The funeral of Randy Colville Joe Silmon
I went to Randy's funeral in Rainham, Kent, yesterday. It took place at the Blue
Bell Crematorium, about 4 miles from Chatham. Although a very awkward place to
get to, I made it after a split-leg train journey, involving changes between
London-St. Pancras and Victoria, using Chatham as a final destination - from the
nearest bus-drop-off point to the Crematorium with 10 minutes to spare before
the service began at 1:20 p.m., thanks to a total stranger of whom I had asked
the way, as I got off the connecting bus. As he explained the extremely
convoluted directions, he said. "It would be easier to take you there; I'm
going in that general direction anyway - hop in!". God bless him.
I was the only one from the Manchester area, by the way, other than Rod Hamer,
his new wife Val and Roy Bower (now living in Wendover, Bucks. and Hove, E.
Sussex, respectively - who send their regards to everyone up here who knew
them). I have the following to report:
I knew from way back in the early 60s - when we first played together in each
other's bands at the MSG, Jazz Northwest venues, the Black Lion, etc. - that he
would one day be a shining Jazz star. However, I had not fully realised that
Randy Colville had become so much of an institution in his own right. His
funeral attracted about 300. In a reasonably-sized chapel. All pews were full to
overflowing and all window seats around the chapel occupied, people standing,
packed like sardines in the central and side isles and porch and, I believe the
queue continued outside for a good few yards around the chapel.
Although unbeknown to me, Randy's sisters Joy and Sandra - and their families -
were present, the only members of his family I saw there, were his wife (Joan),
son (Iain - who looks very much like Randy, when I first met him at age 18 or
19) and his beautiful and extremely pleasant daughter, Polly, who had cleverly
provided individual commemorative photographs and had produced a large
photo-montage of snaps showing most phases of her Father's early, school-day and
eventually musical life. Some of Manchester musos were included (Ken Wray, Doug
Whaley, Alan Hare, Frank Gibson [and although very undeservedly, yours truly] -
from Randy's OLD FASHIONED LOVE BAND broadcast of 1971, or 72 , at the Victoria
Inn, Hardman St., Manchester, showing Alan Stevens and John Featherstone, who
produced and presented it, along with some of the more famous British and
American Jazz exponents who Randy played with and graced with his excellent and
exhillarating style, over past and recent years, such as the COTTON CLUB
ORCHESTRA, YANK LAWSON'S band and a list too long to mention in an e-mail. It
was a biography in itself; put together with the great love of a daughter.
Although to some, he seemed a 'dour Scot', he was a great and loving father and
family man - who is very much missed by them, as was quite evident yesterday.
However, the lack of other relatives at the funeral and reception later, at the
Robin Hood in Rainham, was certainly made up by scores of members of
Britain's Jazz community, ex-colleagues from various bands - some with big names
in Jazz, such as Digby Fairweather (that wonderful trumpet star and ex-presenter
of Classical programmes on Classic FM as well as Jazz), Peter Strange,
trombonist, composer, arranger and close colleague from his time with the
Humphrey Lyttelton band, Alan Elsdon and wife June, the two well-known
ex-Manchester colleagues mentioned in my opening paragraph, now living in
southern England, the whole of THE MIDNIGHT FOLLIES down to a man - who played
some lovely, appropriate Jazz during the funeral procession, and the whole of
the KEITH NICHOLL'S ensemble was there too, and sidemen from the Randy's famous
COLEVILLE COLLECTION (which Randy told me only 2 years ago played the old
arrangements and his own compositions - such as his 3/4 piece: "Highland
Swing" plus "Broadway", "Riverboat Shuffle", "South
Rampart Street Parade", "Whisper not" - that we used to
play in his second version of the OLD FASHIONED LOVE BAND in the early
Present also, were ex-colleagues and ex-pupils of Randy's from his recent
workplace the, MID-KENT COLLEGE, Rainham, Gillingham, where he taught for a
quarter of a century and turned out an endless stream of great interpreters and
performers of Jazz and Classical Music. They played some fine classical strings
and woodwind pieces - magnificently - a credit to their old and worthy Master.
Randy himself had first "played us into the chapel", with that
magnificent clarinette tone of his, with both Classical and Jazz pieces. It was
all wonderful - not like a funeral at all; more like a get-together to share old
memories - a real celebration of the man's very busy and productive musical
life. Knowing how long it would take for countless individual 'celebration'
stories to be recounted, it had been tactfully decided to confine this task to
both the chapel's Minister and Pete Strange. Many amusing tales were told in the
short space of time at their disposal and Pete gave him a really fitting and
tasteful eulogy and send-off on behalf of us all, during which he briefly
produced an entire life history of our sadly departed friend. When asked if
Randy might be playing in a band, UP THERE right now, Pete replied "I
should think in many bands, and he'll be telling them how to do it". He won
a thundering round of aplause - so strange and unexpected at a funeral service!
- but perfectly apt at the time.
I was rather disappointed that the present Manchester Evening News, who made
such journalistic capital out of Randy (and indeed out of all those of us who
set up, upheld and made up the very fabric of the local Jazz community, without
whom there would never have been a 'Local Jazz Scene'), when it suited them in
the past, but who never even mentioned Randy's passing - although I had informed
with plenty of time via two prominent sources about Randy's death, when
"THE INDEPENDENT" allowed our famous old Jazz critic friend Steve Voce
to provide a finely composed mini-biography of Randy covering about a sixth of a
page. He was so famous on the local Jazz scene, between the 60s and 80s; surely
he deserved at least 2 column-inches of space, for the sake of Manchester's Jazz
community, whom he thoroughly entertained, often in open-mouthed admiration for
so many years!
Stay well, old friends, look after your health. No more funerals please! Every
good wish to you all.