TCT & Naughty Donkeys

Sorry my dearest blogettes/blogowers/blogions…I do still exist…

2 complete extremes this week.

(1)     Teenage Cancer Trust at the Royal Albert Hall

(2)     Bad Ass Brass at Ronnie Scotts

TCT are incredible.  They GET teenagers.  (In preparation for the rest of the time you spend reading this, presuming you’re not just skimming for rude words, I’m going to desperately try to avoid quoting Britney Spears’ famous track featured in the film Crossroads…)

TCT provide specialist essential services for teenagers. I remember when I was in hospital for 4 days with appendicitis and I was 13.  I was on the cusp of adult ward, but they let me stay in the kids ward with Mr Bean VHS and fun food.  A feeble comparison, but I remember thinking ‘what if I had been a bit older?’  The services that TCT provide allow teenagers to just be teenagers.  It sounds so simple, doesn’t it?

I was fortunate enough to be involved with the workshops at the Royal Albert Hall last week.  Incredible teenagers and all of their friends/loved ones from around the country came to write songs with the team – and then perform them to the Hall staff/special guests.  I guess there’s a danger of sounding quite preachy, but this team, the Education team at the Hall and the TCT team are incredible.  It takes a lot to be great. It takes more to guide others to achieve their greatness.  The strength of all of the teenagers and their friends is inspirational, but equally as important, their musical talent and ideas are amazing.  I forget that behind ‘typical teenager front’ is a massive ball pool of fresh ideas!

The songs that were written were honestly moving. They’ll be on this website soon…


Bad Ass Brass + TJ Johnson @ Ronnies = quality.  

Upbeat and dingy and bumpy and dancey and happy and loud and smooth and full of red wine and cheese.  It did need a thick layer of fag smoke but at least we saved our lungs, if not our livers…  

The reasons you should see Bad Ass Brass are threefold:

UNE   Reworking of classics to translate in an 8 piece brass ensemble = asty wall of sound

ZWEI  They call themselves Naughty Donkey Brass when doing education work. LMAO LOL ROFL etc

C        SOUSAPHONE.  Nuff said. 


The London Music (Education) MASTERS

I went to see the London Music Masters Bridge Project Showcase on Wednesday.

Now that’s an education team that knows what it is doing!  A back-to-basics approach, not trying to tackle everyone and everything.  And I quote…” The Bridge Project is an educational initiative which identifies and nurtures young children who might not otherwise have the opportunity to learn to play musical instruments at a high level. Targeting socio-economically challenged inner-city boroughs, the project encourages children, their families and their communities to develop a life-long appreciation for classical music in all its varied forms. In particular, this project aims to help increase the ethnic and socio-economic diversity within professional music ensembles by reaching out to broader communities from a young age and preparing them to participate and succeed in the world of classical music.”

Basically – kids being given an equal opportunity to learn to play instruments.  Simples *squeak*.

Well done LMM.  Highlights included: the quintet playing Humoresque and the jazz improvisation (from what I guess were 10 year olds) were both simply beyond their years.  Junior College – HO (in the style of ThunderCats – HO!)  Now let’s get those silly tuition fees reduced….

Confessions – part 1

The time has come.  I accidentally signed up for a half marathon so it’s time to admit a few things.


Dear Diary (1) Every Monday morning I buy a cheesy twist from Tesco and scoff it in the privacy of the kitchen whilst my soup is heating up so my colleagues don’t know that I’ve just wolfed down pure pastry and cheese.  I then walk down the stairs and put my smug face on with my soup and one bread roll.

Dear Diary (2) In my training runs I wait until noone is looking then do a little pirouette/jazz hands when I’m listening to some high class musical theatre.

Dear Diary (3) When I ‘map my run’ I always add on a little extra that I think I could have done.

Confessions done.  Give me 4 weeks and I’ll be abs-olutely buff ting.

Caffeine and crooning

Well done Starbucks.  Free latte = WIN.  Slightly disconcerting not to be called “skinny white laaaaaatteeeeeee” for once…


 Last night I went to see one ofARK’s finest Academies performing the classic west end bonanza ‘Hairspray’.  Sitting in the Potter Theatre admiring the sound-improving, graduating Dulux tone panels, it’s clear how times have changed from fabric, creaky, camping-style chairs (that the audience and caretaker have to set out), freshly polished hardwood flooring and lighting desk on a trestle table at the back of the hall.  Students here are lucky enough to benefit from tiered cinema style seating and a complex sound box also controlling a massive lighting rig. 

Despite this, I’m happy to announce the characteristics of a successful school musical remain nearly wholly unchanged:

  1. Competent band made from dedicated teachers who are relishing the opportunity to dust off their instruments and get stuck in
  2. That one kid with the angelic voice who can enchant even the naughtiest of audience members.
  3. Token popular boy taking on a role far too challenging but carrying it off with a mixture of swagger and laughing at their own mistakes
  4. ‘Couple’ casting looking less like Brangelina and more like Sue Sylvester next to Barry Chuckle. 
  5. Classic jazz square
  6. Grapevine
  7. Kids who do extra curricular dancing standing at the front
  8. Freeze-frame poses to create a montage
  9. Wobbly spotlight
  10. Comedy props that (a) aren’t plugged in and that are (b) borrowed last minute from Mrs Fry from the drama department
  11. Tumblers of wine (kindly provided by the PTA for a suggested donation)
  12. Parents/contemporaries supporting the show no matter what
  13. Guaranteed ‘celebrity’ status for Tracy Turnblad, Link Larkin, Edna & Wilbur Turnblad until at least Easter holidays.

Unlucky 13 for some, but v lucky for this cracking show.  The only thing missing were the ‘thank you’s and presentations of flowers from the PTA to the staff. Perhaps that’s saved for tonight’s final performance!

Ben l’Oncle Soul – and hello!

Blog post no.1 – I’m not going to begin with a hello, so let’s just dive straight in…

...not taken by me but a darn good impression of what happened last night...

Last night I was standing at the back of the ground floor of Koko, the polite and slightly apologetic Brit in me thought that my uncle of soul would lose a bit of ‘je ne sais quoi’ from afar.  With a 3 man slide to the left timed perfectly with some audience-facing, flash white lighting (not to be confused with White Lightning), immediately I was reassured.

Ben is supported by 2 backing singers/dancers, and a 6 piece band. This combination is electric. The reasons are threefold:

  • Production timed with music gives me goosebumps
  • Tight band segued one number into the next with flawless charisma and personable confidence – completely indicative of soul.
  • 3 very smooth French men dancing and singing = win.

Some really sexy French number happened next.  I have no idea what he was saying but it was hot.  I challenged my “date” – uncomfortable or turned on?  He replied 80:20 (wouldn’t confess to which way round).  It swiftly turned to 99:1 when the lights got a bit steamier, a little more dry ice was pumped in and the lead vocal turned up the soul.

Tune after tune, bass line after bass line, style just kept rolling out like a red carpet.  Highlights have to include the effortlessly complex bari sax solo gradually limbo-ing until laid on his back on stage, the bass solo simultaneously played and sung, choreography including gradual removal of clothes to expose our favourite dungarees and the pin holding all of this together – Ben’s soulmanship and performability.  Both words underlined by Microsoft Word with a red line but the only ones tasty enough to use for this feast of class.

A classic rendition of personal favourite “Soul Man” in ‘la langue d’amour’. Plastic glass clenched between my teeth, I waved my arms around like the teenager I-dream-I-still-can-be in the desperate hope that during his ‘turn around the room’ he gives me the longed for high five.

Still waiting for the high five, but definitely not waiting to download this album. Solid gig.