The Big Band from the Swiss mountains
Sometime in 2006 a group of jazz musicians in Villars conceived the idea of putting together a big band locally. They were soon joined by others, many of them staff from the various international schools in the region, but also French-speaking musicians from the Chablais region. They asked Andy Gray to be their director and the first band photo shows that some ten years later more than half the members are still in the VVJO.
The band's debut was at a function in the Montreux Palace in December 2006 and further concerts were held at venues in Villars and further afield, including the quays of Montreux in 2008 and the Swiss National Day in Villars on August the 1st, 2009.
From September 2009 to February 2011, the orchestra was placed under the direction of Christian Rudaz.
An important association for the band began in 2010 with prestigious festival *Classiques de Villars*. Almost every year since then the band has participated in opening or closing concerts, with a particular highlight being the accompaniment of the singer and humorist Michel Leeb in 2011.
The Villars Vanguard attaches particular importance to the fact that it is above all a group of musicians who have real pleasure in meeting each week to share engaging, witty, challenging and enjoyable music. The musicians are characterized by their thoroughness and good humor; with some ambition, certainly, but unpretentious. As cosmopolitan as the village whose name it bears, Villars Vanguard consists of an amazing range of nationalities, comprising an equal number of French-speaking and English-speaking musicians.
In 2009 Roger Scupham took over as director, bringing an emphasis on focus on detail and musicality.
A further step forward in the evolution of the VVJO came with the appointment, in September 2013, of Wolfgang Hanninger as director. A rising European jazz star, on tenor sax and clarinet, Wolfgang brings a wealth of big band experience, meticulous attention to detail, boundless energy and an insistence that all members should solo!
Almost Wolfgang's first initiative was to begin a fruitful association with the Burghausen Big Band, his alma mater. The two bands shared a concert at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 2014, closing with three singers and 40 musicians on stage! Jules Guarneri's video clip captures the spirit of this memorable event.
VVJO went to Burghausen for a repeat shared concert, reprised in 2016, and the BBB made a memorable contribution to Villars Big 2015.
A feature of the band's programme in recent years has been a regular series of concerts through the winter season at The Harambee in Barboleuse. At first the idea was to hold an "open rehearsal", but the occasions have become characterised by relaxed informality and the enthusiasm of both the musicians and their local following. This is a view from the bandstand.
Currently on summer break, with ears still ringing from the highly successful Villars BIG 2016, The VVJO can only wonder at the new challenges to come. In the meantime, here is a picture of the band that went to Bavaria in February, and the current lineup of the VVJO.
Wolfgang Hanninger Director, ts, cl
Joana Jantet voc
Rhythm: Luigi La Marca d, voc, Roger Scupham p, André Jungo b, Richard Lunn g
Trumpets: Robin Scott tp, Roberto Brera tp, Janique Bonzon tp, Eric Huber tp
Trombones: Nigel Gaston tb, Brian Martineau, Pascal Michel tb, Middleton Squier tb, Mark Elliott btb, Robert Brooks btb
Saxophones: Richard McDonald as, sop, Oskar Guarneri as, Mélanie Aviolat as, Kate Bates as, fl, Jenny Hankin as, Tom Krüger ts, Peter Fretz ts, Louise Brooke ts, cl, Jean Guarneri bar