The Speakeasy Revival Orchestra will be playing a date at the Cuckfield Music Festival ahead of a trip to Horsham. On Tuesday, June 18 at 7.30pm they will be at the Baptist Church, Polestub Lane, Cuckfield, RH17 5GP – three days before appearing in the Capitol’s Studio on Friday, June 21.
In both venues, they will be performing music from the 20s to the present day, drawing on influences as diverse as Spike Jones, Fletcher Henderson, Duke Ellington, Mnozil Brass and the Postmodern Jukebox.
For both they offer a friendly warning: performances may include hats, barbershop singing, puppets, balloons, and loud bangs, along with “spectacular musicianship, original tunes and cracking arrangements and a unique comedy twist.”
Miles Russell, who lives in Billingshurst, explains: “We have been together in this combination for a couple of years. We are all pro musicians, mostly Sussex-based.”
Members come from places including Horsham, Pulborough, Brighton and Chichester.
“I have done a lot of theatre theatres,” Miles says, “and I was booked to do a show of speakeasy songs from the shows that we were all 1920s, night clubs, the Charlston and so on.
“I got this band together to employ these guys to play, and we had such a good time doing this music that we wanted to carry on with the same sort of line-up.
“It is all 1920s and 1930s jazz, but we have introduced into it a modern post-juke box style thing and we are putting into the 1920s and 1930s style songs from people like Michael Jackson and also disco songs. We are also drawing on the Spike Jones comedy band style.
“I have always loved the music of the 1920s and 1930s. I am a trumpet player and I have always loved the jazz songs. They have got a great swing to them. It is happy music.
“There was the Depression in America and things weren’t going well, and I suppose the light, lively music was something that would allow people to escape from their reality.”
Miles has worked mostly in the theatre on shows. He is currently on the road with the Dirty Dancing tour: “We started last August and we finish this August. We have been going all over the country, but not so much in Sussex. We did Portsmouth and Brighton and Guildford.
“But it is fun. I really enjoy it. It’s a nice bunch of people to go out with and to tour with. It’s a nice friendly cast, and I like going to different places each week, sometimes places you wouldn’t necessarily choose to go to. You get to see lots of different places.”
But for the moment, it’s a chance to play a couple of times close to home.
Their Horsham date coincides with Tanbridge House School’s production of Sweeney Todd (Wednesday, June 19-Friday, June 21, Capitol Theatre) – for which Miles’ son Archie will be playing trumpet in the band.
“He will be playing in the main house while we will be playing in the studio!”
The play follows the barber Sweeney Todd as he returns to London after fifteen years of wrongful incarceration to seek vengeance on the sadistic Judge Turpin.