Upton Jazz Festival, 2011

This weekend, I have been in the beautiful Worcester countryside running Jazz Vocal workshops for ‘The Best of Young Jazz’ part of Upton Jazz Festival.

I received a phone call a few weeks ago – completely out of the blue – asking me if I wanted to take part, and so for the past month or so I have been thinking about what to do, where to stay, how to find Upton-upon-Severn etc. and I am happy to say everything has come together beautifully.

On Friday, after a little bit of dancing, Ella and I took to the car and set off for a little further South than I eventually needed and arrived in Cheltenham just passed Midnight having battled with horrible rain all the way from Leeds.  It was at Ella’s house that I met my namesake, Tessa the Cat:

After a lovely breakfast, I arrived in Upton on Saturday morning and was confronted with a large caravan-filled field, full with tents and food-vans and the lyrical lines of clarinet solos wafting through the air..

My first workshop went well – I had 3 lovely vocalists in the morning, and we were joined by a fourth in the afternoon.  We were based away from the field, in the local Library, and so I got to see a little bit of the beautiful town.  It was a lovely place – bustling with people, Jazz, Antique fairs and friendly faces.  The whole town obviously revel in the Jazz Festival each year, and many shops had incorporated music and instruments into their window displays – even the estate agents frontage had Jazz charts and musical notes adorning the property details they were advertising!  It was really lovely to see. 🙂

After finishing the workshop I drove to Tewkesbury to check into my hotel and get changed before my evening gig.  I made it back to the festival in time to hear the young vocalists I had been working with during the day do their thing on the ‘Best of Young Jazz’ stage – I was so proud!

Following the previous days’ rain, I had been a little concerned about the weather, and when I had arrived on site in the morning, the mud had been quite bad.  However, during the day everything dried up and by the time my band arrived for our set it was warm and dry.

The boys (Al MacSween – Piano, Pete Gavin – Bass, Sam Gardner – Drums, for anyone at the gig who didn’t quite catch their names..) arrived from Leeds around 6:15 and piled out of the car.  We were on stage an hour later, and they were fantastic.  The grand piano was great, the sound guy was brilliant, and the performance was extremely enjoyable!

The audience too were everything I’d hope for, and many people seemed to drift in through our set so by the end we had quite a full tent!  I even managed to get closer to that magic ‘break even’ point on my first album.  (*All proceeds go towards the second..!)

After we’d finished our set and I’d had a chat to a few lovely audience members, the band grabbed a festival programme and went across to ‘Duke’s Place’ to have a listen to Alan Barnes and Guy Barker.  A little later we found ourselves watching some trad jazz (complete with a few people doing a little Charleston) in ‘Tommy’s bar’ before music started up at ‘Fat’s Place’ and the boys decided it was time to hit the road.  I think the overall feeling from the 4 of us was that the vibe was wonderful, and it should definitely be relocated to somewhere just a bit closer to Leeds! 😉

I headed back to Tewkesbury soon after, very smiley and looking forward to day 2.

The following day, I decided to take the scenic route back to Upton, and took a slight detour to look at Tewkesbury Abbey.  Although, unfortunately (being a sunny Sunday) I couldn’t find a parking space to stop in to take a closer look – but I did see it from the road!

I got back to Upton Library and took a stroll across the Severn bridge to the Festival field once more.  I was touched to hear a man picking his banjo whist enjoying a glorious and lazy morning on his boat – idyllic was the word that came to mind.

After a spot of breakfast in the ever-increasing sunshine, I headed back to the Library and met Erin, with whom I worked with all day before watching her performance at 4pm and again being very proud!

After a little more lazing in the sunshine and eating ice-cream, it was time to hit the road and head back up North.

I can’t tell you how pleased I am that I was asked to partake in this years festival – it was such a lovely weekend – and I hope to go back next year to hear some more of that swinging music! 🙂  Thank you to everyone involved!

Tessa x

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