Get hip to this foot-tapping Friday night session.
In Archway every Friday night you can hear the sound of music coming from the impressive rust red brick of Hargrave Hall, which is just a short walk from the tube. And on the last Friday of the month the talented local jazz players from WTW Band rehearse in front of a Get Together audience.
For the past two years this jazz evening has been hosted by the ever-smiling Katrina Wilson, 36.“I work in finance,” says Katrina who is originally from Australia, “and it’s quite a soulless industry. My family are into volunteer work, but I found that in London I wasn’t connecting to people.”
Katrina wanted to help with elderly care because of what she’d seen her auntie go through when she had a stroke. After a short search she came across Age UK Islington and realised that being an activity host at the regular jazz listen-in was perfect. “I like connecting people and contributing in a positive way,” she says breaking off to greet new arrivals with good cheer, biscuits and a cuppa. It’s a big turnout tonight and the audience is dressed up and in the mood for music and chat – between gaps in the music.
The Archway-based WTW big band dates back to 1973. It was set up by Guyanese trumpeter, composer and playwright Frederick Wall and originally known as the Wall Theatre Workshop. But in 1987 there was a musical breakaway, which led to the very first jazz workshop. Roll on 30 years and this Friday there are 10 musicians playing in the beautiful wooden floored hall, including four saxophones and a keyboard player. It all sounds very accomplished considering this is a rehearsal.
Some of Katrina’s regulars, like Doug and Les, turn up a little later into the performance, but that’s fine – this is a relaxed show. Everyone is foot tapping and clapping, although the question in many of the ladies’ minds is ‘who will be the first to dance’?
“It’s always different at the Get Togethers,” says Katrina. “Sometimes the musicians do more stopping and starting, so it’s more like a rehearsal, but that’s nice because people can chat. Watching them, a part of me is thinking how I’d like to get back into music again as I used to play the piano.”
Hosting this last jazzy Friday of the month has coincided with big changes in Katrina’s life too, not only has she moved a little closer to Archway she’s also found a new job. “I’m still in finance but being an activity host made me realise what was important. I’m now at a firm which is much more altruistic – it’s been a nice change.” And with that she heads off with a plate of biscuits…
Listen to the brilliant WTW Jazz Band rehearse for free at Hargrave Hall, Hargrave Road, N19 5SP from 8-10pm on the last Friday of the month. Tea, coffee and biscuits supplied.
We caught up with a jazz aficionado and a music enthusiast to see if their night out at Hargrave Hall hit the right note.
Q. How many jazz rehearsals have you been to at Hargrave Hall?
Prem: Many, many times. I’m quite a regular here with my friends Sybil and John.
Catherine: This is my first time. I saw it advertised and my friends said did I want to come with them. There’s five of us and we hope there will be dancing! We may go for something stronger than tea afterwards.
Q. Do you dress up?
Prem: Why not? It’s good to make yourself look nice.
Catherine: It makes a change to dress for the evening. It’s nice to dress up and go for an evening out.
Q. How important is music to enjoying life?
Prem: Music is my world. In Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) my father was a musician; one of my sisters sang and danced on television and my husband, Anton, was a trombone player. I’d dance when he played. My husband introduced me to jazz. I was his carer for many years so this is my time now. When he was dying he said ‘keep dancing’. He also told me: ‘Musicians never die, they fade away.’ It’s true, look at Elvis Presley, his music isn’t forgotten.
Catherine: I’ve loved music since I was young. I used to go and dance when I was 16 in Malta with my friends. We’d go in a group and dance jive, slow, quick step, waltz and all the old-fashioned dances. I love watching Strictly Come Dancing on TV too. I sing to the old records from the 1960s and listen to Capital FM on the radio.
Q. Which events do you enjoy?
Prem: I’m very happy to come here. When I’m listening I’m lost in my own world – it makes me think of time with my husband and I see him playing as well.
Catherine: Age UK Islington has good parties at Christmas. I really enjoyed one at the Drovers and also the meal and music and celebrities at The Stapleton Tavern. I’m looking forward to the next party.