For one weekend each June, Southbank Centre transforms into a hub of activities and performances for young musicians of all levels as they host their Nucleo Festival. Nucleo is becoming an increasing important part of Tomorrow’s Warriors calendar and is a wonderful opportunity for us to catch up with old acquaintances, forge new friendships and showcase groups across the entire TW family. This year’s festival was no exception, and saw us more involved than ever before.
Friday 6th June
Our Nucleo weekend started when several musicians from our Emerging Artist programme joined forces with Big Phat Brass – a fab 10-piece brass ensemble from Bromley Music Service. After a quick rehearsal, the musicians were onstage, performing two pieces as part of the Friday Tonic concert on the Clore Ballroom Stage. This included a version of the jazz classic Sing, Sing, Sing and featured a blistering solo from TW’s drummer Momoko Gill.
Saturday 7th June
The day kicked off with Jazz for Strings – a special workshop for young string players to come and try playing some jazz. Nine young hopefuls came and had a great time, giving us plenty of encouragement to look at how we can work more with strings the future. Next up was one of the highlights of the festival; a matinée concert entitled Rise And Shine. Hosted by music leader Nathaniel Facey, two groups consisting of some of our best new and emerging talent from within the TW ranks took to the Purcell Room stage.
First was Nerija, our fantastic all-girl band from the emerging artists programme. Their set of mainly original material was complemented by some incredible visual art by trumpeter Sheila Maurice-Grey projected on a big screen as they performed. Sheila, a graduate in fine arts, had prepared the work as part of her Arts Award portfolio and a very enthusiastic audience was left in awe by the range of this young lady’s talents. Well done Sheila!
The second half saw a group led by Nathaniel Facey and featuring some of the most committed members of the Development Group Workshops over the past 18 months. The musicians did a mighty fine job tackling a set of music, as Nathaniel put it “specifically designed to stretch and challenge them”.
The entire concert was extremely well received by an enthusiastic audience, and was an excellent opportunity for the musicians to gain experience performing on a professional stage.
There was no time to lose as we moved straight in to the Front Room at Queen Elizabeth Hall for Tomorrow’s Warriors Youth Orchestra (TWYO). With six musicians performing in TYWO for the first time the group produced a knock out set, which featured some fantastic soloing from tenor saxophonist Nubya Garcia and vocals from Cherise Adams-Burnett. Our music leader, James McKay conducted the encore of My Boy Lollipop, insisting that the band wouldn’t start until the entire room was up ready to dance, not that the audience needed persuading!
After TWYO, we launched into the Tomorrow’s Warriors Big Busk. Here, close to 30 musicians crammed on stage to get a taste of a Tomorrow’s Warriors workshop, which quickly developed into what is surely one of the largest versions of Duke Ellington’s Take the A Train ever! It was great to see some of the participants from the strings workshop taking part.
There’s only one way for Tomorrow’s Warriors to finish a day like this, and that’s with a Jam Session! For more than two hours, and with the help of several TW alumni, Gary Crosby put the youngsters through their paces, playing a range of classic jazz standards. Even after such a long day, you couldn’t help but be inspired by the young people’s energy, enthusiasm and passion for music.
Sunday 8th June
We saw excellent performances from two of our core ensembles drawn from within our Young Artist Development Programme. First our Junior Group presented a new set music where each tune had been arranged by a different member of the band as part of their Silver Arts Awards projects. This made for a very varied set, full of the musicians own ideas; seriously impressive when you consider that the youngest member of the band is still only 13 years old!
The Juniors were followed immediately by the latest ensemble from the Tomorrow’s Warriors Female Collective, who currently go under the name of Troy. Again, their set consisted of several self led pieces, as well as a beautiful afro-beat inspired composition called ‘Midnight’ by pianist Scarlett Stewart.
There was just time left for another open workshop, this one being a Jazz Taster Session, led by music leader Ben Burrell. An enjoyable 90 minutes was spent exploring the history of jazz, what improvisation is and how a jazz tune works. The participants jumped at the chance to compose their own blues ‘head’ before improvising riffs and solo phrases over the chords. In the workshop, we also saw possibly the most unusual musical instrument at whole Nucleo weekend, with one participant bringing along a Theremin – an electronic instrument, where the note that sounds is controlled by the position of the musicians hand relative to two antennae!Though slightly unorthodox, the Theremin actually works rather well in Jazz, particularly when creating blues inflexions, as it’s able to bend notes like a guitar.
A great Nucleo weekend
After 8 performances and 3 workshops involving almost 40 core members of Tomorrow’s Warriors and 20+ new participants, our Nucleo 2014 drew to a happy close. It’s just left to say a big thank you to Southbank Centre for giving us so much space in the programme and to our music leaders for preparing the groups and leading the workshops so well. Most of all, we say a huge well done to the young musicians who took part, all of whom performed at such a high level across the weekend. Congratulations one and all!!