Review: ‘Seemingly effortless vocals’ as youth orchestra perform celebration of Amy Winehouse in Northampton

Northampton’s Derngate theatre hosted Amy Winehouse – A Celebration of her Life and Music by the National Youth Jazz Orchestra on Friday (January 21). Here’s what one reviewer thought.

By Sarah Becker
Monday, 24th January 2022, 10:24 am
The National Youth Jazz Orchestra performed Amy Winehouse songs on Friday (January 21).
The National Youth Jazz Orchestra performed Amy Winehouse songs on Friday (January 21).

As the first notes of Amy Winehouse’s iconic song ‘Back to Black’ performed by the National Youth Jazz Orchestra resounded around the hushed Derngate auditorium, it was apparent this was not going to be a concert that just replicated her songs.

The concert by the National Jazz Youth Orchestra was a celebration of Amy Winehouse’s legacy and her music.

Lead arranger, Olivia Murphy - appearing on stage wearing black - took on some of the late young singer’s most iconic songs and rearranged them into two sets with a brass band feel.

When lead vocalist Lucy-Anne Daniels opened the concert singing the first few notes of ‘Back to Black’ it was also clear her vocal performance was going to be as seemingly effortless as a Parisienne throwing together a stylish outfit.

Words and melodies flowed from her lips with apparent ease and nonchalance - my companion for the evening, talented local singer songwriter That Joe Payne, commented how amazingly skilful the vocal performance actually was.

The first set seemed to be almost a warm-up performance by the 22 musicians playing brass, percussion and keyboard.

The temperature in the auditorium palpably rose when the audience came back from the interval for the second set.

The stand-out song for me was the emotive rearrangement of ‘Rehab’. The music seemed to veer off midway through the track on a flight of musical fancy akin to one of Russell Brand’s flights of lyrical dexterity when a word would capture his imagination and take him off on a lyrical tangent.

I also really enjoyed ‘Wake Up Alone.’

Lead vocalist Lucy-Anne invited the audience to lose themselves in the emotive music, and I really did. By that time I was hooked on the talented musicians' brass instrument solos, the stand-out drum solos and uplifting harmonies.

It is an age-old idea among the creative community that pain is sometimes necessary to create art.

One can’t help thinking that is the case with Amy Winehouse as the lyrics often reflected on heartbreak.

Yet this was a celebration of her work and legacy.

Music director Winston Rollins oversaw the performance by the young musicians, and he gave some insightful words about Amy and how she had started her career singing with the NYJO orchestra. He had worked with Amy, he said, on her debut album Frank. He echoed how the musicians wanted to honour her work and her music.

The final track ‘In My Bed’ really seemed to be a celebration of her music as the musicians each took their turn to perform.

The two sets seemed to pass by in a flash, ending all too soon, and the audience were on their feet to applaud the young musicians.