In our last interview with alumnus Joe Duddell, he told us about his role in bringing Northern Soul to the BBC Proms. Now, he has worked on another unique project with Manchester band James to curate their stunning orchestral album, Be Opened By The Wonderful, and is preparing to perform at their upcoming orchestral performances in Bedford and Lytham.  

Best known for their iconic hits ‘Laid’ and ‘Sit Down’, cult band James and Salford Band Musicianship alumnus Joe Duddell first collaborated in 2009, when they performed with the BBC Philharmonic orchestra at the Manchester Arena to support the then annual Versus Cancer charity event.

Joe recalls “James enjoyed the experience and we planned to do something in the future. This culminated in the first orchestral tour in 2011. We then revisited the idea in 2022 with the recording of a double album of songs with orchestral arrangements and then the UK tour in 2023, which also included an appearance at the Latitude Festival and at the Acropolis in Athens. I’m very happy we are joining once again for two more special shows.” 

James performing Live
James Performing Live

Looking back on Manchester music and his childhood, Joe said “Being raised in Salford, since my teenage years I’ve had a strong connection with Manchester bands, and I was very lucky to grow up in such a golden era of Manchester music. The first gig I went to was in 1986 at the GMEX (now the Manchester Central Convention Complex) where The Fall, The Smiths, New Order and many more all played on the same bill. It was an incredible experience for a 13-year-old and left a deep impression”.  

Joe, who has now delivered and composed performances with bands like New Order said: “To work with some of the bands I idolised back then has been a huge privilege”. Joe has now worked with the new generation of Manchester and Salford-borne bands, including Blossoms, Dutch Uncles and Everything Everything, who have their own connections to the University with lead singer Jonathan Higgs achieving a BA in Popular Music and Recording in 2009. 

James, Be Opened by the Wonderful art design a white flower.
The artwork for album ‘Be Opened By The Wonderful’

Looking towards the future of Manchester and Salford music, Joe said: “There are far more opportunities for bands now in Salford than we had in my days as a student. With Salford music festival and Sounds of the Other City leading the way and venues such as Islington Mill, White Hotel and The Eagle promoting up-and-coming talent, and with Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham in charge, who really believes in new music, the future is looking very bright”. 

Hearing about Joe’s Manchester and Salford connections has been fascinating. We hope you enjoyed hearing about his part in Manchester music history and the impact our alumni have had on the Greater Manchester music scene. You can find the orchestral album through your streaming service of choice on the James official website

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