DAME CLEO LAINE pictured with the late Sir John Dankworth

Dame Cleo Laine – a unique singer with an innate musical sensibility and a golden voice that spans the octaves with effortless flexibility; a superb performer of every kind of music from opera to jazz…..

Sir John Dankworth – a consummate jazz musician, composer, arranger, creator of film scores, virtuoso woodwind player…..

Their paths first crossed in 1951. Music brought them together – it was initially a case of a bandleader needing a singer, and a singer needing a job. Thus began a business relationship which remained strictly that until the following year, when more personal involvement meant that their great partnership began; and in 1958 they tied the matrimonial knot.

Their arrival in 1967 at The Old Rectory, Wavendon, was a result of a yearning for a large house from which they could inaugurate a music programme. Its decaying stable block was its main attraction, and the result of much hard scrubbing, painting and carpentry was a handful of small concerts during 1970. It had always been their ambition to do something like this, but never in their wildest dreams did they begin to imagine that things would grow so much and so fast.

They are truly grateful to have had the health and strength to carry all this through to the present day. They are even more grateful for the countless people who have taken their inspiration seriously and added their own hard work and brilliance to their dream to realise it in a way and to an extent that they could not possibly have achieved by themselves. They are truly blessed, not only by their presence but also by the fact that they have such a wonderfully talented and dedicated family to help them on their way – and perhaps eventually take over when and where they leave off.

In the meantime, they feel they still have the musical powers to continue to operate in quality circles, so they have no plans to retire until they personally feel that their powers are starting to diminish. They fully realise that moment could be tomorrow or it could be a long way off – who knows?


“We are so proud of our association with this wonderful organisation. Kentwood is living proof that part-time music-makers can be as good as full-time professionals and it’s our good fortune to have found out about them. Long may Kentwood and their brilliant founder and inspiration, Sheila Harrod, continue to grace the world of music. The two of us will always be delighted, as well as privileged, to share the stage with them”.