The TestostaTones are an authentic vintage doo-wop quartet, comprising of brothers Stephen and Paul and their cousins; brothers Bim and Richard. Specialising in classic rock ‘n’ roll and be-bop as well as doo-wop, The TestostaTones cover classic acapella, and incorporate gospel, jazz and soul. They also perform their own cover versions.
What you may not know is that former RE teacher and Student Leadership and Head of Enrichment, Mr Richard Ainslie, is a member of The TestostaTones!
Having developed a strong interest in performance and, in particular, singing, and becoming involved in many different projects, shows and various other outlets, they went their separate ways into further education and careers. In 2008 they performed at The Theatre Royal in Norwich at a memorial concert for a friend of theirs who was killed. There they sang a doo-wop song called Sh-Boom by a vocal group called The Chords. The four were a real hit with the audience, and an agent approached them asking if they could perform at several other functions around East Anglia.
Since then, they have performed at numerous corporate events, celebrity and film-wrap parties and over 500 weddings; some abroad and some which took place in National Trust historic houses. They have performed for the Queen at Ascot, were the subject of an exclusive 30 minute interview and doo-wop documentary on BBC Radio 2 with Jeremy Vine and have sung at prestigious venues such as Hampton Court Palace, Alnwick Castle (Harry Potter filming location), The Savoy Hotel, The Royal Festival Hall, Highclere Castle (Downton Abbey filming location), the O2, to name but a few.
All members of The TestostaTones are former Denes students, and the following tells of their memories and inspirational messages.
Stephen was a student at Denes High between 1990–95 (including time studying A Levels within the then sixth form consortium). Stephen’s favourite subjects were Drama, Religious Studies and English.
When we asked Stephen about his memories he recalled a couple of drama productions he was involved in. “I performed in The Snow Queen. I played Clarence the Crow – complete with 2-foot-long webbed feet, Brummie accent and ladies black tights!” and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat in which I played Pharoah.”
Stephen added, “Various teachers (some who taught me and some who didn’t) tried to reach out and inspire me. In particular, Mr Smetham – who wasn’t a mentor particularly but was my form tutor and I remember him fondly. Mrs Halley was a great drama teacher inspiring me to use my imagination and use drama as a social confidence and discipline.
“Mr Johnson was another huge influence; helping me to understand a love of literature and poetry and I personally remember being an ‘agenda’ of Mr Harris who looked out for me and had a word in my shell-like on several occasions when I may have been straying away from my (limited) potential. However, in retrospect, I remember several other teachers’ phrases and lessons (both senses of the word) being quite inspirational.”
Stephen told us that, “Looking back, although I never studied music at school, I can see no clearer influence on my personal growth and development than a love of storytelling, literature, performance and imagination and the power that these themes can have on young people and their future social mobility to equip them for how ever difficult life can be.”
Bim attended The Denes from 1990–94 and is a primary school teacher. “My favourite subjects were English, PE and Maths; Maths eventually when the penny dropped! I have great memories from school. I loved playing for the football team with Mr De Salis and also playing every lunchtime sports club possible, especially volleyball.
“Mr Want was one of my favourite teachers; he had a knack of engaging all of the children and his unique approach to teaching teenagers was spot on. He inspired me to believe I could go to university, and I did!
“One experience I didn’t enjoy was one time playing football, falling on the old concrete gym floor and suffering from concussion! Funny for some, but not for me!”
We asked Bim what inspirational message we could pass on to our students. “My message is that I didn’t think I could ever achieve what I have in music and education,” he said. “Anyone from anywhere can achieve their goals. Grab every opportunity with both hands.”
Paul studied at The Denes High from 1995–98, and his favourite subjects were Drama, History and English. Paul is a music therapist and a professional musician.
Two of Paul’s memories are the time he was once forced to sing at the end of year concert and really didn’t want to. “I also remember a few people were troublesome and this caused our prom to get cancelled. Not impressed!”
We asked Paul who inspired him. He told us: “Mr Brown was my history teacher and an amazing musician. He inspired me to try. Mr Want was amazing. He inspired me to do better in English, which I did but subsequently went up a set and lost him as a teacher.”
Paul’s message: “My teachers were right – I could have done better. Sadly I didn’t realise they were right until I had left, by which time I realised that I should have done better!”
Richard was a student at The Denes from 1993–96, returning in April 2008 to teach. He used to be an equity member and professional actor, and he is a qualified teacher.
This is what Richard told us:
“I completed my first degree in Biblical Studies at Sheffield and completed a PGCE in religious studies at Cambridge University. I was offered funded Masters Degrees at Harvard and Cambridge universities but didn’t want to continue studying – I regret declining those offers now!
“I joined St Margaret’s church choir at the age of 8. This started my performing career and interest in religion and philosophy. I subsequently joined Dusmagrik theatre group and auditioned for the National Youth Music Theatre’s production of ‘El Retablo de Maese Pedro’ in London when I was given the lead role.
“I have numerous memories of being at The Denes; some from the 90s and some much more recently. My favourite teacher was Marilyn Zipfel with whom we have all remained in close contact, as she was an excellent music teacher. Paul Wilkinson was another favourite as he was firm but fair; the best way a teacher can be. Paul was then my line manager when I returned to Denes as a teacher, having left my job as Head of House and Head of Classics at Hinchingbrooke School in Huntingdon.
“I have many very happy memories as a teacher. My happiest time was when myself, Miss Edmondson and Mr Buisst achieved the best results ever achieved by a Lowestoft RE department, becoming the most improved RE department in the county. I remember having a great time teaching and developing the department with Miss Edmondson and Mr Buisst, and also when creating the enrichment programme for Mr Marshall with Mr Armstrong.
We asked Richard what his message would be and he told us:
“I guess my message would be ‘follow your dreams but always have a solid, credible back-up plan.’ Being a professional singer/actor/footballer is what many people think they’ll do but the likelihood is very low. Also, to be a professional singer or actor you don’t need qualifications, but for nearly all other careers you do, so opt for the sensible path but don’t forget the dream! Harry Hill is now a TV presenter but he was a surgeon; Chris Tarrant achieved fame through Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, yet he was a geography teacher!”
Described by designer Wayne Hemingway as “the missing song from the soundtrack of a Martin Scorsese movie,” The TestostaTones were recently voted in the top ten vocal groups in the country by a leading booking agent for the UK, and have been booked to entertain prestigious brands including: Cadburys, Virgin, Ted Baker, Procter and Gamble, Reuters, Sotheby’s, Harley Davidson, Grazia Magazine and many more.
The TestostaTones also run singing workshops, teaching people how to sing as a group, ending with a recording session of the end result.
Our thanks and very best wishes go to Stephen, Bim, Paul and Richard.
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