Review: Sing Up To Cancer, Leeds City Varieties

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IT was the night that York took over Leeds and raised more than £6,000 for Cancer Research UK.

Big Ian Donaghy is usually to be found fronting the York party band Huge, but instead last Saturday he assembled The Guestlist to “Sing Up To Cancer” at the Leeds City Varieties.

Walking into the refurbished auditorium, Craig the sound engineer surveyed the celebrated music hall and said: “This place looks like a Ferrero Rocher tastes ! It looks like the ballroom of the Titanic.”

Whereas the Titanic only went down, The Guestlist went down well, as Big Ian brought together his fund-raising band to a rapturous reception. “I felt honoured to share the stage with so many top singers and musicians,” he says. “I’ve never worked so hard for a gig in my life but it felt phenomenal.

“The Guestlist is a group of ace musicians who I’ve played with and known for more than 20 years and a load of special guests who all love unplugged music. When we play, we can mix it up to suit any songs and it’s all done acoustically, based around two guitars. It’s very different to a Huge gig and a luxury for me to listen to other fantastic performers!”

Reflecting on last Saturday’s gig, Ian says: “Graham Hodge sounded amazing with his effortless, subtle delivery of two James Taylor songs. Heather Findlay and Adam Dawson added some gorgeous harmonies and expert guitar work to have the hairs rising up on your neck.

“Las Vegas Ken Sanderson roused the crowd with a rendition of The Wild Rover– his face at the end was that of an eight-year-old Ken, proud as punch. Natalie Anderson, alias Alicia from Emmerdale, brought her West End class to the evening with songs by Snow Patrol and Whitney Houston. The crowd adored it.”

Then a shrinking violet with a bright red beehive called Jess Morgan “blew the doors off the City Varieties”. “Her covers of Hopelessly Devoted To You and Jolene had her friends and family almost exploding with pride,” says Big Ian.

“In my opinion Jess has the biggest and most striking voice I’ve ever heard in York and I’ve sung there with Lulu!”

Saxophonist Mick Donnelly showed why his CV includes Sammy Davis Jr, Robbie Williams and Lisa Stansfield with solos that had the audience aghast; Dave Hardy controlled the night on pots and pans; George Hall was the yardstick of keyboard genius, even at 83; and Martin Ledger and Phil Hardy broke more hearts than strings with their fretwork.

As for Big Ian, in Mr Saturday Night in an old music hall mode, he expressed his softer side with Bonnie Raitt’s I Can’t Make You Love Me and roused the house with Otis Redding and The Kinks classics before ending with KT Tunstall’s Black Horse And A Cherry Tree and Adele’s Rolling In The Deep.

“The crowd also sang Bring Me Ssunshine for little Jamie Inglis who sadly passed away last month – a little boy who has left a lasting impression at Lord Deramore’s School,” says Big Ian. “Thanks to everyone for their efforts, including Pavers Shoes, who sponsorwed the event, with significant donations made by Monarch Laundry and Barclays too.

“Good things happen when you involve good people. It was an honour to play in such a beautiful venue with such a great bunch of guest singers.”

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