Someone once said to me ‘while it’s important not to blow your own trumpet, it’s important to let them know you’ve got a trumpet to blow’. Indeed! For those not in the know, Wonderbrass is a 25 piece band playing music from around the world, in Cardiff and beyond, and hopefully soon in sunny old Splott. This week Inksplott chatted to Jenny, flutist with the band, on all things brass and beyond.
Inksplott: Hi Jenny, thank you for being interviewed for Inksplott. Can you tell us a little about yourself and your group?
Jenny: We’re Wonderbrass. We’re a collection of brass, saxophones, woodwind, keys and rhythm instruments and we’ve been playing music together for 25 years. We perform all kinds of different music – from New Orleans style street music, ska and funk to pop covers, dance music and African Township – and we’ve travelled to countries all over the world.
The arrangement is simple: anyone with a basic knowledge of music and ability to play an instrument is allowed to come and rehearse with Wonderbrass. When they have learned the material and can perform to a professional standard, they are invited to play Wonderbrass gigs.
The band is self-funded; we pay our two musical directors with money we earn from professional performances and we also own several instruments for people who aren’t able to own their own to use.
Inksplott: How did you get into this? Can you please tell us a little about the history of your group and how you became involved?
Jenny: We started this band in 1992, but we just kept going because of or grass roots support from our membership. Basically we were trying to get a community big band going for ages in the late 80’s mostly under the umbrella of the Welsh Jazz Society but suddenly the valleys live initiative came up and there was loads of support in Pontypridd, so we started it there. We moved it back to Cardiff in 2006 and into Splott last month.
Inksplott: And how come the group is (performing) in Splott? Are you locals?
Jenny: Some of the band are local to Splott, but really we come from all over – some people drive down from Ponty to play and rehearse with us. Because we’re so big and so loud it’s not easy to find a place where we can rehearse every week, but the New Fleurs have kindly offered us their upstairs function room as our home. We’re hoping to bring some gigs to Splott in the future.
Inksplott: What do you think of the music scene around here? How would you like to see it develop?
Jenny: I think it would be great if there were more small or mid-sized venues in the area that serve a good range of drinks and attracted people looking to have a good time and be creative. With so many venues in the centre of town struggling to survive, for a number of reasons, it’d be great if the areas near the city centre stepped up and developed a creative place for people to perform and be entertained.
Inksplott: What’s your speciality? Why should people come and see your group?
Jenny: Because we’re super fun live. You’ll hear songs you know and songs you won’t and no matter how much fun the audience are having, the band will be having just as much, if not more fun. Everyone in Wonderbrass is there because they love it – it makes for a great party vibe at our gigs.
Inksplott: What’s your best story since setting up the group?
Jenny: Probably the fact we played in the big city fiesta in Barcelona in 1996 – this means doing gigs at 3am to about 10,000 people – and when we got home from that we had a letter waiting for us telling us we’d won a massive grant.
Inksplott: Tell us a secret or something about Splott that we won’t know.
Jenny: Well we don’t know what you know but we do know that BBC Radio 4’s John Humphreys, scourge of politicians of all shades, was born and grew up here. But doesn’t everyone know that?
Inksplott: Any exciting plans or events on the horizon?
Jenny: We’re performing at loads of venues and events over the summer. More info is available at www.wonderbrass.org.uk
Inksplott: That’s great – thank you so much for the interview!
You can follow Wonderbrass on Twitter: @Wonderbrass
You can also follow Wonderbrass on Facebook