GLAD DAY a personal reflection
“Heart in Heart and Hand in Hand"
This music, created by Mike & Kate Westbrook opens up the potential for every one of us participating in the experience; whether as listener or performer; to transcend what is usually described as the ego – self – I – me…..
The musicians and the singers on Saturday radiated an essence of authenticity which gave every individual the opportunity to immerse their “self” in a sublime and overwhelming sense of “oneness” with humanity and the universal state of being.
If we allow ourselves to experience music at this deep level of absorption, without expectation or desire, and, be “in the moment”, it will transport us to a new level of consciousness akin to what some may describe a spiritual experience.
Ali Sharpe director of Rising Voices Wessex Choir http://www.alisharpe.co.uk
GLAD DAY St. Peter’s Church, Bournemouth - Saturday 6th October 2018
7 October 2018
16 October 2018
On Saturday 17th November The Uncommon Orchestra will take the stage
at the Teatro Rossini, Pesaro, Italy - birthplace of Gioacchino Rossini - for a special performance of Rossini Re-Loaded, as part of a festival marking the 150th anniversary of the great composer’s death.
For a previous revival of the Rossini-Re-Loaded (2013) Mike Westbrook wrote this introduction.
Travels with Rossini
On the whole ‘Jazzing the Classics’ has not been my thing, though I’ve enjoyed the Ellington/Strayhorn take on Grieg and Tchaikovsky, and I specially like Ray Nance’s violin feature on Dvorak’s Humoresque in the 1948 Carnegie Hall concert.
When in 1984 I chopped the William Tell Overture up into five bits and arranged them for a small marching band, as a street entertainment in Lausanne I had no idea we’d still be playing those tunes in 2013. That occasion was a festival in honour of William Tell, and we were escorted through the town by a trombone-playing Rossini, portrayed by comedian Bernard Maitre.
It’s a good sign when, at the first rehearsal the musicians can’t play for laughing. Thirty years on, the humour of Rossini’s music is as irresistible as ever, as is the lyricism, the drama and passion.
After Lausanne Kate and I scoured the operas for other material, and found plenty. THE BARBER OF SEVILLE yielded not only its Overture but also the ballad L’amoroso e sincero Lindoro. There were rich pickings too in THE THIEVING MAGPIE. The Willow Song from OTHELLO, one of Rossini’s own favourites, was a must. Tutto Cangia, the Hymn to Liberty from the end of WILLIAM TELL, a quintessential Italian pop anthem, completed the scenario.
We had added vocals when we moved indoors, and used grand piano to augment the ‘street’ line up of sopranino sax, alto sax, trombone, tenor horn, two tubas and drums. With this combination we travelled the length and breadth of Europe, mostly by car and minibus, playing every kind of venue from street corner to jazz club to concert hall. In the Zurich Opera House we played on the set of Rosenkavalier.
We’d been on the road with the seven-piece, off and on, for several years when I decided, prompted by a commission for the NDR Band in Hamburg, to write the big band version. Compared to the rigour of boiling down the orchestration to just six horns, arranging for thirteen, plus cello, accordion, vibraphone, timpani and all the trimmings, was sheer indulgence. The band was brilliant, even if the humour was a little overdone, and the fourth trumpet player would insist on doing his Adolph Hitler impression - not always at the most appropriate moment.
We did a number of performances with the German musicians. On Rossini’s Birthday, in a unique confrontation at the Hamburg Staatsoper, Kate and the NDR Band shared the stage with the Hannover Symphony Orchestra plus classical vocalists, alternating with their versions of Rossini.
By then the Rossini wagon was unstoppable. Back in London we formed an Orchestra specially to play the Rossini programme. We toured France in a coach, and played some big festivals in Italy and elsewhere. In Perugia, a hammering by the Italian Jazz Police was a reminder that Rossini in a jazz festival could still be controversial. Back home we did a week at Ronnie Scott’s and, at the invitation of the late John Drummond, played BIG BAND ROSSINI at the Albert Hall, - the first jazz work ever featured in the BBC Proms. The portrait bust of Sir Henry Wood wore shades that night.
Kate and I toured in Scandinavia with the excellent Swedish big band Tolvan in a bus. Later, with Chris Biscoe we took Rossini down under for concerts with the Brisbane Biennial Big Band. The band’s trumpet soloist brought new life to the Fete Champetre interlude with a show-stopping impersonation of a cookaburra.
My biggest challenge had been to find a way of arranging Figaro’s famous aria from the BARBER, Largo al Factotum. I eventually came up with Factotum al Bebop, a huge workout for the band and the most demanding chart in the pad. Along the way we added two pieces from LA CENERENTOLA; a version of the Overture, which I called Funkin’ Cinderella, and the poignant ballad Once Upon a Time.
A couple of years ago the Ottawa Jazz Orchestra played the piece and titled it ROSSINI RE-LOADED. It seemed about time for us to play that music again, and see how the new big band would take to it. We needn’t have worried. At the first rehearsal everyone just fell about laughing. The arrangements sounded terrible, but we knew all would be well.
First published in SAI No 95
THE UNCOMMON ORCHESTRA ROSSINI RE-LOADED THE 2018 VERSION
Kate Westbrook, voice
Pete Whyman, Roz Harding, Sarah Dean, Alan Wakeman, Ian Wellens, saxophones
Graham Russell. Stuart Brooks, Dick Pearce, Dave Holdsworth, trumpets
Joe Carnell, Sam Chamberlain-Keen, Stewart Stunell, Ashley Naylor, trombones
Frank Schaefer, cello. Jesse Molins, Matthew North, guitars. Billie Bottle, keyboard, bass guitar, voice
Marcus Vergette, bass Coach York Drums. Mike Westbrook. Piano/MD
photo. Neil Chamberlain-Keen
SATURDAY 17th NOVEMBER 2018
TEATRO ROSSINI PIAZZA LAZZERINI 1 PESARO. ITALY
Read about Glad Day The History in our September 2018 post
Remembering John and Margery Styles, founder members of Smith’s Academy.
The Gallop from William Tell by Giacchino Rossini. Mike Westbrook Orchestra at The Albert Hall in the BBC Proms 1992.
25 October 2018
William Blake, Lennon & McCartney, John Clare, Brecht/Weill,
Rossini…Westbrook originals from Citadel/Room 315,
The Cortège, On Duke’s Birthday, English Soup,
A Bigger Show and…Sicilian Folk Music
…….IT MUST BE THE UNCOMMON ORCHESTRA!
MIKE WESTBROOK THE UNCOMMON ORCHESTRA “PURE GOLD”
Phil Minton, Kate Westbrook, Martine Waltier voices
Billie Bottle voice, keyboard, bass guitar Dominique Pifarely violin
Graham Russell, Stuart Brooks, Dick Pearce, Dave Holdsworth trumpets
Pete Whyman, Roz Harding, Sarah Dean, Alan Wakeman, Ian Wellens saxophones
Joe Carnell, Sam Chamberlain-Keen, Stewart Stunell, Ashley Naylor trombones
Jesse Molins, Matthew North guitars Marcus Vergette bass
Coach York drums Mike Westbrook piano
sound Miles Ashton
Thursday 15th November
via Pietro Mascagni
Presented by Associazione Catania Jazz
Friday 16th November
Cinema Teatro Golden,
Via Terrasanta, 60,
presented by Nomos Jazz
Celebrating the Italian release of the album
Mike Westbrook Orchestra
Live in Sicily 1992
Westbrook Records WR004
supported by Airshaft Trust and the Patrons of the Mike Westbrook Orchestra
Tender Love from the album CATANIA Mike Westbrook Orchestra
Live in Sicily 1992 featuring Chris Biscoe soprano saxophone Anthony Kerr vibraphone
Official UK Release 1st February 2019
31 October 2018
On Sunday last Mike received an Honorary Fellowship from Plymouth College of Art at a ceremony held in the Theatre Royal.
In the late ‘50s he studied at the Art College and there formed his first band with John Surman, Keith Rowe, Ron Hills, Malcolm Le Grice and others.
The photo below shows Mike with Professor Andrew Brewerton principal of the College, and Suki Dhanda photographer on the Guardian and The Observer who also received an award.
Performance artist Claire Twomey was another recipient.
Before making his acceptance speech Mike played a version of his composition ‘View From the Drawbridge’.
October 2018 Posts
Remembering John and Margery Styles, founder members of Smith’s Academy.