should be unmistakable.
Expect to hear music from Basie, Goodman, Ellington, Kenton and Rich played by a whole new generation of top quality big band musicians.
Sean is an eloquent advocate of big band music but so are a clutch of his current players who he has brought along to share their passion for a style of music many think is rooted in an older generation.
Lisa Jones and Sarah Hind are both second year music students at Huddersfield University.
Both are from Glossop, both play saxophone and both love playing in the big band.
Lisa is passionate about the big band sound.
“I’m an older person when it comes to music!,” she said.
“My dad used to listen to Ella Fitzgerald a lot. On my iPod it’s all big band music.”
Sarah’s first instrument was flute and she admits that she switched to the saxophone so she could join a big band tour.
“But I really enjoy the saxophone. It’s fun in rehearsals and in the band it’s a bit more relaxed than other ensembles.”
Toby Donnelly is one of the band’s trumpet players and, as a third year student, this may be his last year in the band.
Students audition in their first year if they want to join the band. And it seems that making a connection with the music is one of the keys to getting a place in the line-up.
“I hold auditions because I want them to want to be in the band,” said Sean.
“They don’t have to be note perfect when they audition. I want to see if they are really into the style of music or not,’’ said Sean.
“You can tell really quickly whether they like the music and can get into it or not.”
Individual lessons with music tutors on their instruments is where all the musicians refine and mould their technique.
But the band is where they learn about being part of and contributing to an ensemble.
“People are aware when they join us that this is really hard stuff to play,” said Sean.
That certainly hasn’t fazed the band’s latest crop of musicians. The band’s membership rotates each year as students finish or start their courses.
The ensemble seems set to lose a handful of its longest standing members this summer as third year students like Toby graduate and make plans for their futures.
Toby has been playing seriously since he was 14 and his father is a professional musician. He has already played both as a semi professional and as a professional musician and it’s hard to see a future for him that doesn’t involve music.
Toby is from Hartlepool where his father plays regularly in a big band and his own cv already includes a wide range of performance experience.
And it is performance for a big audience like those the band has attracted over the years at the LBT that really makes all the work worthwhile.
“It’s nice to have the gigs. It really helps us as performers,” said Lisa.
Next week’s concert will feature two vocalists, third year student Dan Carter and Joanna Lesley who is a mature student in her first year.
Dan is likely to be singing classics such as Mister Bojangles, Mack The Knife and Beyond The Sea. Joanna’s vocals will feature The Lady Is A Tramp, Makin Whoopee and Blue Skies.
Next Friday’s main stage concert by the University of Huddersfield Big Band has become a fixture in the LBT calendar. It’s one few big band fans would miss and you shouldn’t either.
Box office is on 01484 430528.