Tributes as much-loved Sheffield big band leader Keith Peters dies, aged 91

Popular Sheffield big band leader Keith Peters has died, aged 91, after a long battle with dementia.

Thursday, 24th June 2021, 4:49 pm
The Keith Peters Big Band on stage
The Keith Peters Big Band on stage

Keith, from Nether Edge, was a pianist and music arranger who founded and led the band for 43 years. He had also worked as a piano teacher and as a professional musician.

His bandmate, trumpeter Nick Chandley, said the band are planning to carry on and will raise money for a dementia charity at a special memorial concert when Covid restrictions allow.

He said that the band had not rehearsed for 15 months because of the pandemic but recently planned to restart, then Keith went into hospital and then a nursing home in his final illness.

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Keith’s funeral takes place at Hutcliffe Wood Crematorium at 2.30pm on Tuesday (June 29). Numbers are limited but the service will be relayed outside. The band members will wear their red shirts and everyone else is encouraged to wear red. Sadly, no live music can be played.

Band members will also be rehearsing on Tuesday night at Farm House Social Club. Nick said: “I’ve been in the band for over 40 years. It’s been religious, every Tuesday night is a rehearsal. It’s never been the kind of band where you don’t know how many trumpets or the trombone section will turn up, it’s always been the full band.

"We started out 40-odd years ago opening up the last Tuesday of the month to the public.”

Nick finally opened a letter Keith gave him 15 years ago when he was very ill with a heart condition. He said: “It said on the envelope, ‘Nick, to be opened when I join the big band in the sky’.

"At the first rehearsal last Tuesday after he died I opened it. It sad, ‘My dear friends and fellow musicians. This is a difficult letter to write because I’m still here. I want to thank everybody for your friendship and complete dedication.

"’My dearest wish is that the band will carry on with your permission and that Nick take over as leader’.”

The 17-strong band play the music of all the great big band leaders such as Keith’s favourite Count Basie, Ted Heath, Tommy Dorsey and Glenn Miller, as well as more modern big band music.

Two members, saxophone player Steve Holmes and bass player Dave Green, have been with Keith since the start.

Nick said of Keith: “He was really talented. He could hear things that others couldn’t hear. If somebody played him something, he could write it down.”

He added: “He always felt his audience was family and he had a lovely relationship with the audience.

"He was very humble and could never remember our names when he introduced us after 40 years! The audience would laugh at that, the band laughed at that and he laughed at that.”

The sessions took place at venues over the years including Queens Road Social Club, the Brincliffe Oaks, Abbeydale Picture House and the Highcliffe.

In his professional life Keith played in Johnny Johnson and the Bandwagon, who had hits such as Blame It On the Pony Express.

Keith leaves his wife of 54 years, Joan, daughter Michelle, son Peter and grandson Samuel, who was inspired by his granddad to become a jazz singer.

To check when public rehearsals restart, go to www.keithpeters.co.uk