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31 May

Aspidistra Drawing Room Orchestra Concert – May 29th 2017

By  Tony Clayden
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An extensively re-furbished Lauderdale House, in North London’s Highgate Village, was the venue for the annual Spring Concert given by the Aspidistra Drawing Room Orchestra. This was their sixteenth consecutive Bank Holiday event, which was well supported by many faithful ‘regulars’ – including several from the London Light Music Meetings Group – and in addition, a number of ‘first timers’.

Amongst the latter was Howard Del Monte, who had travelled from Hampshire to hear a spirited rendering of his father Sydney’s composition ‘ Bows and Bells ‘. This was a popular

favourite on BBC Radio around fifty years ago. Sydney Del Monte was a guitarist and banjo player, who was a regular member of The Banjoliers for many years.

We were treated once again to an afternoon of fine ‘Palm Court’ music in contrasting styles; a few ‘fast and jolly’ compositions, interspersed with some calmer pieces and garnished with some songs performed Liz Menezes and Camilla Cutts.

Nearly one hundred years of musical heritage was represented, ranging from ‘light classical’ to ‘jazzy’. The programme featured a line-up of works, which, with one or two exceptions, have not previously been performed by the orchestra. These included two selections with a definite gipsy influence, from the Russian composer Yascha Krein and G. S. Mathis [a pseudonym of Hungarian émigré Matyas Seiber].

Other composers featured included Charles Ancliffe, Sigmund Romberg, Gerhard Winkler and Albert Ketelbey, who made two appearances with pieces written specifically to accompany silent films. A later generation was represented by, amongst others, Horst Jankowski, Ray Martin and Leroy Anderson.

A welcome surprise was the original version of the famous ‘American Patrol’ by Fred Meacham, in a very different rendition from the familiar arrangement made popular by Glenn Miller and others.

Adam Bakker, who runs and directs the orchestra, has recently acquired the entire collection of sheet music previously owned by Ann Adams, who was the founder of – and for many years conducted – the Ladies Palm Court Orchestra. Four of the items on the programme came from this source. Speaking to Adam during the interval, it became apparent that he faces a mammoth task of sorting and archiving this vast inventory of compositions !

As always, the orchestra’s performance was of a very high standard, the players obviously relishing the opportunity to perform repertoire from a ‘threatened genre’ which, most regrettably, achieves very little exposure these days.

Very many thanks are therefore due to Adam Bakker and the Aspidistra Drawing Room Orchestra, for presenting another really enjoyable concert and especially for continuing to promote ‘Palm Court’ music.

Tony Clayden

© 2017

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