THE (NOT SO) LONELY LITIGATOR’S CLUB 35: HOWARD KEMP: THE OLYMPIAN, DRUMMING DISTRICT JUDGE

District Judge Howard Kemp is the third in what, currently, is our trio of judicial musicians.  DJ Kemp is a drummer, and if you want to know what makes him an Olympian, read carefully…

What instrument (or instruments) do you play?

I am now solely a percussionist – having had previous relatively unsuccessful attempts at the cornet, oboe and flute along the way.

How long have you been playing and how did you find playing through your time studying law/early years of practice.

I started playing at junior school, aged 9 and continued right through my school years. Once on to my degree and Solicitor’s finals, other than a couple of guest appearances at school concerts, Lugging a drum kit with me to college did not seem to work!

I did not play in earnest again until post qualification. That was when I joined a local community orchestra, for which I made sure I found the time to commit to once a week rehearsals. Helped keep my sanity I have to say.

Who do you play with now and what type of music?

My regular playing is now with the New Redbridge Wind Orchestra, an ensemble I helped form back in 1996. The London Borough of Redbridge has a rich history of encouraging musical development, including the provision of the extra-curricular, Redbridge Music School. But as is often the way, unless pupils went on to become professional musicians, or music teachers, those skills nurtured in school ended up, as did the instrument case, gathering dust. With my old music teacher from RMS, who was retiring, we saw the opportunity to provide a vehicle for those who wanted to play again, and so with the connections we had, we set about establishing the NRWO, and are we now approaching our 25th anniversary, and we are still going strong. Sadly, he passed away a few years back but not before we were firmly established in the local musical community.

The concert band/wind orchestra format was born from the American college marching bands having concert band spin offs, and so the there is a wealth of music available, string-less arrangements of many classical works, as well as film and theatre scores, and rock/pop anthems/compilations.

Everything from Tchaikovsky and Hayden to Williams and Zimmer, from Beethoven to Wonder mixed with some Rogers and Hammerstein and Page and Plant. Endless variety and we have a huge catalogue of music, to which we are constantly adding.

As well as the NRWO, in 2012 I became one of the 1000 drummers at the London Olympics Opening Ceremony. Three months of intense rehearsals and the most thrilling, and life changing experiences I could have ever imagined.

Watching the ceremony unfold over those few weeks was a privilege. The drummers also provided the marshaling for the athletes parade and also the closing ceremony. Unforgettable.

As a cohort we became known as the Pandemonium Drummers (I actually own the rights to the name on trust for the group – but that’s another story) and have continued to perform together in different permutations ever since. Those events have included Wembley Cup Finals (including the Champions League final between Dortmund and Bayern Munich), the BAFTAs, Lord Mayor’s and New Year’s Day parades and music festivals. Friendships for life have been made and the Pandemonium Drummers have enjoyed recognition for charity work we have done for several organisations.

What’s your usual type of gig/performance.

The NRWO performs in and around the London Borough of Redbridge, supporting local groups and charities, as well as some concerts further afield. The variety of our repertoire as mentioned above means that every concert/season has something different. In my head I can be anyone from the humble LSO triangle player at the Barbican, to Roger Taylor of Queen performing at Glastonbury!

With the Pandemoniums the performances are in the format of cheer drumming – much more fluid and full of rehearsed ad-libs. A contrast to the more disciplined orchestral playing.

 

People always ask – “where do you find the time”?

I make the time for the once a week rehearsals – it is an escape and as there is a sense of duty to colleagues a commitment that I am happy to make. Concerts and performances are what you work toward and get satisfaction from – so finding the time is never an issue!

 

Do you think it helps or affects your day to day work as a lawyer?

Undoubtedly helps – but would add so does music generally. There is a phrase – Know Music, Know Life, No Music, No Life.

Playing, listening, watching live – all provide an escape.

Do you have any advice for lawyer/musicians or musician/lawyers out there?

If you have the talent/skill – don’t waste it. Being part of an ensemble producing music and providing joy for others is a wonderful thing. Working can be fulfilling (at times) but it is also something that most of us, unless very privileged, have to do. To have an interest such as music adds a dimension to life which you can share with your friends and family. If you have children they will enjoy watching you play and may want to emulate you. They may not derive the same experience from your work.