It was in 2021 that trumpeter Paul (Harry) Dowler managed to bring together a small group of semi-professional jazz musicians and convince them that the year 1959 was not only the pinnacle of mainstream jazz, but it was also the year of his birth so they should form an “Old-Fashioned Jazz Combo” and call it “Jazz 59 Quintet”. Later it became a sextet consisting of trumpet, saxophone, guitar, bass, drums and keyboard. In 2021 Paul and his wife Heather decided to organise a Charity Jazz Concert which was a such a success that they realized not only were they enjoying themselves but that they had inadvertently created a unique fundraising vehicle – so they convinced the performers that if they claimed just travel expenses they would be raising funds for a very good cause. A wonderful idea – and it worked!


Jazz is a fusion of African and European music and was developed in the USA in the early part of the 20th century and was well established by the year 1959! The rhythmic and chordal features used then are still evident in our modern era. The programme began with a powerful, cadenza-like solo from Paul demonstrating the full range of the instrument, before being joined by the rest of the group. As is the tradition, each member of the group had the opportunity to perform his own variation of the main theme thus making us aware of what a talented group they are. It was a varied programme from the slow, lazy feel of “Blue in Green” then “Yesterday” and “Beautiful Love” to the lively “Moments’ Notice” and it was obvious that they really enjoyed performing together. There was extra applause after “When I Fall in Love” in which Paul had used two trumpets, one in each hand, (one muted to produce the tonal variation for the alternate lines of the lyrics). It was a most enjoyable performance. In contrast “One for Daddy O” brought the concert to a close with lots of toe-tapping and smiles all round. There was much well-deserved applause - and admiration of their snazzy waistcoats!

“Sax a Trois” was the group of musicians who entertained us at our April meeting and what a talented group they were. Anna Young, Paynor Tsate and Samantha Matthews from the Birmingham Conservatoire have all won prizes for their solo performances and as members of trios and quartets. The accompanist was Charles Matthews, a tutor in piano and organ at the Conservatoire. He is in great demand for his legendary accompanying skills not just at the Conservatoire but also in the wider circle of professional music making.

The programme consisted of a trio to both begin and end the entertainment with each student playing a solo piece in each half of the programme.

“Dance for three Saxophones” (originally for three violins) arranged by Charles Matthews set the scene with a very robust and rhythmic performance with excellent attention to detail. Anna then played “Fuzzy Bird Sonata” by Tokashi Yoshimatsu in which after several attempts Fuzzy Bird finally manages to take flight. After the interval Anna played Vocalise by Messiaen which demonstrated her beautiful legato tone quality. Paynor chose “Majorca” by Albeniz which, as expected, displayed a real Spanish atmosphere particularly as Paynor was very keen to highlight the rhythmic content. For his second piece he chose “Escapades” (from the film “Catch me if you can”) by John Williams. After  the opening section the mood became mysterious with a rather free rhythmic content before ending with “Joy Ride” which brought the piece to a very lively conclusion. Samantha played “Concerto” in three short movements by Lee Actor and in the second half she played the soprano saxophone and played “Fujiko” by Andy Scott. This demonstrated her control of the instrument and her beautiful smooth legato playing as the piece ended very softly and mysteriously. The final piece is best known when played by three violins but Pachelbel’s “Canon” nevertheless was an interesting choice and in the hands of such talented performers one could always hear the melody as it is passed from one player to the next.

Charles, as usual, was superb in the way he coped with some unbelievably difficult accompaniments  and, after an evening of excellent music-making,  the performers were rewarded with long, enthusiastic and well-deserved applause.

The March meeting of the Music Society was held, not in the usual venue of the Methodist Church, but in the Music Room at Famington Farm, Willington thanks to the very kind invitation of David Hodges. This is a perfect venue for Chamber music and the Arcus Piano Trio certainly enjoyed playing there.

The programme consisted of two Piano trios, the first by Schubert (1797 – 1828) and the second by Brahms (1833 – 1897). Schubert completed the Trio No. 1 in B-flat major in 1828 just before he died. Written in the classical style of that era, it nevertheless brings to the fore his wonderful ability to compose beautiful melodies particularly in the first two movements. In the third movement (Scherzo) the instruments imitate each other before leading us into the final movement which ended with an exciting section, played as marked, at presto speed!

After the interval, in which members of the audience enjoyed a glass of wine, it was the Piano Trio No. 1 in B major by Brahms. Although theoretically it is still in the classical age it certainly shows leanings towards the romantic era that was to follow with a stronger sense of emotion and less adherence to the classical forms. The opening of this Trio is an example; the cello and piano introduce a bold melody which builds up to the entry of the violin. Then follows a lively section in which various themes are developed. In the Scherzo the delicate finger work from all players was beautifully executed.

It was clear from the start that these three performers really enjoy playing together; the synchronisation was superb, seemingly by instinct on occasions and their musicianship is of the highest level. Formed in 2015 they have already received many accolades in this country but each one of them also pursues a successful career as a soloist. They are based in the Midlands and hopefully, we may be able to persuade them to play for us again in the future.

“Since Music is so good a thing, I wish all men would learn to sing”.

 Thus said the composer William Byrd in 1588.  Had Mr Byrd been at the Methodist Church in Shipston last Friday he would have witnessed an event that would have gladdened his heart! The first of our monthly meetings for 2023 featured the Blockley Blokes – a choir of 28 members – all men who like to sing. Their varied program began with “Send Down a Song for Me” by Terry Rigler, a member of Bournemouth Male Voice Choir and, from the opening phrase, the choir sang confidently with clear diction. After a duet from “The Magic Flute”  by Mozart, we heard “Calon Lan” arr. by Edmund Walters. Closing one’s eyes one was transported to the Llangollen Eisteddfod by the classic sound of the male voice choir. A lovely performance. After items from “Carousel” and “South Pacific”, the first half ended with “When the Saints go Marching In” arranged by Dennis Hood – a tribute as he died last year aged 70.

The second half of the evening began with a very confident rendition of “Do you Hear the People Sing?” followed by a heartfelt performance of “Bring Him Home”, both from “Les Miserables”. The ability of the choir to switch immediately from the strong, powerful theme of the first to the yearning sadness of the second was impressive. “Some Blokes Do” by Stephen Foster was sung with gusto and a chorus from “The Yeomen of the Guard” (Gilbert and Sullivan) brought us to the final item.  “Gwahoddiad”, a Welsh hymn of American origin providing a perfect finale to an evening of contrasting songs, from the gentle soothing ones to the energetic, toe-tapping ones. It was a most enjoyable evening performed by “Men Who Sing”! We hope that they will return in the future.

“Live at Last” was the title of May’s concert put on by Shipston Music Society. And the relief felt by singers and audience alike to be back together enjoying live music was palpable.

This year’s Royal Jubilee was in evidence in the line up of songs presented by Leamington Choir, Divertimento at the Music Society’s concert in May.

But the evening started - and the audience immediately engaged and gripped when they were invited to join in a real tongue-twister with All I Want is a Proper Cup of Coffee. Tongues were duly twisted and then the choir began their evening.

First of all, Java Jive, a song which continued the coffee theme and made popular by Manhattan Transfer. We were then treated to two songs based on late 19th century vesper hymns, Ave Maris Stella by Grieg and Beati Quorum Via by Stanford.

The Platinum Jubilee was celebrated in a number of pieces reflecting Queen and Commonwealth, starting with O Taste and See composed by Vaughan Williams for the Coronation in 1953. This was followed by a version of The Lord is my Shepherd arranged by Howard Goodall for the Vicar of Dibley, a favourite television programme of Her Majesty. Then we were treated to Ubi Caritas which was dedicated to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on their wedding day, followed by O-Re-Mi, a Nigerian highlife song (“Come on, let’s dance!)

With the ladies dressed in colourful jackets – red, green and purple, and the gentlemen in smart suits, Divertimento presented a sense of real togetherness which was reflected in the high standard of their singing. Goodness knows how much rehearsing went into such pieces as the folk song from Finland, Sakkijarven Polkka, which brought out chattering voices, loud and soft, and appearing at times like a Mexican wave. And then Sleep by Whiteacre which was eerie and mysterious. So difficult to convey this in song and yet so easy for the audience to enjoy and quietly absorb.

Transformational songs, The Lion Sleeps Tonight (Zulu trad.song) and I’m a Train (La Chaine), and humour from Cole Porter’s Tale of the Oyster, completed an evening of variety and pleasure.

Divertimento is a group of singers from Leamington Spa and this was their second visit to us in Shipston. It was high quality entertainment, and a real treat. Yes - Live at Last!

For our March concert the members of Shipston Music Society were once again entertained by The Pavilionaires, a local group who are all members of Shipston u3a and who rehearse every week in Brailes Sports Pavilion – hence their decision to call themselves The Pavilionaires.

The programme began with “Don’t get around much anymore” composed by Duke Ellington in 1940 which immediately set the feet tapping. It was followed by “Satin Doll”, the tune being announced with excellent clarity by the trumpet. “Blue Skies” was an addition to the printed programme but, composed by Irving Berlin in 1926, it made its debut in the Rogers and Hart musical “Betsy” which closed after only 39 performances! The song however became an immediate success and listening to the guitar take over the melody at one point was a delight. Two more well- known pieces “Jive at Five” and “Deep purple” followed and then the final item before the interval was “Sweet Georgia Brown”. Composed in 1925 it became popular when the Harlem Globetrotters adopted the tune as their theme song in 1952. It was a lively item to end the first half of the evening.

After a rousing performance of “A Train”, “Shiny Stockings” provided a more melodic contrast; with music by Frank Foster it has two sets of lyrics, one by Ella Fitzgerald, the other by Jon Hendricks. “St. Louis Blues” was composed in 1914 in the Blues style by W. C. Handy who said the idea for the piece came after seeing a distraught woman in St. Louis lamenting that “Ma man’s got a heart like a rock cast in de sea”. Again the guitar featured more prominently. At this point the alto saxophone was exchanged for the clarinet and we heard “Georgia on my Mind” composed by Hoagy Carmichael in 1930 with lyrics by Stuart Gorrell. The performance had a more dreamlike quality as did “The Nearness of You”.

“When you’re smiling” was a very popular choice and was rewarded with enthusiastic applause. As with every item in the programme it was obvious that each member of the group, whether experienced or not-so-experienced, really enjoy performing together and this is conveyed to the audience. We were certainly sent home with a smile and feet tapping after a thoroughly enjoyable evening.

On May 18th the Pavilionaires provided a lively and entertaining evening of jazz for the Shipston Music Society. The instrumentalists in this group obviously enjoy playing together and their musicianship and enthusiasm shone through in each item on the programme. As in all traditional jazz there were sections highlighting a solo instrument and these were all performed with skill and assurance.

The guest vocalist was Gayle Burch whose clear diction and vocal style were ideally suited to such titles as “The Lady is a Tramp” and “I can’t give you anything but love”. After the interval “The nearness of you” with reduced backing and in a gentler style made a good contrast and allowed Gayle to demonstrate her excellent vocal control.

The guitarist and bass player also had vocal spots but this brings me to the one aspect of the evening which, I feel, needs attention – that of balance. The group is lucky to have a very talented flautist, an excellent exponent of jazz, whose clear tone adds enormously to the overall sound. However, for these two items it overpowered the efforts of the vocalists. Such a pity. Also, the Methodist Church is a small, intimate setting where amplification is rarely necessary and clearly some members of the audience felt that on this occasion it was excessive.

Nevertheless it was a very enjoyable evening ending with “When you’re smiling” with audience participation which sent everyone home “with a smile”.

2017 was well and truly welcomed in with a smile at a wonderful evening organised by Shipston Music Society on 20th January.   Tim and Helen Porter together with their family – Hannah, Beth, and Barney, entertained members with a lively and varied programme of music.  Rare for all the family members to be performing together these days, we were doubly grateful to Beth as it was her birthday.

The evening was delightfully informal with all styles of music played to the usual excellent standard we are used to from the Porters.  Ragtime, jazz, pop, folk and classic were all included to the obvious pleasure of everyone present.  And the variety of instruments that were played to accompany the songs seemed endless – piano, flute, ukulele, recorder, harmonica all made an appearance, alongside of course the voices of all five family members.  Even Beth’s husband was persuaded to join her to sing the Scottish Ashokan Farewell at the end of the evening.

There was hardly a space in the house for this concert and we look forward to welcome old and new visitors during the year to come.

December saw a visit from local musicians, The Pavilionaires.   

They were founded in 2013 and have grown to around 8 musicians, increasing occasionally with visiting ones.  The group comprises keyboard , guitar, bass, alto and tenor sax, trumpet and, on this occasion, a guest vocalist - and as founder Geoff Holtom explained, some members of the group had only taken up a musical instrument after retirement.  So all credit to them for taking this forward, performing for the public and giving such enjoyment.

Gentle jazz was the tone of the evening and the group played a number of well known songs – Misty, The A train, Stranger on the Shore, White Christmas to name a few – as well as less known ones.  Vocalist Gayle Burch’s voice lended itself well to these songs, and her, at times, ‘smoky’ interpretation was just right.   Their ability to conjure up an atmosphere was very good, and perhaps particularly noticeable in their rendition of St James’ Infirmary which transported the audience straight to New Orleans!

There was a really good and appreciative audience for this concert, and we will look forward to seeing them grow in the years to come, and to welcoming them back to play for us again in the future.

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