Category: Musical musings

Oh Danny Boy, we all love you

A whole hour … and just one song. But what a song.

Absolutely fascinating viewing from BBC Four with the screening of Danny Boy: the song that bewitched the world.

There was not a minute of boredom or padding in this wide-ranging analysis of Danny Boy, its beginnings, its history, its performers and, above all, its meaning.

How could a single song of a mere three verses demand so much time and attention from so many experts and luminaries across the spectrum of the arts? Watch it and discover – and learn.

One wonders how many of today’s fleeting hit parade contenders would ever justify such attention.

Through balladeers, rockers, country and western singers, Elvis, jazz, blues, Johnny Cash and even rappers the seemingly simple air has remained virtually  indestructible since Fred Weatherley purloined his sister-in-law’s melody as a long-sought match for his words more than a century ago.

There are so many interpretations to this enduring marriage of words and music and none of them have managed to undermine, mar or diminish the original.

Indeed, the pipes are calling … and continue to call down the decades.

Steely swing

One night we are swinging along with Vivaldi; the next we’re rocking with Steeleye Span . That’s the Hall for Cornwall for you – something for everyone and all top rate.
Serenissima regaled us on Thursday with vivacious and intricate melodies from three centuries ago; and on Friday Steeleye Span took us back to their beginnings more than three decades ago. Both were joyful performances by consummate musicians with the happy knack of projecting their enjoyment and enthusiasm across the footlights. And both were melodious weavings of musical patterns than ran deep below the surface with individual players bouncing off each other with seamless continuity.
For their pre-interval session Steeleye Span relied on their Now We Are Six compilation. In the second half they delved deep into their back catalogue before giving the hall full of faithful old rockers the inevitable All Around My Hat, performed on demand. without rehearsal and totally word perfect, which says much about Steeleye’s durability and popularity.
As ever, the band was led by the ageless Maddy Prior, her crystal clear voice almost unaffected by the years, its purity and clarity still a true toe-curler as it echoed around the hall. Now that, dear X Factor contestants, is singing.
All in all, another winning night for HfC.

Vivacious Vivaldi

Having been reared in recent years on a regular bravura diet of music from the sublime Australian Chamber Orchestra it was almost a case of deja vu to witness Serenissima‘s appearance at the Hall for Cornwall on Thursday night.
Here was another band of 14 young(ish) musos who discard the traditional orchestral format of evening dress and seated performance in favour of embroidered waistcoats and stand-up playing. Replicating ACO leader Richard Tognetti the Serenissima band had an equally likeable and rumpled leader in Adrian Chandler. And while the former is a surfie dude and living national treasure, the latter could well have wandered in from the farmyard to have a chat before showing his wizardry with fiddle and bow. Two characters who imbue the audience with their obvious love of music.
It was a gentle evening of gentle music – perhaps a bit too much on one level – but played with a vivacity and enjoyment that was ably transmitted to the audience. Chandler’s deft leadership took only a nod, a wink or a smile to gain the required immediate and willing response from his fellow players. And his chatty introductions helped combat the po-faced reputation often suffered by classical music.
Vivaldi formed the mainstay of the program, which also featured pieces by Baroque contemporaries Veracini, Corelli, Albinoni and Torelli. And while the performance lacked the edgy and spirited attack of the ACO it was a welcome and enjoyable excursion into quality classical music of the sort that – judging by Thursday night’s audience – should be making more frequent appearances at HfC.

Mambo magic

As we waited for the curtain to go up we scanned the program (big type, lots of pictures, filling space) and wonder how Ladysmith Black Mambazo keep going. They arrived in Truro this afternoon from Bristol, will be back on their coach right after the show, play in Fareham tomorrow and then head off to appear in Cheltenham on Sunday, Hay-on-Wye on Monday and Reading on Tuesday. And that’s merely a sampling of a two month tour of one-night stands.
Yet what we get is a rollicking, lively, energy-filled show full of joie-de-vivre, happiness and laughter.
Little wonder that this group is a legend in their own, substantial, lifetime. It’s full of zest happiness and vitality. No nonsense, no gimmicks – simply good, straightforward a-capella singing from people to whom music is the mainstay of their life. And they enhance their songs with plenty of high-energy choreography that many a ballet troupe would be hard put to match.
Setting the night off to a great start was one-man band Munto Valdo, the biggest new name on the world music scene. His mouth worked the harmonica, his hands the acoustic guitar and his feet the synthesiser. And between breaths his voice soared in beautiful harmonies.
A joyous night with music and performers a million miles from X-Factor clones and all the better for it.

Tognetti triumphs

Good to see Australian National Treasure Richard Tognetti winning headlines in the UK with a highly laudatory full page feature in the Sunday Telegraph extolling his role as artistic director of the recent Maribor Festival.
Apparently Tognetti’s influence inspired an influx of players and camp followers from the ACO that included “a blistering concert” from the Aussie band. Reviewer John Allison hailed the ACO as “one of the finest chamber orchestras in the world” and said its playing is consistently alive because “its musicians – rather like actors in a repertory theatre company – are always bouncing off each other in a spirit of fun”.
Much more was written in praise of Tognetti’s leadership and playing plus the way he tailored his innovative programme to Maribor’s numerous unique venues.
It’s worth noting the Slovenian city is due to become a European Capital of Culture in 2012 when Tognetti’s next festival is due to take place. A date for the diary indeed.