Memories of an occasion at Fairfield Halls


By - Tuesday 29th January, 2013

Terry Coleman recalls a magical evening at Fairfield Halls in the 1960s


It was a cold January night in 1963 when I visited Fairfield Halls for a concert by Duke Ellington and his Orchestra. I was new to Ellington at that time, and was not quite sure what to expect.

The concert hall was packed. Several elderly and distinguished black men sat easy on the stage with their various instruments and they looked so relaxed.

Lo and behold, someone mysteriously set the tempo and they were away! What a glorious, rhythmic, richly harmonic sound came forth from those twelve or so gentlemen. The spotlight went to stage left and Duke appeared, dressed in immaculate attire; he paused and sauntered gracefully to the piano. He started to play and with winks, nods, and gestures drove the orchestra on for the most wonderful musical evening that I have ever experienced.

Legendary tunes like Rockin’ in Rhythm, Take the ‘A’ Train, Sophisticated Lady, Creole Love Call — they all flowed with brilliant section work, with tremendous solos from the stratospheric trumpet of Cat Anderson, the ripping tenor sax of Paul Gonsalves, and the loose limbed technique of that fine drummer Sam Woodyard, to name just a few.

I feel that everyone should have that spine tingling musical magic moment at least once in their lives. Mine came when Johnny Hodges soloed on the lovely haunting melody of I Got It Bad (and That Ain’t Good).

What a fantastic evening. I left that hall with my soul enriched and will never forget it.

It’s fair to say that over the years I have seen pretty well all the American big bands at the Fairfield: Count Basie, Woody Herman, Harry James, Buddy Rich, Stan Kenton and the rest. They all thrilled me, but the Ellington concert on 24th January 1963 was something really special.

That wonderful concert hall holds precious memories for me. The hall has always been renowned for its acoustic excellence, and the town should be proud of its ability to attract the very best artistic talent to perform therein.

Before Fairfield Halls were built, it was the Davis Theatre that held the big jazz concerts. I remember a ‘Jazz at the Philharmonic’ show, put on by Norman Granz — but that’s another story…

This town really must continue to support all of its musical, theatrical, and artistic venues to help engender a positive future for Croydon. I hope that one day soon many others will want to share the stories of the wonderful new music that they discovered in our hallowed halls, and encourage others to experience it for themselves.

Terry Coleman

Terry Coleman

Retired bloke having a lot of fun doing what he wants after 51 years doing what the bosses wanted. Croydon born & bred. Politics-Blairite, Faith-Agnostic, Interests-Music (mostly Ellington), Reading, Pilates, Gym.

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  • Peter

    I too was there that night – a callow 17 year old – spine tingling is spot on, although the highlights for me was the rendition of Mood Indigo! Everyone leaving the Halls that night had a smile on their face. There were two main topics of conversation as we left – the lighting effects during the aforementioned Mood Indigo, and the Sam Woodyard drum solo during (I think) That’s a Plenty. You have revived very special memories, as you say, an evening that will never be forgotten – thank you!

    • Terry Coleman

      Thank you for your very kind comments Peter. it was a wonderful evening.

  • Omar AS

    I was looking at some pictures of Duke Ellington on tumblr, and one of the first ones that came up was him playing at Fairfield Halls. I couldn’t believe my hometown had been host to him, so I looked it up and happened upon this article. What an amazing experience that must have been! Here is a link to the picture if you wish to view it. I hope it brings back some amazing memories, Terry. http://denisebefore.tumblr.com/post/46440000109/duke-at-fairfield-hall-england-pratt-1963

    • Terry Coleman

      A wonderful photograph Omar, I appreciate your kindness and it does indeed rekindle the memory for me. And to remind me also of his solo piano work that has given me much pleasure through his recordings, an accomplished and innovative player as well as bandleader and composer.
      One of music’s giants of the 20th century.

Memories of an occasion at Fairfield Halls PRINT EDITION


By - Tuesday 29th January, 2013

Terry Coleman recalls a magical evening at Fairfield Halls in the 1960s


It was a cold January night in 1963 when I visited Fairfield Halls for a concert by Duke Ellington and his Orchestra. I was new to Ellington at that time, and was not quite sure what to expect.

The concert hall was packed. Several elderly and distinguished black men sat easy on the stage with their various instruments and they looked so relaxed.

Lo and behold, someone mysteriously set the tempo and they were away! What a glorious, rhythmic, richly harmonic sound came forth from those twelve or so gentlemen. The spotlight went to stage left and Duke appeared, dressed in immaculate attire; he paused and sauntered gracefully to the piano. He started to play and with winks, nods, and gestures drove the orchestra on for the most wonderful musical evening that I have ever experienced.

Legendary tunes like Rockin’ in Rhythm, Take the ‘A’ Train, Sophisticated Lady, Creole Love Call — they all flowed with brilliant section work, with tremendous solos from the stratospheric trumpet of Cat Anderson, the ripping tenor sax of Paul Gonsalves, and the loose limbed technique of that fine drummer Sam Woodyard, to name just a few.

I feel that everyone should have that spine tingling musical magic moment at least once in their lives. Mine came when Johnny Hodges soloed on the lovely haunting melody of I Got It Bad (and That Ain’t Good).

What a fantastic evening. I left that hall with my soul enriched and will never forget it.

It’s fair to say that over the years I have seen pretty well all the American big bands at the Fairfield: Count Basie, Woody Herman, Harry James, Buddy Rich, Stan Kenton and the rest. They all thrilled me, but the Ellington concert on 24th January 1963 was something really special.

That wonderful concert hall holds precious memories for me. The hall has always been renowned for its acoustic excellence, and the town should be proud of its ability to attract the very best artistic talent to perform therein.

Before Fairfield Halls were built, it was the Davis Theatre that held the big jazz concerts. I remember a ‘Jazz at the Philharmonic’ show, put on by Norman Granz — but that’s another story…

This town really must continue to support all of its musical, theatrical, and artistic venues to help engender a positive future for Croydon. I hope that one day soon many others will want to share the stories of the wonderful new music that they discovered in our hallowed halls, and encourage others to experience it for themselves.

Terry Coleman

Terry Coleman

Retired bloke having a lot of fun doing what he wants after 51 years doing what the bosses wanted. Croydon born & bred. Politics-Blairite, Faith-Agnostic, Interests-Music (mostly Ellington), Reading, Pilates, Gym.

More Posts - Twitter - Flickr





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