Take a stroll along The Groves, Chester’s leafy riverside promenade, and you’ll spot a picturesque bandstand standing a few feet above the rippling waters of the River Dee. In February this year, Cheshire West and Chester Council, who own the Grade 2 listed building, commissioned young musician Luke Moore to coordinate a summer programme of events to bring this alfresco stage to life.
What drove Luke to apply for this unusual role?
“My first job in Chester was just across the river from the bandstand,” he tells me, “It’s somewhere I passed daily and I always liked the idea of doing something there.” He spotted the Bandstand Coordinator vacancy in ‘Chainlinks’, a local newsletter produced by the Council’s Arts Team. He applied immediately, and a few weeks later, was booking the first dates in.
Luke is casually dressed for our meet-up, his shoulder-length fair hair held back with a trendy bandanna. His passion for music is obvious, and he’s delighted to be given the opportunity to provide weekend entertainment for locals relaxing by the riverside. Coordinating the bandstand is worked around his ‘day job’ as a freelance musician, which includes commissions to develop new work, performing as a cellist, stage managing, and professional development with emerging musicians. This broad range of activity takes him to Liverpool, Manchester, Chester and beyond. Just a fortnight earlier he was working as a cellist with Circus Sonnenstich, an organisation offering a performance showcase for young adults in Berlin.
Luke’s remit as Bandstand Coordinator was to fill 33-weekend slots from May to the end of August. He advertised a call out in ‘Chainlinks’ and received more than enough applications from bands, singer/songwriters, choirs and other musical groups, a theatre company, artists and poets. There’s clearly no shortage of willing performers for the bandstand and deciding who to include was tricky.
“Selection came down to a number of factors, like having a varied programme, consideration for nearby residents and putting myself in the shoes of the audience,” Luke explains. “The aim for my first time coordinating this special performance space was striking a balance between those things.”
It was always Luke’s intention to introduce fresh ideas and a multidisciplinary approach, rather than relying solely on the traditional brass band. There’s a vibrant mix of professionals and amateurs in this year’s line-up, and the list includes performances by a visual artist, a ‘signing’ choir, jazz vocalists, blues bands and folk and country singers, to name but a few.
Luke’s own musical tastes are hard to define. “I like any good music,” he chuckles. “Anything that’s sincerely performed, crafted with love, and has some emotional resonance.” Luke is an experienced musician, but has he ever performed in the bandstand himself? “I played there in 2015 as part of Chester Fringe,” he says. “A gorgeous day, sun shining and a great audience, including a couple of dogs that seemed a bit confused by my cello!”
His cello will once again see action at the bandstand in August when Luke will be accompanying blues singer, Dorothy Bird.
Getting in on the act
It’s gone swimmingly well so far and Luke is clearly relishing every minute. He’s hopeful that he’ll be organising things at the riverside again next summer and is already looking ahead to some themed ideas. With 2019 marking some special anniversaries in the world of music and literature, there are possibilities galore.
“2019 marks 200 years since the births of composer Clara Schumann, writers George Eliot and John Ruskin, and Charles Halle (founder of the Halle Orchestra).” Luke says. “It will also be 300 years since Mozart’s birth, and since ‘Robinson Crusoe’ was published. With so much leeway for exciting, family-friendly events, next year could grow into something truly spectacular!”
You can see Luke at the bandstand performing alongside Dorothy Bird (Electronica/Art-Pop) Saturday on 18th August. www.dorothybird.de
Catch up on social media and see what else is on down by the Riverside this summer. Twitter @BandstandCH1
A call out for performers at the Bandstand next year will be publicised in early 2019. Anyone interested in getting involved can contact Luke by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
‘Chainlinks’ is a regular round-up of creative opportunities for artists, writers and performers. To request a sample copy of ‘Chainlinks’ or to subscribe to these newsletters, contact Maria Owen at Cheshire West and Chester Council, email: email@example.com
Find out more about Circus Sonnenstich here: www.zbk-berlin.de