On Sunday 20 December, I took part in Jazz Community Church’s Jazz Carols Service. I arranged Mary Did You Know for the occasion. Here’s my rendition at 32 minutes into the video…
Like most composers and arrangers, Rachael Forsyth has dabbled in arranging in many different styles and genres. From, pop to classical, education books and beginner pieces, Rachael has worked across the spectrum of music. A few years ago, she approached me with an idea to arrange some of my music for jazz big band. The English Jazz Orchestra joined Rachael for the project and brought in their strings section from their sister orchestra; the concert took place in March 2019 in North London.
Perhaps the most notable of Rachael’s arrangements was “Without You”. Scored for brass, woodwind and the rhythm section, she departs from the original upbeat pop song to create a slow burning jazz ballad. The listener is drawn into the world of the 1930s jazz club through her handling of the arrangement. The rhythmic lilt creates a dream-like sound scape and this reinterpretation of the piece frames the melody and lyrics beautifully and space is created to highlight the brass interjections which punctuate the syncopation. The trumpet and saxophone solos weave around the melody and add fresh improvisation.
Forsyth’s ability to create live music is fully demonstrated in this piece. She understands how to reinterpret a piece music into a different genre without losing the essence of the song and how to move the audience and take them on a journey. “Without You” scratches the surface of what she can do as an arranger.
Learn more about Rachael’s music here.
Praise from Liz Mitchell…
“I’ve followed the English Jazz Orchestra for sometime as they originate from my old Uni stomping ground in North London – so was surprised to find a string section front and centre when I arrived at the concert.
The strings added a very Noir style to the existing warm big band sound, conjuring images of 1930s bars, with men who should know better getting wrapped around the little finger of some dangerous, distinctly dressed femme fatale. That’s the power of music as I’m sure Helen Sanderson-White is a lovely lady and not a femme fatale at all. The song ‘Without You’ especially stood out as HSW introduced the song (originally a modern pop song) that had been transformed by long time EJO collaborator Rachel Forsyth. Gone was the modern production, replaced with lush saxophones and a gorgeous trumpet solo.
It was a great evening with some really unexpected moments! Strings and a big band work really well together! Who knew?”
Liz Mitchell, Saxophonist.
I’ve waited a long time to write this blog; seven years to be precise! Seven long years. We all have a dreams of things that we would like to do and sometimes we get the opportunity to do them. The saddest thing is when one of those dreams is struggling and no matter what we do, it doesn’t survive and eventually dies. It can be a game changer; it affects your perspective on life and can make you retreat from other opportunities for fear of getting hurt.
In 2012, I was offered the opportunity to perform my songs with a jazz orchestra. It was a dream gig, I’d waited all my life for it and I was going to make it happen! The early discussions went well, and I was ever hopeful that the concert would take place within six months. However, over time the project began to disappear, no matter what I did I couldn’t make it work. The dream concert was long gone, and my music career seemed to be dead. I asked God to put it right and bring the project to fruition, but nothing happened. Things went from bad to worse, my business collapsed, my marriage failed and my living arrangements were insecure again. I never knew that life could go so low so fast. It all changed in an instant.
Last year, my colleague and long standing friend, Rachael Forsyth, contacted me and asked if she could pitch the project to an orchestra again and also do the jazz arrangements of my songs. My initial reaction was that it wasn’t sure that I wanted to go through all the disappointment again, however, that thought of “if I don’t try, I’ll never know” crept in and I decided to be brave and give it a go. Over a period of six months we plodded through arrangements and emails, and we wondered if it would ever come together. At one point it actually looked as though the whole thing would fall apart again and Rachael and I prepared ourselves that it might not happen.
But that’s not the way God works. He specialises in bringing dead things back to life. After seven years of waiting, wondering, praying and hoping, I will be performing with the English Jazz Orchestra on Thursday 14 March. I can’t believe it’s taken this long, but those prayers that I prayed seven years ago are finally being answered. Just because something looks dead doesn’t mean that it is. Sometimes God waits so things are better, the timing is right and our character has developed enough for us to deal with it. Sometimes he removes things that are in the way or that will destroy the dream, so that when the dream buds, it can flourish and grow without being choked. Although this seems strange, all those things happened for my good. That part of my life died so that better, greater things could come. Sometimes God allows these things to happen so that he can realign us with his plan for our lives and also his timing (which is never our timing!).
In another strange twist of events, I received an email today saying that a song I sent to a DJ three years ago, is now being played on his podcast this month. I’d actually forgotten that I sent it off to the radio show! It’s like the song was waiting for right moment.