celebrating freedom and the art of improvisation>

11.11.11 – Grand Union Orchestra and guests

Friday 11th November, 7.30pm

Hackney Empire Theatre, 291 Mare Street, London E8 1EJ

www.hackneyempire.co.uk | 020 8985 2424

The music of the liberated and the most liberated of musics – celebrating jazz and the art of improvisation on Armistice Day.

A once-only event on an auspicious date in a beautiful and much-loved theatre…

Armistice Day 2011, in a month which sees London awash with jazz… an irresistible opportunity to commemorate the related ideas of liberty and creative freedom – since jazz is both the music of the liberated and the most liberated of musics.

A hundred years ago in New Orleans – the legendary birthplace of jazz – descendants of slaves took work-songs, rhythms and chants that can be traced back to Africa and mixed them with the music of the European colonists and Latin America to create an extraordinary and progressive new art-form.

East London at the beginning of this century is not so very different, where generations of migrants are creating an equally exciting cultural melting-pot, and music from all over the world mixes and melds on a daily basis.

The Grand Union Orchestra, with its renowned jazz and world music performers, embodies this spirit, and is joined in this celebration by a host of guest artists from East London, including a galaxy of musicians from Indian, Bengali, Gypsy, Turkish and African improvising traditions, local choirs, the Guildhall School of Music Jazz Singers and the unique Grand Union Youth Orchestra.

Improvisation and the unexpected will rule the evening, but the event will also see the première of a brand new 11-bar blues created specially for the occasion! For details of the competition to contribute a theme to this, see below.


Grand Union Orchestra

  • Paul Jayasinha (Sri Lanka/Scotland - trumpet, flugelhorn, cello)
  • Claude Deppa (South Africa - trumpet, percussion)
  • Byron Wallen (Belize - trumpet, flugelhorn)
  • Rachel Musson (England - soprano & alto saxophones
  • Tony Kofi (Ghana - alto & baritone saxophones)
  • Louise Elliott (Australia - tenor saxophone, flute)
  • Harry Brown (England - trombone)
  • Ros Davies (Wales - trombone, flute)
  • Andy Grappy (England - tuba)
  • Tony Haynes (England - piano, trombone)
  • Richard Scott (England - voice, tenor saxophone)
  • Yousuf Ali Khan (Bangladesh - tabla, dholak)
  • Gerry Hunt (England - guitar, clarinet, soprano saxophone)
  • Andres Lafone (Uruguay - bass guitar)
  • Cristiano Castellito (Italy - drums)

Guest artists (more to be confirmed)

  • Zhu Xiao Meng (China - gu zheng (Chinese harp))
  • Rui Jun Hu (China - dizi, xiao (bamboo flutes))
  • Ketan Kerai (India - sarangi, dhol)
  • Shakeel Khan (Bangladesh - sitar)
  • Gunes Cerit (Turkey - baglama (saz))
  • Mak Murtic (Croatia - tenor saxophone)
  • Lilia Iontcheva (Bulgaria - tuned percusión)
  • Marek Czureja (Poland - gipsy violin)

Ensembles and choirs

  • Grand Union Youth Orchestra
  • Grand Union Second Generation Band
  • Marek Czureja’s Romany Ensemble and young musicians
  • Hackney Voices
  • Wing-It Singers
  • Hackney Empire Choir
  • Guildhall School of Music Jazz Singers
  • Konokol Club

The 11.11.11 Blues Competition

The challenge is to compose a theme, true to the spirit of the standard 12-bar blues and suggesting (some of) its characteristic structural features (eg AAB melodic shape, use of subdominant or equivalent chord in bars 2, 5/6 etc), but following these constraints:

  • it must be 11 (rather than 12) bars long;
  • it must be in 11/8 time (perhaps think traditional 12/8 but drop a beat!);
  • the tempo should be no slower than 111 quavers per minute;
  • you should supply a chord sequence if possible;
  • you may use 11th chords, but this is not essential;
  • you may add a bass line if you wish;
  • you may write in any key;
  • any other exploration of the number 11 is welcome.

The themes will be transposed into 11 different keys as necessary, joined together and scored for an all-star band with 11 brass/saxes. The resulting piece will last 11 minutes!

All entrants observing these constraints will receive a free ticket for themselves and a guest; composers of the 11 selected entries will also receive £11.11 each.

In addition, winners may offer to take part in scoring and performing the piece, which should last 11 minutes!

Entries must be submitted in conventional European notation by post or email (preferably Sibelius files) 11 days before the event, by November 1st 2011.

For full information and further guidance contact Hannah Turner in the Grand Union office 020 8981 1551 or by email mail@grandunion.org.uk. Our website or blog will also carry details www.grandunion.org.uk after 9/10/11 (October 9th!); musical hints can be found at www.tonyhaynesmusic.wordpress.com

Grand Union main image Quote from The Scotsman

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Supported by the European Cultural Foundation
For regular updates of Gathering, Travelling – Grand Union’s ECF-funded project in collaboration with partners in Portugal and France – please click here.
Supported by the Arts Council England
Youth Music