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Monday, July 10, 2017

The Scottish Swing Orchestra & Brass Broadway Chorus with Kate Graham & Matt Corner @ The Gala Theatre - July 9

(Review by Russell)
This Gala concert, one of the set piece events of this year’s Durham Brass Festival, attracted a full house on a sultry summer’s evening. All seats in the stalls and circle were occupied as the seventy-five or so performers filed onto the stage. The Brass Broadway Chorus (approximately sixty strong) assumed their predetermined positions, some nudging into the wings with the fifteen-piece Scottish Swing Orchestra assembling out front.
A fast moving Broadway revue featured most of the performers most of the time. Moving on and off stage wasn’t practicable (the show’s vocal stars the exception) and it appeared to be as hot as mid-summer in New York’s Hell’s Kitchen. 

Conducting affairs was Paul Gudgin, Durham Brass Festival Artistic Director, happily forgetting his administrative duties for a couple of hours. The tunes ranged from the ‘golden age’ of Broadway and Hollywood to more recent box office blockbusters; Calamity Jane yielded Secret Love, an apposite Too Darn Hot (Kiss Me Kate) featured a trio of male singers stepping out from the massed choir, and Luck Be a Lady (Guys and Dolls) a thrill for local lad made good, West End star (Jersey Boys - The Story of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons) Matt Corner.

The Gala’s on-side audience afforded Corner a hero’s welcome. Similarly, Kate Graham, West End star of Billy Elliot, revealing she studied right here in Durham in, she declared, 1902!  South Pacific presented Ms Graham with the show-stopping I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair and she didn’t waste the opportunity. The Gala’s full house lapped up the tunes, not quite a sing-a-long audience, but definitely not a jazz police crowd. Ah, the jazz…the Scottish Swing Orchestra, five-strong reeds, four trumpets and three trombones outfit with piano, bass, and drums rhythm section did everything required of them; an occasional solo spot (alto sax, trombone). Conductor Gudgin is a jazz man and he ensured the band got the chance to ‘have a blow’ on West Side Story. The Jets and Sharks of the Scottish Swing Orchestra tore into the Buddy Rich chart, a fine drum feature, the highlight of the show for the Gala’s (few?) jazz fans.

John Waters’ film Hairspray spawned a successful stage version of the box office hit, and the Gala Theatre reverberated to the joyous sound of the ensemble in full voice as the curtain came down. A Durham Brass Festival success. Jazz fans won’t want to miss this Thursday’s Dizzy & Co – Dizzy Gillespie and the great big band leaders featuring the BBC Big Band and the great Jiggs Whigham. Telephone the Gala box office – 03000 266 600.      

Russell.

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