Trumpeter and band leader Guy Barker will once again be bringing his Big Band Christmas show to the Royal Albert Hall in London this year. The concert, which will take place on 11 December, is part of an 18-piece concert series the hall is staging to keep alive 149 years of Christmas tradition in the face of the coronavirus epidemic, with other events including the Royal Choral Society and Handel’s Messiah.
The concerts will take place under Covid-19 secure guidelines, which is not a financially viable format in the long term, but RAH CEO Craig Hassall believes the series is essential: “Although this model is not sustainable with such reduced capacities, we are opening because I firmly believe this is what the country needs. It is an investment into our future – to protect the jobs of our highly skilled staff, to stimulate the local economy and the wider arts ecosystem, and to fulfil significant audience demand.”
The season will directly employ more than 1,000 musicians, technical specialists, freelance crew, caterers and other staff, helping the hall retain its employment infrastructure.
Big band jazz has been at the heart of Guy Baker’s inspiration since he was young. He saw Benny Goodman in London in 1971 and the following year, Count Basie. It was a momentous event, as he told the RAH blog: “When the intro to Every Day I Have The Blues kicked off and Joe Williams started to sing, it just changed my life.”
Benny Goodman, for Barker, is still as fresh as tomorrow: “For me the big bands of those days create a joyful sound that has proved to be timeless. Even now when I listen to Benny Goodman’s Sing Sing Sing it feels so exotic that it sounds incredibly contemporary.”
This will be the fifth annual appearance for Barker’s Big Band Christmas. Singer Clare Teal will be present with other guests to be announced. Previous years have included Paloma Faith, Soweto Kinch and Kurt Elling and the key word is swing, whether the music comes from the 1930s or the present day.
For booking and more information on Big Band Christmas, go to the Royal Albert Hall website.