WatkissNet | The new home of Cleveland Watkiss online

Classical Music

ludwig-van-beethoven 1712–1773

Of recent years i find myself more and more listening to’ Classical Music’ or European Classical Music (ECM) . in my teens, this is a music that i would shun away from real fast, thinking that it had nothing to do with me and my culture! i was into dub roots reggae in my teens!

thats the only music that i wanted to listen to! the thumping bass, the consious and educational lyrics from artists like Dennis Emanual Brown, Jacob MIller, The Wailers,Burning Spear,..this was my sound world and nothing else could penetrate it.

I was developing a real snobbish attitute to other music…there can’t be anything else?…can there? damn! the foolishness of youth! but we all suffer it.

I do believe the brain is very much like a tape recorder and everything that goes in can be recalled with a little effort. I’m surprised how familiar Beethoven, Mozart, Stravinsky, Bach, Debussy, are to me! and how much i love the fully Orchestrate pieces i’m listening to. A strange thing happen not long ago where i had a vision of me as a little boy sitting very still and quiet, listening deeply to the above mentioned composers.

Was this another recall of some events that had happened in the past? maybe forgotten from childhood? these visions started to get real intense….i was convinced..it had happened.

during a resent conversation with my wife about ‘youth culture’ i just said right out like this ” i remember as a very young boy from about the age of six up to age nine when we had our school assembly and all the formalities had been done, we would all sit and listen to ‘Classical music’”

there it was…i just said it..it must have happened..and believe me i loved every moment of those listening sessions! getting so deeply lost in this great music!

this year 2009 i’ll be 50 years old!…yes thats right 50! I feel so fortunate that my primary school teacher ‘Georgina (Edwards) Hawkins (now some of you may not believe this but its very true) is still teaching primary school children in the south west of england Bridgewater Somerset.

Thanks to the wonders of the internet and facebook, we are able to stay intouch. during a recent long conversation with her 9/4/09 on facebook i thought right! i need to confirm this matter, i’ll can ask her now

“Georgina! can you tell me, as children, did we listen to Classical Music In Assembly? Yes we heard a lot of classics at Rushmore ( ‘Rushmore’! that’s the school i attented in Hackney East London from the age of 6 to 11) ~ Mr Carter ( our head teacher) was very fond of Beethoven and Mozart!”.

Ludwig van Beethoven and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, two extremely important ECM composers, had infact, played a very serious part in my early musical education.

I do feel so sad that children today don’t get these opportunity’s! so much ‘dumbing down’ in society these days of great music. don’t be fooled! ECM is for everyone! Black,White,indian,Chinese,Oriental whom ever!

Once you can get passed the stuffyness that surrounds ECM, (The Class System) being the biggest,there is a lifetime of joy awaiting.

Not that it should matter, but it does in the grand scheme of things: there is serious talk and investigation going on as in the roots and origins of ‘Ludwig van Beethoven’ that he was in fact a BLACK person! stay tuned.


CW@ Gateshead International Jazz Festival (GIJF) 2009 March 20-23

CW, Sheila Jordan, Ian Shaw, Backstage @SAGE 2009

CW, Sheila Jordan, Ian Shaw, Backstage @ SAGE 2009

My first visit to The Sage Gateshead was in 2008 as part of the Singup program (working with primary school

children teaching Jazz Singing with my Trio)… the Sage is a beautifully designed Music venue, within walking distance of our hotel the Hilton.

My Curtains were left open the entire time for my four night stay as the view was spectacular!

I had three days of activity’s for the festival:

first day, in Hall (1), i sang three numbers with Guy barker’s Orchestra and the Northern Sinfonia playing a program of Ellington/Strayhorn.

one of the songs ‘Lush Life’ by Billy Strayhorn is considered the Holy Grail of standards! Guy did a fat arrangement for this big Orchestra..of all the versions i’ve ever heard im still not convinced what the correct melody is for this song..anyways felt real good with that big sound behind me… was so glad when this musical monster was outta the way.

Second day, Hall (2),was with my regular trio ‘CWT’ Shaney Forbes (Drms) Mark Hodgson (Bass). we had a 2pm slot which was great as i love performing early in the day.

The other thing to say about the Sage is the sound in all the Four spaces are truely first class!

Hall 2 has a nice intimate theatre feel about it! we tried out a few new pieces that night which came out real good.

Ian Shaw, ‘the great british Jazz Singer/Pianist’ and good freind was up next, having every one in stitches with his humour as only he can.

Then the Fabulous Sheila Jordan with the Brien Kellog Trio!

3rd day, The Big Jazz Sing, my vocal workshops, are not just for singers but anyone interested in the voice. so there were about 30-40 in attendence from all different back grounds… we had a ball.

Back to Sheila:

This is my first time to see Sheila live and i’m totally captivated by her artistry and passion for Jazz! so hard to believe that this beautiful lady is 80 years old! she has the vibe and the spirit of someone the age of 30. and tell’s fantastic factual historical stories through song.

Ian and i had the honor of joining her for a tune, i was hooked for the rest of the festival.. watching her skillfully conduct a vocal masterclass and later on that evening perform in the Northern Rock Foundation Hall, converted into a really nice intimate jazz Lounge!

it was in this setting that i really got to hear how great her band sounded! the amazing scotish pianist Brian Kellock has to be the best vocal accompanist i’ve ever heard any where in the UK. Not many singers around anymore performing today that come from that golden period of Jazz (The Be-bop Era of the 40’s)!

i can think of Jon Hendricks, Abbey Lincoln, Andy Bey, Bill Henderson, Helen Merrill, so for me it was extra special to hangout/speak/sing with a disciple of Charlie ‘Yardbird’ Parker. Sheila Jordan, Here’s to another 80 years xx

SouthWest of England Tour 5-11th dec 2008!


 We have now hit the southwest of england for some serious Rural Touring where we are performing in mainly local village churches! (an idea put forward by Mark Wallace from Beafordarts in the southwest)… this is a part of the world that is very dear to my heart as its the first place i ever visited outside of london as a ten year old boy.


A place called Bridgewater, Somerset! in a pub owned by the parents of my former Primary School teacher (knowned to us then as Miss Hawkins)! this pub called ‘The British Flag’ was where me and about half a dozen kids spent the six week summer holidays of 69.

This experience was life changing on so many levels! 1st, it gave me a love and appreciation for the country side and open spaces! now as someone that was born and raised in hackney east london, from a big family of eight, where everything feels so cramed and stacked, Somerset was like a heavenly place to be.

2nd, we had so much adventure and fun with our school teacher’s Miss Hawkins (who we now call by first name Georgina…Remember? we could’nt call our teachers by first names as a mark of respect! hope that has’nt changed!) and another teacher Sally who had taken us all.

The folks there made so much fuss of us! i even remember doing my Louis Armstrong impersonation for them all..( i guess that was one of my first live gigs).

There’s also a poem i was taught by the pub landlord George that i remember most of still today! its called the ‘Black Bird poem’ “I know where those black birds be” etc….). i’ve been telling this story and reciting it each night of the tour hoping to perfect it before we get to our last stop in Wonstrow, Somerset.

First stop, Cornwall, Calstock! we are playing in the village hall where it seems like all the local folks are on hand to help with the set up, ( as we have to bring and install most of the equipment like sound and lights etc….) we have a first class soundman on board with us ‘Paul Bull’ who was born in the southwest, Exeter! which was very handy for us all.

I just love it when you turn your equipment on and it just does what its suppose to do ( i.e meaning it works and sounds great)….paul has hired some really great equipment so this little village hall sounds fantastic accoustically.

The stage did feel a little insecure though, (i think in retrospect it would have been better if we had just played the concert from the floor level)..all the same, nice concert and very warm and freindly people, made even more special by our hosts Martin & Tish.

A friend of there’s Mellissa, kindly allowed us to eat and prepare for the gig at her splendid lake side house.

All the remaining dates were performed in beautiful old village churches, most of the time in the middle of a field. it was such a great sonic experience to hear my music in this setting! having Accoustic bass player Mark Hodgson and Drummer Shaney Forbes who are part of my regular Trio (CWT) and Sound Engineer Paul Bull really allowed me to explore my musical palate as they play with such great sensitivity and really listen.

Stockland, North Devon, St Michael & all Angels Church really set the tone for these village church dates! we had been warned by our host Wendy that this event was soldout and the scheduled Vocal Improvisation workshop to be well attended with new local vicar Alistair McCollum up for the workshop.

Local Hero, Wendy (an artist in her own right) who organizes a lot of events in this church and around north devon was so key in making this such a successful workshop and concert! it was during the workshop that vicar Alistair McCollum enlightened me to the fact that these old churches around england have the design of the Ark from the story in the bible of Noah’s Ark.

That info really lined up well with my workshop introductions where i describe us all going on a journey out to sea on a boat.

One of the great things about doing these type of voice workshops is to see people young and old rediscovering there voices and really going for it. 

In all, we were fortunate to visit seven villages in the southwest! the two mentioned above plus: Heaton Punchard, Crediton, Chulmleigh, Asbrittle, and Wonstrow. 

In order to get to our final date in Wonstrow we had to drive through Bridgewater, so i was really exited by the prospect of Re-visiting the pub i mentioned above The British Flag, Chilton Street, Bridgewater Somerset, (i can still remember the exact address from all those years ago) for the satnav, making it real easy to find. it looked exactly as i remembered it, shaney had the video camera in hand as i was knocking the pub window to get someones attention! ( it was still only about 11am) and i guess we looked a little suspicious.

I was able to get one chaps attention (who was reluctant to open the door) as i was telling him the story of visiting this place a long time ago)! he then said “the lady that owned this pub still lives across the street at the blue door”! (WOW) .. as she opened, i mentioned my name, and she said Cleveland Watkiss? and with a big smile on her face invited us inside. Thus to say, the gig that night was one of our best.

Now at the end of this tour, its given me some of the best musical experiences of my career. i strongly endorse Rural Touring! its been a great way of bringing my art of vocal improvisation to people that love and appreciate it.

16/11/08 Royal Festival Hall Support for Take 6!

A’cappella Groups don’t come much better than TAKE 6, so when i was asked to open there show (with VocalSuite)  as part of LJF 2008 in the now refurbished RFH i was more than delighted. I’ve been a big fan of there’s from way back in the day when they were first called ‘Alliance’. a student friend of mine had a cassette tape he played me and not since hearing Bobby McFerren had i heared A’cappella music with such soul and precision.

My freind and sound man that night the great Nixon Rosembert did an amazing job in the sound check! as i walked on this massive stage (probably the biggest stage for VocalSuite to date) it hit my how grand this really was….i did my thing within 40mins and got really great support and encouragement from the crowd. As Take 6 opened there show ( as you can imagine if you were not there they were awesome) gave me the biggest complement by saying ” was’nt he awesome?  what it take’s us six to do this guy does it all by himself”


22/11/08 live @ Artsdepot- Finchley

Between oct/nov 2008 for a six week period, in conjunction with Serious (music promoters) and as part of the london Jazz festival (LJF) 2008, I’ve been working on a vocal workshop program for two Primary schools in Barnett north london (Colindale and Holly Park) called ‘Vocal Express’, with up to 120 children teaching them the Art of Jazz and Scat singing.

This ended with a concert @ the Artsdepot with the children’s Re-Written lyrics to standards like ‘A Foggy Day In London town’ and ‘Pick Your Self Up’ and some of the most adventurous Scat Singing i’ve ever heard and a fun time had by all.

 My Trio was also programed to play a week later as part of LJF 2008! we had a soldout show with a lot of elderly folks in attendence. after the first solo voice piece i began to describe the process and the technology i was using i found it quite amusing how hip this audience was to this kind of technology! this is a newish venue with loads of potential for great live concerts in the future.

7/11/08 Live & the Cube-Derby

7th november 2008! only 3 days after what for me is the most exiting day of my life,America Elect’s Barack Obama as there next President, so thats all the talk on this journey btw me shane, and driver dj le Rouge….a man for all the people? well at least nearly 200 million in the USA and millions around the world think so! at long last, a shinning torch of hope and promise of Change. only three weeks ago the worlds finance system looked like it was gonna crumble!

and now, the prospect of real change! an opportunity maybe to wipe the slate and start again (The  Real Revolution).

all the crap our so called leaders have been doing ( esp over the last decade)….and now.. a chance for world unity.

Unlike most people’s predictions,i believe Barack Obama will do a quick job of fixing the problems…sure! he’s got a heavy task ahead, but has the support of the people on an un-presidented scale.i felt i had the support of the people @ the Cube on the 7th nov, playing to a full hse of listeners and supporters, knowing that for the next two hours they will come on a journey! our journey through sound, text and visual.

Needless to say tonight’s performance is dedicated to the new President Elect! i’m thinking right now how Jazz has transformed my life in so many ways, meeting many people from around the world…forging long and lasting relationships,getting a perspective of the world though a jazz lens. Before we hit the stage i challenge shane (who has taken up boxing) to a sparring match..he’s much younger and faster than me but i’m hangin in there! he’s moving around like a whippet…i can’t get a fix on him..ding..ding!….he’s saved by the the bell! its show time… i’m out of breath and have to start the set! solo voice.

its one of those gigs where there are no direct monitors only out front speakers,so the ears have to work much harder so i can project the right vocal sound.Two great musicians in the house! my special guest Corey Mwamba and Dennis Rollins, Vibes And Trombone Respectively.There is a spirit of celebration in the Cube to night!

Oh! by the way, did i mention Barack Obama is the first Black President?

No Comments

17/10/08 Sheffield Millennium Hall

On Arriving in sheffield, it strikes me again how messed up the road system/signs for directions are for most places in England. can’t make a U turn anywhere in the city of sheffield it seems! as we where just an hour away from huddersfield, there was plenty of time beforesound check, so had a wander around the city centre! ( mainly looking for a charger for my phone)….

Our drummer for this date (Winston Clifford) has taken a serious interest in my looping device, taking every spare moment to create vocal loops…we leave him looping and having loads of fun with the (Looperlative) as me and Bassist Mark Hodgson head out for an evening meal before the gig.

I start the first set with VocalSuite (always like to start my shows with something completely improvised) as i get into this baroque type improve piece i notice the light on my radio mic saying ‘Goodbye’, the battery is completly dead! i look over to Winston and see him bowing his head in embarrassment!

is it me or are these 9v batteries we buy today not as powerful as they were years ago? this was a new one i put in at sound check (6pm), and i could’nt get 2hrs use from it! well all was’nt lost as i had started to capture some of the ideas and quickly replace the battery.This is the beauty about live music (especially Improvised music)….completely different from the day before! sound of the hall, accoustics, people, and we played the two 1hr sets accordingly.

16/10/08 Huddersfield-Lawrence Batley Theatre

First time I’ve been on the M1
heading up north of a long time
and….you guest it! major accident..long
delays etc..but we all still got to the venue in good time.
Felix and the tech crew @ the Lawrence Batley Theatre were extremely helpful!
even riggin up my portable video and hardisk recorder from the the lights!

(which ended up not being such a good
Idea as there was loads of noise from the lights on the recording).

The setup I bring out on the road is:

Looperlative (looping device)
Portable mackee mixer
Lexicon reverb
Cordless mic
Beringer Foot controller.

Gig went really smooth being the
first one of this tour!
nice appreciative crowd.
Had a couple there that saw
one of my performances over
twenty years ago…wow time fly’s.