A jazz legend who played with Ol’ Blue Eyes Frank Sinatra will be teaming up with the voice of Strictly Come Dancing for a night to remember in North Wales.
Strictly singer Tommy Blaize will be joining Guy Barker and his Big Band for a “powerhouse performance” in a star-studded concert at Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod at 8pm on Friday, July 7.
It’s a return to the festival for Guy who has also shared the stage with other superstars including George Michael, Sting, Van Morrison, Elvis Costello, Phil Collins, Sammy Davis Jr and Liza Minnelli among many others.
The first of Guy’s two previous appearances at Llangollen Eisteddfod was in 2003, backing iconic husband and wife duo Johnny Dankworth and Cleo Laine and he returned to play with bass-baritone Sir Willard White in 2009.
This time he’ll be conducting his own 15-piece band along with Strictly Come Dancing lead singer Tommy Blaize as well as Clare Teal and Vanessa Haynes and sax player Giacomo Smith.
Guy, 65, has fond memories of performing at Llangollen and he said: “I played with Willard White when he did a tribute to Paul Robeson and before that I was there with John Dankworth and Cleo Laine.
“I remember the stage and the backstage area well and the audience were so enthusiastic. It’s a great place to play.”
Guy’s background is in showbiz. His mum is actress Barbara Barker, now 95, who appeared in the first seven episodes of Coronation Street and later in Z Cars and Emmerdale Farm while his late father, Ken, was an actor and stuntman.
“In the opening scene of The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin, my dad’s the one running naked into the sea on the beach,” said Guy: “It was six in the morning and it was freezing.
“He loved the Swing era and learned the clarinet and he encouraged me to play the trumpet so we could do duets and bought me my first two albums, one by trumpeter Louis Armstrong.
“Music was all I knew and I’ve never done anything else.”
The people Guy has played with reads like a musical who’s who and one of his career highlights was backing Sinatra in front of 45,000 fans in Italy.
He has also recorded eight solo albums, two of which were nominated for the Mercury Music Prize, and since 2008 he has been the Musical Director and arranger for the annual Jazz Voice concert at the Barbican, which opens the London Jazz Festival and has a long-standing role with the Cheltenham Jazz Festival.
He arranged the music for the films The Talented Mr Ripley and The No 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency by the late film director Anthony Minghella who said: “Guy Barker is that rare thing – a brilliant soloist, a born leader and a generous accompanist. He can play so your heart breaks or your head swivels.”
Llangollen Eisteddfod executive producer Camilla King said: “We’re delighted that we’ve been able to book Guy Barker for a return visit for what will be a truly memorable night.
“The audience can expect punchy brass, New Orleans soul and a journey through the history of jazz song, featuring both classics and surprise new arrangements, including a re-imagined Tom Waits number.
“It’s going to be a fantastic, one-off set drawn together with Guy’s inimitable sense of storytelling through music.”
Guy Barker’s Big Band will take the stage at Llangollen as part of a high quality series of concerts which kick-off on the Tuesday evening, July 4, with Eisteddfod favourite Alfie Boe who joins forces with musical theatre super-group, Welsh of the West End.
Wednesday will see The White Flower: Into The Light, a concert of remembrance for the fallen of Sarajevo and Ukraine, featuring the NEW Sinfonia orchestra with soloists from Bosnia, Wales and Ukraine, with works including extracts from Karl Jenkins’ The Armed Man culminating in the Eisteddfod’s traditional message of peace and hope for the future of all nations.
The popular procession of international participants and celebration of peace takes place on Thursday, followed by Flight, a new theatrical work by visionary artists Propellor Ensemble, inspired by migratory patterns in nature and humanity.
Saturday features the blue riband event, the Choir of the World competition for the coveted Pavarotti Trophy, and also Dance Champions and the Pendine International Voice of the Future 2023.
There is a new look to the final day of the Eisteddfod on Sunday with an all new live final which sees rising vocal stars battle it out to claim the title Voice of Musical Theatre, and a new song-writing competition for emerging voices in contemporary popular music.
“On the field, community bands, brass, silver, wind, compete, and audiences can choose their winner of the new Eisteddfod Dance Off.”
As well as the concerts, each day features a full programme of competitions in the Pavilion and a line-up of stalls and exhibitions on the field along with the competitors from around the world, many in colourful dress while three open-air stages run a stream of live performances.
Each year around 4,000 participants take to the stage with around 25,000 visitors attending.
There will also be lots of entertainment on the outside site including workshops, talks, international showcases, outdoor theatre performances and circus skills.
For full programme details and to buy tickets go to: www.international-eisteddfod.co.uk/whats-on/