A short history

The JASG Series

Patron: Jacqui Dankworth


We are very pleased to announce that as from 2019, Jacqui Dankworth, one of the most highly regarded vocalists in the UK, has graciously agreed to be our patron. We are very grateful to Jacqui for her continuing support to Jazz at St Giles.

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 Darke (© The Guardian 2011)

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.

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 at the start was terrific sound and lighting support we’ve had from sound and lighting expert David Carugo at Oxford Brookes, along with his students which gave a touch of ‘glamour’ to 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 2022 and embarking on our TENTH series (2021 and 2020 saw only a few concerts because of the pandemic) Watch this space!.

We maintain a mailing list – CLICK HERE to send an email to join our mailing list.

Jean Darke – A memory

Jan 28, 1933 – Mar 4, 2021
Jean Darke (2)-200px
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.

We miss her drive and enthusiasm hugelt, but we are determined to keep going with JASG!

Our Artists


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 StreetTomasso 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 2022 an element to provide support to St Giles’ major fund-raising effort – Project 900 which supports the development of young musicians at St Giles’ and funding for a new organ. This will provide he church with additional space and the hope a new organ to be used for performance, teaching and worship.

St Giles’ as a jazz venue

The incredibly warm and friendly atmosphere and acoustics of St. G’s has made for a very relaxed atmosphere at all the concerts and has helped also to put St. G’s on the Oxford jazz 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.