The Sunflower Jam 2011
On Friday 8th July 2011 Jacky Paice hosted the fifth Sunflower Jam at it’s new home – The Royal Albert Hall, London.
How fitting that The Sunflower Jam should relocate to its new home just as it blossoms into the most successful Sunflower Jam we’ve seen yet. While previous Jams have been held at the Porchester Hall, the decision was made this year to think bigger and better so The Sunflower Jam 2011 upsized to take on the majesty of the Royal Albert Hall. This year‚Äôs Jam was, without doubt, another exceptional night filled with stand up comedy, outstanding generosity and musical performances of the kind you‚Äôll only ever see once in your life.
But that wasn’t the only thing that separated this year’s Sunflower Jam from all the others. SFJ works tirelessly to raise money and awareness for Holistic and integrated care for children, young people, adults and their families with a range of acute and chronic emotional, mental and physical conditions and this year it focused its efforts on Great Ormond Street Hospital as it hoped to raise enough to build a room on the Children’s Oncology Ward allowing access to complementary treatments for children and parents and Providing funding for the College of Medicine to develop improved quality of primary and community healthcare based on using integrated, functional and natural healthcare strategies.
The Sunflower Jam Charity is a cause supported by HRH the Prince Of Wales and this year, for the first time, saw HRH The Prince of Wales himself come to the Royal Albert Hall to lend his personal support and to meet all the artists at an intimate champagne reception.
The Royal Albert Hall had, for one night only, been transformed and raised almost to the level of the Grand Loggia Boxes to create a luxurious setting for the event with an intimate yet impressive dance floor right in front of the stage. Guests were invited to dance and sing the night away as they were served a stunning three course meal overseen by Paul Clerehugh from The Crooked Billet and catered by Rhubarb.
Once again, the Sunflower Jam welcomed back Jeremy Irons as our host for the night. After an energetic and fun-filled dance performance from the team at Pineapple Studios and a highly entertaining performance from Mario Queen of the Circus and his unicycle, Jeremy Irons kicked the night off by reminding us why we were all there in the first place. He invited Michael Dixon from the College of Medicine and Dr Robert Verkerk on stage to highlight the importance of what The Sunflower Jam aims to achieve every year. Cue the auction, which benefited from some mind-blowing donations such as a weekend spent at Jeremy Irons’ Irish residence, the opportunity to be a roadie for Status Quo, a all inclusive package for sick children to go to Disney land and a signed Winston Churchill montage.
What ensued was a unique programme of collaboration between some of the greatest musicians of our time. Newton Faulkner brought us to our feet with the first song of the night presenting an acoustic, solo rendition of Queen’s epic “Bohemian Rhapsody”, followed by the beautiful “Dream Catch Me”.
The House Band kicked in to lend support and it was up to Margot Buchanan to turn up the heat and lend her vocals to Etta James original hit, “I Just Want To Make Love To You”. Thunder front man Danny Bowes joined the stage to sing “Dust My Broom” and The Boss’s “Born to Run” both a real hit with the audience and for the first time guests were on their feet dancing.
As if that wasn’t enough, it was now time for the inimitable Gary Brooker to add to the evening. Everyone in the room appeared to stop breathing as “Whiter Shade of Pale” rang out through the iconic venue. As the final note ended, it was up to Joe Bonamassa, arguably one of the best blues singers of our time, to bring us back to our feet with his rendition of “Midnight Blues” joined by Jack Moore and the ever-popular “Ballad of John Henry” in collaboration with Jon Lord who filled the room with his trade-mark Hammond blues sound.
The ‚”Hammond-Lord” took centre stage and performed “Pictured Within” and then introduced the legendary Rick Wakeman on stage for the first time. The next three and half minutes were some of the most special as Rick Wakeman took on The Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby” forcing us all to wonder whether we were watching a magician rather than a musician. A standing ovation later and Wakeman and Lord joined teams to perform “It’s Not As Big As It Was!” A title met with ironic laughs from the audience.
It was up to Newton Faulkner to bring this section of the night to a close and, just when you thought you had no more hairs to stand on end, he ended with an exceptional rendition of David Bowies “Life On Mars”. Supported by Rick Wakeman (who recorded keys for Bowies original version), Jon Lord and an uber talented super-group House Band made up of Paul “Wix” Wickens (Keys), Micky Moody (Guitar), Anna Phoebe (Violin), Nick Fyffe (Bass), Jerry Brown (Drums), Steve Balsamo (Vocals), Murray Gould (Guitar) and Margo Buchanan (Vocals), the song was a perfect and fitting end to a night that had promised to be extraordinary and unique from the start.
After a short break, the brilliant Bill Bailey emerged on stage with a six-necked guitar and proceeded to entertain the Royal Albert Hall and all its guests with his own unique mixture of music and comedy. After an exceptional response, Bailey introduced the headline act of the night (not that many of us thought it could possibly get any better at this point). Enter Deep Purple and a seven-song set list of hits that got everyone in the room on their feet and at the stage dancing and singing. Smoke on the Water with a guest appearance from Bill Bailey on the cowbells and Joe Bonamassa marked the end of the night as far as SFJ 2011 is concerned‚ but not as far as the audience are concerned. I’m pretty sure that we’ll be holding on to that night for as long as we can.
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