Cambridge International Jazz Festival

It started with a gig.  The pianist, the bass player and the singer looked at each other and said “Let’s start a festival!”  As you do.

And they did!  In 2014, with no money but with a drive fuelled by their passion for jazz, they recruited some fellow musicians and set up Cambridge Jazz Weekend.  Their aim then, as now, was to bring together all the many strands of the strong Cambridge jazz scene into one glorious jazz binge.  It went so well that they subsequently received some funding from the Arts Council and attracted local sponsorship.  And so the Cambridge Jazz Festival was born.

Jazz Festival 2017 logo
Image credit: Cambridge International Jazz Festival
Jazz Festival saxophonist
Image credit: Cambridge International Jazz Festival

Now in its third year, the Festival is still run by that original team who put it all together whilst holding down their day jobs.  Their mission is to offer an outlet for local jazz musicians, to create a forum which will attract national and international jazz acts to Cambridge and to encourage community involvement through a programme of workshops.

This year’s Festival runs over fifteen days, from 11 – 26 November, and offers a packed schedule of vibrant live music at locations across the city.  It celebrates the variety of jazz styles from dixieland to choral and big band to gypsy.  “Jazz is a magpie music,” says Gavin Spence, a co-founder of the Festival.  “It’s adopted and adapted constantly so this year we’re featuring hip hop and electronica styles of jazz too.”  The Festival closes with a day of New Gen Jazz at The Corn Exchange, featuring eleven up and coming young bands, to showcase a new generation of talent.

Jazz Festival group
Image credit: Cambridge International Jazz Festival

The programme, much of which is free or low cost, includes events for children (many of the mainstream events are also child-friendly), a poetry night, films, workshops and much more.  You can book tickets online at

Raise your voices!

Where do you like to do it?  In the shower??  In your car???

Singing, I mean!!

There’s world class music happening all the time here in Cambridge but there are also plenty of singing events and choirs that welcome all-comers, with no audition and no music reading skills required.  All that’s needed is your desire to join your voice with others, even if you aren’t convinced that voice is very good!  Here are details of a couple of fun vocal workshops coming up soon.

“Bassics” is an afternoon workshop for men’s voices, be they tenor, baritone or bass, happening on Saturday 28 October at The Boathouse, Chesterton Road.  Composer and choir leader Roger Jackson says he will introduce you to your voice and show you how to get the most out of it.  Roger is a great teacher who also leads a community a cappella choir, “Sing”, which meets on Tuesday evenings at The Polonia Club, Chesterton Road.  You can check out details of “Bassics” and the choir on  This was the first choir I joined when I moved to the city.  I hadn’t sung for many years but it wasn’t long before I got my vocal mojo back, whilst making new friends along the way.

If jazz and groove are more your thing, there’s a Jazz Choir Workshop on Saturday 18 November at St Matthew’s Primary School, Norfolk Street.  A Cambridge Jazz Festival event, this workshop will be led by jazz composer and educationalist Pete Churchill and The London Vocal Project, one of the country’s leading contemporary vocal ensembles.  Participants will go on to perform in The London Vocal Project concert at St Andrew’s Baptist Church, St Andrew’s Street, later that evening.  I joined an LVP workshop a couple of years ago and it was just joyous.  The style of music and singing were new to me and it was a revelation!  You can get further details of this event on

Singing is a wonderful thing.  It lowers stress levels, releases loads of feel-good endorphins, boosts your immune system and even improves your posture.  To that I would add that you will meet all sorts of interesting people and experience the sheer joy of making music together.  So go on, don’t be shy, get those vocal chords humming and raise your voice!