Former Norwich Cathedral chorister Kit Downes
teamed up with fellow young musicians to host a fund-raising
jazz concert to help build a new song school for the present
We caught up with him before the big event.
Kit, aged 18, was part of the cathedral choir
before leaving Norwich to further his musical studies at Hertfordshire's
"I was a chorister
from around 9 to 12 years old and that's was really
what got me into music," he said.
"Michael Nicholas, who was the director
at the time, kindly let me in with my awful voice. From
there I learnt about sight reading, ensemble playing and all
the basics of musical understanding.
"That paved the way for me to start
jazz and improvisation, which eventually led me to going to
Purcell," he added.
Kit and 18-year-old
saxophonist George Crowley will bring together a six-strong
jazz band for the concert to raise funds for the cathedral's
£10m Inspiration For The Future project.
They'll be joined by drummer Josh Blackmore,
bassist Luke Hellebronth, percussionist Paul Gregory and trumpeter
Freddie Gavita, who is the second ex-cathedral chorister in
"Freddie and I were cathedral choristers
so we're all aware of the need to raise funds," said
"We thought this would be a nice way
to get all the people we know from the cathedral together
and raise some money in the process."
Apart from Josh, the musicians all come from
Norwich, and previously played together in the Norwich Students'
The gig is billed as an evening of jazz and
promises a wide range of works from many composers.
"It's deceivingly billed as Jazz Tête-à-tête.
It could come across as cabaret or show tunes, but it's not
just that," said Kit.
"It's got show tunes in it, but that's
not all it is at all. The fact it's played by young people
stops that straight away as you tend to reflect the music
you grow up with.
"As 18-year-old boys we've grown up
with lots of different things than just show tunes.
"We'll be bringing things into the mix
like Otis Reading, Booker T and the MGs, along with jazz standards
including works from composers John Pattituci, Jimmy Van Huesen
and Dave Douglas," he added.
Kit has performed at numerous private functions
in Norfolk, but this is the first major public engagement
for the band and possibly their last.
The gig is likely to be an emotional evening
as it is something of a farewell gig for the six friends.
"It's a real last thing. We're the first
people of our generation in Norwich to play jazz, through
the students' jazz orchestra which is where we all started,"
"We've all grown up playing together
around Norwich, but now we're all going off to our separate
music colleges, this will probably be the last time this line-up
"It's especially poignant because George
is going off to Cambridge do a completely different subject.
"I'm sure it won't be the last jazz
he plays, but it's probably the last time he'll play with
us lot. It will be quite emotional, but fun at the same time."
But for a young musician working hard at
his craft, what does Kit think of the wave of reality music
shows like the X-Factor and Fame Academy that thrust the competitors
into the limelight?
"It's all a game, isn't it. Fair enough,
if people want to make that kind of music. It's not what I'm
"Often the success that follows causes
much more damage than it would ever do good.
"One thing I learnt from my summer,
which I spent with many great musicians, was that you don't
have to be well-known to be successful.
Reality pop stars? Caroline, Alistair
and Alex from the Fame Academy class of 2003
"You don't have to be well-known to
be influential - it's just depends on the connections you
forge and it's just as much about the person as the music
"When you get thrust up on a pedestal
like these reality TV shows, you get very little time to have
something to say for yourself and let your music speak - it
[the music] becomes irrelevant after a while, but that's just
my opinion," he added.
Kit and the future
Since performing at last year's Norfolk and
Norwich Festival, Kit has been working hard on his studies
to secure a place at the coveted Royal Academy of Music.
After finishing his A-levels this summer,
he begins his course at the academy in September.
"They've offered me a place on the four-year
undergrad course which will be amazing. I'm thrilled,"
"After that - you cross your fingers
and hope somebody will give you some work and you can afford
to live as is the musician's life," he added.
Jazz Tête-à-tête featuring
Kit Downes took place at The Playhouse, Norwich, on Thursday
13 January, 2005.
plays at Norfolk & Norwich Festival '04
Griffin on BBC Radio Norfolk
BBC Blast: Music
BBC Music: Jazz
education in Norfolk
Royal Academy of Music: Junior Academy
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