20 January 2020

On Sunday, some 20 or more OA jazz musicians returned to Abingdon for an afternoon reunion to play alongside a similar number of current musicians that comprise Abingdon’s Big Band.

It was wonderful to see all the old faces from over the years as far back as 1974, as well as some more recent OAs, several of who have gone on to distinguished professional careers as musicians. They included Dom Franks (1993), a Director of Music at Bristol Grammar School, who is still an active sax player, Will Bartlett (2000), a freelance pianist (who was able to come only because a gig in Berlin with his trio had been cancelled), Jack Tinker (2010), a freelance trumpeter, now based in Manchester, Aidan Thorne (2008), freelance bassist – together with many others who enjoy careers as varied as accountants, engineers, teachers and Sean Zaloumis (1995) who’s an easyJet captain!

Many of the Old Boys were able to bring their families, children and their own parents, who were able to serve as the audience once more for this informal play through. It was great to catch up with them, too.

We gathered for coffee at midday for two 60-minute playing sessions with a lunch in-between to chat and catch up. It was lovely to see the Old Boys’ delight in seeing their Big Band mentor, the ever-youthful Simon Currie, who has been with us nearly 25 years. He had carefully arranged a programme of music that kept all the players busily challenged throughout the afternoon.

There is nothing like playing music to bring back those special memories of shared experiences, especially when on tour, and many of the OAs spoke with fondness of tours to SW France (1995), Greece (2000), Normandy, Tuscany, China (2006), USA (2011), Barcelona (2014), Japan and Hong Kong (2019). And it was excellent to see the OAs mentoring our current Big Band musicians as they intermingled in the band.

There were some especially notable moments including former Head of School, Euan Campbell (2010), crooning once more in Come Fly with Me and colleague, Jeremy Taylor, in I Feel Good! It was also great to see the son of Henry Dorling (1995), taking his Dad’s place for a number or two with the drum kit!

Everyone had such a wonderful time that we parted, agreeing only to renew the experience in the near future. Our thanks to the OA Club (especially Bethany Summers, whose OA husband, Mike (2010), joined us on guitar), to the catering staff for organising a superb lunch and to Simon Currie, who was so enthusiastic about the venture right from the start.

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