Des Hopkins will again lead his dixieland jazz spectacular at The Cork Guinness Jazz Festival over the October holiday weekend. However, the shows will be tinged with more than a touch of sadness, following the death earlier this year of Des's brother and lifelong musical associate Billy, who had suffered from motor neurone disease.
And as today coincides with the National Church collection for the Irish Motor Neurone Disease Association, Des explains how he plans to pay tribute to his brother.
He says: "Every year since the passing of our very good friend the late 'Professor' Peter O'Brien we have played a tribute in his remembrance. It was with our band that the great stride-piano player Peter played his last performance at the Cork Festival in 2003. This year we will remember both Billy and Peter on Sunday night when we play a special piece collectively written by the band in their honour. We are also delighted our great friend Acker Bilk has given permission for tracks he recorded with our band at a 2004 concert in Birr to be released in Ireland with proceeds to the Irish Motor Neurone Disease Association."
In the early Sixties, Des returned to his native Ireland as a professional drummer to work the thriving Irish showband circuit, having spent some years on the Manchester trad-jazz scene. While on a US tour in 1967 with The Ohio Showband, Des befriended the legendary New Orleans jazz drummer Zutty Singleton, then with the Tony Peranti Band. On his return Des formed his own band with Billy and others.
The band's popularity grew and from 1986 to 2003 they were sponsored by Guinness as The Guinness Jazzband and became a household name in Ireland, playing at corporate and sports events. Their performances at The Cork Festival led to offers of jazz-festival bookings throughout Europe.
Every year since 1978 they have played The Guinness Cork Jazz Festival and it was at one of the early festivals they met UK trumpet players Mike Henry and Enrico Tomasso, both then with The Pasadena Roof Orchestra. Now both respectively with Chris Barber and Acker Bilk.
Des recalls: "Our lives were never the same again. Mike joined the band for a sit in, introduced us to a number of great musicians, and remained our trumpet player for over 25 years. The UK musicians liked our style. We never ever rehearse, and we just get up there and endeavour to play good music."
Des Hopkins's Dixieland Spectacular will be resident in Kudos Bar at The Clarion Hotel, Cork, for The Guinness Jazz Festival , October bank holiday weekend. With two shows daily at 5.30pm and 10.30pm. See www.dhentertainment.ie