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Jazz finds its spirtual home

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Newark Jazz Festival got off to a tremendous start on Friday when New Orleans and Newark combined for a memorable evening at the parish church.

Gospel singer Shirley Alexander filled the church with her powerful voice as she sang old spiritual tunes such as Joshua Fought The Battle Of Jericho, He’s Got The Whole World In His Hands and Old Time Religion.

Backed by Brian Carrick and his Algiers Stompers, the singer from New Orleans transported the audience to her home town, which is still suffering from the effects of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

She recreated a New Orleans jazz funeral procession around the church, leading members of the audience, including the Rector of Newark, the Rev Vivian Enever, and the Mayor of Newark, Mr Harry Molyneux, as they waved handkerchiefs and umbrellas.

The theme of the evening moved firmly back to Newark when Mr Nathan Bray of London Road, Balderton, performed the world premiere of his jazz suite, inspired by the town.

Entitled The Key To The North, the suite was made up of six pieces reflecting the people, events and geography of Newark over the centuries.

A fanfare-style opener commemorated John Blow, the composer who trained at the Magnus Grammar and Music school and became musician to King Charles II.

Passing By reflected the meandering nature of the River Trent as it winds its way down from north Staffordshire through Newark on its journey to the sea.

Mr Bray said his favourite piece was about Lady Godiva, Newark’s first recorded landowner, who infamously rode naked through the streets of Coventry in protest against unfair taxes.

Ermine Street was inspired by Mr Bray’s frequent journeys on the A1 to London where he often performs.

The trumpeter played a duet with saxophonist Mr Peter Long for the piece.

He ended the concert with music inspired by King Charles I and the Civil War then a final celebration about Newark being the key to the north of England.

“It is a lovely place to live and I just wanted to celebrate that,” said Mr Bray.

Mr Enever, said: “We have always been part of the opening night and we have had a variety of music over the years, but to have a gospel singer is great.

“It’s like jazz is coming home.”

Mr Enever said he was delighted that a wide variety of people attended.

“The building is to be used for that purpose — for worship and for community events,” he said.

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