Versatility Serenaders

Church Stretton School

Sat Aug 8 | 7.30pm

The Versatility Serenaders

The Versatility Serenaders is Matt Redman’s full, live evocation of what it was like to be a musician at a time of radical stylistic change, when the world was travelling more than ever before, when sound recordings were spreading the rhythms of different lands, and instruments came back from war as changed as the people who had played them. Edwardian and post-war musicians had to be able to adapt to Tango, Ragtime, Chorinho, Avant-Garde, Hawaiian, Tin Pan Alley, Impressionism, Novelty, early Jazz, dance band, and traditional “Parlour” styles as and when it was expected of them, switching instruments when required. It was a style of playing that soon vanished, as genres separated out and formed into ghettos, with musicians choosing which to belong to, seldom straying. With Matt’s arsenal of antique instruments including guitars, banjos, mandolin, accordion, mallet percussion, double bass, and detailed knowledge of these many styles, and Patricia Hammond’s adaptable voice, pianist Jon Butterfield and clarinettist and saxophonist George Sleightholme mix an ability to read music with an ability to have fun extemporising through it, taking audiences on a journey to a time before microphones, and before “Classical vs Jazz”.

Mezzo-soprano Patricia Hammond had, since girlhood, collected and sung old sheet music from the 1890s to the 1920s, but was getting tired of the way it was performed, with bland, verbatim piano accompaniment. In 2009 she met young multi-instrumentalist Matt, then completing his jazz performance degree at Trinity College of Music. Matt had been questioning why his teachers rarely looked back further than the 1920s; the diverse pre-jazz popular music age with its multi-genre explorations enticed and challenged him as a musician and as an arranger. When Sony Records gave a commission to record a track for their nostalgia compilation Down Memory Lane (the only contemporary recording on the two CDs) a collaboration was set in motion.

In addition to the Sony recording, Matt arranged and directed for Patricia’s full-length CD Our Lovely Day and was entirely responsible for the critically acclaimed Songs of the Great War featuring music from 1913 to 1919 in a variety of arrangements using only the instruments and styles to be found during those seven years.

Patricia Hammond moved from Western Canada to Europe in 2000, where she studied with soprano Kari Lovaas, Kirsten Flagstad’s last protegée. Since then Patricia has had an international career, singing solos under Sir Simon Rattle and Ivan Fischer with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment; opera in Wexford and the Linbury Theatre at the ROH; and in major venues in London, Bruges, Turin, Paris, Budapest, Vancouver, and the Herodus Atticus Theatre at the foot of the Acropolis in Athens. As a specialist in historical song, her CDs have been lauded by the American Record Guide, Fanfare, the Sunday Times, Radio 3 Record Reviews and Dame Emma Kirkby. Patricia has recently been seen singing on the BBC Four TV series Sound of Song and in the Fox Searchlight movie Tolkien.

Yorkshire-born Matt Redman studied at Chetham’s School of Music in Manchester for six years and he holds a BMus (Hons) from Trinity College of Music in London. His performances on piano, guitar, banjo, oud, lute, double bass and accordion can be heard on film soundtracks, TV and radio – BBC 1, 2, 3 and 4 – across a dizzyingly wide variety of genres, including world music. He has worked as an orchestrator for the Philharmonia at Abbey Road, and as a musician for BBC Introducing Artists at Maida Vale. He performs regularly at Wigmore Lates, and as a composer he has been commissioned by the Royal Opera House Jette Parker Young Artists Programme where he also frequently collaborates in interactive performances for their Learning and Participation department. He has put together and directed ensembles for Fox/Searchlight’s Tolkien film, and has also made a commercially-available wax cylinder for Vulcan Records, in his own composition, La Carnauba Waltz. His knowledge of Edwardian-era harp-guitars has taken him all over the world, demonstrating the historically-accurate method of playing them. He can be seen in the upcoming Netflix series The Great starring Elle Fanning as an 18th Century balalaika player and on the same platform the remake of Hitchcock’s Rebecca directed by Ben Wheatley staring Armie Hammer and Lily James leading a 1930s dance band for which he also did the arrangements for the soundtrack.

Pianist Jon Butterfield grew up in Shropshire, playing with the county youth jazz band in his sixth form years. He went on to study jazz piano at Trinity College of Music, London, and has performed at a number of high-profile venues including the Royal Albert Hall, the Vortex Jazz Club and the Savoy Hotel. He has made a specialism of early jazz, 1930s dance band music and more recently the eclectic genres performed by the Versatility Serenaders. Jon is also a composer, and recently penned a piece of sacred choral music that was performed at St. Clement Danes Church, London, in addition to light piano pieces many liken to the light lilting style of the music of Billy Mayerl. Jon currently works as music teacher in south west Hertfordshire and has a keen interest in broadening the musical tastes of young people.

London-based clarinettist, bass clarinettist and saxophonist George Sleightholme’s multi-faceted musical life encompasses tea-dances, teaching, top-notch classical performances, marching bands and world music. As a regular member of the Brandenburg Sinfonia and Kidenza Orchestra he performs to thousands and has given many premieres, including pieces for the LSO’s Soundhub scheme. He writes music and is a frequent improviser, and his group iyatraQuartet was awarded the Kennedy Koloziejski award in 2019 by violinist Nigel Kennedy. He plays bass clarinet with pioneering fusion group Gokumi, with musicians from Korea, China, Spain and the UK. George doubles on saxophone in Aldeburgh music’s Tea Dance Band and conducts the Surbiton Royal British Legion Marching Band, and the Palace Band in Alexandra Palace, and at Benslow Music. He teaches music at CityLit, an adult education college in London’s Covent Garden. He has led music workshops for Music for Autism and has performed several operas for the Royal Opera House Education and Outreach. George can be heard on both clarinet and saxophone in adverts, theatre, websites, and rock albums recorded at Abbey Road Studios.

Matt Redman has a Website