The Aged P

…just toasting and ruminating….

Archive for the 'Music' Category

01 December
Comments Off on A Story To Lift Your Hearts – The Military Wives Choir….”They also serve who only stand and wait”… .

A Story To Lift Your Hearts – The Military Wives Choir….”They also serve who only stand and wait”… .

It’s a choir of women – but they are very special women, very special indeed.

They are British military wives – and their husbands have just got back from a tour of duty in Afghanistan.

For several months they were on their own, waiting every second of every minute of every day for “that message” – and all the time having to do the mundane family things with the kids and the house and without much of a social network because the families move bases so often they rarely have time to root themselves into a community.

Enter choirmaster Gareth Malone.

A soldier’s wife wrote to him and suggested he take a group of those women and form them into a choir.

Now Malone is no ordinary choirmaster.

After a postgraduate degree at the Royal Academy of Music, his infectious enthusiasm was spotted by a TV production company seeking a choirmaster to front a new programme about music in schools.
The result was the first series of The Choir, which saw Malone take a group of surly teenagers and prepare them for the performance of their lives at an international choral competition.
Three similar series (and two BAFTAs) followed — as as well as marriage to Becky, an English teacher… and the birth of their daughter, Esther

.
So he took up the challenge which is why earlier this year he found himself and his BBC TV crew in a Royal Marine base in Devon. He realised that his passionate belief in the power of music to transform people’s lives would certainly be tested in this environment.

“Because they are, to use a hackneyed phrase, unsung heroes. We sing about the Forces and everything they do, but not the people who are left behind. It seemed to me a missing part of the story. Some of the women I’ve been working with have got husbands or sons in really frontline positions. That’s very, very stressful.”
“These women have complex lives, and responsibilities. That makes them rich and fertile territory for a choir – because you’re drawing something out of them that they like to keep hidden. I think everyone felt that it’s positive to get those difficult feelings out through singing.”

It wasn’t easy. Many of the women were shy and self conscious and few had any ever sung in public. But over the months, although there were many ups and downs the women bonded and were transformed from “nervous novices into full voiced confident choristers”

Malone, (“geeky, glasses, bow ties, tweed jackets”) had never ever had anything to do with the services and was distinctly nervous about how he would be received by a military community that tends to keep to itself. But his passion for music, his unbridled enthusiasm and dogged determination won them over.

In the gloomy Officers’ Mess of a rain-swept Royal Marines base on a miserable October morning, choirmaster Gareth Malone is chatting animatedly about the importance of encouraging people to sing, when he is interrupted by a very large, rather menacing individual in green Army fatigues.
“I just wanted to shake your hand,” the marine says, thrusting out his own massive mitt towards Malone. “My wife thinks you’re the dog’s bollocks”
The contrast between the fresh-faced, bespectacled, slightly fogey-ish choirmaster and this gruff giant of British military manhood borders on the comical. Yet the encounter illustrates the degree to which Malone, while making his latest TV project The Choir: Military Wives, has charmed his way into the trust of the soldiers – and, more crucially, the soldiers’ wives – of RMB Chivenor in remote north Devon


Finally Malone and the Military Wives sang in November at the Festival of Remembrance at London’s Royal Albert Hall before the Queen and a huge audience inside the concert hall and live to millions watching on TV. They sang “Wherever You Are” composed by Paul Mealor. He drew the words from extracts given to him by the families, extracts from letter and poems written by the wives and their husbands while they were parted.

Remember the vast majority of these women had never sung in public before March 2011 – and the words they were singing came straight from their hearts…….

That murmur, soon replies, “God doth not need
Either man’s work or his own gifts. Who best
Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state
Is kingly: thousands at his bidding speed,
And post o’er land and ocean without rest;
They also serve who only stand and wait.

See their very first rehearsal here and their first public performance here.

UPDATE See the official Military Wives Choir video with lyrics here – and pre order the single here….there are three good reasons to buy the single
1 It’s a beautiful song beautifully sung
2 All proceeds go to service charities
3 By making it the UK Christmas #1 you will be giving Simon Cowell’s and his X Factor a poke in the eye

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30 November
Comments Off on Who Remembers When The Schnoz Found The Lost Chord?

Who Remembers When The Schnoz Found The Lost Chord?

Another favourite from my BBC radio listening days in the late 40s/early 50s was the larger than life American singer/comedian Jimmy Durante who also had the most famous nose in the world.
The Schnoz cut a lot of well known songs but this was always my favourite.Great drive, great spirit and really clever lyrics….

Jimmy was a big star on stage,screen, radio and TV from the 1920s until he retired in 1972. What is less well known was he entered the world of music playing the piano in the Original New Orleans Jazz Band, one of the first popular jazz bands in New York, mainly made up of musicians from New Orleans. Durante was the only New Yorker in the band but had been invited to join because of his expertise at ragtime piano.

Durante’s lost chord comedy number referenced a song originally written by the British composer Sir Arthur Sullivan (of Gilbert & Sullivan fame) in 1877. Sullivan’s “The Lost Chord” became one of the best known songs throughout the western world and was sung and recorded by Caruso as a benefit for the victims of The Titanic in 1912. As a musician not only Durante but also the general public would have been quite familiar with it – otherwise there would have been little purpose to the joke.

The sadness is that today most people’s knowledge of music outside the confines of media pap is so limited that few could make much sense of a phrase like “the Lost Chord”

A pity because the original Sullivan composition is deeply moving….

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25 November
Comments Off on Magnificent Voices & Good Looking As Well – Or So My Wife Tells Me…

Magnificent Voices & Good Looking As Well – Or So My Wife Tells Me…

A beautiful song, beautifully sung – it’s good to hear, now and then, real singers within the idiom of pop…..they are good looking as well – or so my wife tells me…lol…

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22 November
Comments Off on Anyone Remember Phil Harris And That Tree?

Anyone Remember Phil Harris And That Tree?

Always loved this 1947 Phil Harris record – when I was a kid it was regularly being played on BBC radio…the henpecked husband being chased by an angry wife wielding a rolling pin was a staple figure of comedy in the 30s, 40s and 50s…hence the plaintive plea to the woodman.

What is less well known was that the song had originally been a massive hit in the early 1900s for Bert Williams, long forgotten now but a hundred years ago one of the most popular vaudeville stars in America. Williams was the first black artist to break out of the “coon” stereotype and appeal to all audiences and “Woodman” was one of his most popular songs, sung in a “talking blues” style that Harris also copied. It proved to be the big hit of the Ziegfeld Follies Of 1911.

Yet the distinction of the song’s pedigree is not limited to Williams – for it was composed by Vincent Bryan and the former singing waiter Irving Berlin in the same year that “Alexanders Ragtime Band” became a smash hit not just in America but throughout the world and propelled the previously unknown Berlin overnight from obscurity to international fame.

But it’s roots go even deeper for Berlin adapted the lyrics from a poem, “The Oak”, written by the American poet George Pope Morris in 1837. The English musician Henry Russell wrote a score for it later that year and, under the more familiar title, the sentimental ballad became a staple of concerts and musical evenings for the rest of the 19th century. In 1911 Berlin introduced the comedic elements to the story and altered Russell’s score. So, what initially appears to be a classic 1940’s piece of Phil Harris musical humour has a very distinguished provenance.

Sadly both Harris and Williams and that whole genre of comedy songs are rarely heard today – mores the pity…

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08 November
Comments Off on Jim Reeves + A Beautiful Song = Perfection

Jim Reeves + A Beautiful Song = Perfection

Well, that’s only my personal opinion, of course, but as it’s my blog….

He died in an aircrash in 1964 at the height of his fame but his velvet tones are stil recognisable nearly half a century later. His 1960 crossover blockbuster “He’ll Have to Go” had many people assuming that he came from out of the blue but in fact throughout the 50s he had become a well known figure on the country music scene with several big hits.

I thought I knew most of his recordings but only recently discovered this track from an album released in 1959….the unmistakable voice of Jim Reeves singing one of the most beautiful and tender of songs, music to touch any parent’s (or grandparent’s) heart…

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27 October
Comments Off on Just Relax, Unwind And Be At Peace With the World….Go Fishin’ With Mr Satch & Mr. Cros…

Just Relax, Unwind And Be At Peace With the World….Go Fishin’ With Mr Satch & Mr. Cros…

Almost impossible to avoid slowing the pace down when you hear these two telling you to take it easy. What I love about the song is the reminder that in this modern world, when so much of our daily life appears to happen in the fast lane, there is a need to sometimes drop down through the gears and just unwind.

The beauty of angling is that it provides an excuse to just sit by a river, stream or lake and pretend to be doing something when in actual fact you are just gazing across the water at peace with the world.

Who cares if you don’t actually catch anything….

One other reason I like it – it’s a bloody good song sung by two masters of the genre….

Norman Rockwell would agree…

….and so would this man…

Old Isaac Walton summed it up in 1653…

” What would a blind man give to see the pleasant rivers, and meadows, and flowers, and fountains, that we have met with since we met together ?”

” And for the most of them, because they be so common, most men forget to pay their praises:
but let not us; because it is a sacrifice so pleasing to Him that made that sun and us, and still protects us, and gives us flowers, and showers, and stomachs, and meat, and content,
and leisure to go a-fishing. ”

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11 October
Comments Off on Some Hunky Somerset Farmers Suggest You Try Their Yoghurt….

Some Hunky Somerset Farmers Suggest You Try Their Yoghurt….

Would you buy your organic yoghurt from one of these hunky Somerset farmers?

My how those Somerset farmers have changed….

Yeo Valley pitched their commercial especially for the UK X Factor – it comes to something when a lot of viewers find an advert more interesting than the over ramped narcolepsy inducing Simon Cowell TV dross…..and The Wurzels are still going strong after forty years or so. Great music, their gigs are always sold out but they would never ever win X Factor….probably a moral there, somewhere….

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04 October
Comments Off on Anyone Remember……Slim Whitman?

Anyone Remember……Slim Whitman?

Ah, Mr W, you are still one of my musical heroes……

At 87 Slim Whitman is still around (though he heard rumours of his own death in 2008) but in the early 50s he was very big on the US country scene. In America he had faded in the charts by the end of the decade but he was always popular in Europe and frequently toured there.

With his falsetto voice and yodelling breaks he was always instantly recognisable. A navy man during WW2 his first big break came when he was contacted, pre Presley, by Colonel Tom Parker and got his first record contract.

In 1952 his big break came when he reached #2 in the US Country chart with “Indian Love Call”. He tended to sing songs of love and romance and his crooning style was not always popular with some country purists. Nevertheless compilations of his greatest hits have always sold well and, within the first two seconds many could still recognise those distinctive swirling perfectly pitched notes..

The other trademark of the Whitman sound is the “singing steel guitar” of Hoot Rains..

The soaring notes of the steel guitar can be heard in many of Slim’s early songs. It all started by accident in the classic, “Love Song of the Waterfall.” One night while performing the song, Hoot overshot a note sending it soaring skyward. Slim asked Hoot after the show, “what happened out there”? Hoot said, “I missed it.” Slim liked what he heard and said, with a wry grin, “Well, miss it again!” They soon worked this unusual new sound into his songs. They called this new technique “shooting arrows..

….and the Slim Whitman version of the classic western number “Cool Water” written by Bob Nolan, of Sons of the Pioneers fame.

Surfing the net for Slim one consistent narrative appears to be that his voice brings back fond memories, even amongst people who were not around in his heyday – I wonder if anyone will be saying that in sixty years time over Lady Ga Ga?

BTW – if you want to meet up with the Slim Whitman Appreciation Society then go here….

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23 September
Comments Off on Red Red Wine…..

Red Red Wine…..

One of my all time favourites….

Red Red Wine was a massive hit for reggae group UB40 in the UK and the US in the 80s. The British band had heard Tony Tribe’s 1969 Trojan single and there is a story, possibly apocryphal, that they assumed the N. Diamond accredited on Tribe’s record as the composer was the name of some obscure Jamaican Rastafarian contemporary of Bob Marley.

Only when their version took off did they realise the song was originally a smooth, sad ballad of lost love penned by pop singer/songwriter extraordinaire Neil Diamond who’d had a modest Billboard hit with it in 1968……

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17 September
1Comment

Allan Sherman’s Mexican Hat Dance – Humour From A Bygone Age…

Not certain if Warner would dare release something like this nowadays in our PC world for fear of being dealt the race card. Indeed, since Allan Sherman was Jewish it would almost certainly be tagged as a Zionist plot.

But what the hell – Sherman specialised in parodying well known songs and the wordplay in this pastiche of the famous Mexican dance is absolutely spot on. It was on his second album “My Son The Celebrity” which hit #1 in the album charts in March 1963.

Not vulgar, no swear words, just good natured fun…..echoes of an age long gone, I fancy…

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