The JASG Series
The series began in Autumn 2012 after a one-off jazz concert in memory of Geoff Darke, a jazz-loving architect, who died suddenly in November 2011, just after singing in the Fauré Requiem at St. Giles Church.
Geoff had a lovely baritone voice and would have gone into the music profession (he sang and played trumpet and French horn), and would have been a professional musician had he not become instead a renowned architect - his firm Darbourne and Darke designed the well-regarded Lillington Gardens estate in Pimlico, London (‘listed’ by English Heritage) and other award-winning schemes in the UK, Germany and Italy.
Vicar Andrew Bunch, recognising the success of the concert, and knowing that Jean Darke, the organiser, had been a professional musician, asked if she would be interested in organising further concerts. Fortunately Jean knew a lot of top class jazz musicians she could call on to perform, the only trouble being finding the money to pay them, so she started an energetic drive to raise sponsorship from local businesses. We have come a long way since then – here’s a link to a list of all our JASG events so far.
Graphic Design, sound and lighting
Jean’s daughter Liz Lyons, as a well-known graphic designer was able to design polished publicity posters, website and leaflets, which gave the whole series a professional ‘gloss’ rather than just looking like a worthy but small-scale village hall event. And of course the calibre of the musicians ensured the success too. A tremendous bonus has continued to be the terrific sound and lighting support we’ve had from work experience students at Oxford Brookes, which has given a touch of ‘glamour’ into the look and feel of the events.
After the initial success and the public’s enthusiasm, the series seemed to take off (we’re now in 2017 and embarking on our FIFTH series), and there’s no doubt that the terrific support of the Oxford Times in giving us a double-page spread highlighting our decision to raise money for War Child and Save the Children, and those two charities’ enthusiasm for our efforts on their behalf, continue to help our publicity and drive for sponsors. We maintain a mailing list - CLICK HERE to send an email to join our mailing list.
Jean Darke – our promoter
Both Jean Darke’s parents were extremely musical, her mother a pianist, her father a singer, but neither were professional musicians. However her music master at Grammar School recognised that she should pursue music as a career and wanted her to go to music college. Unfortunately he died suddenly at a critical point in her schooling so that it wasn’t until much later on when she was married, and with small children, that she somehow juggled a busy family life and went to the Royal College of Music, very much encouraged by Geoff (they had met singing), and she then pursued a career in music, initially teaching, but subsequently singing in opera, oratorio, ensemble work, and much later on, cabaret!!! She also worked in the BBC Radio3 Music Dept. Benjamin Britten and the Aldeburgh Music Festival were both extremely important in her musical life and she was very involved with the Aldeburgh Festival, from 1966.
For JAZZ AT ST GILES – outstanding artists who we’ve been very proud to play for us have been many, but perhaps distinguished names like Jacqui Dankworth, Tina May, David Gordon & his trio, Karen Street, Tomasso Starace & Michele di Toro (from Milan), Gypsy Fire, The Budapest Cafe Orchestra, Art Themen, Pete Oxley & Ben Holder come especially to mind.
Charities and St Giles Church
As for the two charities we’ve now become particularly associated with (War Child and Save the Children), it was the ongoing tragic plight of children caught up in war-torn countries of the world that so moved us and have driven our fund raising efforts.
We have added in 2017 an element to provide support to St Giles’ major funf-raising effort – Project 900 – which you can read more about on the church website. This will provide he church with additional space and we hope a new organ to be used for performance, teaching and worship.
As for St. Giles as a venue – the incredibly warm and friendly atmosphere of St. G’s (unique I think) has made for a very relaxed atmosphere at all the concerts and has helped also I think to put St. G’s on the map. People even braved the icy temperatures before we had proper heating installed – we made it a fun thing to provide blankets and duvets, and encouraged people to ‘snuggle up’ which made for a friendly atmosphere!
Above all the extraordinarily generous help given by a team of enthusiastic helpers has been truly inspiring. The success of the St Giles’ Choir Academy (which we have also supported) has undoubtedly been driven by the fantastic efforts of our Choir Director Nicholas Prozzillo and enthusiastic parents of our choirboys and choirgirls.