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The monthly Tea Break is a series of short, fun items in What's New Magazine that also gives jazz musicians an opportunity to update us with what they are doing.


Verona Chard - May 2017


Verona Chard


Verona Chard sings. Her album Fever ... In Love With Shakepeare was a really enjoyable album of 2011 inspired by Sir John Dankworth and Dame Cleo Laine’s 1964 recording, Shakespeare and All That Jazz, and she is about to record again in the Verona Chard at Ealing Jazz Festivalcompany of others. If that was all she did, there would be no trouble in catching up with her for a Tea Break, but of course it is not.

On stage at Ealing Jazz Festival

In 2013 she set up British and International Vocal (Jazz) Academy continuous workshop courses. Verona said: 'The courses are for around 15 individuals who are serious about developing their knowledge and skills with a view to creating successful jazz performance in all styles. I am keen to encourage mature students as well as young people at the start of their careers. There are very few bespoke courses for vocalists/instrumentalists who wish to empower themselves with a greater understanding of the rhythm section, band leading and performance confidence. One full scholarship and a limited number of half scholarships will be awarded per term.'

Verona also runs the Musical Balloon Band for children under six. An interactive live family music show with a twist, it incorporates the art of Verona Chard and Humphrey Lytteltonballoon modelling and great music making using singing, props, words, and movement. The star of the show is Cecil the Donkey on his various Safari adventures assisted by Verona and their friends. The next session will be in Nottingham on 20th May in the foyer of the Theatre Royal Concert Hall (click here for details).


Verona with Humphrey Lyttelton


Born in Bristol and raised in Bath, Somerset. Verona's first jazz break came in 2005 when Humphrey Lyttelton asked her to record the Jail Break track for his Sad Sweet Songs and Crazy Rhythms album. Verona’s album ‘Fever…in love with Shakespeare’ features an arrangement of Jail Break as a tribute and ‘thank you’ to Humph. Verona remembers Humph and his wit fondly as you will see from our Tea Break discussion below.

Verona trained in London at the Royal Academy of Music and Trinity Laban Conservatoire, she has performed at the top London jazz clubs including Ronnie Scott's and the 606 Club, and has presented a Women In Jazz show on UKJazzRadio and teaches and coaches in a variety of settings.



Hi Verona, tea or coffee?

Coffee please or hot lemon when performing.

Milk and sugar?

Soya, rice or similar milk please, no sugar thank you.


Verona Chard Fever album


It seems ages since we met at the Bath Wine Vaults jazz club although we have been in touch since then. You had brought out your debut album, Fever, subtitled ‘In Love With Shakespeare’. How has the album done – are you still in love with The Bard?

Still in love with The Bard but sadly the album has stalled. Naively, I enthusiastically licensed it to a friend of a dear friend in the record industry, it went well at first with some lovely reviews. But a few 'stories' / excuses later and not a lot has happened ... it cost a lot to self produce so from that perspective it's very disappointing but I gained from the experience.


My favourite track has always been the title track. Where did the idea for that track come from?

I was researching links to a Shakespeare theme and Fever was in the mix but initially excluded. I was working with Alex Stanford at the time and he experimented with a few of our ideas and helped to come up with the arrangement which is beautiful.




[Listen to Fever - ignore the Soundcloud advert].




Hob Nob, Custard Cream, Garibaldi or digestive biscuit?

Hmmmm, instinctively Custard Cream but currently I'm off biscuits. Love nakd and similar bars though!


Humphrey Lyttelton


If you could ask two past jazz musicians or vocalists to join us for the tea break, who would you invite?

Humphrey Lyttleton and John Hawkins.


What would you ask them?

Humph - to enjoy more of his wit and music making. Now a general election has been called I'd love to hear his opinion of the Party leaders and what he thought the Labour party would need to do to return to government - he had such a sound and inquisitive mind.


John Hawkins and band members

John - about his life working with some of the greats in jazz and blues and his role as a TV producer, it would have been great  to have had an opportunity to help him write his story as a book. John advised me and came to help during the production of Fever, he worked with many 'greats' such as Frank Ifield, Patsy O'Hara and Betty Reilly. Arranging was a big skill of John's and he worked with many well known bands and musicians: Franck Pourcel and Paul Mauriat, Sol Raye, and he was MD for Helen Shapiro and Cilla Black.

L-R: Mark Fletcher (drums); John Hawkins; Dave Green (bass); Alex Stanford (piano / keys);
at Cowshed Studio for the recording of Fever.

He also helped the Lionel Hampton Orchestra when their material was lost in a coach fire following a crash. He was also arranger to Gilbert Becaud, Charles Aznavour, The Platters, Nicole Croiset, Christanne Legrand. In 1966 John signed with Polypro records as assistant head of A&R to Chris Parminter during that time working with Georgie Fame, Blue Mink, Jack Hammer, Otis Reading and many other names from the Stax Volt / Atlantic Records label. In 1977 John was signed to ATV Music and co-wrote an award winning West End musical 'Canterbury Tales'.



I hear you have another album planned. How’s that going and what can we expect?

Well, I'm guesting on an album so I don't want to give much away at this stage if you don't mind, we are recording at the beginning of May, and I'm so, so excited I can't wait to do this project. I was promised a re-release of Fever for 26 April, but don't hold your breath!



You have also been tied up with the Musical Balloon Band programme, what’s that all about?

This is an absolute passion of mine. In 2013 I had a lovely opportunity to audition for a presenting project at the Royal Concert Halls, Nottingham and as part of the audition I was asked to 'express' myself, so I played some clarinet, sang and balloon modelled and Cecil The Donkeytold them about my concept which I'd been thinking about for quite a while. I did not get the job but amazingly the team at the TRCH decided to mentor me and the project and we are now part of their Beanbag Music scheme.

Cecil The Donkey

The Musical Balloon Band have another performance coming up there on Saturday 20th May. I LOVED watching balloon modellers as a child when they were working in the summer at The Parade Gardens, Bath and I love singing jazz so this project feels like home. It's unique, my idea and my 'baby'.

We've had some amazing performances including a tour and most recently the Sandgate Sea Festival; The Ivy Club; Hayes Carnival; BigFest Uxbridge; Haverhill Fun Day and the Art's Theatre, London. I'm also working with the New Wimbledon Theatre every Monday of the term. It's a session for babies + parents / carers. It's a very interactive project with percussion, singing, jazz, my original tunes and movement.


What else have you been doing recently? Are you still running BIVJA?.

BIVJA is still alive but the Musical Balloon Band has taken over at the moment. I'm co-running a new series of jazz, monthly at the Club For Acts and Actors (the Concert's Artiste's Association) on a Friday night. The other hosts are Christopher Hare (who founded the Lewisham Jazz Festival) and Simon Bashford. There was one on Friday 28 April with John Horler (piano), Alec Dankworth (bass) and Winston Clifford (drums). Simon, Chris and myself also 'perform' plus there is usually a jam for folk to join in with. Tickets are £15.00 (from me or the club for CAA members) - BOOKING ESSENTIAL!

My teaching work continues at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama and I'm proud proud to say that students are getting West End leads and working in film and television. I recently started teaching at the London School of Musical Theatre and running a lunchtime choir as well as the VMBB sessions at the New Wimbledon Theatre. I co-own a theatrical agency and there is also a possibility that I'll coach on another TV series so fingers and toes crossed and please watch this space!


Who else have you heard recently that we should listen out for?

Fleur Stevenson



Fleur Stevenson came to BIVJA sessions and she was inspired to work with myself and Claire Martin MBE, she has since gone on to achieve an ATCL Jazz Diploma (Distinction)  and performs regularly and teaches in the Oxford area.Click here for Fleur's website where you can hear more of her music.






[Here's a video of Fleur Fleur singing Cry Me A River with Chris Neill on piano].





Lou Beckerman



Lou Beckerman certainly deserves a mention - she is a fine singer and uses music for healing. Lou has an expressive, velvety jazz quality and pays great attention to the words which I love. Click here for Lou's website and click here to listen to some of her music.




Going back to Fever, do you have a favourite track?

Willow Weep For Me has a huge emotional memory and meaning for me. 


[Listen to Willow Weep For Me - ignore the Soundcloud advert ]




Another biscuit?

Pass me a carrot?

Verona Chard


Click here for Verona Chard's website. Click here to sample the album Fever ... In Love with Shakespeare.


Click here to see who else has taken a tea break.


Utah Teapot


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