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Countdown on for Special Virtual 20th Jazz Festival

The Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council Brian Tierney pictured launching the 2021 City of Derry Jazz and Big Band Festival at Guildhall Square on Thursday morning. The festival will run from April 30-May 2. Included are Joseph Leigh, jazz musician, Andrea Campbell, festival organiser, DCSDC and Johnny Murray, former artistic director, City of Derry Jazz and Big Band Festival. Photo Credit: Jim McCafferty Photography

Get ready for another special bank holiday weekend as jazz fever arrives for the 20th edition of the City of Derry Jazz and Big Band festival.

The festival will take place from Friday to Sunday and will see plenty of virtual performances from fan favourites and local students.

One of the highlights will include ‘Gigs from the Guildhall’ which will see nine acts performing virtually across three stages on each day of the festival, streamed live for everyone to enjoy from their own homes.

Something that will be sure to catch the eye of many Jazz Festival lovers will be the virtual live performance of festival favourites the Jive Aces on Friday night at 7pm that will bring back lots of memories of past years.

On Saturday at 7pm, Ulster University’s Jazz Trio, Matt Curran, Liam Bradley and Rohan Armstrong will deliver a virtual performance of “Straight No Chaser” by Thelonious Monk that is not to be missed.

North West Regional College will also be involved in the Jazz programme with masterclasses delivered by Richard Nelson, Mike Nielson and Philip Begley marking the introduction of the MAPA Jazz Education program where well-known artists engage with music students and explore the wondrous world of Jazz.

Then, on Sunday at 7pm, music students from NWRC’s School of Music and Performing Arts will be virtually performing a series of cover tunes that have been adapted to a jazz setting.

You can expect to hear songs from a diverse mix of influences including Radiohead, Nina Simone, Motown artists, Peter Gabriel and lots more.

Visual Arts Exhibition

In celebration of the 20th edition, there will also be a visual arts exhibition sprinkling a little nostalgia and colour in the city centre of festivals gone by, supported by the Department of Communities through the Business Revitalisation Grant.

And if that wasn’t enough, a special documentary will be available on Sunday at 3pm, covering the original launch of the City of Derry Jazz & Big Band Festival in 2002 and how it went from 6,000 attendees to the 63,000 that enjoyed the last in-person festival in 2019, with hundreds of acts playing over 70 venues in the city.

Through the ‘Legacy of Jazz’ documentary by local film company RVision Video Production, you can hear from festival founders and Jazz artists who have taken part in the festival and a reflection on the journey to this stage.

Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council, Cllr Brian Tierney, said there will be no better way to celebrate the bank holiday weekend.

“The Jazz Festival is always such a fantastic occasion for our city and district and this year will be no different on what is a landmark edition for this event.

“Like last year the programme will be a virtual one, but that won’t stop everyone across our district and beyond enjoying the incredible talent of our local acts.

“There is so much to look forward to and so many festival favourites that I know everyone will be excited to see.

“After what has been one of the toughest years that many of us have faced, having such a positive event to look forward to and enjoy is a great boost. This event will celebrate so many of our amazing local musicians so make sure you tune in.”

Performances will be streamed on the City of Derry Jazz Festival website and Facebook page.


James Arthur Announces Headline Belfast Show

James Arthur today delights fans by announcing tours of both UK & Ireland and North America in 2022.

The tour includes dates at Ulster Hall on 28th March and Olympia Theatre on 29th March.

Today’s announcement lands on a special day –  the fifth anniversary of the release of James’s global smash hit ‘Say You Won’t Let Go’.

James  will be performing songs from his upcoming new album ‘It’ll All Make Sense In The End’ alongside his classic hit singles and fan favourites.

James says: “I’m beyond happy about getting back on the road and seeing everyone again. Playing shows for my fans gives me life and that’s been taken away for the best part of two years so needless to say I’m itching to get back out there and perform for them again. Coming to a stage near you soon!

James has sold over 30 million records worldwide and has to date released three hugely successful albums ‘James Arthur’ (UK No.2), ‘Back From The Edge’ (UK No.1) and ‘YOU’ (UK No.2), alongside nine solo UK Top 40 singles. He has had two No.1 smash hits and was awarded a disc for reaching a billion streams on Spotify with ‘Say You Won’t Let Go’, the No.1 global hit that brought the singer-songwriter from Middlesbrough back from the edge (it currently has 1.7 billion streams on the platform). James recently dominated the airwaves and charts with his storming collaboration with Sigala ‘Lasting Lover’. The track was a No.1 airplay song in the UK, No.1 on iTunes and Top 10 on the Official Singles Chart.

James recently signed a new record deal in the UK with Columbia Records, a co-deal with Columbia Records Germany, and announced his new album  ‘It’ll All Make Sense In The End’,  his 4th long play release, is coming later this year.

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Foy Vance Set For SSE Arena Concert

Singer-songwriter Foy Vance is pleased to announce his largest ever headline show at The SSE Arena, Belfast on Saturday 02nd April 2022. Foy’s second studio album on Ed Sheeran’s Gingerbread Man Records and the follow-up to 2016’s The Wild SwanSigns Of Life will be released on September 10 on CD, LP and digital formats and is available to pre-order. 

Signs Of Life is the sound of a beloved singer-songwriter at the peak of his powers. It’s also the sound of a man – a husband, a father, a sinner, a drinker – belatedly coming to terms with his demons. Driven by powerful percussion, “Time Stand Still” features a soaring, emotive vocal from Vance, who was struggling with an addiction to alcohol and painkillers at the time of writing.

“I had my first extended period off the road after twenty years of constant touring,” says Vance. “And I realised: wow, I drink two bottles of wine and at least a half bottle of vodka a day. I’d start the day with codeine to get myself sorted, and I’d smoke joints throughout the day. So I realised: I have so many incredibly bad habits here. I’m showing all the signs of death, getting ashen, grey, smoking more, drinking more, smoking more…I hit a wall.”

“It was my manager that made me get help,” Vance continues. “And in those moments, you do wish time would stand still. Can’t I just stop here and sit in this moment before I have to take up that mantle?”

Signs Of Life was recorded in three locations: Vance’s Pilgrim studio at home on the shores of Loch Tay in Highland Perthshire, another recording set-up in a nearby Dunvarlich House, and at Plan B’s Kings X studio in London. The album was written and played more or less entirely by Vance, with able assistance from young Northern Irish producer Gareth Dunlop. Serendipitously, Dunlop had been inspired on his career path by a chance encounter with Vance many years before.

“When I was around 14 years-old I wandered into a coffee shop in Belfast and saw Foy playing in the corner,” Dunlop explains. “I was completely spellbound by what I heard. It was a lightbulb moment that sent me on the road of wanting to discover my own voice and musicality. I would never have imagined that I would be co-producing a record with him 18 years later, and that I would be just as inspired and spellbound by what he does.”

Created out of the grimness of 2020, Signs of Life is an album of dawn after darkness, hope after despair, engagement after isolation, uplift after lockdown. It comes in bold sleeve artwork that reflects Vance’s desire to embrace all sides of everything, all humanity’s textures. Shot on a 160-year-old camera which does arresting things with colours and shading, the back image is of Vance as a bare-chested, bare-knuckle boxer. On the front, he’s in a dress, blonde wig and theatrical make-up.

“They’re just mad, striking images, and I loved the fact that it was male and female. You know, life’s extreme, life’s volatile, life explodes into reality sometimes, and stops just as quick. So to be struck by images on the cover made sense.”

At any time, Foy Vance’s new collection of songs would be a tonic. At this particular time, they can’t arrive a moment too soon. “That’s a huge part of it,” says Vance. “Signs of Life is about re-emergence – me in my own soft revolution, the world re-emerging in what we’re about to see as we hopefully go back to some semblance of normality. But just life in general – flowers growing through the cracks in Chernobyl. Life finds a way, doesn’t it?”

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