Monday, 14 November 2011

Unexpected gig, unexpected aroma.

On my list of people who ought to be famous but aren't (yet) is a composer called Michael Brough.

Here's a video of me singing one of his songs. I think it's as good as anything Schumann has written...better than any song written by a living composer, and a joy to sing. And there are 80 more from the same source.

Brough is one of those genius-musicians who think in colours, shapes, keys, and look abstracted in company when there's music on, because it's a stronger language for him than speech.
He has a solicitor's office he tires himself out in during the day. You can't pay for a mortgage if you're a composer who is intent on creating pure, meaningful art. And Brough refuses to write for commercial ends, for that tiresome reason so many people of genius have: an inability to compromise. So posterity goes without the symphonies, the string quartets, the oratorios, the sonatas. And wonders why we in the 21st century have such a dearth of those works compared to, say, a hundred or a hundred and fifty years ago.

He also plays the organ, and a couple of days ago had an organ recital in Notting Hill, which I was looking forward to. There's no better way to sort out any problems in your head than sitting through an organ recital, even when played by a visceral performer like Michael Brough.

The night before the concert, the organiser frantically rang me up. Richard Carruthers, of Music Chamber. A true supporter of the arts, Mr. Carruthers.

"I can't get hold of Michael. The recital will have to be cancelled...the organ's broken!"

I told him that I have seen Mr. Brough casually walk into a church where they'd not had the organ played in 20 years, claiming it's beyond repair, only for Michael to strip to the waist, grovel about a bit amongst the dust and bat-droppings, and have the thing up and running in ten minutes flat. Also that this is an organist who once was playing a hymn for a wedding when the organ broke at the beginning of the 2nd verse, and while the congregation continued to sing, raced up the spiral staircase, fixed it, and got down the staircase to join them again for the last verse.

"Well, I don't think this can be fixed. It'll either be cancelled, or here's a bright idea, the two of you could do a voice and piano recital! Less than 24 hours' notice...ha ha!"

I tried ringing Michael. No answer. I put my mobile on speakerphone and just kept redialling and having the thing ring until it refused to keep ringing, then I'd start over again. After about half an hour of this, he answered and I told him of the possible change of plans. He hadn't heard the phone because he'd been practising for the recital.

The next day I was almost completely certain I wouldn't have to sing. Michael Brough could fix any organ. I dawdled, looked through some music, and dug out songs that I've done with Michael in the past, but haven't done for a while. Thine Alone, by Victor Herbert. Fair House of Joy by Quilter. French salon songs I recorded back in 2002. Some of Michael's compositions.

A pretty, but silent, organ behind.
But I dressed as an audience member on a chilly day. Ended up running through the park to the railway station, as I'd have been late even as an audience member if I hadn't.
Anyway, not even Michael could mend a disintegrated plastic connector tube to the blower, held together by somebody's duct-tape that came off whenever the organ needed more wind. Michael played three substantial piano pieces and I did three sets of songs. Thine Alone? The voice loved it, and it loved the voice. But the oh my. Is it that long since I've sung this? Seems like yesterday. Funny: I wouldn't have expected to stand up and recite a poem I haven't thought of for six years, but I expect to be able to do it with a song. I sang "In thine eyes enfold me my beloved..." and "let thine arms look fondly into mine". Some in the audience said they hadn't noticed. But when you have it within you to do a perfect job...oh how annoying three missed words is! And it's just plain unprofessional.

Having got that out of the way, the rest was fine, and quite fresh for being spontaneous. I did notice a funny smell, especially when I breathed very deeply for long phrases. Sitting down during Michael's electrifying rendition of a sontata by Issay Dobrowen, I tried to get a cluster of autumnal foliage off the bottom of my shoe. Yes, the leaves were being held there. By something brown. By something in the park I hadn't noticed. Yes, I sang two-thirds of a recital with a good two tablespoons' worth of crap on my shoe.

Later, I went to the Experimental Cocktail Club in Soho and sang with Albert Ball's Flying Aces from 11pm to 2am. The gold dancing shoes from Freed's were clean, and I wore a tight, simple black dress with a large poppy as the only ornament. Introduced a new/old song with the Flying Aces: There's a Long Long Trail a-Winding.

No comments:

Post a Comment