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Derry choir girls inspired by jazz date with Jamie

14 April 2015

A Derry schoolgirl who will join jazz superstar Jamie Cullum on stage with her college choir when he headlines the City of Derry Jazz Festival next month, has been so inspired by the performer she is now set to pursue a career in music.

Edel Bowen from St Mary’s College performed a piano piece for the popular jazz musician when he visited the school in 2013 as part of the fly on the wall BBC Radio 4 Piano Pilgrimage series. And as the countdown begins to the biggest music event in the city she and her fellow choir members are looking forward to what promises to be a show stopping evening.

“I always wanted to study nursing but the moment I met and performed for Jamie Cullum, I realised instantly that I wanted to pursue a career in music,” she said. “He was such an inspiration.”

Staff and pupils at the all-girls school were thrilled by Cullum’s invitation for St Mary’s choir to support him at the City of Derry Jazz and Big Band Festival, which is organised annually by Derry City and Strabane District Council during the May Bank Holiday weekend.

Edel, whose parents purchased a new piano for her 18th birthday to help progress her musical ambitions, said:  “To attend a concert with Jamie is a privilege but to perform on stage at his concert is like winning the lotto.”

Emma Jayne Kelly, Choral Conductor at St Mary’s, said the chance to perform with Cullum at the Millennium Forum on Monday May 4th, was a dream come true for both the pupils and herself, as a lifelong fan of the contemporary jazz artist and a pianist.

“I followed Jamie Cullum’s career through my years in university, trying to emulate his unique style of playing,” she recalls.

Ms Kelly said Cullum made such an impression on his initial visit to St Mary’s when he recorded his Piano Pilgrimage programme during City of Culture 2013, that many of the school’s A- Level students had decided to pursue a career in music.

Marie Lindsay, Principal of St Mary’s College, is equally excited, especially as Cullum has been spreading the word to his 11.6k Twitter followers about his new musical connection with the Derry school.

She said: “We were thrilled to bits when we heard that Jamie wanted the choir to support him in the Millennium Forum on May 4th. Our friendship goes back to 2013 when Jamie visited the school. The choir sang a jazz piece for him and he was so impressed that he responded with the most amazing impromptu rendition of Rihanna’s ‘Don’t Stop the Music’, adding  St Mary’s every time he sang the title line!   

“As well as being internationally renowned for his musical talent, he is incredibly charismatic - a superstar with his feet firmly on the ground. What Principal wouldn’t give their eye teeth to write about their school choir supporting Jamie Cullum?”

Speaking ahead of his visit, Jamie Cullum said he looked forward to meeting up again with the choir: "I’m thrilled to be playing at the City of Derry Jazz Festival this year. Not only is it a delight to headline such a great collection of talent in the world of Big Band and Jazz music but also to have St Mary’s College Choir as my support on the evening.

“When meeting the choir in 2013, I was impressed by the range of their repertoire and eagerness to learn. It’s these important elements that led me to pick them as my support for the show and I have no doubt they will be anything but outstanding. I look forward to playing to the people of Derry-Londonderry and giving them a great show!”

Organised by Derry City and Strabane District Council and supported by Diageo, the City of Derry Jazz and Big Band Festival will take place from April 30 until May 4 2015, in venues across the banks of the Foyle. The festival attracts more than 35,000 visitors to the city annually to savour Jazz, Jump, Jive, Swing, and Blues performed by some of the top artists in the business.

Karan Leonard, Festivals and Events Manager at Derry City Council, said: “We are absolutely delighted to have an artist of the calibre of Jamie Cullum headlining the City of Derry Jazz and Big Band Festival 2015. We have an outstanding line-up of artists in this year’s programme which really lifts the bar for the 14th year of the event which is now firmly established as one of the top jazz festivals in the country.”

The last remaining tickets for Jamie Cullum’s show are on sale from the Millennium Forum priced from £35-£45. Call the Box Office on 02871 264455.

For more information on all the events featured in this year’s Jazz Programme go to www.cityofderryjazzfestival.com or visit the City of Derry Jazz Festival Facebook page.


Further information is available from Derry City Council’s Marketing and Communications Department. Tel. 02871 376504.