Vocalists Elaine Crouch and Helen MacDougal will be the first students to graduate from Chichester College’s new HND jazz course. Here they talk about the course and their upcoming gig.
How did you first start to get into jazz?
Elaine: “Quite late actually! Although I’ve always loved all kinds of music and had a few gigs and recording opportunities, it wasn’t until six years ago when I decided to go back to full-time study that I really discovered jazz. The Chichester College jazz course was highly recommended to me. I had no idea then that I’d develop such a passion but that’s what happened. Learning to listen properly and to immerse myself in as much music as possible has had a tremendous impact on my vocal style.”
Helen: “I always had an idea that I would like to get into it from the first time I heard any boogie woogie piano as a child. I started gigging for a while with loud rock musicians, and eventually met up with some slightly quieter (!) jazz players. I found it a revelation to play in a situation where I didn't have to shout to be heard.
Over the next decade or so I found myself listening to and learning more and more jazz and increasing my repertoire. In the last few years I feel I have learned a lot, listened a lot and enjoyed very much more.”
You’re currently studying at Chichester College. How are you finding the course?
Elaine: “I did two years to start with and then I was accepted onto the HND course in jazz, developed by Simon d'Souza. It’s one of a kind. This is the first course of its type in the whole of our area. The course without doubt is quite challenging, we cover a lot of ground but foremost is the opportunity to work in small ensembles and to learn through arranging and performing tunes. We are lucky to have some inspirational and supportive tutors that each year manage to turn a bunch of musicians of differing ages, abilities and experience into confident and credible performers.
Helen: “Loving it! Very intense, we work hard in and out of college, they give us a lot of ideas on how to practise in our spare time, and it's hard to keep up with them all, but it’s invaluable advice and really pays off.”
Tell us about your upcoming gig at The Verdict.
Elaine: “We are so excited about this. Helen and I have been working tremendously hard. We are so privileged to have some great musicians with us. We have Rod Hart on piano, Paul Whitten on bass, Dave Trigwell on drums and Julian Nicholas on saxes. We will be covering quite a variety of material to showcase what we’ve achieved over the last couple of years.”
“There’ll be something for everyone and we’re going to love every second of it.”
Helen: “Really excited about this – we had a really great rehearsal today, got some really nice sounds on a lot of the tunes. I think it's going to be a really great night, with some of the best musicians we have ever had the privilege to work with.”
What are you planning to do in the future?
Elaine: “Keep on singing! I hope to carry on gigging as much as I can. I’ve also recently had the opportunity to run a jazz vocal workshop for a few weeks and I’d love to do more of that.”
Helen: “More gigs more gigs more gigs! Just use the experience we've gained, to really develop our jazz careers. Also, Elaine and I have developed such a great friendship on and off the stage, that we are really looking forward to working together in the future, after the end of our course.”
(Q&A interview with Elaine Crouch and Helen MacDougal conducted by Charlie Anderson)