Photo by Talia Andrea
While walking to Woolwich Works, you might start to think you’ve gotten lost; the new creative district is a redeveloped fireworks factory which almost blends in with the quiet residential area surrounding it. Look inside, though, and you’re greeted with a bustling café full of patrons of all ages, and even a small art exhibition right beside it.
Woolwich Works’ live event space is similarly warm and welcoming: the room is large, but also manages to be cosy, with comfortably-spaced seating and lanterns glimmering from every table. It’s the ideal atmosphere for their event on the evening of March 19th, which is set to be a celebration of British cultural and musical icon Amy Winehouse’s life and legacy, performed by the National Youth Jazz Orchestra—from whom Amy herself was an alumna.
The big band jazz orchestra, conducted by arranger Olivia Murphy, begin the performance with an arresting rendition of ‘Back To Black’. Its unique jazz inflection, combined with the power and soul of vocalist Lucy-Ann Daniels’ voice, gives the original song all the drama of a Bond theme. Impressively, NYJO show that like Amy, they refuse to be confined to one genre: beneath the umbrella of jazz music, the arrangements take on countless nuances from Latin fusion (‘Know You Now’) to reggae (‘Just Friends’). Almost every member of the 24-piece orchestra has their own solo at some point in the night, displaying the talent and hard work that clearly earned each of them a place in the ensemble.
Speaking on Winehouse’s everlasting influence between songs, Olivia Murphy comments that “how she covered grief and pain [in her music], but also love and the joys of life, was so beautiful”. It takes a talented vocalist to capture the myriad emotions that were ever-present in Winehouse’s all-important album Back To Black, and Daniels is able to do just that. Amy is an artist that many have tried to imitate, but which no one has been able to match. Daniels avoids the route of tacky impersonations that so many cover artists have gone down, and allows her vocals to shine on their own, without ever attempting to carbon-copy Amy’s unique tone of voice. Her own voice, in combination with the strong impact of the live orchestra’s sound, is more than capable of sending goosebumps up your arms and chills down your spine; by the end of each song, you feel torn between a celebration of Amy’s work, and ruminating on the tragedy of her loss. That’s how you know the event was more than a success—but the enthusiastic standing ovation given to the performers at the end of the night might also have been an indication.
To see what else is happening at Woolwich Works, be sure to check out their website.