The Christmas Concert at St. Clement Danes on Thursday 2nd December was a (literally) resounding success!
The event was shared between the DBF and Elizabeth’s Legacy of Hope and featured some rousing music from Bader’s Big Band who played brilliantly throughout; a beautiful and moving rendition of ‘O Magnum Mysterium‘ (Morten Lauridsen) by the ELoH Choir and some of the nation’s favourite carols to get everyone into the Christmas spirit. These kicked off with a fantastic arrangement of ‘Caroling‘, by Ian Whybrow of ELoH sung to the tune of ‘I saw Three Ships‘, and involving a lot of onomatopoeic insertions, which were thoroughly enjoyed by all! Ian explained that many people don’t realise that the word caroling can mean to “sing or say (something) happily” and Caroling was certainly something sung happily, with the volume of the various sounds rising exponentially with the audience’s increasing confidence and enthusiasm!
As well as accompanying the choir – and the audience where appropriate! – for the carols, Bader’s Big Band played 2 sets of 6 and 5 songs respectively including both vocal and instrumental renditions – often their own arrangements – of such classics as Foggy Day, Harlem Nocturne, Luck be a Lady, Route 66, Orange Coloured Sky and Green Sleeves. Christmas songs such as Winter Wonderland, Rocking Around the Christmas Tree, Sleigh Ride, God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen and Here Comes Santa Claus had everyone’s feet tapping and brought a wonderful feeling of Festive spirit into the beautiful interior of St. Clement Danes. The final carol, ‘O Come All Ye Faithful‘, with both Bader’s Big Band and the ELoH Choir was a perfect finale to the musical part of the evening, building to a rousing crescendo with descant from the choir, which made the hairs on the back of my neck (along with many others, I’m sure) stand on end!
Part of the enjoyment of watching the band comes from their clear enjoyment of playing together and the rapport between them all. Paul Taverner is a sympathetic and enthusiastic band leader, clearly respected by the musicians, who adds to the pleasure of the performances by giving information about each piece the band plays. This deepens the audience’s understanding and appreciation of the music and its history as it becomes a part of the Band’s own history also, with the arrangement often being given an original twist for the occasion. All the Band’s valued members played their proverbial socks off on Thursday with several excellent solos and the two singers, Sheila and Joe, providing wonderful vocals. Uplifting and joyful Big Band music as it should be and at its best!
I remember first seeing Bader’s Big Band at their original auditions up in London almost 4 years ago now and have seen them perform live only once since at Bentley Priory. To watch them on Thursday was an absolute joy and a revelation. The first Big Band to be formed almost entirely of ‘musicians with a disability’ is, quite simply just an excellent Big Band! All of us there from the DBF felt immensely proud of what they’ve achieved and become and so delighted to have been a part of their journey. They received exuberant feedback for their performance on Thursday and interest in further bookings and I feel that there’s no doubt they are now recognised as a great band in its own right with a positive and exciting future.
As well as the music, there were moving and informative speeches from David Bickers, CEO of the Douglas Bader Foundation, and Victoria Panton Bacon, Trustee and Co-Founder of Elizabeth’s Legacy of Hope, who was proud to announce 4 new young Ambassadors for the charity. A selection of original festive merchandise from Elizabeth’s Legacy of Hope, allowing a few things to be ticked off the Christmas present list, completed this fabulous Christmas Concert at St. Clement Danes.
Of course, Clement Danes Church itself deserves a mention. What a stunning, unique building to find in the centre of London and, bedecked with a beautiful and fittingly tasteful Christmas Tree, it couldn’t have provided a more perfect venue…The fact that Sir Douglas’s ashes are interred there made it a deeply poignant occasion and I’ve no doubt that Sir Douglas would have been very proud of both the band itself and of his step-grandson, Charley Bickers, who has been managing Bader’s Big Band and worked so hard to organise and oversee the evening.
A big thank you to St Clement Danes for simply being the most perfect venue for a Christmas Concert and to the custodians there who were so friendly and helpful to all! To Victoria and all at Elizabeth’s Legacy of Hope for sharing the event and for all the hard work they put into the organisation and realisation of the concert, also for all they do for amputees in so many countries across the world. Lastly a very grateful thank you to all who braved the potential threat of the new Covid variant to be there and support both the DBF and ELoH. There were sadly but predictably several cancellations but it was a just the right sized audience to apparently “absorb some of the reverb” resulting from the high ceilings (would be understood by musicians!), join in the carols with gusto and create a cheerful and festive atmosphere. We were deeply grateful for your support and participation.
Some photographs and videos taken before and during the concert for those who couldn’t be there to see it on the night.
Links (will open in new tabs):
- Elizabeth’s Legacy of Hope – Check in to find out more about this wonderful charity
- Bader’s Big Band on YouTube – Some previous footage
- Bader’s Big Band – Introduction post and information on DBF Website