A concert in memory of the talented young musician who tragically died at Tamworth’s SnowDome was held at Symphony Hall, a B:Music venue on Saturday 5 March.
Hundreds of people attended the memorial to commemorate the life of 12-year-old saxophonist Louis Watkiss and the talent he developed at Symphony Hall.
Louis was a member of B:Music’s Jazzlines Summer School which he attended last August, just a month before his passing. He was also a keen player in B:Music’s Jazzlines Ensemble and the Birmingham Schools’ Jazz Ensemble. Louis received tuition from Services for Education and reached Grade 5 at saxophone through the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music.
B:Music’s Talent Development Manager, Richard Foote worked closely with Louis Watkiss on his participation in B:Music’s Jazzlines Summer School and Jazzlines Ensemble. He said, “Louis was a very talented young saxophonist and his passion for jazz and music was infectious. He was always willing to get involved and have a go. It was a privilege to be able to put on this concert to celebrate Louis’s life, and we have selected a programme of tunes that Louis loved to play and listen to.”
The first half of the memorial concert showcased Jazzlines Summer School tutors and peer mentors who have come together in Louis’ memory to form a band and perform some of his favourite jazz numbers. The band featured acclaimed musicians including 2018 BBC Young Jazz Musician of the Year Xhosa Cole, bass player James Owston, drummer Ric Yarborough, and pianist and synth player Piera Onacko alongside John Fleming on Tenor Saxophone, Lucy Mellenfield on vocals and Alicia Gardener-Trejo on Baritone saxophone.The repertoire included Art Blakey’s Moanin’, Dave Brubeck’s Take 5, and Horace Silver’s Song for my Father.
The Birmingham Schools’ Jazz Ensemble performed in the second half of the free to attend concert.
You can hear Elise Evans at the event via BBC Sounds here
Louis’s father Chris Watkiss said that music played a huge part in his son’s life: “Music meant such a lot to Louis- from the thrill of playing jazz on his saxophone to listening to his playlists on Spotify. I was never aware of what type of music was on his playlists but after he passed, I had a look. I was so pleased to see the variety. From John Coltrane to Miles Davis to N.W.A, and from the likes of Ezra Collective and Camilla George to Guns N’ Roses and Nirvana. Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday were even on there. To me, this meant that Louis understood that every type of music has the power to evoke various types of emotions.
This concert means so much to us as a family. To hear the music that Louis loved playing will be such an honour. The fact that it has been organised in tribute to him is so, so very generous and thoughtful. All the musicians that have kindly given their time and effort to contribute is very humbling to us. Thank you so much to everyone for making this happen.”
As a legacy to Louis, B:Music have also named a seat after him in Symphony Hall. Row L, seat 15 in the stalls will honour Louis’s part in Symphony Hall’s community of jazz artists and his talent that was taken too soon.
Over £2,500 was raised for B:Music educational work in Louis’s memory.
A collage dedicated to Louis was displayed on the digital screen overlooking Centenary Square, designed by Barbara Gibson, the colour palette was inspired by Louis’ sporting interests, incorporating colours from the Birmingham Bear’s logo, as well as Louis’ favourite colour of navy blue. Added elements refer to his passion and interest in sport and music. Orange was included as a symbolic reference to creativity and sunshine.
Louis' talent was taken too soon. He is missed.