Jazz at the Music School – Sherborne School Swing Band Sherborne Abbey Festival

FULL marks to Sherborne School Swing Band, whose dazzling performance on the opening day of the fifteenth Sherborne Abbey Festival was given before an enthusiastic and rather more than capacity audience. Despite extra chairs being magicked out from behind the woodwork by beaming, blazered boys, there was standing room only in the Tindall Recital Hall and a sizeable overflow in the corridor and on the lawn outside too!

Under the direction of James Henderson, the twenty or so members of the band, all pupils at Sherborne School, played with enthusiasm and zest. Solos, shared out amongst the principal players, were never drowned by the backing instrumentalists, dynamic contrast was a significant feature throughout, while the tight rhythmic playing, particularly within the various sections of the band, was quite remarkable. This last was all the more impressive given the rhythmic complexity of much of the music being played. But this was only the half of it. I was, of course, expecting considerable accomplishment, but it was the sheer joy that the music generated, both amongst the audience and, most importantly, between the band members themselves, that will surely leave the most lasting impression.

Their set of pieces bore only a passing resemblance to that published in the festival brochure, but, despite a particular favourite being scrubbed from the programme, there were many compensations. Vocalists Robert Folkes and Adam Soanes sang with a skill and maturity way beyond their years, while trumpeter Jack Blakey (or should I say Jack Blakey ATCL[Distinction] – congratulations Jack) and percussionist James Toomey, to name but two, gave truly virtuoso performances. Unfortunately, the hall was so packed that I was unable to see these last two, but what an impression they made. To what extent their various solos were improvised as opposed to being scored I cannot hazard a guess, but, either way, their playing was truly breathtaking. And, crucially for an ensemble such as this, what an inspiration their musicianship must be to the younger, up and coming members of the band.

I wish the band well for their forthcoming Caribbean tour (no wonder they all looked so happy) and look forward to hearing (and seeing) them again at next year’s Festival when they will be playing in the significantly larger Powell Theatre.

2nd May 2014


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