Tag Archives: Bon Jovi

The WonderYears Senior Rock Chorus

After seeing the amazing WonderYears rock chorus rehearsing at their ‘headquarters’ in Virginia Water, and after listening to the warm praise and unabashed acclaim for their enthusiastic and memorable live shows, I was very keen to meet the dynamic personality behind the WonderYears – The Senior Rock Chorus and Band. So on Monday I met the founder and esteemed musical director of the project, Dave Thomas.  Dave is a modest man, warm and confident. He is clearly passionate about his creation, and he cares deeply about every single member of his troop, acting like a rock n roll pastor to his flock.

From the outset, Dave stressed that the WonderYears are not a choir, but, to be precise, a chorus.  “We don’t harmonize – we concentrate on musicianship, live performance and self-expression. Our performances are always energetic and entertaining “ He tells me.  “So the chorus embraces the true values of rock music?” I ask.  “Exactly” he tells me. “And it is important to explain that our four-piece band is an integral part of our overall sound – they are the engine room for our performance and they distinguish us from groups like the Rock Choir, who tend to use backing tapes”. The 24 members of the chorus- comprising of 14 ladies and 10 men – plus 4 in the band, and the sound people,  are all ‘Seniors’. “The average age of the chorus is 70” says Dave “and the oldest member is 86 – we are the UK’s only seniors rock chorus and band.”

Keen ‘Radio 1’ and ‘Magic FM’ listener Dave sang in choirs in his childhood and later turned to opera. He got the inspiration for The WonderYears from the 2008 documentary film ‘Young@Heart’ by Stephen Walker. The documentary focuses on a New England based choir who take up singing the old classics and contemporary rock and pop songs together. So Dave placed an advert locally, inviting older people from the Surrey community to help form a Seniors Chorus and to be prepared to leave their comfort zones- and to become excited by the world of rock music.

Dave says he is a ‘supporter’ and ‘motivator’ rather than a conductor. And members of the chorus agree, saying that they feel thrilled and energised by his ever increasing levels of enthusiasm and verve. Audiences report that the feel good factor ‘overcomes you’ when you attend a  WonderYears concert  – and they say that an evening spent with WonderYears is every bit as good for you as a night out seeing a West End show like Mama Mia!

“Are there any consequences or unusual complications in the management and operation of a choral group comprising of seniors – rather than ‘young’ performers?” I was keen to know. Dave is kind about his team, and he raves about their individual talents. He is generous about the contributions that each individual makes to the overall sound, but he admits that there have been some small difficulties to overcome, and that the project is still evolving. “For example, I realized early on that I need to split up the choruses and the solo parts – in order that the songs become memorable and easier to learn and to master ….  As you get older, it’s harder to remember things – especially lyrics – and so we tend to break down the songs into more manageable pieces. And we also tend to choose songs with ‘proper’  and ‘appropriate’ lyrics  for our later years. Nothing too suggestive or too muddy”.  The group have, in the past, rejected some songs, because, perhaps, they are too cloying in a sentimental way – or because they are distressing for the older singers to perform. “Where have all the Good Times Gone” by the Kinks and “Dance with My Father” by Luther Vandross were two numbers that proved unpopular with the chorus members.

But the words of some well known rock songs often have surprising connotations or take on fun new meanings and special significance when performed by older singers. Take for example The Who’s  “My Generation” or “I Wanna Be Sedated” by The Ramones.

Although he admits to loving the ‘big hair’ rockers of the 1980’s  such as a ‘Journey’, Dave also ensures that the WonderYears Chorus address some rock pieces with rougher edges, including a good dose of punk. “Our most popular number is the Killers song  “Human “.

“In addition, we always get a great reaction from ’Should I Stay or Should I Go.’  “Burt (aged 86) does an astonishing solo on “Let the Good Times Roll” and Tom does equally well on the Stones number “Jumpin’ Jack Flash”. Other audience favourites include the Bee Gees hit “Stayin’ Alive” (another song that reveals new meanings when performed by a group of seventy something seniors) and “It’s My Life” Bon Jovi. “I ain’t gonna be just a face in the crowd. You’re gonna hear my voice, when I shout it out loud….”

Dave admits that he receives a lot of stick for the constant introduction of new songs to the group. “But I need to keep feeling that our Chorus is refreshed and rejuvenated” He says, “We must keep our energy flowing.”

Exciting times are ahead for the Surrey based outfit. Guilfest has invited them to come back to perform after a great success last year. They are also scheduled to perform at the Wokingham Food and Drink Festival. They even registered for this years Glastonbury festival. “Who would you like to share the top of the bill with – if your dreams come true?” I asked, “Bon Jovi” says Dave, without pausing, and with a glint in his eye.

“But it is always a great honor to play live music to any audience, anytime, supporting any performer.  Obviously, we want to ‘go all the way’ and play all the big venues and all the big festivals. But we also realize that we owe our local community a huge debt of gratitude for the support they give us. For example, we owe Christ Church, the community church of Virginia Water – a great big thanks for allowing us to practice there every week. We are not a church choir and we have no ties to the church, but they allow us to practice in their area and that is very precious to us. Every year we do a benefit concert to thank the church. We will never forget our local community and the warm support that our neighbours give us.”

“Twenty-four singers is an ideal size to provide the power and emotion that our songs require.” says Dave. “Only once, when we took the Chorus to County Sound Radio (to do a live broadcast), did we did experience a little ‘difficulty’. We discovered it was a bit of a  ‘squeeze’ to fit us all in. And then we could not hear our music properly, the sound was coming through the cans. We have a reliance on our live sound for the rhythm and structure. But because we couldn’t hear our live band sound, it all went a bit wonky!”

Dave says that it involves a lot of hidden costs and logistical support to take the band plus 24 singers and sound engineers onto the road. The WonderYears are currently looking for a sponsor to help with expenses. Currently the choir is self funded – the members pay a regular subscription. But there is no shortage of new volunteers. “We currently have 8 women and 3 men on our ‘wait list’ – but we keep our choir at the optimal size.”

“Our audiences range in age from grandchildren to great grandparents. Our songs appeal to everyone.” says the official WonderYears publicity officer, Maureen Grogan. “Just because we qualify for a bus pass, it does not mean that we are over the hill”.  She smiles. “Last year we developed a very popular Christmas show and we did several performances of it. But in the end we had to turn down requests to perform it because everyone wanted it!   We are becoming a big success.”

“We have performed at the Hackney Empire and we were in the windows for the Phones 4 U (ad) so we are now getting the recognition we deserve.”  But Dave is quick to point out that committing to about eight concerts a year is ‘right’ for the Chorus. “We are working on 24 numbers for our 2011 our show- and 19 songs are brand new for this season – so each song so has to be learnt and rehearsed.”  He says. “We rehearse each week and expect all of our members to attend all rehearsals. Eight big performances a year is quite an ambitious goal for us.”

Founder and Musical Director of the WonderYears, Dave Thomas was talking to Neil Mach

© Neil Mach 2011

Link:

http://www.wonderyearsrock.com/

The WonderYears will be performing alongside PUBLIC IMAGE LIMITED and others on the GOOD TIME GUIDE STAGE on 17th JULY at GUILFEST 2011

Wokingham Food & Drinks Festival Saturday 27th August

Advertisements

Cherry Brakewells – The Hobgoblin – Staines

Cherry Brakewells

cherry-brakewells

Cherry Pies with a Toxic Twist

If poncey new-age Fat Duck chef Heston Blumenthal was cooking up a tray of Cherry Brakewells his list of ingredients would probably include snails (because all his recipes do) and a slug of Tennessee sour-mash to intoxicate the mind, a generous fistful of gunpowder to spice things up a bit – and a large scoop of dry ice (to coooool it down some). Oh, and some fire. Yes, he would garnish the tray with a thick slice of fire.

This band is stickier and sweeter than the largest pot of Windsor Farms Shop Royal Jelly. These girls put the glory bee back into the honey-pot and then shake it up a little. After their gig on Thursday they are the buzz of the city.

What I adored about the girls when I saw ‘em is that their brand of melting hot guitar funk and red hot blues is so abundantly rich in vulgar tones and texture that you feel almost overwhelmed, drowned even, by the experience. The contrast between the sweet soulful high notes of singer/songwriter Shay and the dark growling thunderclouds provided by leggy bassist Monique and the ‘runway model’ drummer Chi was a blissful storm. It was an experience much like running towards the edge of a stark cliff knowing that, far far below, where the jagged rocks meet the sea, you will plunge into the ice cool waters of salvation. It was like being stung, and then devoured, by a fire serpent. Desperation and repentance all rolled into one. A beautiful agony. How to die.

The Cherry Brakewells cite their influences as based firmly in the Sixties and Seventies. Hendrix. Cream. Zep. That kind of thing. But there is more to this band than all that Seventies vibe. This is no SuperFly Baadasssss band. They may have big hair, big smiles and big confidence, and the roots of their music may lay in the past, but these girls look towards the future with confidence and pride. The songs may have serious blues foundations but are laced with touches of modernity. I could recognise influences ranging from Wyclef, Kelis and late M.I.A. right through to some more expected sounds like ZZ Top, Kravitz and Skunk Anansie.

Lead guitar is provided by the multi-talented Anna Calvi (she told me she has been playing with the Cherries for around six months now – she has her own very successful band and a host of other projects.) Anna tended to place herself behind (and to the side of) the sensuous and sumptuous trappings of the ‘power trio’ but that didn’t alter the fact that her input was as invigorating and ingenious as it was essential. Her style of blues playing has a cool sharpness to it and the sounds that she weaves from her effervescent frets fizz with electricity and energy.

The Cherry Brakewells put on a slinky super-sexy show with plenty of guts and gristle. Soulful highs and fuzzy lows create drama and add smoky depth to their theatre of sound.

Watch these beautiful girls growing up … they are gonna go all the way!

© Neil_Mach
Feb 2009

Link:

www.myspace.com/cherrybrakewells

Ad Pontes Staines- music arts & going out IN STAINES




Feedburn This

5 Things – This Week in Staines

1.

Small Outfit, Big Sound Ideas at Staines

2 Sick Monkeys at Staines

29th JAN 2009  8:00P at HOB STAINES £3 2 SICK MONKEYS

2 Sick Monkeys formed in December 2000, as a live two piece bass and drums, primarily to support Darrin Mooney (Primal Scream) at a drum event in Swindon.
They have now played over 400 gigs (270 in the last 3 years) including 4 European tours.

They describe themselves as tight, melodic and percussively in your face.
Basically……small outfit, BIG SOUND!!

2 Sick Monkeys are with:

Page Not Found

Page Not Found are a punk rock group form Slough Berkshire UK.

Formally known as Ollie Impossible, Page Not Found play their own style of Fast paced skate punk. After the change the band along with new bassman have wasted no time and headed straight into the studio to record some material.

Links:

http://www.myspace.com/2sickmonkeys

www.myspace.com/pagenotfoundrock

2.

High Quality Funk & Groove – Ascot

Mimosa at Jagz Ascot

Jan 30th 2009 8:45P at Jagz Ascot MIMOSA £5

Whisk together smooth soul, funky grooves and a hint of rock, fold in a combination of catchy brass riffs, fat bass, creative guitar as well as watertight drums and percussion. Heat for 2 hours with probably the best vocal talent in the south and you have the unique sound of Mimosa.

Some people have said – “it’s a bit like being attacked by a shark wearing a woolly jumper” “best served hot with Mango Chutney a cold beer!” “You’ll drive through an
amber light to see them!” “Just like the Brand New Heavies, only not as famous!” The band have spent the last year putting together a high quality varied mix of songs to give a great show, keeping people grooving well into the night. Gigging since April 06, this band will definitely impress and leave you wanting more. Time to find out what you have been missing……

Links:

ww.myspace.com/mimosaband


3.

Stripped Down Classic Rock – Shepperton

Firewater at Shepperton


Jan 30 2009      9:00P Kings Head-Shepperton FIREWATER


The ED HUDSON project “Firewater” was formed in 2000 and has been regularly gigging around London and the South East since then. The early blues
material gave way to more classic rock songs as time went on and the duo format lends itself to a stripped down approach to the songs, showcasing the considerable talents of singer Ed Hudson and lead guitarist Tim Scopes.

If you like blues and classic rock (and don’t like being deafened in the process of hearing it!) go and see ’em -you will not be dissappointed….

Links:

http://www.myspace.com/firewaterduo

4.

80’s & 90’s  Hits – Live Band – Live in Windsor

!Daft!

Fri 30 Jan Old Ticket Hall, Windsor £3 !Daft!

!daft! are a party rock cover band comprising 5 professional standard musicians who perform high energy and dynamic gigs across the Home Counties and West London to consistently excellent responses. Our sets and gigs are designed
to be fun, enthusiastic and crammed with recognisable anthemic tracks from artists including Queen, Guns N’ Roses, The Killers, The Fratellis, Green Day, Elvis, Bon Jovi, Madness, Kaiser Chiefs, Oasis, Michael Jackson… even ABBA and Take That, plus many more legendary groups.

Random quote: “It’s like going to see all your favourite rock bands in one night!!”

Links:

http://www.daftonline.co.uk




5.

Aerosmith to ZZ Top Covers – in Hampton

Prezence

Jan 31 2009      9:00P  The Cardinal Wolsey Hampton Court PREZENCE

Prezence are fast becoming a STAINES and area fafourite covers band… playing a huge mixture of classic rock from way-way back to much more modern material from the likes of Rage Against The Machine, Metallica, Foo Fighters etc. A thoroughly enjoyable evening is guaranteed…. also coming to venues in Staines, Hampton, Walton-on-Thames soon (keep checking our ADPONTES music pages for updated GIG GUIDE)

Link:

myspace.com/prezencerock

——————–

Visit AdPontes-Staines Regularly for Staines Arts

Not to be missed – Concerts this Summer

BON JOVI
Twickenham

AEG LIVE PRESENTS
BON JOVI
SUBJECT TO LICENCE
TWICKENHAM STADIUM
FRIDAY EVENING 16:30
27TH JUNE 2008

Seats from £50

27 JUNE 2008
Bon Jovi at Twickenham

Buy Tickets

..


Iron Maiden
with
AVENGED x7
Twickenham

LIVE NATION PRESENTS
IRON MAIDEN
AT
TWICKENHAM
SATURDAY EVENING 18:00
5TH JULY 2008

Seats from £50

05 JULY 2008
Iron Maiden at Twickenham

Buy Tickets

..


REM
Twickenham

LIVE NATION PRESENTS
R.E.M.
AT
TWICKENHAM STADIUM
DOORS 16:00
SHOW 17:30
SAT 30-AUG-08

Seats from £45

30 AUG 2008
REM at Twickenham

Buy Tickets

..


Madness
at SANDOWN PARK

LIZ HOBBS PRESENTS
MADNESS
SANDOWN PARK RACECOURSE
THURSDAY 7 AUGUST 2008

Seats from £22

7 AUG 2008
Madness at Sandown park

Buy Tickets

..


Alice Cooper
at Motor Show

MOTOR SHOW MUSIC FESTIVAL
ALICE COOPER
AT
EXCEL LONDON
THURSDAY 24TH JULY 2008
DOORS 8:00PM
START 9:00PM

Seats from £27.50

24 JULY 2008
Alice Cooper at Excel- Motor Show

Buy Tickets

______________


UB40
at Motor Show

MOTOR SHOW MUSIC FESTIVAL
UB40
AT
EXCEL LONDON
WEDNESDAY 23RD JULY 2008
DOORS 8:00PM
START 9:00PM

Seats from £27.50

23 JULY 2008
UB40 at Excel- Motor Show

Buy Tickets

______________


Status Quo
at Motor Show

MOTOR SHOW MUSIC FESTIVAL
STATUS QUO
AT
EXCEL LONDON
FRIDAY 25TH JULY 2008
DOORS 8PM
START 9PM

Seats from £27.50

25 JULY 2008
Status Quo at Excel- Motor Show

Buy Tickets