This was the culmination of five months’ work with pupils at Hodge Hill, Hamstead Hall and Holyhead schools. Leading what is called the Birmingham Jazz Creative Futures project was Sid Peacock, helped by teachers at the schools and jazz musician tutors.
Some 35 pupils had been at a workshop for most of the day before a late afternoon concert took shape and the audience of mostly parents was ushered in.
The project had worked with a wide range of abilities with many of the participants never having played in groups before, and never in public until this concert.
Violins and rhythm section started the gig off with a Django Reinhardt-tinged version of Rockin’ Robin, and from there is it was on to the blues, Herbie Hancock’s Watermelon Man and an original tune or two.
Many of the players had a crack at improvisation, and remembered to bow in acknowledgement of the applause. This is not just about music, but about working in groups, mutual support, presentation skills... the list of benefits goes on.
For the grand finale, Peacock assembled pupils and tutors together for a jazz orchestra of 40 players.
He brings an innovative educational process into play here, which had involved the young players making up their own riffs and melodies. These were then identified with numbers that Peacock signalled during the piece. He had also taught them his own hand signal code that denotes a variety of textures, movements, building climaxes and other things.
As a result, this large, variously-skilled group of young musicians could come together with no music-reading necessary and perform a fairly sophisticated, multi-movement piece of music interspersed with their own improvisations, and largely of their own creation.
It was inspiring stuff, both enthusiastically presented and received.