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Remembering John and Margery Styles, founder members of Smith’s Academy.
04 November 2022
A NIGHT TO REMEMBER
The album LONDON BRIDGE LIVE IN ZURICH 1990 is released on November 4th. Here we re-print an article originally published in The Smith’s Academy Informer, describing the circumstances behind the making of this historic recording.
At the back end of July a meeting took place in East London at which a number of conspirators got together to plot a new onslaught on the London music scene. Present were : Peter Conway (who instigated the meeting), his business partner Peter Luxton (of ppArtnerships), Rupert Bond (conductor of Docklands Sinfonietta), Sue Bond (administrator of the Sinfonietta), John Kiefer (Arts officer of the Docklands Development Corporation), Richard Nowell (of Richard Nowell Sound Services), Fiachra Trench (associate musical director of the Mike Westbrook Orchestra), Laurence Aston (manager of the Orchestra), Kate Westbrook and Mike Westbrook (composers of London Bridge). The meeting resulted in a plan to stage the British premiere of London Bridge in the 4th Jazz Lunarcy Festival in November.
Peter Conway, committed to the work and determined that it should be presented under the best possible conditions, was the driving force behind the enterprise. The recently formed Docklands Sinfonietta offered a musical collaboration essential to London Bridge hitherto lacking in Britain. The Sinfonietta’s enthusiasm for the work was a major factor. There were problems to be overcome, principally the funding of such a large-scale event, and the location of a suitably large venue in the Docklands area. Meetings and phone calls continued over the summer, at first with discouraging results. Although there was widespread support for the project, finance was not available at such short notice and a postponement until next year seemed inevitable.
London Bridge Live in Zűrich 1990 cover
A phone call from Zurich from Tommy Bodmer initiated a chain of events that seemed at first to be totally separate, but were to become interwoven with the London plans. Tommy intimated that the International Zurich Jazz Festival might be interested in another Westbrook project this year (the last was the highly successful Westbrook-Rossini in 1986). Various ideas were mooted with the Festival's director Susanna Tanner, who was looking for something to tie in with a Shakespearian theme. Unfortunately, the Band's repertoire includes no settings of Shakespeare (although 'Isaura', from Rossini's Otello could be indirectly connected) - so things were at an impasse. Then Susanna heard about the plans for London Bridge, and having previously expressed her interest in presenting the work in Zurich at some point, finance permitting, the logic of the situation took over. With the two festivals spanning the same period in November, consecutive dates for London and Zurich were agreed.
The plot now really began to thicken. After exploring all avenues of sponsorship, and finding that the funds could not be raised in time, Peter Conway broke the sad news that the London premiere would have to be postponed until a more favourable moment. Since all the rehearsals were to have been in London, it seemed impossible that the Zurich performance could go ahead. But we reckoned without the determination of Susanna to see London Bridge presented in the Zurich Festival. Somehow she managed to raise the necessary finance to enable the work to be rehearsed in London and performed in Zurich - a considerable undertaking, in view of the fact, that the combined orchestra plus management and technicians totals 52 people. Zurich was fixed quickly once the figures were confirmed, and this reopened the possibility of a London concert, if the right venue could be found. A desperate search began, as Conway's conspirators slipped through the early morning mists of Docklands. Suddenly, the Hackney Empire seemed a possibility, even though it was outside the Docklands area. But the Development Corporation's funding was linked entirely to a Docklands performance. And then, Peter had a brainwave. Staring everyone in the face was the recently restored and magnificently proportioned St. Anne's Church at Limehouse, in the very heart of the Docklands area. A Hawksmoor church, St Anne’s is comparable to the eighteenth century architect's design for St. John's, Smith Square. Here was the ideal venue for the first British performance of a piece conceived just up the road in Mile End, not far from London Bridge itself. Nor far from those Music Halls recalled in the song ‘Blighters’ which opens ‘Picardie’- the last section of 'London Bridge is Broken Down'. The experience of travelling in Europe in the mid-eighties produced many of the themes and ideas explored in the work. St. Anne’s, with its proximity to the river and the ancient port, stands symbolically at the old and new gateway to Europe.
Smith’s Academy Informer No 21 October 1990
St. Annes Church, Limehouse
LONDON BRIDGE LIVE IN ZÜRICH 1990 westbrook records WR 011
Kate Westbrook voice Mike Westbrook piano
Mike Westbrook Orchestra
Graham Russell trumpet Paul Nieman trombone
Pete Whyman Alan Wakeman Chris Biscoe saxophones
Andy Grappy tuba Brian Godding guitar
Tim Harries bass guitar Peter Fairclough drums
Docklands Sinfonietta conductor Rupert Bond leader Alison Kelly
music composed by Mike Westbrook texts selected by Kate Westbrook
texts by René Arcos, Wilhelm Busch, Andrèe Chedid, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe,Bernhard Lassahn, Siegfried Sassoon, Kate Westbrook
Recorded by SRF in concert at the Zürich International Jazz Festival 1990
Album produced, re-mixed and mastered by Jay Auborn at dBs Pro, Bristol.
supported by Airshaft Trust.
international distribution by Proper Music Distribution
available from westbrook records
London Bridge Live in Zűrich 1990 front and back cover
London Bridge Live in Zűrich 1990 - information
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