Monday, February 15, 2010
Sir John Dankworth Concert
On 6th February I played a concert to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of Sir John Dankworth and Dame Cleo Laine's theatre, The Stables at Wavendon, England.
We knew that Sir John wouldn't be able to attend as he was in hospital. None of us however were fully aware just how ill John was, and just before I was about to rehearse a duet with Cleo in the afternoon, an urgent message reached Cleo asking her to get to the hospital as soon as possible.
Sadly, John had passed away before Cleo and the family arrived at the hospital.
Cleo came back to the theatre and broke the news to us backstage. Cleo said she wanted the concert to go ahead and it was also agreed that Cleo wouldn't tell the audience about John until the end of the show.
Cleo was amazing that night, and managed to turn a very sad day into a wonderful tribute to John. At one point Cleo told us all "Well, John's gone and stolen the show from me again!"
The evening was recorded for BBC Radio 3, Laurie Holloway led the orchestra and Paul O'Grady did a fantastic job as master of ceremonies. The guest artists were, Victoria Wood, Maureen Lipman, Prunella Scales, Timothy West, Jacqui Dankworth, Lorna Dallas, Rod Argent, Dominic Miller and myself.
I used to see Sir John quite often as we were both on the Jazz Committee of the Worshipful Company of Musicians. He was a great musician and a fun guy to be around with a very cheery and positive outlook to life. He helped so many young musicians during their formative years.
We lost one of the most important figures in jazz on that day, but I'm glad I was there to celebrate his life with his family and friends.