REPORT: Richmond Jazz School 30th Anniversary Concert

Geoff Castle and Richmond Jazz School students in the new Queen Charlotte Hall


Richmond Jazz School 30th Anniversary Concert
(Queen Charlotte Hall, Parkshot, Richmond. 16th October 2015. Review by Helen Theophanous)

Lead Jazz Tutor of the Richmond Jazz School bassist Dave Jones masterminded a wonderful programme celebrating 30 successful years of the school at Parkshot. This part of  Richmond Adult Community College (RACC) has undergone a major refurbishment including a recording studio and a new  Queen Charlotte Hall, a spacious state of the art studio theatre. The profit from the concert will support a student jazz bursary.

Jazz began in the new foyer, The Link, with Guy Clapham-drums, Robert Mulholland- bass, Viv Frost- piano,and tenor saxophonists Maureen Hardman,Nicky Hutchins and Gerard Gregg-Smith.

Dave welcomed the audience in The Queen Charlotte Hall with Invitation (Bronislaw Kaper), a fitting start from the RJS Ensemble with tutors Tim Whitehead-tenor, Tony Woods- alto, Julian Costello - soprano/tenor, Roberto Pla - percussion,Geoff Castle - piano, Dave Jones - bass, and alumnus Alex Babic - drums. The ensemble was later joined by former student of the one year course Nicky Hutchins - alto, for Dave Jones' swinging arrangement of Gershwin's Fascinatin' Rhythm.

Jazz vocalists were well represented with tutor Linley Weir performing Old Country. Tutors Wendy Linsey, Deirdre O'Kelly and Janet Oates performed as their 60's alter egos, “The Decibelles”, with their a capella close harmony of  Star Trek and Big Spender. Former tutor Fergus O'Kelly sang This Is All I Ask(Gordon Jenkins)and Shireen Francis sang God Bless The Child. Student Marie Herbert sang Sweet Georgia Brown . Alumni performances came from Jenny Green with Save Your Love For Me, Zena James with Comes Love, and Helen Theophanous with Geoff Castle's arrangement of Perdido.

Tutors Geoff Castle on piano, Dave Jones on bass, Roberto Pla on percussion with Alex Babic on drums provided a superb accompaniment for the singers with contributions from Tim Whitehead and Tony Woods.

The Advanced Jazz performance Ensemble led by Dave Jones played Speak No Evil (Wayne Shorter) and then joined tutor Linley Weir's jazz vocal class for a gentle and moving performance of Celeste (Ralph Towner, lyrics by Norma Winstone) , featuring Emma Wade - piano, Jem Whippy - guitar and Gerrard Gregg-Smith-tenor.

Andy Walpole - guitar, led the group Acoustic Guitar Blues And Beyond  with originals and standards. The RJS Big Band  - missing Henry Lowther who was touring elsewhere -  performed in The Link , as did guitar tutor  Charles Alexander, with guests including trumpeter Geoff Varrall, who was also for a time Chair of the Governing Body of RACC. Dave Jones' arrangement of Jody Grind (Horace Silver) closed the main event with the wonderful RJS Ensemble. Jazz continued in The Link with ex students Trevor Wells-guitar,Steve Anderson - bass and Alex Babic - drums, plus the One Man Down blues group and past Head of Music at Richmond Adult Community College Tim West, performing originals.

Richmond Jazz School courses range from the RJS One Year Jazz Course leading to the ATCL Performance Diploma (100% pass rate and at least 50% distinction) to 10 week, 5 week and intensive holiday courses.

Plans for 2016 include developing opportunities for 14-19 year olds, 'Jazz Vocal Masterclass' and 'Jazz Singing Fundamentals' with new tutor Emily Saunders.

LINK: Courses at Richmond Jazz School

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