An abiding image of Corinne is her presence during seemingly never-ending lunches at long tables under trees in dappled sunshine, deep in the French countryside, with the laughter and friendship of people brought together by the power of music. And at the centre of it a smiling Corinne, in her element, quietly enjoying the fruits of our shared labours. And around the table would be many familiar faces including members of the Brass Band now lost, like Corinne: Paul Rutherford, Tony Marsh, Danilo Terenzi, Phil Clarke. These were glory days. May Corinne Rest in Peace.
Kate Westbrook with The Mike Westbrook Orchestra and Le Sinfonietta de Picardie directed by Alexandre Myrat.Recorded Paris December 1987. Music by Mike Westbrook.
11 November 1918
November 2018 Posts
Remembering John and Margery Styles, founder members of Smith’s Academy.
Marking the Centenary of the end of the First World War with a setting of the poem “Blighters” by Siegfried Sassoon from the Picardie section of the album London Bridge is Broken Down.
The House is crammed: tier beyond tier they grin
And cackle at the show, while prancing ranks
Of harlots shrill the chorus, drunk with din.
“We’e sure the Kaiser loves our dear old tanks!”
I’d like to see a tank come down the stalls,
Lurching to rag-time tunes, or ‘Home sweet Home’,
And there’d be no more jokes in Music-halls
To mock the riddled corpses round Bapaume.
Siegfried Sassoon (b. Kent 1886, d. Wiltshire 1967)
The Band of the 5th Australian Infantry Brigade, led by Bandmaster Sergeant A Peagam of the 19th Battalion, passing through the Grande Place (Town Square) of Bapaume, playing the Victoria March. The ruins of the town are still smouldering, and smoke rises from the debris of surrounding buildings.
01 November 2018
13 November 2018
We were greatly saddened to hear of the death in Paris at the end of October of Corinne Leonet. Corinne was not only a wonderfully effective agent, she was a close, very dear friend.
The 80s and early 90s, the Mitterand years, were a good time for the Arts and for jazz in France. Every major city had its Maison de la Culture, and every small town its Centre d’Action Culturelle. Jazz in particular seemed to express the optimism of the times and it sometimes seemed that every village had its summer jazz festival.
At a time when we rarely played in the UK, we regularly set off to the continent in the minibus to Germany, Italy, Switzerland and Scandinavia, and most of all to France. A tour in May became a regular fixture, and there were numerous festivals and collaborations with French musicians and theatre groups. This was also the period that produced such major commissioned works as On Duke’s Birthday, London Bridge and the opera Quichotte. All this was masterminded by Corinne. To her, running an agency was no mere commercial activity, it was a labour of love and friendship. But behind her modest demeanour she was a true professional. She gave of herself generously, her reward being the pleasure of seeing her bands on stage. Other UK based artists she worked with in France included Chris McGregor and his Brotherhood of Breath.
Somehow in the 90s the atmosphere changed. As elsewhere in Europe a swing to the right meant less funding for contemporary art, commercialism began to tighten its grip and many clubs and smaller festivals went to the wall.
For whatever reason, Corinne gave up her agency. She had other plans, but things did not go well. She was overtaken by depression and gradually withdrew from the scene. For this sophisticated Parisienne who read Libération every day, who was at the centre of a whole network of forward-looking friends and colleagues, who so enjoyed a convivial supper and lively conversation about art, politics, literature and cinema, as well as gossip about the scene, this was tragic indeed.
For her own safety Corinne spent her last days in a Paris care home. She had a bright upstairs room, looking down on a busy street, but she seemed indifferent to her surroundings and mostly saw her sister Nadine, her brother and her more intimate friends including Hélène Aziza. When Kate and I visited her with Hélène nearly a year ago, she spoke scarcely at all. But there was a glimpse of her former self when Corinne broke the silence to say, calmly and deliberately, and in her excellent English, that she was glad to see us. Her condition gradually declined and in recent months she became totally uncommunicative. She died peacefully at 1am on October 31st.
We were fortunate to be working with Corinne at a time when the scene was at its most open to experiment and to new ideas. It was hard work. We had our triumphs. Some of our projects were controversial, others not well received. Either way we artists felt that what we did mattered. Moreover a gig was a social as well as a musical occasion, a gathering of jazz fans, fellow musicians and like-minded people generally. And whether in Paris or some provincial town there was always somewhere that stayed open late.
She was largely responsible for the long and fruitful relationship that we and our fellow musicians enjoyed with the French jazz world. A turning point in the Brass Band’s career came with a performance of Mama Chicago at the Angoulême Festival in 1979. The morning after the concert Corinne offered to be our agent in France.
‘Corinne' 1992 oil on canvas Kate Westbrook 76 x 101cm