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Artist Profiles

Grand Union Orchestra: Music and Movement

By Published: April 3, 2012
For Haynes, the Second Generation Band is a further important development. "I love that idea, too, of the second generation. They have come through the youth orchestra, so they are second generation in that respect but in a lot of cases they are also second-generation Britons. I think that's an extraordinary position to be in—to be the son or the daughter of a migrant family. These younger musicians can move backwards and forwards between the culture of their grandparents and play within the language of that culture but can also function within the local culture as well and, through that, create an identity of their own in a way that I could not. My own life has been relatively comfortable, so I don't know why this fascinates me but for some reason it has all these resonances."

Günes Cerit joined the Youth Orchestra in 2006, having discovered Turkish singer Sabahat Akkiraz, who had performed with GUO. Reading about the orchestra on one of the singer's albums, she got in touch just as they were starting GUYO. In a way, she exemplifies Haynes' hopes for the venture, as her remarks confirm, "I always wanted to be involved in music and I was new in the country at that time. I'd told myself this is the opportunity to do something in music. I mostly enjoy being on the stage and now with a confidence. Which shows are my favorite? Most of the shows are my favorite but the very big show that we performed for two days in Hackney Empire in 2008, that was great. The thing with Grand Union is it's open to the world. It's open to the every culture. There's no racism. The most important thing is Grand Union respects music and passes that on to the next generations."

Her younger colleague, saxophonist Iona Kay, discovered the youth orchestra through a friend who had joined. For her, the project provides similar opportunities, as she explains, "I enjoy trying different styles of music and now I have friends here, who I enjoy playing music with. My best show was probably the one at Paradise Gardens in Victoria Park, when we played quite a big festival. I was a bit nervous while we were setting up but once we started playing it was a lot of fun. There were a lot of people in the crowd and it got bigger as we played and people were dancing. I was really relieved it had gone so well but then Claude [Deppa] was very helpful in directing us onstage and before."

If anything, this aspect of Grand Union is growing in importance and several members of the team contribute to it, most notably Claude Deppa and Louise Elliott. Deppa has been with GUO from the early days, as he explains, "I started with the orchestra in '86 at the start. My first contact with the orchestra felt very welcoming. It's a family unit musically, in the sense that we all look out for each other and not just musically. And that's also what keeps most of the original members on board. Because it is such a close knit unit the music comes through like it is a well-worked unit—like, for instance, the bands of Duke Ellington
Duke Ellington
Duke Ellington
1899 - 1974
, Sun Ra
Sun Ra
Sun Ra
1914 - 1993
and Fela Kuti, and unlike most present-day units, which rely on musicians just coming in and reading the parts and where nobody cares further than just playing their parts."

Grand Rhythm Orchestra The Rhythm of the TidesFor Deppa, an important aspect of working with the youth orchestra is to communicate those same musical and social values, "The educational work is important, as it gives us the chance to really show how best to portray what we're good at. It's showing the importance of music in education. For 20-odd years, we've been arguing to make music in education important. It does appear that some of that shouting is finally being heard as the government is now putting music at the forefront of some of the academies they're starting. If we were allowed to continue in the way we've been going without any interference from sad energies, I think we would show truly what music in education means and what world music really is all about."

The part played by Deppa and Elliott is readily acknowledged by Haynes and, as he points out, the aim with both the youth orchestra or the Second Generation is to allow them their own character not to create clones of the professional orchestra. "The Second Generation band really began with a show a couple of years ago we called 'Second Generation.' That was the first attempt at it and, in a way, it's only in the last few months that it's been developing as a separate identity. But I've noticed—and I'm impressed—that certain musicians do well under the tutelage of Louise Elliott and Claude Deppa. Eventually, it needs to have its own identity and I see signs that's beginning to happen."

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