Illustration by: Stanley Chow
NYJO alumna Amy Winehouse is undoubtably one of the greatest musical talents to come out of the UK. Her unmistakable character, vocal dexterity and masterful songwriting made her a pop icon. Her tragic passing makes her one of the most sorely missed artists in recent memory. Now, ten years on, her music still shines, undiminished, in all its defiant brilliance.
This concert series celebrates Amy’s enduring legacy, reimagining hits and revisiting early works she sang with the 24-piece National Youth Jazz Orchestra as a promising 16-year-old singer, back in 2000. We aim to honour her life, and her work, with a performance that fans of big band jazz, and Amy obsessives will enjoy together.
Much will be written about Amy today. Most of which will be familiar to the many millions of people who have listened and shared her incredible, era defining music. Only a special few can cause a listener to want to both laugh and cry; feel both jubilant and sad in such a short space of time. Amy Winehouse was most definitely one of those very special, luminary artists.
As an organisation, our own reflections are based on what was an inspiring but fleeting moment in time. The same feeling many of her fans still feel today after such a short, vivid career. With only two albums to her name before her passing in the summer of 2011, it is easy to still feel conflicted as a fan and appreciator of her amazing work. Gratitude for what we were all able to receive, but at the same time saddened by the longing for what was yet to come.
Aged sixteen, Amy was referred to NYJO by Sylvia Young, Head of the eponymous Theatre School, which led the North-Londoner to attend NYJO’s Saturday morning rehearsals at The Cockpit, where she honed her craft under the tutelage of the now world renowned vocal coach, Annabel Williams.
Amy’s debut performance soon followed in June of that year, at a Sunday lunchtime session at The Rayners Hotel where NYJO had a monthly residency at the time. Her band-mates have since remembered her anxiety about not knowing the repertoire, which apparently stayed with her right up until the performance, while she continued to study her four songs for the show on her tube journey to the gig. As our albeit fuzzy, but equally absorbing live recordings demonstrates, she turned up and sang the lot without a hitch – to what would’ve been some of the first people to ever hear her perform.
Amy’s passion was to take on the big jazz standards, with her main influences at the time being legends such as Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan. Later that same year she was able to do that just that; joining a trio (led by drummer Bradley Webb) to play a variety of jazz clubs throughout the UK. She also, for the UK jazz purists out there, sang with Sir John Dankworth’s Big Band on a memorable radio broadcast live from The Stables at Wavendon in this period.
Soon after, Amy found herself on the books of Simon Fuller’s 19 Management (Annie Lennox, Spice Girls, Jennifer Lopez) who were looking for more young female singers to work with, and the rest, as they say, is history.
We hope that friends, family and fans alike can all find something to enjoy as we begin a journey round the country to celebrate that musical history, with some of the next generation of young female stars leading the way. We’d like to thank Amy’s family for being so supportive throughout this process. Both NYJO and the Amy Winehouse Foundation will have some exciting news to share with you very soon too – so keep your eyes peeled.
See you out there!
10.09.2021 • Leeds • Leeds Town Hall
23.09.2021 • Nottingham • Royal Concert Hall
24.09.2021 • Southend • Palace Theatre
07.10.2021 • Bexhill-on-Sea • De La Warr Pavilion
14.10.2021 • Poole • Lighthouse
21.10.2021 • Basingstoke • Anvil Arts
04.11.2021 • Oxford • Music at Oxford, Oxford Town Hall
06.11.2021 • Bradford • St George’s Hall
28.11.2021 • Cambridge • Cambridge Junction
14.01.2022 • Saffron Walden • Saffron Hall
20.01.2022 • Lichfield • Garrick Theatre
21.01.2022 • Northampton • Royal & Derngate
23.01.2022 • Bury St Edmunds • The Apex
10.02.2022 • Sunderland • The Fire Station
11.02.2022 • Manchester • Band On The Wall
20.02.2022 • Derby • Derby Theatre
25.02.2022 • Leicester • De Montfort University
02.03.2022 • Truro • Hall For Cornwall
10.03.2022 • Portsmouth • Portsmouth Guildhall
11.03.2022 • Redditch • Palace Theatre
13.03.2022 • Cardiff • RWCMD
19.03.2022 • London • Woolwich Works
10.04.2022 • Milton Keynes • The Stables
Meet our Music Director, Lead Arranger & Lead Vocalist for this series (P2)