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Blues and Roots Ensemble Theatre Show in Wimbledon

Blues and Roots Ensemble Theatre Show
(New Theatre Wimbledon. 11 October 2023. Report by Sebastian Scotney)

Blues and Roots Ensemble (listing below). Photo credit: Rebecca Cresta for Merton Music Foundation

Here’s an official version of what happened on Wednesday at Wimbledon New Theatre:

“24 Primary schools, and adults from All Saints Day Centre; 1,703 attendees representing schools right across this diverse borough, including from Perseid special school. Organised by Merton Music Foundation, a local charity that provides a wide range of music lessons, instrumental and choral ensembles, creative projects and curriculum support to Merton schools and the local community. The children prepared in advance of the gig by watching two specially made interactive videos, in which Blues and Roots Ensemble (BARE) introduced them to the work of Charles Mingus, the role his jazz compositions played in championing the Civil Rights movement, jazz form, the blues and improvisation. The young audience sang and played 3 pieces with the band. The project was produced in partnership with BARE and NWT, supported in part by Arts Council England and The Taylor Family Foundation.

Just think about it. Then try to imagine it. A total of just over ONE THOUSAND SEVEN HUNDRED CHILDREN of primary school age singing, clapping, praising Mingus. “It’s going to be loud,” I was warned. There were 1000 children at the morning concert I went to, and another 700 in the afternoon.

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I know that I won’t go to a gig with that level of coruscating energy in the room in a very long while. I was sitting near a group of children from one school where Tara Minton’s words to “Ecclusiastics” were being sung out by the ranks of children with incredible assuredness, enthusiasm and sheer joy.

The drive and determination and the vision behind this whole project have been palpable from the start in 2016. Re-reading an interview I did with Artistic Director Ed Babar in 2018 (link below) , what shines out now, and even better with hindsight, is the confidence and the consistency of the vision. And now that years of experience, confidence and increasing professionalism have been gained from running hundreds of projects, it is remarkable to witness. Yes the whole idea that Mingus can inspire children may still take a bit of getting one’s head round the first time one hears it. But the truth – and what was proved so loudly and clearly from seventeen hundred young souls on Wednesday – is that it works.

Tara Minton. Photo: Rebecca Cresta for Merton Music Foundation

Band list:

Ed Babar – Director, Double Bass
Tara Minton  – Vocals
George Millard – Sax/Clarinet
Mark Kavuma – Trumpet
Frances Leith – French Horn
David Lalljee – Trombone
Pete Letanka – Piano
Flavio Li Vigni – Drums
Lya Reis Guerrero – Percussion


So Long Eric
Work Song (sung by audience)
Jelly Roll
Meditations on Integration (with student percussion parts)
Duke Ellington’s Sound of Love
Reincarnation of a Lovebird
Ecclusiastics (sung with students)
Prayer for Passive Resistance (sung with students)
Oh Lord

The Merton Music Foundation will have its next gala concert at the Royal Albert Hall on 11 March 2024. Blues and Roots Ensemble will perform the first half

LINK: Blues and Roots Ensemble YouTube Channel
Interview from 2018 with Ed Babar

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