review of Ely Rotary’s Big Band Night in Ely

Opus 17, a band of phenomenal musicians, wowed the audience with their vibrant sounds in their concert presented by The Rotary Club of Ely in the Hayward Theatre on the 19th February. Although this was a fund-raising event, the listeners were in no doubt this was a good evening.

This seventeen-piece band knows its stuff. Trumpets, saxophones, trombones, piano, bass and drums evoked toe-tapping rhythms and luxurious jazz harmonies that swept the listeners along in an evening of sheer indulgent nostalgia. Popular items filled the programme including April in Paris, Sunny Side of the Street, Pennsylvania 65000, A nightingale Sang in Berkley Square, Tuxedo Junction, Stardust, Moonlight Serenade and In the Mood.    

Rotary compère, John Byfield eased events with his pertinent information and light banter, while band leader Graham Smith eased the musicians along with his cheerful leadership. The band gelled as the sexy saxophones, virtuosic trumpets, rich trombones, pulsating bass, dancing keyboard and stirring drums gave life to their performance.

Two singers joined the band: Helen Burnett and Tom Veasey.  Helen Burnett, an ex-pupil of the King’s School, shared in the nostalgia as she remembered her debut as a singer in that same hall when she was at school. Her performance of Skylark was particularly attractive while You belong to me was especially schmaltzy and nostalgic.  Tom Veasey gave a very good imitation of ‘Old Blue Eyes’ (Bing Crosby) when he sang Come fly with me and his interpretation of Mack the Knife and New York caught the imagination, transporting us into the elusive shadows of the darker side of life. His voice is exquisitely unique and he should go far in his new ventures in Missouri.

The evening was all the better for the slick organization of the Rotarians who made it a splendid night all round, especially in the knowledge that Rotary’s quest to eradicate polio worldwide will be aided by the funds raised from this event. Local organizations: Burrows Bookshop, J and J Wade Optometrists and the King’s School Ely, also assisted by giving their support.

Contacts:   Opus 17 – Graham Smith 01223 263171 and

Rosemary Westwell


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