A day and evening with The National Youth Jazz Orchestra

On Tuesday 8th October, The National Youth Jazz Orchestra, led by maestro Mark Armstrong, returned to Ardingly College following their massively successful College debut 18 months prior. The day consisted of workshops with Ardingly’s jazz ensembles, led by NYJO’s musical ambassadors, followed by an evening concert in the Under.

In the afternoon, the Senior School Jazz Band was treated to a workshop Stevie Wonder’s ‘Isn’t She Lovely’ and Jaco Pastorius’s funk epic ‘The Chicken’ with the intention of performing them later in the evening concert. The five ambassadors – Tom Ridout, Daniel Higham, Chris Bland, Jack Garside, and Max Mills – put the younger musicians through their paces, challenging their rhythmic and harmonic knowledge. ‘The Chicken’ proved to be particularly funky and a whole lot of fun for the children with a groovy bass-line and fun solos.

The evening concert exhibited the sheer talent and energy that NYJO and their director share. Opening with the aptly named ‘Groove Rider’, the audience was immediately drawn into the complex rhythms and virtuosic solos in the tenor saxophone, flute, and trombone. Other highlights of the night the highly requested jazz recorder conquest ‘Known No More’, composed by ambassador Tom Ridout. The two vocalists, Helena Debono and Freddie Benedict, charmed us with their renditions of classics such as ‘On the Street Where You Live’ and ‘Chicago’. Debono also sang Laura Jurd’s complex, almost disjointed, setting of John Donne’s poem ‘No Man Is An Island’. They drew the concert to a close with the NYJO hit ‘Have You Seen Them Cakes’, a big band favourite. The concert was in all a great success and the children were very lucky to have been able to work with such astounding musicians.

We thank NYJO and Mark Amstrong again for coming back to Ardingly, and we look forward to their inevitable return in the future