The Mill Hill Music Festival opens on Saturday. And it just keeps getting bigger and better, as IAN LLOYD reports

When jazz singer Stacey Kent performed an impromptu set for the Mill Hill Music Festival in 1999, few could have known her dulcet tones would soon be heard on radios across the globe.

Four years on and Kent will return to next week's festival as one of the headline acts having been crowned the BBC's best jazz vocalist in 2002 and scooped the 2001 British Jazz Award.

It is little wonder tickets for her performance, at Holcombe House in The Ridgeway next Thursday (June 5), sold out in a flash.

Emerging young musical talent is one of the key themes of this year's festival, with Mill Hill-born composer Philip Seaton premiering a specially-commissioned piece called The Mill Suite at St Michael and All Angels Church, Flower Lane, on the opening night.

The renowned chamber ensemble the Fibonacci Sequence will perform another work composed by Seaton called the Bitter Suite, at his former school, Mill Hill, in The Ridgeway, on Wednesday (June 4).

Mill Hill acoustic band Paradox, cellist Lawrence Durkin and violinist Jana Novakova will all be hoping their young careers will take off at the festival, just as Kent's did. A certain Antony Costa also started off singing Robbie Williams covers at the festival and is now part of the chart-topping boy band Blue.

"The range is particularly broad this year and we have been able to showcase a lot of young bands," said Jane Ellison, one of the festival organisers.

"We see the theme of this year's festival as emerging young talent. This ranges from a young composer, Philip Seaton, having his piece world premiered, through to the band Paradox, who are all young and also from Mill Hill."

The festival kicks off on Saturday at 11am, when the Franklin Street New Orleans Jazz Band will stroll along Mill Hill Broadway playing, before moving on to Mill Hill Park in Daws Lane at around 1.30pm.

Performances throughout the week by jazz bands, gospel, opera, folk and tango groups will bring halls, pubs, schools and churches across Mill Hill to life.

"What is special about the festival is that it is run entirely by local people, for local people," says Ellison.

"It is a unique opportunity to bring together the talent of our area with some top professional acts who people would otherwise have to travel distances to go and see."

Visit the web site for more information.

Organisers are advising people to book tickets in advance and check for availability at Nomad Travel in Mill Hill Broadway. Call 020 8906 4151.

The festival line-up

Saturday (May 31) : 11.30am, The Franklin Street New Orleans Jazz Band strolls along Mill Hill Broadway before playing in Mill Hill Park, Daws Lane, at 1.30pm, and the Barnet Band takes over at 2.30pm; from 7pm, garden party at the Adam & Eve, The Ridgeway, with The Millhillbillies (folk) and The Mill Hill Allstars (jazz); 7.45pm, The United Church Choirs of Mill Hill and The Cavendish Singers, includes the premier of Philip Seaton's The Mill Suite.

Sunday (June 1): 12.30pm to 3.30pm, jazz lunch at the Rising Sun, Marsh Lane/Highwood Hill junction; 3pm, violin recital by Jana Novakova , accompanied by Michaela Resetova, at The Chapel, Belmont School, The Ridgeway; 7.30pm, The Hendon Band of the Salvation Army, Copthall School, Pursley Road; 7.30pm, The Cavendish Cabaret performs the Songs of Irving Berlin at The Chapel, Belmont School; 8.30pm, Organzola (acid jazz) at the Three Hammers, Hammers Lane.

Monday (June 2) : 7.45pm, The Gresty/White Ragtimers (jazz), St Joseph's College, Lawrence Street; 8.30pm, The Railwaymen (acoustic) at the Railway Tavern, Hale Lane.

Tuesday (June 3) : 3pm, The Ladies of Flower Lane host an afternoon of songs from the shows at Marshall Hall, Marshall Estate, Hammers Lane; 7.45pm, Gypsy Tango Inferno and Zum (klezmer/bluegrass/bebop), Copthall School, Pursley Road; 8.30pm, The Good Old Boys (50s/60s) at the Railway Engineer, Bittacy Hill.

Wednesday (June 4) : 7.45pm, Kyra (gospel), Belmont School; 7.45pm, The Fibonacci Sequence chamber concert, including works by Schumman and Holst and Philip Seaton's Bitter Suite; 8.30pm, Swingray (jazz) at the Three Hammers.

Thursday (June 5) : 7.45pm, the musical Carousel performed by The Mill Hill Amateur Operatic Society, Hartley Hall, Flower Lane; 7.45pm, Stacey Kent (jazz), Holcombe House; 8.30pm, Texas Flood sing the blues at the Indigo Cafe Bar, Mill Hill Broadway.

Friday (June 6) : 7.45pm, second night of Carousel by The Mill Hill Amateur Operatic Society, Hartley Hall; 7.45pm, Irish night featuring The Behans, St James' School Hall, Great Strand, Grahame Park; 8.30pm, The False Dots (rock and blues) and Paradox (acoustic) play Mill Hill Sports Club, Grahame Park Way.

Saturday (June 7): 2.30pm, The Military Band of the Royal Grammar School, High Wycombe, play Mill Hill Park; 7pm, The Last Night Soul Party, featuring The Boogie Brothers, The Mill pub, Holders Hill Circus; 7.45pm, Festival Closing Concert with the London Pro Arte Choir and Orchestra, John Keble Church, Deans Lane, featuring work from Mozart, Purcell and Haydn.

May 27, 2003 16:00