A musical interlude
The other day I happened to switch on the car radio and heard what I thought was a play. There was a narrator, in a very ‘camp’ voice, describing the plot of theatrical production to someone, whom I assume was a producer. The plot being described sounded so ridiculous that I thought I must be listening to a comedy play on Radio Three. Radio Three is not a channel I switch to very often but on this occasion the narrator sounded so amusing and given the ridiculous nature of the plot, I had find out what happened next.
It turned out that I was listening to Afternoon on 3 – Proms 2012 Repeats¹ tribute to Ivor Novello. The narrator was Simon Callow rendering his own brilliant performance of Ivor Novello selling a musical plot to Harry Tennant, a theatrical producer for the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. The ridiculous plot was that for Glamorous Night, the musical which probably saved the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. Although this may, perhaps, be a slight embellishment by Simon Callow, along with the anecdotes about Ivor Novello that he recounted. However, the Prom was a delight and reminded me of an enduring memory that I have from my childhood, of a nation mourning the loss of an iconic figure. I doubt if many people, including myself, can name Ivor Novello as being the composer of many piece of music people of my generation instantly recognise.
Behind me, I heard a girl for whom Novello must seem as remote as the Pyramids confess that she’d “come over all emotional”. Perhaps Novello’s time is about to come round again. Ivan Hewett¹
The film Gosford Park by Robert Altman included the character of Ivor Novello played by Jeremy Northam. Apparently Ivor Novello didn’t carry a song well and never sang himself in any of his productions. Jeremy Northam’s portrayal of Novello, especially when singing Her Mother Came Too was a memorable moment. It’s a pity that Steven Fry ‘hammed up‘ the ending of the film, creating, for me, a memory block of the whole film.
I was surprised to come across a Johnny Mathis performance of Her Mother Came Too. Musically, a wonderful arrangement, but may be not as Novello had intended it to be sung. Her Mother Came Too is a rare comedic piece by Novello, perhaps an homage to his friend Noël Coward.
On a trip down memory lane about an iconic character from our parent’s – well mother’s really – past, then let’s add Charlie Kunz who was an American-born British musician popular during the British dance band era. At one time, reputedly the highest paid pianist in the world (Kunz was born in Allentown Pennsylvania in 1896). Here he is playing a selection of Novello pieces:
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