It’s #VillageHallsWeek. Here we celebrate by asking one of our top acts about their experience of playing in a village hall.
This week, (22-28 Jan) The National Rural Touring Forum highlights the vital role village halls can play in rural communities.
Here at Blaize, we decided to join the celebrations! We decided it would a good idea to hear from one of the acts we commissioned about their experiences of touring small venues. Last season audiences in East Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire couldn’t get enough of jazz musicans, Dave Newton and Alan Barnes and having heard them play, we can understand why. The two have been playing duets together for over 40 years. These multi award-winning performers cover a vast repertoire from Louis Armstrong to Chick Corea. Their fantastic music, coupled with their interaction with smaller, more intimate audiences is what made each of their tour dates with us such a fabulous success.
We spoke to Dave about what it was like for him, playing to audiences in village venues. Here is what he shared with us.
Ok, Dave, so you’ve obviously performed to audiences large and small – what’s the largest audience you’ve ever played before and what’s the smallest? (roughly)
Which do you prefer (if any) and why?
The largest physical audience I can remember was when I played as part of the support group for a Frank Sinatra concert at Ibrox football stadium and that was about 10,000 people but playing live solo piano for radio broadcasts on Radio 2 where the audiences would have been in hundreds of thousands was probably more nerve-wracking. As to the smallest, I sometimes play for people in their house and that can be to as little as ten folk lounging on easy chairs in a nice room with a lovely grand piano that might not get used very often. I really don’t have a preference. I enjoy playing in most settings.
What do you like about rural touring? You build a very good rapport with your audience – does it feel more intimate in a rural setting? What is the secret of connecting with an audience – is it easier or harder in a smaller venue?
Rural touring for the most part, means playing to people that are unfamiliar with jazz or improvised music but having it brought closer to them means it’s easier to pluck up the courage and go and see for themselves that it’s not as esoteric, discordant or unfathomable as some would have them believe. In fact, if delivered with some humour, it can actually be quite entertaining. The village hall is a wonderful setting to hear acoustic music as you are up close and there’s no distraction which give the listener the chance to absorb themselves in the music completely.
Do you have any anecdotes about rural touring you could share with us?
I can’t think of any anecdotes other than the apologies forthcoming from a lady who was running one particular village hall who was five minutes late in arriving because she’d been up in the hills ‘doing the lambing’ all afternoon and had forgotten the time! They really are fantastic people who deserve fantastic music.
Is it difficult being on the road, driving long distances away from home or is it just something you get used to?
I love getting into the car and going somewhere new so it’s always been 50% of the job for me and as a result, nowhere feels obscure, just different.
Why do you think rural touring is important? Should we make an effort to do more of it?
The feedback from our rural audiences has been marvellous and very vocal from people who once lived in cities but now live a country life and are thrilled the city has come to them for a change.
Is it difficult working in smaller halls with equipment etc and sound?
We have never had any technical difficulties as there’s only the two of us and there’s never a shortage of plug points or anything of that nature. In fact, it’s usually much easier to get in and out of village halls as you can get the car right up to the door!
What would you say to other large acts considering the rural touring circuit?
As long as a group has keyboard equipment of their own, I would encourage anybody to get involved in rural touring if I thought their music was the right mixture of ingredients. I can only reiterate my observation of earlier, that the audiences and especially the volunteers, really are fantastic people who deserve fantastic music.
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