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Music@Malling will feature Ronnie Scott's James Pearson and big band singer Matt Ford in its finale

Frank Sinatra’s biggest hits may not be what you expect to hear in a traditional English church, but not every church has its own diverse music festival.

Now in its sixth year, Music@Malling brings music from classics to community groups and world-class professionals to primary school pupils to West Malling and the surrounding area.

For big-band singer Matt Ford, who has played with some of the world’s biggest orchestras
in venues from the Royal Festival Hall to Abbey Road Studios, St Mary’s Church in West Malling may sound like an unlikely venue.

Big band singer Matt Ford, singing at Music@Malling
Big band singer Matt Ford, singing at Music@Malling

“That is the business – one minute you’re in the Albert Hall, the next you’re in Pizza Express, but we regularly perform in churches,” said Matt.

“You would imagine it would be really tricky in a church, particularly with how it is laid out inside, but when you are in there and it’s dark outside and the focus is right at the front, it’s a very intimate setting. The acoustics are great. There’s a good natural reverberation to it. It’s beautiful.”

Matt will sing tracks from Close to You, one of the great Sinatra recordings for Capitol Records, at the finale concert of the festival, on Saturday, October 1. He will be joined by other top-flight musicians including James Pearson, artistic director of Ronnie Scott’s jazz club in London.

James Pearson of Ronnie Scott's, playing at Music@Malling
James Pearson of Ronnie Scott's, playing at Music@Malling

Music@Malling, which this year had concerts running across nine days, was founded by local lad Thomas Kemp, himself a professional conductor.

“It’s nice to play the different venues,” Matt added. “You don’t get that atmosphere when you play the bigger venues. We played Music@Malling two years ago and it went so well Thomas wanted us back.”

Matt plays around the world, performing for five years with the Syd Lawrence Orchestra, but it has taken more than 20 years of hard graft to get there.

“When I started in the late 1980s and early 1990s, no-one else was doing Frank Sinatra. It was before Buble and Robbie Williams wasn’t on the scene, but I spotted a gap in the market. I don’t try to sound like Sinatra though. You have got to be yourself. You’ve got to have your own voice. I never wanted to be a soundalike but you listen to the masters of the craft and pick up tips. I kind of pick and mix, if you like – pick the best bits from all of them.”

Thomas Kemp, director of Music@Malling
Thomas Kemp, director of Music@Malling


Music@Malling, which runs until Saturday, October 1, has events in a number of locations. On Friday, September 30, St Mary’s Church in West Malling will play host to a Bach Pilgrimage concert with Matthews Owens on organ, while in the evening there will be a concert by candlelight from 8pm with Stile Antico, West Malling Community Choir and Sami Junnonen on flute.

On Saturday, October 1, there will be a concert in the unusual setting on the historic Control Tower at Kings Hill at 1pm and the finale concert, Close To You II with Matt Ford at St Mary’s Church at 8pm. For tickets and details visit musicatmalling.com

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