BILLY SUTER chats to CATHY PEACOCK, amiable trumpeter with the KwaZulu-Natal Philharmonic Orchestra and leader of popular swing-dixie band, Platform Jazz. The group will offer highlights from its many years of great work when it presents The Best of Platform Jazz at the Durban Jewish Centre at 2.30pm on Sunday. October 31. Patrons are permitted to take along their own drinks and eats for the event, for which seating will be at tables of 10. Tickets cost R120 each (R100 for Friends of Music members) and booking (which is essential) is by calling 082 3498 362.
TELL ME ABOUT THE CONTENT OF THE NEW SHOW, “THE BEST OF PLATFORM JAZZ”.
The Best of Platform Jazz is exactly that. We have taken the best crowd-pleasers from our five shows over the years. The shows being Platform Jazz, Our Favourite Swings, Showtime, Celebration Time and The Great Gatsby Party. Every tune or song chosen for the new concert is one that has been met with great response in the shows.
TELL US ABOUT THE THREE GUEST VOCALISTS IN THE NEW SHOW AND SOME OF THE SONGS THEY SING. ALSO, WHY GRANT BELL AND NOT REGULAR VOCALIST BRYAN HILES THIS TIME AROUND?
Shelley McLean-Downham has been our main vocalist for years so we are delighted she will be performing with us. She will be singing Cest si Bon and Hey Mambo, amongst others. Natalie Rungan is a top female jazz vocalist and has an incredible timbre and range. She has performed with us for quite a few events and private concerts over the years. Included in her songs will be Embraceable You and‘a kick- ass version of Feeling Good.
Bryan Hiles, unfortunately, will be performing in Durban in KickstArt’s comedy, Sylvia, on the same day and is unavailable. We have a number of tunes which suit a male vocalist, so I approached Grant Bell. He has performed with us at a couple of private concerts. He is a seasoned performer. His songs will include I’ve Got You Under My Skin, What a Wonderful World and Sway.
There will be plenty more songs on the programme!
ARE THERE ANY SURPRISES AND IS THERE ANY NEW CONTENT IN THIS SHOW?
Apart from our standards we will be performing one of Melvin Peters compositions. Also each band musician gets a moment to shine.
WHAT IS THE CURRENT LINE-UP AND WHO ARE THE NEWER MEMBERS (AND WHO DID THEY REPLACE AND WHY)?
The band members are myself on trumpet, Kirsten Sayers on clarinet. Andrea Balocco on trombone, Jeff Robinson on sax and flute, Melvin Peters on piano, Andreas Kappen on double bass and Bruce Baker on drums. Andrea has replaced Duncan “Dunc the Hunc” Wooldridge who left us to live in Johannesburg. Women coming to the show will be happy with Andres – he is the current principal trombonist for the KZNPO and is from Italy.
HOW ARE COVID-19 SAFETY PROTOCOLS BEING HANDLED FOR THIS SHOW REGARDING NUMBERS, SPACING, SANITISING AND THE LIKE?
The Jewish Centre will have 24 tables, which will be well spaced, each one having seating for 10 people. This is less than 50 % capacity of the hall. Patrons will have the usual sanitizing and Covid forms to fill in at the door.
IS THE DURBAN JEWISH CENTRE NOW THE NEW HOME OF PLATFORM JAZZ – DO YOU PLAN OTHER SHOWS THERE OR DURBAN’S RHUMBELOW THEATRES?
The reason we are at the Jewish Centre again is that it has space. We will leave space for dancing should patrons wish to do so. It has an excellent, sprung floor and is the venue where the friends of Music concerts are presented.
This is a friends of music presentation. I applied and received funding from the KZN Performing Arts Trust which means we can have a seven-piece band, the three vocalists, and the staging and sound. Patrons may bring drinks and snacks to the venue as well.
I am sure we will perform at the Rhumbelow in Durban and Durban North again. At the moment, it is not worth our while financially to perform without the venues allowing more people in.
OF THE DIFFERENT JAZZ-SWING SHOWS PLATFORM JAZZ HAS STAGED IN DURBAN TO DATE, WHAT HAS BEEN A HIGHLIGHT FOR YOU PERSONALLY?
We have presented five main shows which have been performed mainly at the Rhumbelow. Some of these have also been performed at The Heritage Theatre, the Barnyard, Hilton Festival, Michaelhouse Festival, various retirement centres and schools. And, of course, we performed our 30th anniversary concert at the Jewish Centre two years ago.
Last year’s show was called The Great Gatsby Party and was so great as we celebrated the roaring 1920s. Patrons dressed up and it was a fun, lively show.
Every show makes me happy. We have had some audience members get up and sing with the band; people get up and dance; I think the nature of the music is that it is happy and gets everyone tapping their toes and in a good mood.
WHAT HAS THE GROUP BEEN UP TO RECENTLY – AND WHAT ARE AMONG PLANS FOR THE REST OF 2021 AND NEXT YEAR?
We only played for the Women’s Festival at the Playhouse in August this year and for a Heritage Day concert at the KZNSA, in conjunction with the KZNPO, last month. So we are very excited about the forthcoming concert at the end of this month!
We will hopefully do some Christmas concerts at various restaurants over the festive period.
Maybe I will also bring back The Great Gatsby Party as we had lots of bookings for that until Covid struck!
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN WITH THE KZNPO – AND WHAT HAS BEEN A HIGHLIGHT WITH THE ORCHESTRA?
I have been with the KZNPO for 31 years! I started full time with them in July 1990. Two excellent highlights were two trips to Europe. We went to London, performing with the LSO, and also to Bremen in 2004. Then, in 2013, we toured to France, playing in Marseilles and Paris. There have been many highlights working with amazing international artists such as Renée Fleming, Ronan Keating, Zubin Mehta and James Galway. to name a few.
YOUR MOST EMBARRASSING MOMENT ON STAGE?
I remember doing a Platform Jazz show with Shelly McLean-Downham’s students at the Barnyard about 5 years ago, and after the interval I was sitting in the dressing room and no one had told me they had all gone on to the stage. So I finally twigged, after about 10 minutes, that I was alone and got on to the stage where everyone had been waiting for the second half to start. Rather embarrassing. Talk about making a grand entrance.
HOW AND WHEN DID YOU FIRST DEVELOP AN INTEREST IN THE TRUMPET… AND WHAT FORMAL TRAINING HAVE YOU HAD?
I started playing the trumpet at the age of nine. My brother was learning trumpet and I fancied playing as well. My father taught both of us and I did the British ABRSM exam system up to Grade 8. I also studied music up to matric and then did a BA at UKZN, including music, English and Speech & Drama.
WHEN AND WHY DID YOU FORM PLATFORM JAZZ AS A SIDELINE TO YOUR FULLTIME JOB WITH THE KZNPO?
Platform Jazz started in 1991 when a friend of mine was looking for a Dixie band to play at the Durban station for the arrival of the Rovos Rail steam train. So I put together some fellow musicians and found some 1920 s music and that was our first gig hence the name Platform Jazz!
WHAT FIVE WORDS BEST DESCRIBE YOU?
Fun, witty, strong-willed, reliable, affable.
WHAT ARE SOME THINGS ABOUT YOURSELF (HOWEVER TRIVIAL) THAT PEOPLE ARE UNLIKELY TO KNOW?
I do oil paintings. I like playing table tennis and tennis. I attend almost all theatre productions in Durban. I am a good cook.
THE MOST FAMOUS PERSON YOU HAVE MET – AND WHO WOULD YOU GIVE GOLD TO MEET?
I played in Shirley Bassey’s backing band when she performed to Durban. I have also played for the Queen in Durban… and I had my pic taken with Ronan Keating an our Starlight Pops concert in August 2015, and chatted to Patrizio at the Starlight Pops concert in 2016. I would like to meet Meryl Streep.
WHAT FIVE THINGS WOULD YOU LIST UNDER ‘VASTLY OVERRATED’?
Eating out, comedy shows, modern art, getting older and Donald Trump.
WHERE WERE YOU BORN – AND WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR MOST MEMORABLE BIRTHDAY (AND WHY)?
I was born in Gwelo in Zimbabwe. My 50th birthday was in 2016 and was much fun, with lots of jazz and a ‘1930s glamour’ theme!
WHAT ARE YOUR FEARS AND PHOBIAS ?
I don’t have many fears or phobias. I think I would not like to play in the wrong place in a symphony concert. A trumpet is a fairly loud instrument!
TWO OF YOUR MOST TREASURED MATERIAL POSSESSIONS?
I love my house… and my trumpet!
IF YOU COULD CHANGE THREE THINGS ABOUT YOURSELF WHAT WOULD THEY BE?
I would like to be more outgoing, thinner and kinder.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE COLOUR, MEAL, BAND, TV SHOW AND MOVIE?
My favourite colour is green. I enjoy Norwegian salmon. I like Michael Buble’s music. I am addicted to TV’s Grey’s Anatomy. I loved the Meryl Streep movie, Florence Foster Jenkins.
WHAT DO YOU MOST MISS FROM CHILDHOOD?
Open properties and no security gates – and people just popping in for a visit.
WHAT FIVE THINGS WOULD YOU LIST UNDER ‘SIMPLY IRRESISTIBLE’?
Good company, friendship, Lindt chocolate, laughter and George Clooney.
ANY OTHER NEWS OR COMMENTS?
I would just like to thank the Friends of Music and KZNPAT for funding our forthcoming concert. I hope more venues open up and that we can do more live shows. I encourage all lovers of swing and big band music to come along and enjoy our show. It will be top drawer I promise!