Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Toronto! Hugh's Room! Fitness gadget! Bach!

Backstage in Charity Shop finery

VERY soon after Swaledale I was off to Toronto. It was to be the North American premiere of the Ragtime Parlour Band, only with NONE of the boys here. It was just one gig and so the budget simply wouldn't stretch to five Air Canada tickets plus hotel rooms and all the rest of it.
So I landed, met the four guys hired by Scott, my manager, and shared the songs with them.
It's always nice to share one's love, and my love for ditties like Moonlight Bay, Oh Johnny, Don't Bring Lulu, Long Long Trail and so on is something very strong.
I had a rock guitarist on banjo, a klezmer/bluegrass clarinettist, a classical tuba player on Sousaphone, and a pianist who plays anything, just anything. Though his party piece is certainly all things Muppets. His Kermit is creepily accurate. He also does the Muppet Show song with all voices.
The Sousaphone that Trishul Sharma played was of cream and beige fibreglass. I regret the lack of good pictures of said instrument!
Interview on Classical 96 with Alexa Petrenko
We played at a big tea-party for almost 200 senior citizens at St Andrews, then a few days later played Hugh's Room. I called the show "From the Titanic to the Speakeasy" and it consisted of two sets: one pre-WWI and one post-WWI. I brought the banners along. I think the lads were pleasantly surprised at the level of delighted recognition we had from both audiences, young and old. In fact at St Andrews we had a call-and-answer going for "Moonlight Bay" (me: we were sailing along..." they: "We were sailing along..." me: "On Moonlight bay..." they: "On Moon-Light Bay!") the echo arrangement as seen in the Doris Day film of the same name. Utterly and totally charming.
The Hugh's Room crowd was just as loud in their approval. We were encored and we did "Let Him Go Let Him Tarry" and brought the roof off. The owner of Hugh's Room liked us and said we were welcome back any time.
From the Titanic...
Pianist Donavon LeNabat then accompanied me to three Nursing Homes the next day and I brought out as many different songs as I could to explore Toronto memories. I sang in an atrium with two real palm trees! In truth, with one exception on the Isle of Jersey, these were the three ritziest nursing homes I've ever sung at the Speak-easy
Then next day, I went back to London. I saw fireworks over Montreal at night...they look like little paperweights from above. So funny how these things impress you: I'd always thought of fireworks as being so HIGH up. Well they just barely come off the ground!! Bumpy over the Atlantic, and that meant a long, long time jolting around feeling woozy and worried...Oh I'd travel by freighter and rail exclusively if I could. Queueing at Heathrow I turned on my phone and discovered that poor Martin at St Anne's hadn't found an alto for that day's performance of BWV 21, Ich hatte viel bekummernis. He was desperate. He's one of the most supportive musicians around so I had to help. I dumped the luggage at Hanwell, grumpy and tired - a man complained loudly to his wife about people 'taking up more than one seat' as I sat slumped with 32-kilo suitcase and three bags in the bus and I spun around and growled "This is not the time to mess with me, pal...I am NOT in the mood". At the flat I threw down the bags and snatched up a black dress and went to the Wren church on Gresham Street where I sang through the alto bits while Martin played the rest. Then orchestra, bass, tenor and soprano arrived and we rehearsed. I had strong tea, and dammit if that thing didn't go smoothly! It is not an easy one, that Cantata, and one voice per part means no let-up. But it is one of the most extraordinarily gorgeous creations amongst an output crowded with extraordinary gorgeousness.
I left the gig and out on the street was an audience member standing in front of the church staring into space. She had a cane and I looked to see if it was white and if she needed assistance. She focused on my face. "You were the alto weren't you? Such beautiful, sinuous lines you sang...beautifully done. That was incredible in there. What an emotional journey that work is! What we've all just been through! Is it really the same day? It feels like three days have elapsed!"
"I know what you mean," I said. I went home and slept 11 hours with no dreams.

In Toronto I stayed with an amazing woman and her two lovely animals, persian cat Lucy and big poodle Larry. Margaret is an art librarian and intensely creative and clever and has the best sense of display I think I've ever seen. A sample of what her house looks like, on the right. The blue plastic elephant gets plugged in and fills with tiny pink lightning.

And this is her idea of a Christmas tree ornament. At about four inches high, it's the seminal 1913 "Armory Show". If you, like ignorant I, don't know what that was, here it all is. Notice that her ornament also has a mini catalogue attached by a bit of fishing wire. CLEVER.

She also likes beer and popcorn, two things I'm pretty fond of myself.

Mine for twenty-five cents. 

I walked past a yard sale in Toronto, and saw, offered for pennies, a crucified Christ in a bottle, a plastic poinsettia (with glitter) in a mini plastic toilet, and a pastel-and-oils portrait of Eminem, framed in gold. But there was a fitness gadget for 25c and I need to get fit. So I bought it.

Oh, the "Titanic" dress came from an RSPCA Charity shop and cost 18 quid! Woooo!

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Swaledale Festival 2012, with added PIRATES.

Stephen Anthony Brown
This is a short one to say that the premiere of composer Michael Brough's "Bacchus and the Pirates" was a success!
Composer Michael Brough, born in Leeds
The second Swaledale Festival for me, and certainly a joyful feast of breathtaking scenery, kind people, a genuine love of unusual and passionate music-making, and all the associations with All Creatures Great And Small in that area. Heck, I grew up looking at those dales. And men with floppy hair and fairisle jumpers thrusting their hands into cows to make them well or bring forth other cows, and tending to little shaggy dogs on rough-hewn tables.

The Festival commissioned Mr. Brough to compose a work for piano, tenor and mezzo, and what did he come up with? Only a 17-minute-long lurid Victorian (I almost wrote 'camp') mini-secular-oratorio! Crazy! Subtitled "Marine Variations for Two Pirates and Piano", The words are by Alfred Noyes (1880-1958). These are the first words I sing:

"Sea-roads plated with pieces of eight that rolled to a heaven by rum made mellow,
Heaved and coloured our barque's black nose where the Lascar sang to a twinkling star,
And the tangled bow-sprit plunged and dipped its point in the west's wild red and yellow,
Till the curved white moon crept out astern like a naked knife from a blue cymar."

Stephen sang heroically and I tried to keep up.
The piano roared, and many in the audience (faces beaming) commented that they'd not heard the piano sound like that during the whole festival.
The concert had to end with duets and we'd run out of ideas. "Oh don't worry, I'll arrange some folk songs," said Stephen. That he did. Those four song arrangements (Soldier, Soldier; The Trees They Grow So High; Golden Slumbers; Oh No John) will have a great future. Zita Syme, my soprano duet partner and also partner of Stephen, was coaxed onto the stage to do Golden Slumbers with Stephen, and everyone was completely enchanted. An unexpected voice is always a good thing in a recital, and when it's as limpid and meltingly gorgous as Zita's,'s magic.

Look at the variety of trees behind me...and how country-cottage the building is.

The next day we went and sang at a local Retirement Home as part of the festival's Community Outreach. It was in a small town called Bedale and it was a lovely, lovely place. Covered in climbing flowers, and round the side lovely gardens.
Ate lots of pies and didn't exercise nearly enough to make up for it.

Monday, 11 June 2012

Jubilee Storyvault.

"There was one thing missing from that concert in front of Buckingham Palace," I said to the crowd at the Royal Star and Garter in Richmond on Jubilee Tuesday.
Rehearsing. Look at the room! Complete with Queen Mary!
"You!" they all shouted.
I hadn't meant them to say that. I was going to say " the Queen's likely to actually enjoy..." Rather presumptuously of me, of course. I've heard, from someone who really ought to know, that her favourite show is Salad Days, for example. It was a little lacking in Julian Slade, that concert.
I know that the Queen's favourite song when she was 16 was "Yours", because Vera Lynn was called to Windsor to sing it for her at her 16th birthday.
I sang that at the RS&G concert.
Photo by Cmmdr. Charles Giles
I was asked, maybe, to sing something from "Singing in the Rain" or "Top Hat", both of which were showing in the West End in 1953, as they are right now. Instead I did something from "Rose Marie" which, though it debuted at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane in 1928, was in Oxford in June 1953, in a production ON ICE, with a company of 70. Hell, I just wanted to sing "When I'm calling you-oo-oo-oo-oo-oo-ooooo"
Let's be honest, here.
Rose Marie was, of course, about
Mounties, and...totem poles.
This concert meant a lot to me because it marked the first time I've ever done a gig with Peter Jacobs.
Peter's known as a champion of English composers, and has one hell of an impressive repertoire, and also a great discography. I was keen to revive the songs of Cecile Chaminade when I was in my late teens and early 20s, and also to be the first to record an entire CD of them. I had all of Peter's lovely, lovely recordings of her piano music on Hyperion, and I wrote to him. That started a really pleasant correspondence, culminating in my meeting him at his house in 2000. Since then we have been friends. The Chaminade story is another story.
It was a coincidence that Peter and I both give concerts for the residents at the Royal Star and Garter. So Pat Maynard, volunteer and organiser extraordinary, put us together.
In the lobby of the RS&G was the Queen. Well, here's a photo of her.
Peter and I did some folk arrangements by E.J. Moeran, Herbert Hughes, Vaughan Williams. We didn't do Chaminade but we did do Liza Lehmann. It was a feast of British music. Then we did when the Red Red Robin comes Bob Bob Bobbin along. And then, Land of Hope and Glory, and God Save the Queen.
Then I got to hear stories of the second world war from those who had been in it. And legends from after the war. I met this man, "Bugs" Bendell, who sat right at front and is a great music-lover. I've never seen him at a concert here before. He had the sweetest things to say. I feel that singing is such a tiny, silly thing compared to what these men and women have done.
Two people were there who don't live at the RS&G but used to visit Nancy Wake and still come along to the concerts.
Mildred Schultz worked for the S.O.E. and had some amazing stories, which I only was able to get slight bits of in the time I had. One needs (and wants!!) a whole day to properly hear the lives people like Mildred have led. Her companion Bob Frost had been in the R.A.F., was shot down over Belgium in WWII and was sheltered by a family of farmers, who risked their lives to help him. He managed to cross the Pyrenees eventually, and make his way back to England. See him tell his story HERE. Really, really recommended. It is a fabulous website...Storyvault. That's exactly what it is. 

We were going to all go out and have cake on the terrace but it was a bit too damp for that.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

All fun at the Gilbert Scott!

I'd like to pay homage to two marvellous things: the restored St Pancras Hotel, and the photographer Debee Calveche.

Here's a photo by Debee of part of the Gilbert Scott bar.
This is part of the magnificent restoration of Sir George Gilbert Scott's St Pancras Midland Grand hotel, now the St Pancras Renaissance.
I was on my way to the Illuminated Manuscripts exhibition at the British Museum one day when it was raining, and I cut through the covered portico at the westerly side of the building. I stopped dead in my tracks when I caught sight of the ceiling! With bells hanging from it! I thought of my Parlour band, and it occurred to me that any other music would be out of place there. What goes with this sort of splendour? Ragtime and Parlour, that's what.
So here I am.
With a new band-mate, the ever-grounded, ever-proactive Emily O'Hara.
We were given a room to leave our things in, and sort out music. Here we are sorting music.
Emily suggested that I make banners to cover music stands, so off I went to Shepherds Bush Market, where I found exactly what I needed. Felt! I don't want to sew, particularly, so I designed the banners on the back of a Music in Hospitals contract, inspired by 78rpm record label designs I've seen, and using Suffragette colours (Green, Violet, White = Give Votes to Women. Occasionally you'll find Edwardian jewellery in emeralds, amethyst and diamonds, meaning the same thing). Then I just got felt, and scissors and fabric glue. It was pretty much all free-hand, with a few little pencillings. I used an exacto knife too.

Emily O'Hara, John Baker, Simon Marsh

I think they're very pretty. Good idea, Emily!

We did all sorts of things. Songs from the forties, the thirties, but mostly the 20s and before. We got very good reactions to "Moonlight Bay" which really worked well. We did it all without amplification, and I could feel my voice soaring up to G. Gilbert Scott's ornamental, vaulted ceilings.
Emily in her turn did some of her Annette Hanshaw songs, impressive multi-talent she is. She's younger than me, slimmer than me, and plays the guitar. Aren't I the opposite of a diva to have her anywhere near me? Just needed to say that, you know. To be appreciated as the selfless one I really am.
Debee Calveche
Now. Debee here has come along, often at her own expense, to most of my gigs. She has taken the most stunning photos, and footage of me including those two clips of me singing at the Clerkenwell vintage fair sitting on the top of a piano. She has a creative, artistic eye. Most of these blog posts feature her work: the Lucky Dog Picture House, the Clerkenwell Vintage Fair, the Scoop gig...and many marvellous others from Passing Clouds and the Experimental Cocktail Club in Soho (which I didn't blog about, but which I give an example of below). If any musicians are reading this and would like to have something that really shows not only themselves in action, but the true atmosphere of the place, and moments of beauty and surprising, poetic and humorous juxtapositions, they need look no further than Miss Debee.
I was also lucky to have another photographer drop by, Commander Charles Giles, Retired. Pilot for the Royal Navy, and many other acheivements in sea and air!
I love how he's captured a camera-in-a-camera effect here.
Photo by Cmdr Charles Giles
Well in any event there was some talk of a possible engagement for the Jubilee weekend, so watch out for announcements, as they say.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Gin at the Idler, Costumed Handel with scores.

On the plane back from Canada I ran through the words of "Don't Bring Lulu" in my head. You can bring peas and crullers and cheese but don't bring Lulu! Give her two beers and she tears portiers and throws cups of the shelf...I wished I had a score of Jephtha but I'd been unable in Gibsons, Sechelt, Vancouver or Toronto to get to a shop to buy one, and I was convinced that I had one already, anyway. I was to sing the role of Storge, Jephtha's wife, in Epsom, at a semi-staged, but fully-costumed production.
I'd picked out my outfit from the National Theatre's costume warehouse. A lot of their stuff is in tatters, and this dress isn't much of an exception. It smelt of basement, and had threads fraying all over the inside of it, completely raw-seamed. However. The design! There's a flattering cut for anyone!
Jephtha is a story from the Old Testament, but the director thought that as it is about a war, it'd be nice for it to be set in WWI.
Looking through my boxes of music in three locations I didn't have a score after all, and everyone involved in the production had bought the last Novello copies (at about 10 quid) and I had to buy one of those big blue Barenreiters (at 22).

 Micawbers from NT productions past...
Masks at the National Theatres' Costume Hire!

Less jetlagged, I'd have braved the rain and poked around the Archive Bookstore's basement on Bell Street, and no doubt found a Novello copy for a fiver. But the weather! Oh the weather. Those droplets on the plane windows as you land at's a wet parody of confetti, welcoming you to Britain. It didn't stop for days. I felt glad for the plants' sake, and for animals' and birds' sake. And of course, you're glad to be back in England just as soon as you see, say, a lot of colourful canal boats at the side of the railway line (at less than a minute as you take the Heathrow Connect toward Hayes). But I did go directly to Chappells instead of Bell Street.

Ben Thapa, director Stephen Oliver, moi, Iestyn Morris,
Jen Clarke, David Stout
Aside from picking out a dress at the National Theatre's hire-warehouse and being told that I'll be Storge, there was nothing in the way of preliminary rehearsals for the production. The soloists were all picked up at Ewell West station, having studiously ignored each other in the railway carriage but then extremely friendly once we actually spoke. The fee was a standard 'day-of' fee. That is, meet everyone on the day, use the score. And, USUALLY, stand in one place and sit down quietly when not singing. To have memorised it is a whole different ball game. To have gone to rehearsals costs, as it ought, much more. We tried on our costumes at noon, and went down to have instruction from the director, who told us when and where to come on, come off, and whom to greet, take by the hand, react to, stand, sit, and so on. Props were pointed out and we wrote it all down in our scores. Rehearsals were music rehearsals, in ascending order of ensemble. So as the musicians arrived we went through our bits in a radically different order to the way it's written. In effect, no run-through of what we'd just heard. The choir arrived and went through their parts with the orchestra, in between our bits. We just managed to finish at six-ish and the concert started at seven thirty. My mind was a blank. How did we do it? I don't know. We held our scores and wandered around, emoting and acting, and finding truth in it. It was a small miracle. The girl who played my daughter, Jennifer Clarke, was a sweet, almost old-fashioned Viennese-style voice in the tradition of Erna Berger, Lisa della Casa...when I came back onstage after she'd been saved from human sacrifice (tis that sort of a story, is Jephtha) to be the overjoyed mother, she was crying real tears, sobbing her heart out! I asked her afterwards how she'd managed to so invest herself in the role. She said it was relief at having survived it all.
Her parents were in the audience. They overheard a couple next to them muttering "Those soloists...shocking...after all those rehearsals and they still haven't memorised their music!"

With Richard Barnett! Photo by Kelley Swain!
Behind us is a book called Facial Justice. An interesting
Dystopian read from the looks of it. By L P Hartley! He
of "The Go-Between". Whaddya know.

Two days later and I was singing with the Parlour Boys in Notting Hill. It was the launch of Richard Barnett's latest book, the Dedalus Book of Gin. It is a gloriously quirky bookshop, club-house, coffee shop called The Idler, and the launch of the book involved G&Ts at heroic strength. But the gin was Miller's, which is quite all right!! Richard gave one of his really really great talks. This fellow never ever says "um" and he doesn't use notes and he is always fascinating. His talk was on the very starry origins of gin. It was inspired by philosophers, and it inspired philosophers. It's good to know something other than "Drunk for a penny, dead-drunk for tuppence" and yet again see Hogarth's Gin Lane engraving in your head. Then the Ragtime Parlour Boys supplied a rip-roaring version of the Old Gin Rag, later known as the Tiger Rag. I sang Don't Bring Lulu, Button up your Overcoat, the Tango des Roses, and the Honeysuckle and the Bee. All acoustic, and all appreciated, I think!

Richard B, me, Simon Marsh, John Baker, Matt Redman, Nick Ball.


Friday, 11 May 2012

Canadian tour in tweeds and novelty sunglasses

I just got back from a Concerts in Care tour in British Columbia. I stayed on the Sunshine Coast with my mum, and commuted into Vancouver on this beast here.
It is thanks to this, the Queen of Coquitlam (nowhere near) and its sister ships on the BC Ferry fleet that, if you were born on the Coast, you're likely to be very good at being on time for things.
The view going across is lovely.

The funny bulge here is the core of an extinct that enchanted me as a child. I grew up literally in its shadow.
And the little island below is Shelter Island, where my father kept his booming grounds, and where my brother now keeps his. Oh! Every contour means something, even if it's just a familiar shape in my brain. 
But even with all this beauty, many just read their book or sit at their laptop. It's a commute. But I couldn't. Hence I'm writing this in London.

Roza Rogers
There are friendly faces on the ferry. This lady here saw me hemming my dress (from Vivien of Holloway! How lucky I am that I can consider such clothes "for work"!) and suddenly could stand it no longer. "I'm a seamstress," she said.
"Ha ha, I'm not," I said.
"I can tell! You know how I can tell?"
"You're moving the needle to meet the thread, not the other way round."
I remember a passage in Huckleberry Finn like this. Huck is trying to pretend he's a girl, and he's rumbled on this particular detail.
"I'd love to do it for you," this lovely lady said.
And she did! With an accuracy and a speed that astonished me. Her name is Roza Rogers and she is not only a seamstress and alterationist, but an Interior Design Consultant! In Gibsons, folks. So if you live in Gibsons and want either of those things, Roza is your lady. She works for theatrical productions too.
No photos were taken of me singing in this dress, but I have one from a couple of years ago. It was at a VE Day event in Laleham-on-Thames.
I sang entirely in Vivien of Holloway, or Monsoon, for this BC tour.
MUCH fun was had. And my pianist was the versatile, fun, creative Doug Balfour. He's also a Music Director for many shows in Vancouver, and in other towns too!
I brought some Jubilee sunglasses I got from Accessorize for a fiver, and wish I'd brought more! EVERYONE wanted to buy them!

A Monsoon dress that's very 30s.
Was almost late, hence I hadn't changed out of my clod-hoppers.
I sang a patriotic song from 1941 called "The King is Still in London". It brought down the house every time.
It was probably just the sunglasses.

It was lovely to stay at the can see in the smaller picture below that it's a gorgeous place. Sea, beach, trees, islands...and me in tweed, reminding myself and others that I now live in England.

I was able to do some outreach concerts for the Coast Recital Society, and my piano teacher came to one of them, so I had the chance to tell a room full of people that my career, based on my research of songs, wouldn't be anywhere at all without her. "If it hadn't been for Mrs. Stuart, all those pieces of sheet music would just be a lot of random dots!"
Dress by Vivien of Holloway. 
Also present was the amazing, amazing Elisabeth, the extraordinary Octogenarian who was born in Germany and who anonymously gave me a money order for $100 every Christmas. It was always signed "From St Nicholas". I puzzled over the handwriting and card like Sherlock Holmes and put the money solemnly away into the savings account, waiting for the day when I could go to study music at College. How those money orders inspired me, made me look forward and plan, and feel worth something.

This is called the "Runaround Sue" dress. Made in London.

This was the first time I had a chance to show her what my voice had turned into as a result!
So I did Ombra mai Fu, Morgen, Plaisir d'Amour, and At the River, as well as my lighter things.
What incredible satisfaction to be able to say thanks at a concert. You can say thanks WITH the concert, express yourself through the most potent medium available.

After a week or so, I took the notorious "Red Eye" overnight plane to Toronto. One leaves at 10:30pm and arrives, their time, at 5:30am. Vancouver time is a bit earlier!!
Staggering out of the building, you're ripe fodder for the taxi drivers if you're not used to them, the grasping, disgusting crooks! At least, mine was.
I've got his card, so I really ought to name and shame shouldn't I? All I can say is be on your guard, folks!

In Toronto
That very day was my Canadian Showcase. I saw the Toronto Space Needle all touched with gold in the sunrise, and noticed all the magnificent old bathing pavilions along the lake. They looked like Bel Epoque casinos. I wonder what they're like inside?
I slept for a bit on my Canadian manager's sofa, then met the magnificent Shira Gilbert, PR in Canada. VERY capable hands there. And Scott Morin's team, young AND enthusiastic about my kind of music. Then I rehearsed with the very excellent pianist recommended by Doug, a fabulous man named Steve Hunter. I reckoned that anyone who A. had just put out a CD of Scott Joplin and B. was recommended by Doug had to be great. And he was. I don't have any photos of the event, but there was tea and cakes (was to be wine and cheese but I insisted like a spoiled Diva on tea and cakes and guess what? They went first. Mind you, Scott - the man in charge - made sure to get excellent cakes. NOT Mr. Kipling excellent, but Laduree excellent. This is Toronto!) and people from the jazz and the classical sides of the fence. I got into some red velvet and sang Always (had them singing the chorus), My Lovely Day, Yours, Let Him Go Let Him Tarry (had em shouting the chorus), and We'll Gather Lilacs. Was encored, and did Honeysuckle. Yelled "piano solo!" and Mr. Hunter took off! He has stride chops, he does.
Well that was a taster. All anyone need do is ask for more. Which it seems, they are doing. May have to renew that Canadian passport of mine.

Monday, 20 February 2012

Ragtime Parlour!

One of my favourite covers.
Here's something you don't get very often. A combination of stompingly good Ragtime, and the Parlour songs that preceded it, and the songs that were informed by it after, and a band that doesn't really need amplifying. It's genuine, hundred-year-old fun. If there are ANY Titanic Centenary events that do not call on us to perform, they are extremly silly. Beyond silly; certifiable.
My first-ever piece of sheet music.

This IS the RMS Lusitania Ragtime Orchestra, Matt on piano.

I've collected old sheet music since I was at least nine. I've gone through mountains of it. I collected it from neighbours, abandoned shacks, benches in used piano shops, charity shops, and through classified want ads. I put out the word, and people gave me boxes of it.
I still have the same system today: I sit down at the piano, play through it and sort it into as many as ten different categories, then take it out and try it on audiences everywhere. I take it to hospitals and to nursing homes where people are brutally frank. If a song makes it there, it will make it almost anywhere.

I've done gigs for Matthew Redman, wunderkind of yore (he's now a wundermann) with his RMS Lusitania Ragtime Orchestra, and I've done gigs for Nicholas Ball and his Flying Aces. Putting together elements of both, and adding my chintz and parlourishness, what we have is this:
I have had people advise me that I should take all mention of Parlour out before going to North America. There was a revival of Parlour in the 1970s, and it wasn't all good. So, they tell me, it is doubly, triply, stuffy. I ask you! Is this stuffy?
For one thing, you'll never hear a Sousaphone imitate a bumblebee anywhere else.  

We are like a Renaissance "Broken Consort" in a way, because we take on different combinations through the concert. I started a capella with Stephen Foster, then we launched into Oh Johnny all together, then the four instruments did a fresh and bright rendition of "Aeroplane Rag of 1912", then Nick came out and sang a solo, then Matt and I scaled right back with a guitar-and-voice "Love's Old Sweet Song", and then he sat down (not on his tails) at the piano to play "Pale Hands I Loved Beside the Shalimar", and then we were all of us back with "Moonlight Bay", and so it went.

Simon can't resist touching it.
Footage is still being edited from this concert, and then you can see Nick's fabulous singing-trumpet and hear how mellow his voice is through it. He made it out of a metal waste-paper basket, part of a vaccuum hose, and some red enamel paint. Works a treat. Simon Marsh's marvellous clarinet, with its beautiful vibrato, developed specially for this project and era, you might remember from "Our Lovely Day". Listen for his little counter-melodies through the music. Bliss.

At Mayfest. Hence my flowers, hence Nick's boater.
And what does one say about the Sousaphone? It is an edifying sight. And played by Dickie, an edifying sound. This is a man who has played in symphony orchestras, but doesn't mind dragging his massive, hundred-year-old instrument on and off night-buses for gigs at the Experimental Cocktail Club, or in this case, to a church in Notting Hill.

The audience was very happy to see us again. We had appeared in the Notting Hill Mayfest 2011 and believe it or not, when I was wandering along Portobello Road a few months ago, a very respectable lady actually stopped me and said "Did you sing all those wonderful songs, with the sousaphone and the banjo and everything? I never had so much fun in my life!"