Monday, 18 July 2011

Weird gig with Andrea and Orpheus

Sang last night at a grand converted nunnery in the middle of Sussex; Andrea and Orpheus (pianist and violinist on my album) knew the organiser. We walked from the tiny station through tall-treed suburbia with Andrea's smartphone detecting our movements and guiding us. Getting off the train at the same time was a billowing silk chiffon dress in a wild print that reminded me of Liz Taylor in her kaftan days. Its occupant was wearing as much slap on her face as Marcel Marceau. Pink, jewelled shoes. Behind her was a man with an interested, lined face wearing a bold Henley jacket and a Panama. Behind them both creaked a terrifying wiry man with dyed hair and the outlines of life-sustaining machinery under his sweat-soaked shirt. "My name Charrrrles. Je suis Francais." I spoke French to him but he didn't answer. They took a taxi and whizzed past us.
At the venue was a jazz trio and friends. Very polished. A slim blonde singer with a face like Twiggy's ca. 1979 got up in her shiny black satin trousers and fitted white ruffled shirt that was just as liquid-looking as the trews, and gave a sophisticated, whimsical performance of Lullaby of Birdland. I've no idea why, but I felt as if it was1982, and it was so sweet it was almost painful.
The pink chiffon got up and imperiously demanded that the piano be 'shut', ie the lid down. She had presence. She was like Prince Philip being rude to Fiona Bruce and Alan Titchmarsh: the last of a species. As for the singing, imagine Maria Callas on her final tour.
Andrea was introduced as 'Alexandria and friends.' We got up and gave them We'll Gather Lilacs and the room changed. It wasn't my singing or even Andrea's, or Orpheus's playing. There are some songs that change a room, and we were all in a different place, and we all knew it. People just looked at each other suddenly, and liked each other. We'll gather lilacs in the spring again.
When we got up again later on the impresario asked me "Jazz or Opera?" He may well ask. Neither, or both?
Orpheus and Andrea stepped up to perform some gypsy and Slavic music, with the fellow from the land of sunshine (O.) and a girl from the land of snow (A.) making for a great stylistic push-and-pull. Worked well.
We did Honeysuckle from 1901, and Always from 1924 and this time everyone sang along, smiling from ear to ear. All ages. Very encouraged. Nobody does this stuff much, and one always asks Hmm, why not? It's good to see that it's not because people don't want it.
Charrrrrles got up with a jerk and grabbed the microphone and barked down it "Oh you can kiss me on a Monday, a Monday, a Monday, is very very good...or you can kiss me on a Tuesday a TUESDAY a TUESDAY in fact I wish you would!" and did the whole song, jabbing the audience with his bony finger with each iteration of the days of the week, and of course entirely without accompaniment. He had a Cockney accent, no hint of French.
Waiting at the station at a quarter to midnight, Orpheus said "That Charles. He's a very scary guy. I wouldn't ever want to mess with him."

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