Making the arts accessible – BSL Interpreter Jane Kelsall

Ahead of our BSL interpreted show with Trio HLK and Dame Evelyn Glennie, we spoke to interpreter Jane Kelsall about interpreting live music and theatre for Deaf/deaf audience members:

How did you first get into BSL interpreting?

It started as a hobby when my youngest son started school. I did a 12-week intro course and absolutely loved it so started working towards my qualifications. I had an uncle who was deaf and signed – I don’t know if that was the trigger, but I do remember seeing him sign when I was little.

Within a couple of years, I started working in schools, supporting children who were deaf but didn’t sign. Then I got a job after achieving my BSL level 2 at Doncaster Deaf Trust at their specialist communication college for 8 years, where I had a lot of in-house training. And then later worked as a Communication Support Worker, supporting students in Leeds.

I didn’t initially aim to be an interpreter but, wanting to learn more, I wanted to continue to develop my skills. I worked as an in-house interpreter for 6 months then went freelance and I haven’t looked back!

Photo of Jane Kelsall

Jane Kelsall

How do you about preparing for interpreting a show?

That depends on the show. When prepping for theatre productions, I start working with the script well in advance as possible, but that’s not always the case. I’ll then go along to a couple of rehearsals, so I get a feel for the pace and dynamics of the show.

I love the expressive side of doing theatre work – there’s more room for creativity and improvisation. BSL is a language in its own right and as there aren’t specific signs for every word, the language is expressed using facial expressions, body movements and placements to get the meaning across. It’s a very visual language.

Will you be taking a different approach for the show with Trio HLK and Evelyn Glennie, given that there are no songs with lyrics?

This is new to me – I’ve previously worked mainly with music with lyrics. I’ll listen to all the music beforehand, so I get a real feel for it. Then I’ll work on ways of describing what the music sounds like – it’s like making a picture of the sound and you can be really creative with it.

The beauty with songs and music is that you can be really expressive, using the whole body. It’s different to other interpreting. Gestures get bigger as the music gets louder and my signing position changes as the pitch goes up and down.

I’m looking forward to the challenge of interpreting a live show with lots of improvisation! 

Photo of Trio HLK and Dame Evelyn Glennie

Trio HLK & Dame Evelyn Glennie

What’s the most memorable show you’ve worked on and why does it stand out?

There was a production of The Glee Club at CAST in Doncaster that needed an interpreter with 2 weeks’ notice – I had to learn the script and lots of songs (including one in Italian!) in a really short space of time.

I’ve also done a few pantos now, which I really enjoy. I learned early on that you have to be quite careful when interpreting the innuendos in panto scripts. Children might miss the meaning of the words on their own but when you combine the words with signs, gestures and other visual cues, they can quickly work them out!

Why do you think it’s important that shows feature BSL interpretation?

For me, accessibility is key and it’s really important to give people the experience of live music and theatre same as everyone else. I see my job as being there for Deaf/deaf people who want that same experience that we (hearing) have, and to enjoy it.

You can see Jane in action at our show with Trio HLK and Dame Evelyn Glennie at Hull Truck Theatre on Saturday 17 November. Tickets available now from Hull Truck Theatre box office.


Parliamentary Jazz Awards wins for Hull Jazz Festival Artists

Artists who’ve performed at Hull Jazz Festival over the last 2 years featured heavily in the winners list for this year’s Parliamentary Jazz Awards.

Denys Baptiste

Denys Baptiste

Shirley Tetteh, who performed last year with Arun Ghosh Quintet and Nérijah, won Best Newcomer. Arun Ghosh got the gong for Jazz Instrumentalist of the Year. Denys Baptiste’s album The Late Trane – one of July’s festival highlights – won Jazz Album of the Year. Saxophonist Jean Toussaint, whose November show with his Allstar 5tet is now sold out, won the Jazz Education Award and our friend Gary Crosby OBE won the Special Award for his incredible contribution to the UK jazz scene.

Congratulations from all of us here!

The Broken Orchestra on jazz influences, creating their live sound and perfect Sunday tunes

Ahead of their set as part of our New Sounds of Hull show at Hull Jazz Festival this July, we had a chat with Pat Dooner from The Broken Orchestra…

There are a real range of sounds and influences in your music, including elements of jazz. Who are the jazz artists who’ve influenced you over the years, and what is it that draws you to their music?

Jazz has always been a big influence on the music I’ve created. My initial foray into Jazz music came from listening to a lot of Hip-Hop when I was younger. Things like Nas-Illmatic, Pete Rock, Common, Gangstarr, Talib Kweli and Jay Dee sampled a lot of Jazz and Jazz influenced records. You eventually go and find the records that get sampled and find these beautiful creations that have been skilfully sampled and adapted by these producers and artists.

For me personally, what I love about Jazz is the underplaying for the benefit of feel and groove. Often when people think of Jazz, they think of a cacophony of instruments played at the selfish will of the player but it’s not like that at all. You have these incredible musicians and to hear them underplay so well live and on records excites me.

Some of the Jazz artists that have influenced me are Bill Evans, Ahmad Jamal, Roy Ayers, Bob James, John Coltrane. I’m also excited and influenced by a lot of modern artists and I love how Jazz creeps into a lot of very popular modern music. I particularly enjoy and am influenced by artists like Portico Quartet, Go-Go Penguin, Bonobo, Loyle Carner, Matthew Halsall, Origamibiro, Speech Debelle and The Cinematic Orchestra.

Listening to your tracks, there are lots of different layers of sound. Having started doing live shows last year, how do you translate your studio sound into a live experience? What’s the set up for a Broken Orchestra live show? 

A Broken Orchestra live show currently consists of Carl Conway-Davis triggering samples, sounds, loops, beats and bass. Tom Kay playing guitar (traditionally and also with varying effects and pedals), Emily Render handling nearly all vocals and myself Pat Dooner playing keys.

The Broken Orchestra

For years we’d struggled to find the right way to put forward live what we do in the studio but now it seems so obvious and natural. We pretty much set up for all eventualities, so we have as much gear as we need for the set on stage: keys, guitar, bass, cymbals, samples and vocals and we all just chip in as needed.

The idea is to that we all have our area to concentrate on, but if in a certain instrumental track Emily needs to play samples or bass then she will do. Similarly, I’ll move from keys to trigger sounds, samples if the track calls for it. With the exception of Tom, we’re all relatively limited in playing musical instruments but I think that works for what we do. Personally, I know that my limitation on keys prohibit me from overplaying and I think our tracks benefit from that.

You’ve just announced a series of gigs across the country – what else does 2018 hold for The Broken Orchestra?

The idea for 2018 is to gig, increase our fan base and create as much new music as possible.

We had an EP out earlier in the year (Blinded EP) to give us a focus and the plan is to have another 5-6 track EP ready for towards the end of summer.

Although we’re Hull-based, and proud of it, it has never been our intention to do the standard circuit of gigs around the area. We want to get out of the city, play different and interesting venues and meet new people and promoters. So far it appears to be going pretty well, with some great gigs here in Hull both at the Jazz Festival and at Hull Minster later in the year and some great out of town gigs too including Sheffield, Huddersfield, Manchester Jazz Festival and Newcastle.

We’re all big fans of lazy Sundays here, and we know you used to do the Sunday Soulscape podcast. If we asked you to soundtrack our perfect chilled Sunday, what three tracks would you open with?

That’s a great question. We loved presenting that show, and we were sad to stop doing it but time commitments got in the way. We used to DJ in old town Hull on a Sunday afternoon doing similar stuff and we really enjoyed doing that too. Ok, so three opening tracks… I’ll give you five instead:

  1. Pompidou– Portico Quartet
  2. Make a Smile For Me– Bill Withers
  3. Love & Hate– Michael Kiwanuka
  4. Walk The Same- Grey Reverend
  5. I Need A Win– Mammas Gun

We’re off to make a pot of coffee, put our feet up and listen to Pat’s Sunday selection. If you fancy catching The Broken Orchestra live, tickets are on sale now to see them plus The Dyr Sister and Revenu at Kardomah94 on Saturday 21 July. £7 (£5 for students and under-26s) from Hull Box Office online or on 01482 221113

When Cleveland met the Chorus…

Cleveland Watkiss MBE met up with members of Hull Freedom Chorus for the first time last week, to start working on a piece for July’s show at Hull Truck Theatre. Musical Director Em Whitfield Brooks sent us an update…

Well! What a fantastic evening we all had last night at our first workshop with the mighty Cleveland Watkiss. In just two hours we were introduced to a fearless approach to improvisation, as Cleveland led us into all sorts of riffs, harmonies and grooves, all flowing beautifully one into another. I loved the way he spoke of how we need to be to improvise: playful, joyful and full of ease – none of that “it’s really special and difficult” mantra which can put so many singers off singing freely in any genre.

We sang together, we sang in parts, we watched and listened as Cleveland sang new patterns and shapes – all over an extraordinary vocal range –  and the evening culminated in solos from many of our singers, based around our own lyrics, so warmly – and often hilariously – supported by Cleveland.

Next week it’s on with my piece – but already we cant work to work with ‘The Captain of the Ship’ when he comes back for our second workshop.

Tickets for the show on 19 July are available from Hull Truck Theatre online, in person at the box office or by calling 014820 323638.

Hull Freedom Chorus discover their Jazz voice!

This weekend saw the first in a series of workshops for members of Hull Freedom Chorus, leading up to a performance with Cleveland Watkiss at Hull Jazz Festival this July.

The project’s part of Hull City Council’s Singing City initiative, aimed at encouraging more people to sing and promoting opportunities for audiences to experience high quality choral music.

Hull Freedom Chorus at the end of their first Jazz workshop

Clare Drury, Arts Development Officer for City of Hull Council, told us: “We had almost 100 participants from Hull Freedom Chorus, for the launch of our Jazz Festival project yesterday. A great day exploring the nature of Jazz and finding our Jazz Voices with Em Whitfield Brooks.”

We asked Musical Director Em how the workshop went, and to tell us a bit more about the plans for the project:

What a great start! 102 people signed up to the first workshop – an open taster for the project that builds towards the Freedom Chorus singing alongside Cleveland Watkiss, and also performing a brand new piece, What If..? which all singers are involved in making. 

I’m bringing some of my songs, and writing some new ones, and we’re exploring our ‘Jazz voices’ – whatever that means.

A few furrowed brows when I posed the question: What Is Jazz? But once we realised that, in this project at any rate, the exploration of that question is the journey itself – and we don’t need to hold to any one answer in particular – voices and ideas started to flow.  Singers sang patterns, created riffs and explored the feel and difference of major and minor, and I taught a couple of sections from two existing songs.

Most exciting was the short layered pieces created by singers in small groups – some of which are likely to be incorporated into the final piece. Looking forward to this process with a great bunch of people…”

Judging by the smiles in the photos from Sunday’s workshop, and the feedback on Freedom Chorus’ Facebook page, we’re guessing everyone enjoyed themselves. And we can’t wait to hear what they come up with over the next 3 months.

Tickets for the final performance are on sale now from Hull Truck Theatre online or by calling the box office on 01482 323638.

Just the ticket!

Young musicians from Hull and East Riding head down to London this Sunday to perform in a special one-off show at the newly re-opened Queen Elizabeth Hall.

The performance is the culmination of The Jazz Ticket, a nationwide project led by award-winning jazz development agency Tomorrow’s Warriors. Over the past year, young musicians from around the country have had the chance to work with leading jazz professionals, developing their performance and improvisation skills and exploring the rich and inspiring history of the genre and six of its pioneering artists born in 1917.

Professional musicians from Nu Civilisation Orchestra led workshops with schools and youth jazz ensembles in Hull and East Riding last Autumn. 75 young musicians took to the stage alongside Nu Civilisation Orchestra in November, and blew the roof off Hull Truck Theatre at one of the closing gigs of Hull Jazz Festival’s 25th anniversary.

And now they get the chance to do it all again, but this time in the incredible surroundings of the Queen Elizabeth Hall. They’ll be joining young musicians from across the country, coming together to celebrate six Giants of Jazz.

20 members of City of Hull Youth Jazz Orchestra will be performing Neal Hefti’s Fantail, made famous by Count Basie in the late 1950s. Sean Miller, from Hull Music Hub, says: “The Jazz Ticket event held as part of the Hull Jazz Festival in November 2017 was a fantastic project to be part of, helping young musicians from across the City develop their understanding of the history of Jazz; improve improvisational and ensemble skills, and watch and listen to professional musicians at the top of their game.  To be able to follow this up at the Tomorrow’s Warriors Gala event in London is fantastic, enabling the band to perform with and listen to other young musicians from across the 9 cities that have also been involved in the project.”

Ella Fitzgerald

And 19 members of East Riding Youth Jazz Orchestra will be joining them, performing Ella Fitzgerald’s version of Get Happy and Josef Zawinul’s Mercy, Mercy, Mercy. Ben Croombs, from East Riding Music Hub, says: “We have thoroughly enjoyed working with Tomorrow’s Warriors on the Jazz Ticket Project. Pupils have grown in confidence and developed skills in Jazz improvisation through working with the amazing musicians from the Nu Civilisation Orchestra. Together they have created bespoke arrangements and explored Jazz tonality, melody and rhythm. This project has provided the young people with the opportunity to perform on big stages with professional musicians – an experience they will never forget!”

Big thanks to our friends at Tomorrow’s Warriors, Hull Music Hub and East Riding Music Hub for making the project possible. And break a leg  for Sunday’s show to all our talented young musicians – can’t wait to hear how you get on!

Hull Jazz Festival pledges gender balance by 2022

We’re proud to announce that Hull Jazz Festival is now a Keychange associate festival. This means the festival’s pledged to reach a 50:50 gender balance in its programme by 2022, with 50% of acts including at least one woman.

Keychange logo

Keychange began as a European talent development programme for female artists and innovators, led by PRS Foundation. The 50:50 pledge was proposed by Keychange festival partners who wanted to show they are serious in their commitment to gender equality in addition to offering showcasing opportunities to female talent.  Since then festivals from all over the world have signed up to the pledge, making Keychange a movement for positive change. Hull Jazz Festival joins a list of festivals and other associates that includes Iceland Airwaves, Liverpool Sound City, Hull’s own 53 Degrees North, BlueDot, BBC Introducing, Manchester Jazz Festival and New York’s Winter JazzFest.

Hull Jazz Festival Director David Porter says: “We became aware of this initiative through our ongoing work with the PRS Foundation. I knew that jazz had been traditionally male-orientated, but I’d always thought that J-Night and the Hull Jazz Festival were pretty progressive around working with women. I was shocked to find that just over 50% of our acts featured during 2017 featured no women whatsoever in their line-ups. It seems a pretty obvious decision to try and rectify that and our board are pleased to sign our pledge to Keychange.” 

For more information, visit the Keychange website: Hull Jazz Festival 26th Summer Edition takes place from 19-21 July, with a line-up featuring female artists including Camilla George, Vimala Rowe, Natasha Watts, Janette Mason, Sarah Tandy and The Dyr Sister. Full programme and box office details here.

Your chance to perform at Hull Jazz Festival this July!

Cleveland Watkiss

Fancy stretching your vocal chords and performing at Hull Jazz Festival this July?

Acclaimed vocalist Cleveland Watkiss MBE is making a very welcome return to Hull in July, performing his stunning a cappella show VocalSuite.

He’ll be joined on the night by members of Hull’s Freedom Chorus. They’ll start the evening by performing a new piece What if…?, written for and with choir members by singer songwriter Em Whitfield Brooks. They’ll then be joining Cleveland on stage for a one-off performance of VocalSuite, unique to Hull.

Interested in taking part?

This performance marks the culmination of a project for chorus members, led by Cleveland Watkiss and assisted by Em Whitfield Brooks.

Hull Freedom Chorus

Hull Freedom Chorus

Anyone interested in taking part in this project should join the Freedom Chorus online – and attend Em’s initial workshops on 29 April and 6 May.

Selected performers will then rehearse on the following dates:

17, 24 & 30 May

6, 13, 27 & 30 June,

4/5, 11/12 & 18 July with performance on 19 July.

2017 – what a year!

With Hull UK City of Culture and the 25th Anniversary of Hull Jazz Festival, we knew 2017 was going to be special. And we weren’t wrong!

Our year got under way in February with Mind on the Run, a 3-day celebration of the music and legacy of ambient music pioneer Basil Kirchin. An incredible line-up of artists paid tribute to Basil, including Sean O’Hagan, the BBC Concert Orchestra, Matthew Bourne, Matthew Herbert, Will Gregory, Hidden Orchestra, Jerry Dammers, Evan Parker, Alan Barnes and Spring Heel Jack. With talks, DJ sets and a sold-out screening of Nova Studios’ documentary about Kirchin and his work, it was wonderful to see so many people celebrating one of Hull’s unsung musical heroes. Big thanks to Nova Studios for making sure Basil’s story gets told and that his legacy lives on.

The poster for the film Mind on the Run

Mind on the Run poster

Fast forward to July and the PRS Foundation’s New Music Biennial, another incredible 3 days of music in venues across the city. We were really proud to commission GoGo Penguin to create As Above So Below, a new piece inspired by Basil Kirchin. And there was so much good music across the weekend – some of our other highlights included A Journey with the Giants of Jazz, composed by Peter Edwards and performed by the Nu Civilisation Orchestra; Ring Out by Ray Lee; Rivers & Railways by Eliza Carthy; and Journey to Cassiopeia by Hannah Peel, with its epic brass and synths. And great to see capacity audiences for so many of the shows.

Hull Jazz Festival returned for its 25th Summer Edition from 11 – 15 July, with record audiences for another stellar line-up of some of the best UK, US and European jazz talent. From an incredible performance by Bowie’s Blackstar collaborator, Donny McCaslin, to a sold-out show with UK jazz and soul giants Courtney Pine and Omar, we were treated to some truly spellbinding shows. Other highlights included guitarist Sébastien Giniaux’s sophisticated gypsy jazz, a stunning improvised set from Sarah Tandy and Binker Golding, and female trailblazers Nérija.

Hull Jazz Festival 25th Summer Edition - 11 - 15 July 2017

We wrapped up the year in style with our 25th Anniversary celebrations in November. Taking place in venues across the city, the week-long festival saw some of our biggest shows to date, brand new commissions and great performances by local musicians of all ages as part of our outreach programme.

The US was represented by jazz guitar legend Pat Metheny at Hull City Hall and Brooklyn urban jazz trio Moon Hooch, who tore a new roof off Früit with their acoustic techno. We had new music from Andy Sheppard Quartet, Arun Ghosh Quintet and pianist and jazz maestro Bill Laurance. Plus two special 25th Anniversary commissions, supported by the PRS Foundation, from Stuart McCallum and Revenu. Zoe Gilby Quartet provided jazz fun for all the family and Dusty & Shirley saw the ever-fabulous David McAlmont and Gwyneth Herbert celebrate the iconic 60s sounds of Dusty Springfield and Shirley Bassey.

Our outreach programme culminated in two shows that gave local children and young people and amateur musicians the chance to perform alongside some of the UK’s most exciting jazz artists. A Brief History of the Coolest Instrument in the World saw children from Mayfield Primary School and the Guitarmageddon Orchestra (local amateur guitarists) come together as ensembles to perform two pieces by guitarist and composer Chris Montague. And in The Jazz Ticket, young musicians from City of Hull Youth Jazz Orchestra, East Riding Youth Jazz Orchestra, Kelvin Hall School, South Hunsley School and St Mary’s College celebrated six giants of jazz who were born in 1917. They were performing with artists from Nu Civilisation Orchestra, who wrapped up the show with A Journey with the Giants of Jazz.

And we brought everything to close with a stunning performance by GoGo Penguin of their new score to Godfrey Reggio’s cult cinema masterpiece Koyaanisqatsi.

Hull Jazz Festival 25th Anniversary - 11 -18 November 2017

Big thanks to our funders, Arts Council England, the PRS Foundation and Hull 2017, and to our producing partners Serious and Tomorrow’s Warriors.

Tickets are on sale now for the first of our 2018 shows. See you there!

Basil Kirchin – his legacy lives on

Ahead of our screening of Mind on the Run, as part of our closing event at Hull City Hall on 18th November, we asked Matt Stephenson of Nova Studios to reflect back over the past year and what it’s meant for Basil Kirchin’s musical legacy:

As the producers of Mind On The Run, the documentary telling the story of the wonderful ‘lost’ composer Basil Kirchin, one of our hopes was that, through the film, Basil’s work would be brought into the light and recognised as being something beautiful and truly original.

The Mind On The Run weekend celebration of Basil’s life in February 2017 was the start of that recognition – a weekend featuring artists including members of Stereolab, The High Llamas, Goldfrapp and St Etienne alongside remarkable musicians such as Matthew Bourne, Alexander Hawkins, Joe Acheson and Hidden Orchestra, The BBC Concert Orchestra, Revenu, Evan Parker, Alan Barnes and more.

Photo of Basil Kirchin and his wife

Basil Kirchin and his wife Esther

It’s worth mentioning that none of this would have happened without the work of musical treasure hunter Jonny Trunk and his superb lucky-dip of a record label Trunk Records.

Back in the 90s, when Basil was almost completely forgotten, it was Jonny who tracked him down and began re-releasing his work, ensuring that digital listeners could hear some of the most haunting, poetic and ground-breaking British music of the 20th century.

Basil died shortly after Johnny released Abstractions of the Industrial North, along with various library and film music recordings and two new albums – Particles and Quantum, but his legacy was out there: a low, quiet flame – but one which never went out.

Photo of a page in a notebook with handwritten song lyrics

Basil’s handwritten lyrics for ‘Moments’

We felt 2017 was the perfect opportunity for Hull to ‘own’ Basil; he was an outsider artist, someone whose personal story seemed to resonate with the story of the city itself – once great, subsequently forgotten yet carrying on regardless, waiting quietly to be rediscovered.

The critical response to both the weekend and the film has been wonderful. People who find Basil tend to be people who are willing to look a little further, they’re open-minded people, they probably don’t follow the obvious crowd, they want something that might take them to new places and touch them in different ways. In fact, if you’ve got as far as this and you’re still actually reading, then you are probably one of those people too.

Some people might call it pretentious, but fuck ‘em, they can have Coldplay and Adele if it makes them happy.

And the others (us, we, Basil’s people) are everywhere. Our Mind On The Run documentary is somehow finding those people. Every month a promoter somewhere gets in touch wanting to know if they can show the film – in recent months Basil’s story has played to audiences of the finest freaks in Manchester, Gateshead, Belfast with more screenings and Basil celebrations planned in 2018.

The poster for the film Mind on the Run

Mind on the Run poster

In spite of all the great publicity that took place in February, with extensive plays and coverage on BBC 6 Music, Radio 3, The Guardian and more, there’s still a sense of discovery around Basil – and I think there always will be.

The good stuff is always harder to find, but it’s out there if you look for it. Basil isn’t going away.

In his own words, on his genius classic album Worlds within Worlds:

Hiding in my little place,

No-one hears me or sees my face,

But I am there, you wait and see:

Something special will come from me.

Along with Jonny Trunk, J-Night and everyone who participated in our film, I hope we’ve all done something to ensure that Basil Kirchin remains something special that will always be worth discovering.

Photo of Basil Kirchin as an older man

Basil Kirchin in his later years

You can see Nova Studio’s Mind on the Run documentary at Hull City Hall on Saturday 18th November, before GoGo Penguin perform their new live score to Godfrey Reggio’s cult cinema masterpiece Koyaanisqatsi. GoGo Penguin will also perform As Above So Below, the Kirchin-inspired piece we commissioned them to create at part of the New Music Biennial 2017. Tickets are available now from Hull City Hall.