Clare Teal – The First Ladies of Swing

Clare TealClare Teal will be performing with The RTE Concert Orchestra of Friday 12th August at 8.00pm in The National Concert Hall. Clare has been a popular jazz singer in the UK for many years but her influence is immense as she hosts her own Big Band Swing show for BBC Radio 2 on a Sunday night and has often produced and presented The BBC Proms when it has showcased Swing Bands.

Prior to her return to Ireland I got a chance to catch up with Clare and find out more about her and this wonderful project she is bringing to the NCH.

Q) How often have you been to Ireland?

Dublin is one of my favourite places in the world. I have been in Ireland about five times working with the orchestra and about three of those times with John Wilson. But I have also been to Dublin on Holidays, when I can catch a holiday!

 One of the trips to Ireland was a little tour with John Wilson. We went to Belfast and tried to get to Wexford but got snowed in but we then managed to get to Galway.

Q) What is the project you will be performing in the NCH?

I released an album back in April with a debut concert in The Bridgewater Hall, Manchester. The Clare Teal Album CoverAlbum was called Twelve O’Clock Tales. Guy Barker arranged most of the tunes on the album and it was produced in association with The Halle Orchestra. I started talking to the Halle Orchestra in the Summer of 2015 and we finally got into a recording Studio for two days in February this year. It was a huge undertaking with 93 musicians but without the wonderful cooperation of the Halle Orchestra we couldn’t have done it.

Earlier this year the RTE Concert Orchestra manager was calling me to do another project and I couldn’t do it but I said that I had had just finished working on this album, Twelve O’Clock Tales with the Halle Orchestra and Guy Barker. He said he’d be very interested in having that project come to Dublin and so here we are.

 Q) Tell us a little bit more about the album?

With this album we wanted to play to the orchestra’s strengths. So although we did bolt a roaring big band onto the side of the orchestra we still had a massive string section and lovely creamy woodwinds and French horns and harps. Some of the tracks we play without the Saxophones so we could still show all the colours of the orchestra I love singing these older songs although we do have some more contemporary songs on the album, this is what I do. I always like to pay tribute to the Ella’s and the Doris Day’s and the Peggy’s and the writers who wrote theses songs.

 Q) Despite your unique connection with Swing and The Big Band era you often perform with a trio. What do you like about the smaller ensemble?

Everything I do stems from the trio ensemble, it a bed of creatively. I love working with the trio because you can change your mind with a moments notice. Nine times out of ten they will be able to come with me. I respond to what I am hearing and I then react to it.

 Q) How long have you been involved with the BBC and how did it come about?

From the age of eight to eighteen I was obsessed by Swing and Big Band music. Every library book I could get my hands on, every record, every film on the subject I consumed and it’s fair to say that I was a little bit of a geek on the subject. One day, about twelve years ago I was being interview by a broadcaster on BBC Radio 2 when another broadcaster, Desmond Carrington heard the interview. He rang the controller of BBC Radio 2 and said that he had just heard Clare on the radio and he liked the way I spoke, he liked the way I talk and he would like to make a radio show with me. So I made two series of shows with Desmond before they offered me Big Band Special.

It’s great fun playing your favorite records to other people, educating and introducing your favorite music to people who don’t necessarily know a lot about that kind of music. It helps me as a singer as well because every Wednesday I sit down and spend 4-5 hours listening to music in preparation for the following Sunday’s show. So I start asking myself who arranged that, and who sang that part and that’s a good song I might try that and it keeps me inspired to my music choices.

Clare Teal BBC Big Band

Q) You have presented a couple of shows about Big Band music for the BBC Proms and you have done a sterling job. Is TV work an option for the future?

I have never chased other TV work. Building the Proms show I tended to think radio first, It’s an awful lot of work, wonderful work, putting it all together. What was funny is that when I was writing the script the TV people kept asking me, did I have to keep naming very band? I said yes because it’s on the radio. If more TV work came up I would love to do it but what I like about the radio is that it is so intimate, it’s you and the microphone, a pile of records and the listeners, What I found difficult when I started doing the radio was I didn’t get a response, there was no audience that I could see or hear, so that took a lot of getting use to.

 Q) You carry out many roles in the music industry. How do you describe yourself?

 I hate labels, I just keep myself busy. I am a broadcaster, I perform, record, I write an article for the Yorkshire Post. I enjoy all the things I do; they all just roll into one. I suppose I would say I was a singer first and foremost.

Tickets for Clare’s Concert with The RTE Concert Orchestra priced €12 – €39 are available from The National concert Hall. Clare’s latest album Twelve O’Clock Tales is available from

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