Sandy Brown Jazz

Verona Chard


Verona Chard


Singer Verona Chard was born in Bristol and grew up in nearby Bath in Somerset. Her parents were not musicians, but her mother, Betty, has a warm tuneful alto voice and her late father, Ron, often sang along to melodious hits of the day.

‘I remember the first time I sang in public,’ Verona says. ‘I was a member of the 2nd Bath Girl’s Brigade Company that met at the Moravian Church in Coronation Avenue. I was five, and I was chosen to be Mary in the Christmas Nativity. I distinctly remember the fuss being made of me and enjoying singing to a crowd!’

At St Saviour’s Junior School, Verona was encouraged with her singing and was often asked to perform solo in assembly, much to the irritation of other classmates and school bullies. She went on to Hayesfield Girl’s School where she became involved in all the school’s choir and drama activities. There she learnt a smattering of clarinet and played percussion and kit in the school orchestra. ‘A terrifying experience!’ she remembers.

Verona worked Saturday and holiday jobs as a waitress, chambermaid, shop assistant and box office assistant at the Bath Theatre Royal to help fund singing, ballroom dancing and elocution. She was, at this stage, studying singing with Audrey Harris and Jane Lilley and was a member ofVerona Chard the Jane Lilley Singers, an award winning close harmony group performing jazz and other music. This was good grounding to get a place at Trinity Laban Conservatoire, so with the assistance of awards from The Drapers’ Company, The Clara Thornley Trust, Bath Council, The Vanburgh Trust, RAC, the Wood family, David and Eileen Shaw and friends and supporters Verona left Bath to train in London. ‘I was so lucky to have fabulous mentors there,' she says. ‘People like Anna Berenska, John Wakefield, James Gaddarn and Eric Vietheer. Then in 1997, I went to the Royal Academy of Music to study on the musical theatre postgraduate course with Mary Hammond and Karen Rabinowitz. Claire Martin OBE, Marilyn Hill Smith and John Hawkins have also helped me on my way.’

Working initially as a classical singer, Verona sang extensively in an ensemble called Sheherazade with Denise Dance (flute) and Fiona Clifton-Welker (harp), and she performed early Italian Opera, concerts and musicals both in the UK and abroad. They made a Purcell Room debut, championed a new composition and broadcast on Thames, Scottish, HTV, BBC 2, BBC London Radio, BBC Regional Radios, Liberty Radio, UK Jazz Radio and in a Bollywood film – Pyar Ki Dhun.

‘During this time I was working with classical pianist Jane Beament, the daughter of the fabulous Ted Beament who plays in the Humphrey Lyttelton Band,' Verona recalls. 'Claire Martin came to a concert we gave and asked me if I would become her singing tutor. I often attended Claire’s gigsSad Sweet Songs CD and went on to meet and teach other jazz vocalists.'

'It was thanks again to Jane and Ted that my own first lucky jazz break came. It was in 2005 when Ted rang me and said he’d recommended me to record with Humphrey Lyttelton. Humph was looking for someone who could sing a vocalise and asked me to record the Jail Break track for his Sad Sweet Songs and Crazy Rhythms album.' (I had not come across the word 'vocalise' as a noun before. Verona explains that a 'vocalise' is a vocal exercise, often one suitable for performance, without words, which is sung on one or more vowel sounds - Ed.)

Verona Chard and Humphrey Lyttelton‘This was a huge turning point for me, the session was full of laughter, fun and generosity of spirit, not to mention fine musicianship, so I decided there and then to try to re-invent myself and sing a lot more jazz. When I recorded my debut jazz album Fever…in love with Shakespeare, I included an arrangement of Jail Break as a tribute and ‘thank you’ to Humph.’

Verona and Humph

In addition to launching herself as a jazz musician, Verona has an acting career. She has toured with people such as George Chakiris, Norman Rossington and Barbara Murray; performed in weekly repertory theatre and pantomime, most recently as the Wicked Fairy at The Library Theatre, Luton where critic Jim Kennedy (The Stage) referred to her as 'the excellent Verona Chard’.

We asked Verona whether she thought that her acting experience helped with her jazz singing. ‘Text as well as good musicianship is a vital part of singing jazz,’ she replied. ‘I feel that my acting experience helps me to explore the nuances and emotion of the words. I try my hand at writing song lyrics too, most recently to a tune by John Horler as a tribute to his friend the late bassist Jeff Clyne:

I’m inclyned to recall you, summer or fall, you
Vibrate my heart and soul.

When I add up the score, you couldn’t give more,
Your touch was the final goal.

Winter sighed and the ‘Autumn Leaves’ vanished from view,
Low is high when I think of ‘The Person I Knew’.

If in time I forget you,
So glad I met you,
Spring will reflect your soul,
And I’ll miss you, how I miss you.

Verona continues to work as a vocal adviser to many accomplished, award winning singers and is a visiting consultant at the Central School of Speech and Drama where she has worked on Jerry Springer – The Opera; Edwin Drood; Guys and Dolls and City of Angels. She has also directed productions of Beside Myself and Tokyo Bound by Amy Hill, performed by Chiaki Yamauchi at the Edinburgh Fringe, Luton’s ‘Breakin’ Arts Festival in 2009 and other community arts projects. In April 2012 Verona was chosen by Polish superstar Tatiana Okupnik to be her ‘expert’ in the celebrity house for Polish X Factor 2012.

Verona is also a member of the Musicians Union Jazz Section Committee ( and would encourage readers to become a member of the MU:

‘It provides really useful benefits,’ she says. ‘Performing and teaching constantly reminds me of the tenacity required to remain ‘in the business’. I know it’s tough out there alone and most singers have to self-fund to pay or part-pay their band. Over the next couple of years I’m planning to set up the British and International Vocal Jazz Academy providing expert training and support. I’m really keen to encourage mature singers and instrumentalists, as well as young people, to explore their potential.’

‘If anyone would like to be involved at Board level or to help support the enterprise, teach or assist with administration on the courses I’d be pleased to hear from them. I would like to hear from people with a positive outlook and a love of jazz, whatever their age or background’.

In November 2010 Verona’s CD, Fever, was featured on UK Jazz Radio as the album of the month. Brain Soundy from the radio station asked Verona to write and present a Women in Jazz programme. ‘I tried to include many different styles of women composers, instrumentalists and singers and to showcase new talent,’ she explains. ‘The list goes on and on but includes: Frøy Aagre, Yazz Ahmed, Lil Hardin Armstrong, Ivy Benson, Regina Carter, Deirdre Cartwright, Blossom Deerie, Ella Fitzgerald, Paula Gardiner, Charlotte Glasson, Nikki Iles, Cleo Laine, Melba Linton, Janette Mason, Claire Martin, Olivia Moore, Angelika Niescier, Sue Richardson, NinaVerona Chard and Charlotte Glasson Simone, Annie Whitehead, Kate Williams and Norma Winstone. I’m taking a break from this at the moment because of other work taking over. A great deal of time goes into researching and writing each programme and I’m not a natural academic. Eventually I’d like to get back to it and interview folk about their music and experiences, not only women instrumentalists and singers but those behind the scenes, people like Mary Greig who runs the Jazz in London magazine, the unsung heroines of the jazz world’.

Verona and Charlotte Glasson

Inspired by the UK Jazz Radio programme, Verona formed Women in Jazz Oracles all women band. The core members are composer and multi-instrumentalist Charlotte Glasson and herself. The band gave its debut performance at the Ealing Jazz Festival in July 2011 with Yazz Ahmed – flugal and trumpet, Tsivi Sharett – piano, Abby King – bass, Michele Drees – drums and Justina Ogunsietan - vocals.

Verona’s debut jazz album is Fever … In Love With Shakespeare. Asking her how the album came about, and how she approached it, she explained:

'The album is a Shakespeare based crossover jazz concept inspired by Sir John Dankworth and Dame Cleo Laine’s 1964 recording, Shakespeare and All That Jazz. It is self-funded and wouldFever - In Love with Shakespeare not have been possible but for some money that came to me as a deposit for a large event I was organising that got cancelled!’

‘Some reviewers ‘poo, poo’ what might be regarded as a concept album but I decided to remain true to my singing and performing history and create something that reflects those experiences. I have a great deal to learn and this is a starting point, a springboard into the wonderful, warm, enormously all-encompassing world of jazz. The album instrumentalists were chosen for their unique musicianship; that’s why there are two bass players and a harpist. If I’d had enough money there would have been strings and vibes added too.’

The album features Alex Stanford (piano / Hammond); Dave Green (bass); Andy Hamill (bass); Mark Fletcher (drums); Charlotte Glasson (sax); Alan Barnes (clarinet and sax); Kevin Robinson (trumpet); Ray Wordsworth (trombone), and Fiona Clifton-Welker (harp).

Click here to sample the album.

‘I chose the Cowshed Studio for the recording,’ Verona continues. It is able to produce a live sound that can be achieved with the vintage and contemporary equipment and the expert musicianship of engineer Joe Leach. I would thoroughly recommend him because of his passion, because he really listens on all levels and did not impose choices especially on moments where I needed there to be a raw sound, maybe slightly imperfect and occasionally buried within the instrumentation.’

Fever was originally released in 2010, but Verona encountered some issues on the commercial side of the original Fever album release that has led to the CD being re-released on 23 April 2012. The music on the album includes arrangements of songs by Elton John, Stephen Sondheim, Galt MacDermot, Cole Porter, Rogers and Hart and a very original treatment of the iconic Fever track.

The launch of the re-release of Fever – In Love with Shakespeare took place on the 26th April 2012 in London at Monty's Tandoori - 1a The Mall, Ealing Broadway W5 2PJ where Verona was accompanied by John Horler (keyboard), Richard Bolton (guitar and bass) and Les Cirkel (drums).

Verona is also currently working on her next album, at the same time as touring, coaching, performing extensively and giving masterclasses (including one in Nepal in June 2012!). She says: ‘My next album will most likely be a simpler affair and definitely include more original compositions.’

The list of singers Verona admires is extensive and varied and includes Ella Fitzgerald, Norma Winstone, Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Julie Andrews, Harry Secombe, Mado Robin, Nina Simone, Joan Sutherland, Tom Jones, Irma Thomas, Barbara Streisand, Shirley Bassey, Meatloaf, Tina Turner, Kurt Elling, Mark Murphy and many contemporaries. The list of places where she has performed is also impressive and includes the 606 Club, Ronnie Scott’s (Bar), The National Theatre; the Purcell Room – South Bank; Café Royal; The Green Room; The Spice of Life, Chelsea and Westminster Hospital Arts and many venues and festivals around the UK.

You can find out more about Verona by visiting her website at where she is running a ‘Choose Your Favourite Track’ competition. She says: ‘Do take part - you could win £250.00 cash!’

Verona Chard is a very experienced singer and energetic in her commitment to initiating imaginative and valuable projects. We look forward to hearing how those different projects develop over the coming months.

© Verona Chard and Ian Maund 2012-2015

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