Expanded horizons for Joe Stilgoe at Chichester Festival Theatre

This time last year Joe Stilgoe was at Chichester Festival Theatre with his trio in the Minerva.

Joe Stilgoe
Joe Stilgoe

This year he is back with an 18-piece big band on the main-house stage (January 17, 7.30pm, www.cft.org.uk).

“They have upgraded me ridiculously!

“I was wanting to do a Christmas show at Chichester.

“But they couldn’t cater for me, so I am coming for a post-Christmas festive big-band show instead.

“It will be great to have the big band and to be performing not just me sitting at a piano rolling out the songs.

“It gives me a great chance to work again with some of the brilliant musicians that I have got to know and that I have become friends with, and it will be great to be doing the Sinatras and the Ella Fitzgerald songs that they used to perform in front of a big band.

“It’s really special to hear the roar of a big band behind you, and it is also great when they are all there but have got their mutes on and quieten things down a bit.

“It will all be very nostalgic, lots of new arrangements of classic songs.

“I loved it last year. It was such a warm crowd. I loved the whole experience – and all the links that my family has with Chichester, and not just my dad (Richard) who did the Chichester Festival Theatre Christmas concerts for many years.

“And also we had a great friend of the family, Richard Gregson Williams (for many years the director of the old Chichester Festivities) who used to book dad for a lot of things.”

Adding to the Chichester connections is the fact that Chichester Festival Theatre will also be staging the new touring production of The Jungle Book (January 25-February 3, www.cft.org.uk), for which Joe wrote the music.

“I got a call early last year, around April.

“The brilliant Jessica Swale had written a play and they wanted three or four songs to give it some music, and I ended up writing 14 and it is now a full-blown musical.

“It was just a lovely process. Jessica and I started working together, and we just kept on adding songs on.”

Inevitably, part of the process was putting all the Disney songs from his mind to create something entirely new.

“The Jungle Book film so informed my love of music with all those wonderful Sherman Brothers songs.

“But I loved the fact that we had to move away from that.

“But Jessica’s script was so fun and funny that it was easy to know how the songs should go. I jumped in, and I just loved it. It is such a great story.”

Joe is a Sussex resident these days, having moved to Hove a couple of years ago.

“We were wanting to get out of London and live by the sea. We have got friends down here.

“And we just love the place and love the Sussex life.”

And it looks like another busy year ahead.

With The Jungle Book up and running and on the road, Joe is already thinking ahead to his next album called Night.

“It is something that I have been wanting to do for a while.

“I am someone who obviously has to work nights, and now I have got a daughter it feels like I know all hours of the night! I feel I know them all very intimately.

“I want to explore the night in a collection of songs, the mystery of the night, songs about night time.”

Joe is also contemplating another big band project for this year.