I recently had the pleasure of visiting a friend I had not seen for about 45 years. And thereby, as they say, hangs a story, writes Peter Westbrook.
After a series of meetings in London — a delightful Saturday evening with Tom Keenlyside, contributor of several arrangements to the Jazz Flute Big Band, International, who was visiting from Vancouver, Canada, and Sunday brunch with Kenneth Bell, founding conductor of the UK National Flute Orchestra (NFO), and another Canadian, flautist Lindsay Bryden, to discuss forming a new version of the NFO. (Lindsay will be the first candidate to belong to both ensembles, and both she and Kenneth are Flute Journal contributors.)
Business meetings are not supposed to be such a pleasure. But it started to dawn on me that if our various endeavours through Flute Journal and Harmonia Books & Music meet with any degree of success, it will be because of the quality of people just such as these, professionally and personally. There are dozens more who are emerging in various parts of the world — performing artists, scholars, composers, arrangers, producers, authors, professionals, amateurs — to create the Flute Journal team. Having just passed the 250,000 views milestone I am thankful to all of them. You ain’t seen nothing yet!
In any case, after spending the night with my cousin Helen in Barnes (SW13), Gina and I set off south-west of London to visit Richard Brunton who lives in Templecombe, Somerset. The last time I saw Rich was also the last time we performed together in a band called Sattva of which he was the guitarist and I played flute and saxophone. Shortly thereafter I left the UK for California to begin a 40 year vacation in the United States. (While I was there I earned BA, MA and Ph.D. degrees, played numerous concerts and sessions, led several groups, lectured in various subjects in multiple academic settings, published several books and many articles, got married, raised two children, and became vice-president of a major financial services company and dean of curriculum development at a private university. It was still a vacation, however!)
Over the next couple days and multiple cups of tea, Rich and I caught up on each other’s last 45 years — Rich has had a very varied career as guitarist and record producer in several genres, and getting caught up involved listening to recordings as much as to stories. From my side, the years before I left for the US were equally productive in music for me, working with John Stephens and the Spontaneous Music Ensemble in London and inheriting a lot of studio work, especially on flute, after the great Harold McNair passed away.
Finally we got onto reminiscing about Sattva. There were good times and bad times. An official launching at the Wigmore Hall, a good deal of touring, opening for bands such as Black Sabbath, meeting a lot of interesting people — our singer was Alexis Korner’s daughter Sappho and we got to hang out with a lot of his friends — and “getting it together in the country” down in Somerset, not far from Glastonbury.
Then I mentioned to Rich:
“Do you remember a gig we did in a field?”
“A gig in a field. . . with a strange-looking stage, like a pyramid. 1971 probably.”
“Are you serious?. . . . You idiot! That was the Glastonbury Festival!”
And so he filled me in. It seems that Sattva was the very first band to take the stage at the very first Glastonbury Festival. There was a gathering the previous year at Worthy Farm in Shepton Mallet, the day after Jimi Hendrix died, September 19th. By 1971, however, it had been moved to a site above the Glastonbury-Stonehenge “ley-line” and was the first festival to feature a pyramid shaped stage. Organised by Andrew Kerr and Arabella Churchill, it also moved to the time of the Summer Solstice and was known as the Glastonbury Fair. This was the event we attended. The next festival was not held until 1978.
Now I began to remember. Andrew had come to our house earlier in the year to talk about his plans and to invite us to play. When the day actually came, we received a rather frantic phone call. We were scheduled to play later in the afternoon, but the band who were due to open the proceedings had been delayed and could we come right away?
So it was that after rousing the roadies (we had roadies!) and helping them load the van and then set up on the pyramid stage it was us — Sattva — who opened the very first Glastonbury Festival (except for the camp-out at Worthy Farm the previous year.)
I don’t remember much about the performance, except that it was very windy, with the breeze coming directly towards the stage. It is very difficult to play the flute into the wind, (I remember vividly a similar experience, years later, trying to play for a wedding by the Jefferson Memorial, with a 30mph wind coming in over the reflecting pool.) As a result, I was forced to put the mic behind me and turn my back on the (admittedly small) audience. The saxophone was easier. We opened with King Kong by Frank Zappa, with yours truly leading off on soprano. It was later in the set that that I picked up the flute and started to have problems. But we got through it!
In any case, so it was that your illustrious editor-in-chief carved his name in the annals of music history.
Story by Peter Westbrook
An appeal: If anyone has, or knows the whereabouts of, any pictures of that performance, we would dearly like to get hold of them. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
We do not have pictures from the festival, but the following are shots of the band taken at:
a: A photo session in London
b: Practice sessions outside our house in Somerset
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