Stacey Kent's concert will raise vital funds for cancer charities
A year after the release of her album, Breakfast On The Morning Tram, Stacey Kent will perform a special charity concert as part of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, writes Adam Sonin The teaming of Stacey Kent, Jim Tomlinson and Kazuo Ishiguro dates back
A year after the release of her album, Breakfast On The Morning Tram, Stacey Kent will perform a special charity concert as part of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, writes Adam Sonin
The teaming of Stacey Kent, Jim Tomlinson and Kazuo Ishiguro dates back to 2002. Ishiguro featured one of her tracks when appearing on Desert Island Discs. He explains that it was difficult to choose eight tracks but wanted to represent his "inner history" of music thus far.
By this, he means that her modern take on old classics mattered to him. "They communicate and are accessible, refreshing and timeless."
Ishiguro's earliest memories of music are as a child in Japan with his father playing the piano at the family home. By the time he had hit adolescence he was writing lyrics and found great inspiration from the likes of Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen.
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Kent contacted Ishiguro after being genuinely thankful and touched that an artist she admired had chosen one of her works. An immediate friendship began and in 2002 Ishiguro wrote the liner notes for In Love Again.
Ishiguro writes: "Stacey Kent is a singer to match the greats of the past, with an unusual power to hold your attention and control your emotions from the first note."
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Following that, in 2007, Kent's husband Jim Tomlinson asked whether Ishiguro would be interested in writing some lyrics for their debut Blue Note album. Ishiguro leapt at the chance.
Kent says that they were "three artists who had great chemistry". Initially, Ishiguro would "write for Stacey lyrically and musically, with an idea of structure." Importantly, "if the music came first we would have produced conventional structures." As Tomlinson is such a strong improviser the process worked brilliantly.
As soon as Kent read the lyrics aloud, the seasoned saxophonist began to compose the music in his head. The four songs they co-wrote helped Kent plan the whole album. The only remit was that the songs be of love: found and lost, with a sadness balanced by optimism.
I Wish I Could Go Travelling Again does exactly that. "It's something you took for granted, even though something is missing, something consigned to the past and that for whatever reason you can't go back to that place," Ishiguro says. "All these songs are mini short stories for Stacey to sing and act to."
Their song The Ice Hotel took first place in the jazz category of the 2007 International Songwriting Competition.
Just as the band was entering the studio to record, Kent discovered an abnormality and was subsequently diagnosed with breast cancer.
"Obviously, this came as a huge shock," she says. "I am young and very healthy and have always looked after myself. I went in for surgery in May, and finally, I went through radiation last July."
Courageously, she decided not to cancel the recording session and tour, instead she produced a record that is poignant and lyrically stunning. Ballads and bluesy numbers combine with samba and she reinvents the classic What A Wonderful World with pure style.
"Even though this was heartbreaking news, we would have been much sadder to have stopped doing the thing we are most passionate about," Kent says. "We talked it out and realised that if everything were to become about the illness, it would be much harder to get through the illness and the surgery."
They worked hard, remained positive and "chose songs about the timeline of life, the delicate balance of the joy and the sadness we all have to face in our lives".
"The reason for this concert [during Breast Cancer Awareness Month] is that I am now fine and cancer free and I am now able to talk about my illness and recovery," she says. "And, most importantly, the care and support I received."
They want to give something back and to promote awareness for all women. The concert at London's Indigo2 is in aid of three breast cancer charities, Breast Cancer Care, Breakthrough Breast Cancer and the Barnet Breast Unit Fund. All proceeds from the concert will go to the charities.
So an unlikely marriage of artists has yielded award-winning tracks, given the artists a focal point throughout terrible times of illness, and will now give something back to the wider community.
Brave and inspiring stuff.
The concert will be held at the Indigo2, Millenium Way, Greenwich, on October 13 at 7pm. Tickets are £10-£40. Contact 0844 844 0002 or www. theindigo2.com or more details.