Misty eyed memories from a golden age of musical talent
THERE is always a danger on the sagging days between Christmas and New Year that gatherings of people will be serenaded by a chorus from the Brussels sprouts. generously orchestrated by second helpings of plum duff.
But those intestinal geezers and pipes were in good order when the swingers and young lovers of another age sashayed (or waddled) through the elegant portals of Liverpool’s Philharmonic Hall to cast off their sticks, mufflers, cardigans and embrocations – so that they could sink warmly into the days of sharp suits, broad shoulders, star-reflecting shoes and snap-brimmed hats. Then, the singers were called vocalists and they could hold their notes into the velvet fog of night, as the big bands tooted sweetly, sighed, and then blasted and boomed for the angels.
Enter Frank Sinatra?
Well, Christmas might be a time for miracles, but they couldn’t manage a resurrection.
Instead, we had Joe Stilgoe and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. That was fine because Joe crooned the rhapsodies of romance with a style which brushed the passing ghosts, but remained his own, while the orchestra, dressed in black and conducted by their good friend John Wilson, swung along in the grand old style – with the oodles of verve checked by superb timing.
Occasionally, the tender tones of Joe’s lovely voice were lost in the brassy gusto. Mostly, however, his voice and the instruments were in perfect sympathy, producing memorable interpretations of classics such as When I Fall in Love, Luck be a Lady, Witchcraft, Charlie Chaplin’s Smile and, most poignantly, on One for My Baby with Matt Regan’s piano caressing the story of loss and loneliness. The audience was enraptured, gazing, misty-eyed, into their memories.
The afternoon, one of the Phil’s Swing into the New Year programme, was billed A Tribute to Sinatra and Friends, the friends being singers associated with particular songs. They included Sammy Davis, Matt Monro, Nat King Cole, Dean Martin, Bobby Darin and Jack Jones. There was also a splendid medley in tribute to Capitol Records from the orchestra.
Most of all, the show was a tribute to the sizzling talent of composers and lyricists from a golden age, such as Irving Berlin, Rodgers and Hart, Cole Porter, Bricusse and Newley, Coleman and Leigh, Frank Loesser, Arlen and Mercer.
Amid the middle-aged and elderly in a full house was a scattering of young people celebrating the current craze for cool.
Joe, slim as a hairpin, brought the session to a soaring climax with Mack the Knife, followed by an encore of Let It Snow.