Manchester … Massachusetts.

It’s 7pm here in Manchester by the Sea, Massachusetts. The event that I’ve been flown over for has started and it’s possibly the most perfect setting that I have ever performed at. New England is just so beautiful. I’m not on until 9.30pm as I’m “top of the bill” so it’s sitting in my room until I get the green light.

The oyster and champagne bars are in full swing and before too many shells are cracked I’m given the thumbs up. My host Elizabeth Moore delivers a few words welcoming all to her summer party and tells her guests how she heard me sing earlier this year in Florida and why she wanted me to entertain her friends. Each trip to the US I’m greeted with such warmth and enthusiasm. This occasion is no exception. The wonderful evening is topped off with the most perfect blue moon hovering over us. Magic!

Friday morning to the world renowned Newport Jazz festival. Due to the determination of the Yoda of Jazz, George Wein it’s now in its 60th year. George was not only celebrating his 60th festival but also his 90th birthday – so it was double celebrations all round.

I had been invited to the opening concert with 28 year old pianist Jon Batiste and the international award winning trumpeter Chris Botti at the International Tennis Hall of fame in Newport Rhode Island. Botti is an outstanding musician and with showstoppers like “When I Fall in love” and “Emmanuel” he certainly dazzled us. But warm up act Batiste gave us a full on stomping freewheeling performance which blew us all away. The evening was fantastic with fireworks – all on a gorgeous New England summer night.

Batiste just left me wanting more and it was more I got the following morning at the main festival along with the likes of Jamie Cullum, award winning Cassandra Wilson, piano giants Camilo / Hiromi, Kenny Garrett Quintet, Dr John  and the Nite Trippers etc. Four stages full all weekend entertained the crowds with the best Jazz the world has to offer.  

Saturday evening the fun continued when I was invited to the Festival’s Gala Dinner at the magnificent Breakers House. It was the most amazing evening celebrating the success of the festival’s founder George Wein. Although I had never heard of or met George before it was obvious that his energy and love for the festival and Jazz was the reason that so many world class artists want to be a part of the Festival. Great food, wonderful company, world class music took us into the early hours of the morning.

We ended up talking with Jon Batiste, a generous human being and after an inspiring chat on how opera and Jazz could join I popped into the centre of Newport. Each corner was bursting with live music it was just fantastic. Eventually I found my hotel and fell into bed exhausted with joy. Thank you Elizabeth Moore and Rhode Island for showing me something beyond my imagination.

Soon to be back on a plane to my homeland, I wave goodbye to the beautiful views (The Proposal was filmed next door) and it’s back down to earth for me.

This article was originally published in the Carmarthen Journal in Mark’s weekly column for the paper.

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