The Big Chris Barber Band

70th Anniversary Tour

King’s Hall, Ilkley

Wednesday 3rd April 2019

Following a recent fall, the much loved Chris Barber was sadly under doctors orders to stay at home and continue his convalescence. Bob Hunt (trombone, trumpet and arranger) explained that Bert Brandsma (clarinet, saxes and vocals) would introduce the music in place of Chris. Bob joked: “Since Bert is Dutch, the announcements will therefore be Dutch, rather than double Dutch”.

So, it was very much a case of business as usual. The spicy harmonies and infectious counterpoint of Bourbon Street Parade, (performed on this occasion without vocals) set the tone of the evening.

The Band play standing up and every note is committed to memory - there are no distracting music desks. The playing of such great numbers as Merry-go-Round, Black and Tan Fantasy, and Rocking in Rhythm was flawlessly brilliant as always. It was great fun too - especially when a trio of saxes, clarinets or trumpets crowd around a microphone and play in unison as in Ellington’s East St Louis Toodle-Oo.

Wildcat Blues seemed even more amazing, bearing in mind that Chris Barber made a famous 78 rpm gramophone record of this number sixty years ago with Monty Sunshine (clarinet) and Lonnie Donegan (banjo).

Bert Brandsma and Pete Rudeforth added the plaintive vocals to Cornbread, Peas and Black Molasses, and Whatcha Gonna Do. A most enjoyable concert ended with When the Saints Go Marching In, and the equally popular Ice Cream - first played by the Chris Barber Band back in 1954.

The deluge of applause died away and the Band walked off. A gleaming trombone placed at the front of the empty stage seemed to be a poignant reminder of Chris Barber’s absence. We wish him a speedy recovery.

This 70th anniversary concert of the Big Chris Barber Band was promoted by the Friends of the King’s Hall & Winter Garden.

Geoffrey Mogridge