Felixstowe Recorded Music: Bob Meadows

Bob Meadows

Bob Meadows 18th November 2015

How popular composers have raided the classics

This is an abridged report of what was a thoroughly entertaining evening presented by Felixstowe Radio regular Bob Meadows.

Stolen or borrowed, said Bob, that is the question. So let us begin, and with that we heard his first selection. He asked whether anyone could supply a title or artist, or both. And what would we hear as its classical counterpart?

It was Nut Rocker by B Bumble and the Stingers. The classical piece – which we also identified – was the March of the Toy Soldiers from The Nutcracker by Tchaikovsky.

Well, Bob continued, clearly a blatant case of highway robbery there. But when it comes to musical poaching, he wished to draw a distinction between outright theft and what he called “borrowing” to render it a little less blameworthy. There is of course the question of permission. But does anybody who uses somebody else’s chord sequence or melody then sets them to a different tempo and writes – or gets a lyricist to write – new words, do they ask permission? And how many hope to get away with it? Is the original composer still alive? So often the answer is no. Do they have litigious descendants who would be likely to pursue a legal case? Maybe. Maybe not. For a written work, 70 years appears to be the duration of “intellectual property” and for a recorded work 50 years appears to be the time limit within which a copyist – or plagiarist – has to tread carefully. After that it appears to be open season. Steal what you like and see what happens.

But is there another side to this coin? Are the copyists simply too lazy or lacking in talent to come up with something of their own, or is there sometimes a question of what we nowadays call “homage”? Do they merely borrow in order to show admiration and pay tribute to the original?

And could copying be sometimes accidental? George Harrison firmly believed that his My Sweet Lord was completely original. But Bright Tunes Corporation was sure it was purloined from He’s So Fine by The Chiffons and in prolonged and complex litigation the Court agreed he was guilty of subconscious plagiarism. It cost Harrison $587,000. The pop music world prefers to just call it rip off, or more correctly copyright infringement.

Perhaps we could consider these points as we listen to some of the items he had chosen for this evening. One further point – have the imitators a valuable purpose in that they may introduce a new generation of listeners to the original works? Or have they gone so far in sacrificing the subtlety of the original that we feel as if we have been clobbered over the head?

In order to gauge roughly how we felt, Bob now introduced an interactive element. He had previously handed out brown envelopes with the written instruction on them not to open yet. Now we could open them and found they contained a green card and a red card. He was going to play his selections in pairs – the original and the borrowed or stolen version and we would be invited to vote for each pair of works. Holding up the green card for any thoughts which might range from enjoyable, or moderately enjoyable, or even yes, borrowed or stolen but still reasonably acceptable. Red for no, not really and ranging through to unreasonable and outrageous theft, not to be tolerated and never again while I live and breathe!

So we now voted for the original pair: Nut Rocker and March of the Toy Soldiers. Nut Rocker – 8 reds; March of the Toy Soldiers – 1 red
(For simplicity only the red votes are shown, so it can be assumed that generally the balance of about 18 votes in total were green. So no votes is a favourable endorsement not a criticism.)

Nut Rocker was from 1962, but from now on he would proceed chronologically. Starting in 1918 with a song credited to the writers Joseph McCarthy and Harry Carroll and sung in 1918 by Harry Fox. This was I’m Always Chasing Rainbows. And what did that derive from? Chopin’s Fantaisie Impromptu in C# minor, opus 66. Votes: I’m Always Chasing Rainbows – 4; Fantaisie Impromptu – none.

We moved on to 1922. Goin’ Home, sung by Paul Robeson. This came from the Largo of Dvorak’s New World Symphony No. 9, which we also then heard. (And also of course purloined for a Hovis advert with a small boy pushing his delivery bike up Gold Hill in Shaftesbury, transposed to the north of England.) Votes: Goin’ Home – 3; Dvorak – none.
From 1922 to 1945 and Perry Como and Till the End of Time. This was attributed to Buddy Kaye and Ted Mossman. It comes from the Polonaise in A flat major opus 53 by Chopin. After hearing both the audience voted: Perry – 3 reds; Chopin – 2 reds.

And now we’re in 1950. Jo Stafford singing No Other Love, (attributed to Bob Russell and Paul Weston), which derives from Chopin’s Etude No. 3 in E opus 10. Votes: Jo Stafford – 8 reds; Chopin – no reds.

Bob introduced a personal reminiscence at this point. It was interesting, he said, to consider how different types of music find their way into our lives. He was both surprised and grateful that classical music eventually came into his. Hearing the voice of Jo Stafford reminded him of her song from 1952 – You Belong to Me. That was the first by a female artiste to reach number one in the following year in the new UK singles chart.

He arrived in Felixstowe in 1951 when he was six and lived in St Edmunds Road. His brother John was 12 years older and he brought back a wind up gramophone and a huge pile of 78s from his travels in the Merchant Navy. Bob worked his way through the pile whenever his brother was away. This was his introduction to music. The pop stars of the day were Frankie Lane, Johnny Ray and Guy Mitchell, along with Doris Day, Rosemary Clooney and Jo Stafford. But the record pile ranged far deeper and wider and it became clear to Bob that some items were more serious than others.

We heard the opening of the Moonlight Sonata. The words Classical Music had not yet come his way, but this was clearly something different and he began to connect the dots two years later when another piece of music came into his home. Rachmaninov’s Rhapsody on a theme of Paganini, of which we heard a little.

In 1953 Felixstowe and District Gramophone Society was inaugurated. Felixstowe was flooded and a Broadway show called Kismet was making its presence widely felt via request programmes on the wireless. It did not arrive in the West End until 1955 but in that year it was also made into a film. The credits are at least quite honest and say: “Music by Borodin adapted by Robert Wright and George Forrest”, who are credited with having written the lyrics, and Charles Lederer and Luther Davis are credited with the book, based on a 1911 play by Edward Knoblock.

The story of Kismet tells of a wily poet who talks his way out of trouble several times while meanwhile his beautiful daughter meets and falls in love with a young Caliph. The film was a huge success, the stage play won several awards and has enjoyed several revivals. Bob invited us to hear three of the songs alongside the Borodin originals. The first two were not from the stage play or film but by singers of the day who had hits with them.
First was Stranger in Paradise, the best known, sung by Tony Bennett. This came from the Polovstian Dances from Prince Igor. Votes: Stranger in Paradise was given 3 reds but the original none.

Then Baubles, Bangles and Beads. Sung by Peggy Lee. And the Borodin work was the String Quartet No. 2, the second movement, scherzo in F, tempo allegro. Voting: Votes: Peggy Lee – 2 reds; and Borodin also 2 reds.

The third number came from the film with Howard Keel, Ann Blyth and Vic Damone: And This is my Beloved. This also comes from the same Borodin quartet, the third movement, a nocturne in A major, marked andante. Voting: And This is my Beloved – 7 reds; Borodin – no reds.

It was only later in life that Bob discovered that these melodies were not original but borrowed from Borodin, or if you prefer, stolen.

Bob did not see the film of Kismet but one film above all others that he saw at the age of six or seven – sister Christine was a cinema usherette and he could sit anywhere for a shilling – was The Great Caruso starring Mario Lanza. It was packed with thrilling songs which he later discovered to be arias from longer works. This was the film which inspired Placido Domingo and later Alfie Boe to become tenors like Lanza. For Bob these songs and the songs from Kismet had some of the greatest melodies he had ever heard. But he had no sense of them as being superior to the pop music that he was habitually listening to. Bob refuses to subscribe to elitist views about music, whilst accepting that a lot of classical music is more subtle than pop music, has more variety of tempo and more complicated chord patterns and subtle changes of mood. Does this make it more worthy or indeed more worthwhile? No, to his mind it makes it make it more demanding – you need often to bring some knowledge and appreciative skills to the party and of course it can help to know something of the composer’s life and intentions in writing the piece. So, like all study and acquisition of knowledge, this is a good and worthwhile thing in itself, but please let us not put the lover of classical music on a lofty or elevated plateau.

While rock and roll and 12 bar blues may only utilise three chords as a rule maybe, they have their place in music history. They were and are always performed with passion and people who love them are deeply moved by them and attain enormous pleasure from them.

Now off to Spain and yes you’ve guessed already – although while Spain is the setting and the male hero is a Spanish toreador the work was written in French by a Frenchman and Bob saw it performed in Italy before a largely Italian audience. The Habanera from Bizet’s Carmen: the heroine herself warns that love is a rebellious bird and if she loves you, watch out!

In the parallel universe of Carmen Jones with the first ever all black cast in a Hollywood musical, the great toreador becomes a boxer and the girl from the tobacco factory – Carmen – becomes a parachute maker who makes a play for a flyboy Air Force man. Even though Dorothy Dandridge and the rest of the cast were competent singers, Hollywood of course just had to dub their voices. So here apparently is Dorothy Dandridge and Dat’s Love. Votes: for the Habanera – 1 red; That’s Love – 6 reds.


After the break, Bob continued with a further two pairings from Carmen followed by Carmen Jones: Gypsy Song from Carmen and then Beat Out That Rhythm on the Drum. Voting: Carmen Gypsy Song – 2 reds; Carmen Jones – 8 reds.

Now the famous toreador is carried on at shoulder height with adoration heaped on him from all quarters. The Toreador Song from Carmen followed by the entrance of the famous boxer from Carmen Jones who sings Stand Up and Fight. (Some of us might also think: Esso sign means happy motoring…!) Voting: Carmen Toreador Song – 1 red; Carmen Jones – 9 reds.
Poor old Bizet, it should be added, died thinking his opera was a failure.

Bob went on to explain where he stood on the three songs we had heard from the 1950s. As a youngster he had loved those songs even though he had not seen the film of Carmen Jones and had no idea of their context. But he was convinced that the Carmen Jones’ songs eventually led him to what you might call the real thing. Had he not known these songs he would probably not have gone on to enjoy a wonderful evening in the beautiful amphitheatre in Verona seated on marble steps for what should have been a four hour performance of Carmen, relying entirely on the natural acoustics of the building with no microphones or amplification of the music. It was a wonderful experience apart from the massive rainstorm which brought about a cancellation at the end of the third hour!

Bob’s argument was that while he could see that some perpetrators are guilty of plundering and pillaging – musical Vikings you might call them – others have used some sensitivity in their treatment of the classics and other people might well have moved on like him to discover the original source material.

From now for a change on we were going to hear the classical version first. Espana by Emanuel Chabrier, Rhapsody for orchestra. Any idea what that was turned into?
Hot Diggity sung by Perry Como in 1956. After some audience participation in the latter, we voted 1 red for Chabrier and 4 reds for Perry Como.

Now moving from the 1950s to the early 1960s, and the man once known as the King of Rock. By now he had served two years in the army and on coming out he had kicked rock and roll into touch and was now keen to fulfil his two big ambitions: to act like James Dean or Marlon Brando; and to sing like Mario Lanza.

We heard Elvis singing It’s Now or Never followed by O Sole Mio. (O Sole Mio dates from 1898 and the composer was Eduardo di Capua.) No red votes for either.
The next Elvis song came from Plaisir d’Amour by JPE Martini (a classic French love song written in 1784), and Can’t Help Falling in Love. Votes: Plaisir – 1 red; Elvis – no reds.

And the final Elvis pairing was Return to Sorrento from the Italian song Torna a Surriento, a Neapolitan song from 1902 composed by Ernesto de Curtis, English lyrics by Claude Aveling, sung here by Dean Martin; and Surrender sung by Elvis. Votes: Return to Sorrento – 3 reds; Surrender – 4 reds.

Regarding Elvis, from the start his gyrations were controversial, but for Bob at the age of 11 or 12 rock and roll was exciting beyond words and Elvis was king. After several years of rather pathetic movies his comeback was in 1968, but here we are now, 38 years after his death and the legend goes on, with the release of a batch of his old songs re-released two weeks ago with backings by the London Symphony Orchestra, and the album went straight to No. 1 in the album charts in the very week of its release. It is interesting to speculate who is the audience for this record. But whoever is buying or downloading it surely this provides evidence of what has come to be known as crossover – the phenomenon which has been at the root of the success of Nigel Kennedy, the Three Tenors, Russell Watson, Lesley Garrett, Il Divo and even Andrea Bocelli. All of these have sold their products to a wider popular audience way beyond the niche audience of pure classical music lovers.

Returning to the theme of Stolen or Borrowed, we heard Ponchielli’s Dance of the Hours from La Giocanda. Most (all?) of us knew that Allan Sherman’s comic hit Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah, was based on that, but how many knew that there was a third derivative: Maureen Evans and Like I Do? Voting on all three: Ponchielli – no reds; Allan Sherman – no reds; Maureen Evans – 3 reds.

Wrapping up his presentation Bob said that he was very happy that classical music found its way into his life, if only by the back door, i.e. via pop music. It had been a wonderful journey of discovery for someone who was not brought up on it and did not study it formally or learn to play an instrument in a serious and dedicated way except for strumming a few chords on a guitar.

We had voted on 33 items altogether (in part rather than complete). Of course, the sample size was too small to draw any definite conclusions but it may have been a pleasant surprise that the “popular” items received a good proportion of green votes so perhaps the FRMS is more versatile in its tastes than some might assume!

Mike Fowle

PS: somebody said Bob has dyed his hair white – that is unconfirmed. The editor of this site failed to attend this great talk, he was in Norwich at the Northern Ballet’s ‘Nutcracker’ – so there was a connection

Retrospective: Mike Fowle

A report of Felixstowe Recorded Music Societies meeting of 4 November 2015 when Mike Fowle presented:


Mike explained that his ideas had gone through several revisions, but he had ended up by going through his previous programmes and selecting music that he had had to omit for one reason or another. His first item was the overture Di Ballo by Sir Arthur Sullivan. Written before the collaboration with W S Gilbert, this is in three parts, a polonaise, a waltz and a gallop but uses the same thematic material throughout.

Alfred Brendel, said Mike, as well as being a wonderful pianist is also a thoughtful writer about music. In an essay he had compared Beethoven the Architect with Schubert the Sleepwalker. This was not derogatory – when you look at how Beethoven constructs his masterpieces there is genius all the way whereas with Schubert it seems that melodic inspiration just descends. The Impromptu No 1 in F minor of the D935 set was probably Mike’s favourite although not as often heard as some of the others.
The next piece was a short song from the musical Irma La Douce. This came out at the end of the 1950s. Mike had not seen it but his sister had and bought the LP which he had then heard often. The particular song But has some very witty lyrics and Mike briefly explained the background. Nestor creates a fake identity (for various reasons) a Monsieur Oscar, but finds the strain of a double life too much and gets rid of M Oscar. He is then charged with his murder, convicted and sent to Devil’s Island! Along with some other convicts he escapes and they make their way back to Paris. Now all he has to do is convince the French authorities that M Oscar is alive and well, but as the song shows, this is far from straightforward.

Mike played the next two selections – two movements from a symphony – without saying what they were. He wanted the audience to hear them without preconceptions. They turned out to be a larghetto and allegretto from a symphony called Il Giorno Onomastico by Antonio Salieri. Mike feels strongly that the film Amadeus created a highly misleading view of Salieri (who after all taught Beethoven, Schubert and Liszt).

Agustin Barrios was a Paraguayan guitarist and composer, born 1885. He sometimes appeared in full Paraguayan headdress and added the title Mangore (chief) to his name. We heard John Williams (a champion of Barrios) playing La Catedral.

Then came a short song by Schubert – Heidenroslein. The words are by Goethe and basically have a rose addressing a young boy who goes to pick it. In which case, I will prick you and make you bleed says the rose. It was sung by Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau accompanied by Gerald Moore.

One of Mike’s favourite films is The Third Man, and the music plays a large part in it. The sound of the zither establishes the location as Vienna, and the rather jaunty sounding music contrasts dramatically with the action on screen. Like a lot of things in the film it came about by happy chance. Anton Karas entertained the crew during breaks in filming by playing the zither, the director Carol Reed heard it and though it would make a good soundtrack. Incidentally, the hands seen emerging from the sewer at the end are not Orson Welles’ (100th anniversary this year) but Carol Reed’s. Welles was too fastidious to go down into the sewer!

Mike ended his first part with the finale to Prokofiev’s seventh piano sonata. He was he said rather miffed that Radio 3 had played this the day before – not just this piece but this actual recording by Andrei Gavrilov! It is quite short, less than four minutes. The left hand plays the same figure repeatedly – octave B flat, C sharp, B flat, imposing it on the music in an insistent relentless fashion.


Mike had previously presented a programme about the 19th century opera singer Pauline Viardot. By coincidence, he had amongst his CDs one called Maria made by Cecilia Bartoli, which was a project about another 19th century singer Maria Malibran. He had not realised until he was looking into Pauline’s life that Maria was her older sister. It was Maria’s fame and then early death at 28 which led her parents forcing Pauline to follow as a singer, although she might well have preferred to concentrate on her piano playing. We heard a Tyrolean Air with Variations, (with some yodelling!) by Hummel. Mike mentioned that he had heard a composer of the week programme on Radio 3 with Hummel and thought what a lot of good music there was by him which was relatively unknown.

Not only had Radio 3 played the Prokofiev the day before but also Mike’s next choice: Schubert’s Adagio and Rondo Concertante for piano quartet. This sounds very much like the sort of music that Schubert would have played with friends or family.

Errol Brown died earlier this year. He was the co-founder and lead singer of the group Hot Chocolate. Mike said this had been a favourite band of his in the 1970s, and he wanted to play something in memory. The actual song he chose was You’ll Always be a Friend, where the lead singer as it happened was Tony Wilson. He had founded Hot Chocolate with Errol but left in 1975 to pursue a solo career and Mike had been unable to find out what happened to him.
Finally and perhaps surprisingly Mike ended his selections with Perry Como, but the song Perry sang was For the Good Times, which Mike had only found out recently was written by Kris Kristofferson. Which is probably why it is such a poignant special song.

Next meeting at United Reform Church hall, Tomline Road features Bob Meadows – it’s not to be missed.

Felixstowe’s Community Nature Reserve

community wildlifeFelixstowe’s Community Nature Reserve wants to stop the decline of wildlife populations in our town.

If everyone who has a garden, allotment or window box sets aside some space which is friendly to wildlife the collective benefit of all that space in Felixstowe will be amazing. Collectively, our efforts will create a wonderful patchwork – a community nature reserve – right across Felixstowe.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/FelixstoweCommunityNatureReserve


dead bee, killed by pesticideThere has been a drastic reduction in the number of hedges in Suffolk as farmers expand their fields to allow bigger tractors. Yields have been increased by using pesticides, and suffolk is now the only county allowed to use neonicotinoides, which is widely believed to be killing the honey bees. Look at the crops grown in our fields, many are intended for export, with an increasing acreage used for biofuels

Felixstowe Recorded Music Society

MEMORIES THROUGH MUSIC: Rosemary Baldwin 21st October 2015

This was Rosemary’s first presentation to us, but it was a very well prepared, confidently delivered and highly enjoyable programme.

This was our first meeting in the smaller hall, and the reception to the change of venue seemed generally positive. Unfortunately several members were unable to be present and this often has a knock on effect – when one person cannot come another may be dependent on them for transport and so on.

As Oscar Wilde once said: “Music is the art which is most nigh to tears and memory”. That is how Rosemary began. She had therefore chosen a selection of pieces which hold special memories for her.

The first piece she shared with us was by the Irish singer Mary Black. Rosemary’s mother came from County Antrim and adored music. She had a wonderful ear and could play the piano, accordion and harmonica, even though she was unable to read a note of music. She loved singing and Rosemary had many childhood memories of her sister and herself singing and dancing in the living room with her.

Mary Black herself was born into a musical family in 1955, and began singing traditional Irish songs at the age of eight. Later on she performed with her brothers in clubs around Dublin. Her musical career really took off in the 1980s and she became an international star.

The particular song played was Song for Ireland. Its lyrics epitomised what Ireland means to Irish people and the feelings her mother held for her homeland, having emigrated at the age of 19.

By contrast her next piece was Waltz of the Flowers, by Tchaikovsky in memory of her older brother Brian, who loved classical music and ballet and Rosemary had accompanied him to Covent Garden and the Royal Festival Hall. At Covent Garden she had been fortunate enough to have seen Margot Fonteyn and Rudolf Nureyev dance on several occasions.
Rosemary’s third choice was a composition by Howard Shore: The Fellowship from Lord of the Rings. Rosemary had been games captain in her final year at school and on leaving had been presented with a copy of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, which she has enjoyed re-reading on several occasions.

Rosemary’s next choice reminded her of her teenage years when she used to go dancing with friends on Saturday nights at The Orchid dance hall in Purley: it was The Dock of the Bay, sung by Otis Redding. Otis started writing the song in 1967 on a rented houseboat in Sausalito and completed it with the help of Steve Cropper, a Stax producer and guitarist with Booker T and the MGs. Sadly Otis died in a plane crash in the same year and the song became a big hit in both America and Britain in the wake of the tragedy.

Then came a piece for Gemma, her daughter, who grew up surrounded by music – jazz, blues, classical, country and western, and her parents were really pleased when she learned to play the recorder and then the flute – achieving Grade 8 standard in both. We heard the Andantino from Mozart’s Concerto for Flute and Harp. It was played by William Bennett, flute, and Ossian Ellis, harp, with the English Chamber Orchestra conducted by Raymond Leppard.

Rosemary and her husband have been fortunate enough to have attended two concerts by Jan Garbarek and the Hilliard Ensemble. The Ensemble was a British male vocal quartet, originally devoted to the performance of early music. Formed in 1974, sadly they disbanded in 2014. They frequently collaborated with the Norwegian saxophonist Jan Garbarek and the combination of their beautiful voices and the haunting notes of the saxophone always raises goosebumps. Rosemary had selected O Salutaris Hostia, O Saving Host, a Eucharist hymn written by St Thomas Aquinas.

Rosemary had been introduced to the next singer by her husband (who had accompanied her to the meeting), and was the American folk/blues singer Chris Smither. They had heard him perform in Ipswich at the Lion’s Den behind The Golden Lion. (The CD she brought along had been signed by Chris.) The track we heard was Killing the Blues.

The next choice brought back memories of her father: smoking his pipe, seated in his favourite armchair and listening to either big band music or Elgar. Nimrod from the Enigma Variations was the selection.

Another live performance was recalled for Rosemary by her next choice: a wonderful concert at Portman Road, Ipswich, in July 1990, when she went with her sister and her family to see Tina Turner. The atmosphere was amazing. Rosemary had always enjoyed listening to her music but now realised that her live performance was even better. Gemma, and her cousin Lizzie were inspired to serenade them with her songs all the way home. Simply the Best had been the closing number.

Musical memories now change once again to a very beautiful, spiritually uplifting piece: the Misere by Gregorio Allegri. Her husband had introduced her to both the Tallis Scholars and The Sixteen and it was the latter we heard singing this. They had heard them perform several years ago at Blythburgh and Snape Maltings.

Her next piece had been selected for several reasons. Firstly it reminded her of a very talented young man who played the cello so beautifully in a school concert she had organised. In addition she and her husband had been fortunate enough to hear Julian Lloyd Webber play this and other lovely pieces composed for the cello several years ago. Finally, it reminded her of her son in law, Jamie, who had given her this CD as a present not long after he started dating her daughter. It was The Swan from Saint-Saens’ Carnival of the Animals.

Her next offering recalled memories of travelling to Northern France by car with some friends many years ago. Gemma had been allowed to choose the music and they had whiled away the miles singing along to the Beach Boys. The Sloop John B.

Rosemary’s final selection was the Bendictus from Karl Jenkins’ The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace. Once again it brought a special memory to mind – a concert she attended with a good friend in Bury St Edmunds cathedral, when they had been nearly moved to tears by the beauty of the music in such a wonderful setting. She thought it was being recorded for Radio 3 that evening.

Rosemary capped her selection with a quotation from Henry Wadsdworth Longfellow’s The Day is Done:

“And the night shall be filled with music,
And the cares that infest the day
Shall fold their tents like the Arabs
And as silently steal away.”

That perhaps says it all, and Mike Fowle (Chairman for the meeting) only added in the absence of Norman that although it was clear that her selections had a special meaning for Rosemary they had also been enjoyed by all of us. It had been a delightful evening.

Our next meeting is on 4th November, again in the smaller hall, when Mike Fowle presents “Retrospective”. Coincidentally, a similar theme to Rosemary’s.

Felixstowe Recorded Music Society

Our next meeting is on 21st October when a new presenter to us, Rosemary Baldwin, presents Memories through Music. We shall be meeting in the smaller hall to see how that works. United Reform Church Hall, corner of Orwell Road, meet at 7.30pm. Guests £2.50 whicih includes tea nd biscuits!

A rare event last week: Norman Sennington was booked again on 30th September 2015


When Norman agreed to remain as chairman, he had already been pencilled in to present a programme. So having presented his Chairman’s Choice at the previous meeting, this evening could have been what the American baseball player, Yogi Berra, who died the other day, called “Dej-vu all over again”.*

Only it wasn’t. A very different programme from his all-Mozart fest a fortnight earlier. Norman explained that his original conception of playing different artistes had been somewhat modified when he started working his way through his selected CDs. Nonetheless, he hoped we would enjoy his choices.

He began not with an overture as usual but a prelude: the Prelude to Act 1 of La Traviata by Verdi, which gives a wonderful foretaste of what’s to come in the opera.

He followed this with some passages from Act II, with Pavarotti the singer.

Another great Italian opera composer came next – Puccini and Tosca. The duet from Act 1 with Montserrat Caballe and Jose Carreras, “Ah Quegli Occhi. Mia gelosa.” We also heard the finale to Act 1 with the Te Deum.

Then a further offering from Puccini, La Boheme, and a duet from Act 1. This was followed by an extract from a third opera by Puccini – Madama Butterfly. The love duet from the first Act, “Bimba dagli occhi” with Jussi Bjorling and Victoria de Los Angeles. A truly classic recording.

Der Freischutz made Weber famous, impressed Beethoven, and inspired Richard Wagner (who later arranged for Weber’s remains to be disinterred from London and brought back to Dresden). We heard the lovely cavatina from Act 3 sung by the Finnish soprano, Karita Mattila.

And to end Part I an unusual offering, a Korean traditional song, arranged by Young-Ha Yoon and sung by the Korean Sumi Jo: Boribat, the Barley Field.

When I walk along a path through a barley field
A calling voice makes me stand still
Old memories bring me some loneliness
And I whistle
Lovely songs greet my ears in response
But no one is seen when I turn around,
Just the sunset glow and empty sky
Fill my sight.


The second half was all orchestral. Norman described his choices as self-indulgent but hoped they would also be enjoyed by us as much as he does. First was the Good Friday music from Wagner’s Parsifal. The passage that has been described as a duet for clarinet and oboe. Parsifal was described by Wagner as not an opera but “Ein Bühnenweihfestspiel” (!) (“A Festival Play for the Consecration of the Stage”). Originally performances were restricted to Bayreuth.

Max Bruch’s violin concerto No. 1 in G minor came next, the melodious adagio (the second movement). The soloist was Anne-Sophie Mutter.

Albinoni’s Adagio arranged for organ and strings followed played by I Solisti Veneti, conducted by Claudio Scimone (the founder of the orchestra).

Norman ended his selection with the finale from Schubert’s symphony No. 9, the Great C Major. Played by the Concerrtgebouworkest Amsterdan conducted by Leonard Bernstein, it provided a rousing finish to an entertaining evening.

*“Yogi” Berra was also responsible for “Baseball is 90% mental – the other half is physical” and about a restaurant “Nobody goes there any more – it’s too crowded”.

Our next meeting is on 21st October when a new presenter to us, Rosemary Baldwin, presents Memories through Music. We shall be meeting in the smaller hall to see how that works.

Supplied by Mike Fowle, FRMS Committee Member

Felixstowe Recorded Music Society


The Felixstowe Recorded Music Society (FRMS) meets on selected Wednesdays at 7.30 p.m.in the United Reformed Church Hall Tomline Road, Felixstowe
(near junction with Orwell Road)

The next meeting is on 30th September “Old Themes – New Tunes”. Not as I had thought the use of classical music in popular music (along the lines Bob Meadows is doing on 18th November) but fresh versions of classics. Guests £2.50 including tea and biscuits.

Norman Sennington, the Chairman presented a programme on 16th September 2015

(An Evening with Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart)

Norman had kindly agreed to remain as chairman in the absence of any volunteers, and thus presented another Chairman’s Choice programme, (which he had not planned to do). We were rather thin on the ground, or a select few, as Norman preferred to say. Last time his choice had been an all Elgar programme; this time it was the turn of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

As usual with Norman he started with an overture: the RPO playing the overture from The Marriage of Figaro (D major – Presto). He followed that with Susanna’s aria from the same opera, Giunse alfin il momento (The Moment has Finally Arrived), sung by Barbara Bonney with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra conducted by Nikolaus Harnoncourt.

Then the lovely larghetto from the Clarinet Quintet in A, played by Karl Leister and the Berlin Soloists.

That was followed by the allegro from Eine Kleine Nachtmusik. This is often translated as a little night music, though apparently a better rendering would be little serenade. Yuri Bashmet conducted the Moscow Soloists.

The short but dramatic Dies Irae from the Requiem followed, sung by the Goldsmiths Choral Union, conducted by Owain Arwel Hughes. (The Goldsmiths Choral Union is actually an amateur group, although a leading one.)

Il Mio Tesoro from Don Giovanni came next. The Tenor, Ian Bostridge, writing in The Guardian in January 2006, the 250th anniversary of Mozart’s birth, had some interesting thoughts about this aria:

“But it’s Don Ottavio in Don Giovanni who is the most revealing example of my problem with Mozart. Critics and audiences alike complain of his passivity. He stands as the virtuous and ineffective opposition to Giovanni’s demonic life force, and is bound to suffer in comparison. But in fact, Act One makes sense for Ottavio in terms of storytelling and dramatic pace. His duet with Donna Anna after her father’s murder by Giovanni is powerful and affecting; the aria Dalla Sua Pace is a touching and economical moment of stasis, theatrically highly effective.

“It is the second-act aria, Il Mio Tesoro – a piece of exquisite time-wasting – that can do for Don Ottavio. This is an aria that explicitly admits it is holding up the action.

“Meanwhile, go and console my beloved,” Ottavio sings as he prepares to alert the authorities to Giovanni’s miscreancy. It sounds like a beautiful and irrelevant serenade, and it has had, rather revealingly, a healthy life as a concert aria without dramatic context.

“In fact, Mozart only ever intended Ottavio to have one aria. Il Mio Tesoro was written for the original Prague production, Dalla Sua Pace as part of the revision for a subsequent run in Vienna. This is often presented as a matter of horses for courses – different sorts of aria for different singers. But it was also, evidently, a case of second thoughts being better than first. Without Il Mio Tesoro, Ottavio disappears rather in Act Two, but that is in the nature of the plot, which focuses at that stage on Don Giovanni’s supernatural comeuppance.

“It’s no use worrying that Don Ottavio in his delayed vengeance isn’t fleshed out into an operatic Hamlet surrogate. Act One’s drama and tenderness and the extraordinary ensembles in both A cts should be enough for any tenor. The problem is that many contemporary productions, anxious to placate an underused singer or maximise the use of an expensive tenor, encourage the singer to do both arias. Being one of the tenors all too eager to be placated – if I’m offered a lovely aria to sing, who am I to refuse? – I can’t really complain. More beautiful music, less effective drama: it’s a commonplace operatic dilemma.”
Placido Domingo was the singer here, with the Munich Radio Orchestra, conducted by Eugene Kohn.

Nearly two years ago in November 2013, we celebrated our diamond anniversary. On that occasion we had attempted to recreate the first meeting of the society and Norman now played a work that had been played then and again two years ago – the Divertimento for Strings in D. It was played by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Nicholas Cleobury.

The first half ended with Ave Verum Corpus (Behold the True Body) sung by the Arnold Schoenberg Choir accompanied by the Concentus Musicus Wien conducted by Nikolaus Harnoncourt.

In the second half Norman realised a wish that he has often expressed – to play complete works rather than extracts (and there’s a subject for discussion) and we heard one work, the Jupiter Symphony, No. 41 in G. This was played by The English Concert on original instruments directed by Trevor Pinnock.

Polemia 001: Russia & China this week

maxresdefaultThis is the start of an old series! Years ago, when the Internet was young I used to produce a regular column – having a little go at the weaknesses in our world. I thought it should come to life again – perhaps repeat some of the original gems, certainly get some of the rubbish off my chest.

It’s a bit like coughing, it provides relieve provided if it’s not overdone.

This first chat looks at such riveting subjects as the $dollar standard and China remembering the Sino/Japanese war of 1940s.

Not really polemics for the masses just of-the-cuff comments about this news this week.

BACS payments

I have just sold a house, bought an apartment and my lawyers took their money before sending me a statement, with the statement saying I had surplus money from these transactions, which would be paid by BACS – and that would take 48 hours.

How do they manage to complete such a sleight of hand?