Terry Pack uses a rare moment of peace to reflect on the development of Trees since its inception on early 2015.
Sitting on a balcony in Venice in August 2016, I'm able to reflect on the progress of Trees, an unfeasibly large ensemble that was born in April 2015.
On Monday 20th April last year, I invited a group of friends, including Geoff Simkins, Linda Atkinson, Tarik Mecci, David Beebee, Mark Bassey, Brendan Kelly, Raul D'Oliveira, Will Gardner, Dave Cottrell, Tristan Banks, to The Verdict in Brighton to play two arrangements. These were 'Holywell' an adaptation of two old pieces of mine ('What Happens Now' and 'Over The Hills') mashed together, and the traditional folk song 'Scarborough Fair'. I had written both for a more or less standard big band, plus extra flutes and clarinets. A second rehearsal took place the following day, and a third on the Tuesday evening. Between these, I made a significant number of amendments to the two pieces.
A straw poll of people's availability led to my booking The Verdict for rehearsals on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays for a few weeks, before settling on Mondays at 13:00 each week.
•A core band emerges.
Gradually, a lineup coalesced around a core of regulars that included saxophonists Charlotte Glasson, Kate Hogg, Philippe Guyard, Andy Pickett and Beccy Rork, trumpeters Jack Kendon and Gabriel Garrick, trombonists Paul Nieman, Tim Wade and Will Rumfitt, pianists Alice Hawkes and Tom Phelan, drummers Ollie Boorman, Matt Hobson and Milo Fell and bassist Eddie Myer.
As time went by, we were joined by flautists Mike Guest, Hilary Burt, Lucy Pickering and Greg Maddocks, vocalists Annie Lightly, Imogen Ryall, Red Gray, Heather Camille, Vikki Parker and Antony Durrant, saxophonists Jo Luckman, Claire Western, Chantelle Rizan and John Stiles, trumpeters Steve Lawless, Martin Bradley, Jane Stimpson and Moshe Ibelo, French hornist Jonathan Harwood, trombonist Peter Thompson, clarinettist Merlin Shepherd, percussionist Boykie Moore and various comers and goers.
Since my initial aim was just to get the music played, I was open to any musician I liked as a person being part of the project. This has meant writing and rewriting the music to suit the lineup as it has evolved, adding parts for various instruments and voices along the way; a process I have enjoyed greatly.
After a handful of get togethers, Charlotte and Jack each suggested gigs that we could play. Jack offered a slot at The Brighton Lantern Festival in September, and Charlotte then proposed doing a set at the Brighton Open Air Theatre on 3rd August, which was only a few weeks away. I bit the bullet and said yes to both.
•Brighton Open Air Theatre on Sunday 3rd August was Trees debut gig. It was a beautiful day, and we played really well to a crowd of about 300 people, despite my failures to cue a number of sections.
The Lantern Fayre in September was cancelled, which meant that our next outing was at •The Brunswick in Hove in October. This was a fundraiser for the charity The House That Zac Built, and was well attended and well received.
The Verdict was the venue for a Bonsai version of Trees: a mere 22 of us played another fundraising gig in November by way of saying thanks to the venue for the many rehearsals we had done there.
Over the weekend of 12th and 13th December, we rehearsed and recorded four pieces at Hawthbush Farm in Sussex. These were 'El Pueblo', 'Scarborough Fair', 'Heart of Oak' and 'Holywell'. The audio was recorded by Neil Costello, an old friend from ICC Studio in Eastbourne, and the video by Joe Edwards, the very talented son of my band mate from The Cloggz, Mark Edwards.
The band was:
Eddie Myer: bass
Tristan Banks: drums
Milo Fell: percussion
Alice Hawkes: piano
Mark Edwards: keys
Neil Corin: accordion and keys
James Osler: guitar
Peter Thompson: bass trombone
Will Rumfitt: trombone
Tarik Mecci: trombone
Paul Nieman: trombone
Steve Lawless: flugelhorn
Jane Stimpson: trumpet and flugelhorn
Jack Kendon: trumpet and flugelhorn
Gabriel Garrick: trumpet flugelhorn
Julian Nicholas: alto clarinet and tenor saxophone
Paul Stuart Briggs: tenor saxophone
Andy Pickett: tenor saxophone
Philippe Guyard: tenor saxophone
Chantelle Rizan: alto saxophone
Linda Atkinson: alto saxophone
Kate Hogg: alto saxophone and bansuri
Beccy Rork: soprano saxophone
Charlotte Glasson: soprano saxophone
Merlin Shepherd: clarinet
Greg Maddocks: alto flute
Mike Guest: flute
Hilary Burt: flute
Lucy Pickering: flute
Antony Durrant: baritone voice
Heather Camille: alto voice
Annie Lightly: alto voice
Elaine Crouch: alto voice
Imogen Ryall: alto voice
Rachel Munro: mezzo soprano voice
Red Gray: soprano voice
My lovely wife, Stefania Lanza, provided the food and drink, and I waved my arms about until the music stopped.
Rehearsals continued at The Verdict on Mondays and we added a fortnightly rehearsal every other Thursday, allowing more people to attend regularly. I started writing writing a series of new pieces, and added parts for strings to existing arrangements. We were back at The Brunswick on 7th January for another fundraiser.
Mike Guest recorded the first of a series of video interviews with members of the group in which each spoke about what it means to be a Tree. These can be seen on Trees' YouTube channel.
Steve Lawless, Elaine Crouch, Greg Maddocks and I began having monthly meetings to discuss how best to progress.
In January, I introduced a challenging new piece, 'The Ridge', to rehearsals, and during the Spring, Hilary Burt brought three tunes, 'Simeon', 'Baka' and 'The Story So Far' to the band. Greg Maddocks contributed 'No Wind', a piece which is still in gestation.
•Brighton Festival 2016.
Trees and The Cloggz performed a double bill at Wagner Hall, Brighton as part of the Brighton Festival. The bands played a set each before joining forces to play a new arrangement of Ennio Morricone's 'Gabriel's Oboe'.
• Trees on YouTube.
In addition to Mike Guest's interviews: Talking Trees, there are the results of December's recording session to see and listen to:
'El Pueblo' is an adaptation of a tune I've recorded twice before in different guises; on the Full Circle album 'Underbelly' and on my own album 'Palimpsest'. Trees' version features solos by Eddie Myer on bass, Tristan Banks and Milo Fell on kit and percussion, Julian Nicholas on tenor and Jack Kendon on trumpet.
'Scarborough Fair' features solos from Gabriel Garrick and Jack Kendon on trumpet and flugelhorn, Tristan and Milo, and Charlotte Glasson on soprano.
'Heart of Oak' features the brass, with solos from Alice Hawkes on piano, Gabriel Garrick on trumpet, and Milo and Tristan duetting on percussion and kit.
•More new music.
Along with continuing work on 'The Ridge', the band has been rehearsing three more new pieces of mine: 'Praça XV', 'Tarantella' and 'Cuckmere to Friston'. I have two more waiting to be introduced: 'Palimpsest' and 'S/Pulse'.
•Brighton Open Air Theatre.
On Sunday 5th June 2016, we returned to BOAT. We were joined by several members of Straight No Chaser, with whom we shared the bill, expanding Trees to 42 players and singers.
•A Love Supreme Festival.
On Sunday 3rd July 2016, 34 Trees played a set to an appreciative crowd at A Love Supreme Festival.
•A year on.
Trees played its 8th gig at The Brunswick in Hove on Sunday 7th August, almost a year exactly since its debut gig at BOAT.
•Upcoming events in 2016.
The recording of 'Heart of Oak' will shortly be uploaded to the Trees YouTube channel.
Trees at The Big Green Cardigan Festival at Cripps Corner, near Battle on Sunday 11th September.
Trees at All Saints Church, Hove on Wednesday 21st September.
More recording is planned for the Autumn.
Plans are in train for a collaboration with the music department at Chichester College, involving workshops, rehearsal and a concert featuring students at the college.
Trees at Steyning Jazz Club at The Steyning Centre, Steyning, Friday 6th January 2017.
Trees at The South Coast Jazz Festival at The Ropetackle Centre, Shoreham, Sunday 29th January 2017.