Jazz legend Val pens poem to remember special homecoming concert

Published 21st December 2018

Val Wiseman with Sandwell's mayor
Photo courtesy of Merlin Daleman

Jazz legend Val Wiseman enjoyed her homecoming concert in West Bromwich so much this year that she has written a Christmas greetings poem inspired by her return to the town. 

Nearly 200 people packed into Central Library West Bromwich in July to enjoy Val’s Lady Sings The Blues tribute to Billie Holiday, one of more than 20 concerts held across Sandwell as part of the Birmingham, Solihull and Sandwell Jazz Festival.

The Mayor of Sandwell Councillor Joy Edis presented West Bromwich-born Val with a Certificate of Recognition at the concert, in honour of the singer’s long career and achievements.

It’s become a Christmas tradition over the years for Val to send a Christmas poem to friends and associates in the music world.

This year’s poem – The Continuing Saga of ‘Legendary Val!’ – talks about seeing old faces at the concert and reminisces about starting her performing career in West Bromwich before she headed for London in search of fame.

Val said: “Returning to perform in my hometown was so special to me and I can honestly say, receiving the award was the highlight of my career. Definitely worth a poetic appraisal!”

Councillor Steve Trow, Sandwell Council’s cabinet member for culture and core council services, said: “It was wonderful to welcome Val back to West Bromwich as part of this summer’s jazz festival and an added treat that she chose to pen a poem for Christmas remembering a very special concert.”

As an official member of the jazz festival for a second year running, Sandwell hosted concerts every day during the festival, which ran from 20-29 July. More than 20 concerts took place across Sandwell, most of which were in libraries, museums and parks. More than 1,700 people attended the concerts which featured a host of homegrown and international talent.

West Bromwich-born Val got her first taste of showbusiness dancing in a talent show at Dartmouth Park aged just four. She went on to develop an interest in art and jazz, attending classes at Ryland Memorial Art School near the library and joining a jazz appreciation society run by her art teacher at Cronehills Technical School.

At 18, she joined the West Side Jazz Band which had a residency at the old Dartmouth Hotel. A year after joining the West Side Jazz Band as singer, Val joined Birmingham’s Second City Jazzmen. At 21, she left for London to become vocalist with the legendary Monty Sunshine and his band.

For her concert in July, Val was joined by Digby Fairweather on trumpet, Roy Williams on trombone and bassist Len Skeat. Pianist Brian Dee, saxophonist/clarinettist Alan Barnes and drummer Eric Ford.

The 2019 Birmingham, Solihull and Sandwell Jazz Festival will run from 19 – 28 July.

The poem: 

The continuing saga of 'Legendary Val'! 

I've been declared a legend "but what for?" I hear you cry

It happened in West Bromwich when I sang there in July

During my performance singing songs for Lady Day

Up popped the mayor with frame in hand and kindly words to say:

 

This is just for you my dear, a daughter of this town -

You may have left us years ago but didn't let us down." 

It really was appealing seeing faces I once knew

Old friends all there revealing risqué things we used to do!

 

What constitutes a legend - have I reached a certain age?

Or perhaps it was the day I first appeared upon the stage

A talent show had beckoned "read your poem" father said

But this contrary four year old preferred to dance instead!

 

I couldn't really dance but when I heard the people laugh

I made my mind up there and then to take the showbiz path

Through school I did impressions it became a sort of gimmick

Hilda Baker, Beryl Reid and certain teachers I could mimic

 

I then discovered jazz and sang with all the local bands

Which brought a whole new meaning to the term of one night stands!

A search for fame in London for this starstruck Midlands girl

Became a life of gigs and tours in one big social whirl

 

Fast forward to the present day I've managed to survive

After cancer scares and hip repairs I'm glad to be alive!

With weddings, gigs and Brontë friends who share my secret passion

I'm embracing all the latest trends and look - I'm back in fashion! 

                             

So it's on with all my travels just as long as health remains

Before my brain unravels and I start forgetting names

Now in the autumn of my years must I review the past?

No thanks this gal's got more to do I've saved the best till last!