Producing Mantovani by Franck Leprince & Review of the Concert
By Franck Leprince
On 14th April 2013, Barrett Films celebrated five years of the Magic of Mantovani Orchestra, with Mantovani’s Golden Hits of The Sixties. This tremendously successful near sell-out event is proof beyond doubt, that our kind of music is as popular today, as when it was first written over fifty years ago.
The audience obviously thoroughly enjoyed the music judging by their unrelenting, enthusiastic applause after every number, through to the last item – Monty’s signature tune, Charmaine (which, on some of the original parts, dare I reveal, had been altered to Chow Mein – by his brass players).
What is generally not realized by the audience however is that in order for a lavish show of this scale to take place a considerable amount of work spanning several months is necessary.
Paul Barrett is the Director of both Barrett Films, and the Mantovani concerts, and I am the Producer. Between us, and down to the tiniest, but not least important detail, all the work is divided, although special mention must be made of Jack Maguire, our orchestra contractor, who from our third concert onwards has accepted the responsibility of gathering together 43 – 48 of the UK’s top musicians. The key players however, are still chosen by Paul and me.
The Director’s responsibilities are immense, and Paul is committed to working a seven-day week virtually throughout the twelve to eighteen month-long preparation period, with weekends reserved for continual meetings between us. My time is balanced finely between my other professional commitments, and producing the concerts.
The cycle typically begins with a succession of informal meetings, at which we discuss preliminary ideas for the concerts. The theme of a concert is vitally important, as this provides the basis of everything, and determines which pieces we will eventually perform. For this year’s concert, all of the music had to be recognizable for its almost fluorescent prominence during the 1960s - either composed within that decade, or made popular again (Charmaine, for example, became a hit by the Bachelors). We thought carefully about how we might perhaps persuade younger people to come to the performance. Although most forty-five, to fifty year-olds would probably be too young to remember Mantovani’s music being played daily on the radio in the Sixties, many of them might well remember their parents playing his albums well into the Seventies and beyond.
The 1960s’ decennium happens to be remarkably popular among today’s school pupils and college students as too, are the 1970s, but unless you were around in those days, you would perhaps only be familiar with a fraction of what was then popular.
Eventually, the arduous task of selecting pieces suitable for the programme arrives. Both Paul and I remember the Sixties well, but since Paul was already earning a living while I was busy playing truant from school, our tastes vary accordingly. We tend to choose pieces either for reasons of contrast, or because they have something in common with other pieces. For example, film themes may be positioned together, as might French songs, or dances.
In the case of our own concerts, another category is vital: Who is the arranger of the piece? Mantovani had three main arrangers, and was himself a consummate arranger, and I would argue, probably the best of them all. By the time we have made our preliminary selection, it is then referred to fellow Mantovanians Colin Mackenzie, Alan Dixon, and Timothy Milner, for their opinions.
It wasn’t until we were fairly decided on this year’s programme, that we realized that many of the pieces from the Sixties, particularly the rock-rhythm arrangements of Roland Shaw, required additional brass instruments, as well as an electric keyboard. We had to decide whether or not to augment the standard 43-piece orchestra, or change some of the pieces. But it soon became apparent that certain iconic pieces of the era simply could not be dispensed with. A further problem lay in the ubiquitous trend at the time, for ‘fade-outs’ at track-endings. We knew from previous concerts, that in these cases, the arrangers simply wrote the words "repeat [these bars] several times and fade out" in the parts, instead of inventing a proper coda.
One of my responsibilities in cases like these is to create concert codas, simply because to expect even the best of musicians to ‘fade out’ in a live performance, is asking a little too much. This is easier said than done. The new endings have to be thought out carefully, tastefully, and tailored to fit seamlessly, in order to sound as the original arranger had intended, and obviously include the same complement of players (e.g. one cannot suddenly include, say, a soprano saxophone in the last four bars with credibility, if that instrument has not already been heard in the same piece).
Even though Mantovani was streets ahead of everyone else in the business by including the most recent and current popular hits of the times, there were inevitably some Sixties pieces that he just didn’t manage to include, perhaps owing to time restrictions. Two such classics are the James Bond Theme, and The Avengers, which are as intrinsic to their time, as was John Stephen, Mary Quant, Twiggy, the Post Office Tower, the Daleks, Concorde, and the Yellow Submarine. Both arrangements had to be scored, so that they appealed not only to the fans of James Bond, The Avengers, and Mantovani alike, but also so that they would span the entire decade in question. I therefore arranged the first of these themes to reflect the first and last films of the decade (Dr No , and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service , and the latter as a version, faithful to the ‘Emma Peel years’ (1965 – 1967), and ‘Tara King season’ from 1968 to 1969.
Paul decided it was the right time to include for the first time in our concerts, a singer. He had recently discovered the very versatile, abundantly talented Joy Tobing, who had won the Indonesian Pop Idol title. Our concert made it possible for Joy to make her debut in the United Kingdom, and she chose to sing Dusty Springfield’s song You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me, and a song written specially for her. The task of arranging the Dusty Springfield hit fell to me, while Joy’s M.D. Matheson Bayley arranged Love’s Promised Land. Paul suggested we include a repeat performance of my concerto-like interpretation of Ron Grainer’s famous Maigret Theme, which Eddie Hession once again delivered with great panache on accordion. One of the pleasures of arranging for an orchestra like this is that one has the chance to write with individual musicians in mind, to exploit those abilities and techniques at which they excel. Had it not been for trumpeter Mike Lovatt, for instance, ‘my’ Bond and Avengers themes would not have been possible unless a severe compromise was made (too many cover versions lack the ‘screamer’ trumpets of the originals, for instance, because they are played by symphony orchestra musicians who generally cannot play the extensive range of notes needed for this sort of music). The ideas for a single arrangement may spring almost instantly to mind, and easily take a whole afternoon to commit to paper, in the form of a conductor’s score. The single parts must then be copied from the score, and written out in a form which is clearly legible for the musicians at first glance. For an orchestra of forty-eight, this can easily amount to a combined time of around four days, for a piece of music lasting say, only two minutes. Fast-moving pieces will contain more bars than slower pieces, if they are to last long enough, and rapid passages are typically made up of more notes, each lasting perhaps quarter of a second, but which must be carefully and neatly written. Fortunately, this can be done using a computer programme nowadays. Once the score is complete, individual parts may be printed at the click of a mouse-button. When I first started writing music, photocopiers didn’t exist, and therefore identical copies of the same part would need to be written out by hand, by dipping a nib into Indian ink, and hoping that it wouldn’t flow too quickly from the nib. Inferior paper would sometimes cause the ink to spread, just like blotting paper does. Writing for up to nine desks of First fiddles was an act of courage and endurance, before then tackling the Seconds, and so on. If I smudged notes, they would usually be in the last few bars, and I would have to start again. Fortunately we have progressed, but I am now impatient at the speed of my printer, and curse and swear every time I have to replace the ink cartridge.
I always enjoy writing show opening music, and ‘intros’ because this is the first moment when an audience is exposed to the sound of the evening’s orchestra. This year I wanted to make the audience feel right from the start, as though they had somehow been transported back in time, After a short introduction, during which Up, Up, And Away, The Pink Panther, Soul Bossa Nova (Austin Powers), and Batman all made reference to corresponding images on a large video screen, the scene was set for a bossa nova-style Charmaine, which paid homage towards its end to Ronald Binge’s famous version, and which ended with the "Charmaine cascade", which this time was scored for full brass, rather than for strings. Although the ‘Bossa nova’ rhythm was first heard at a Brazilian university concert in 1958, and later in the film Black Orpheus (1959) it became a hugely popular and enduring Sixties’ rhythm, which many claim is as successful as Rock. Conspicuously, Mantovani never included this rhythm in any of his recordings, save for a pseudo-bossa nova rhythm in Francis Lai’s Un homme et une femme, from 1966.
After much deliberating, and varied opinions, a definitive programme is chosen, and the pieces are then placed in an order which we feel allows not only for contrast, but which also gives certain players an all-important chance to rest. The programme order also serves to enhance continuity and the announcements by our introducer, Ed ‘Stewpot’ Stewart (without whom, the Sixties would not have existed),
In due course we acquire the scores and parts from the Mantovani Library. Kenneth Mantovani is the Librarian, and he has the unenviable task of locating all the music in the Mantovani Music Library catalogue, which he personally transports from London, via Tunbridge Wells, to Poole.
The scores and parts are painstakingly checked before they are put into the musicians’ pads (folders), inevitably revealing anomalies such as missing parts, or alternate versions, and sometimes additional parts need to be copied out. Usually we both do this together, but this year, Paul unfortunately had to do most of this by himself while I was orchestrating and formatting the scores and parts to my own arrangements. This year, additional trumpet parts had to be written for the third trumpeter so that he wouldn’t be left out of much of the programme. Such a seemingly straightforward task seems to invite error, and unless the pads are thoroughly checked repeatedly, mistakes do happen. No stone is left unturned, simply because we know otherwise that no turn will be left ‘unstoned’ on the big day.
Once I have completed the arrangements, and the parts are safely in the pads, it is time for me to start writing the concert notes for Ed’s introductions. Plenty of research is required, and I am indebted to both Colin Mackenzie, whose knowledge is without bounds, and to Alan Dixon, for his fascinating observations which give valuable insight into Mantovani’s methods. The notes are then typed in a succinct and easy-to-read fashion, the pages printed, and the various bits of information then cut into sections to fit onto backing cards, which in turn need to be made presentable for the audience.
At varying stages, before, during, and after these time-consuming activities, we take time to think about advertising – all within a strict budget. Paul handles the marketing, and I design the artwork, including the typefaces (fonts) we use, and set out all the text. Fortunately, I had many years of experience working as a sign writer, and as a calligrapher, also working for a newspaper publisher before I became a professional musician. I never forgot the valuable tricks I learned then, and my later years in Arts management at the Lighthouse in Poole has also enabled me to develop other useful skills. The text is very carefully decided upon between Paul and me, before it is matched to the available space on the flyers, posters, and in the ‘Collector’s Souvenir Programme’.
Then we carry out the editorial and proof-reading tasks before we submit the artwork and text to be ‘realized’ on computer, and, once we approve of the work, sent to print. Nowadays text may easily be changed, and design work can be altered at any stage, before it is sent to print. Musicians occasionally inform us that they are no longer available to play, and their replacements then have to be found. This of course affects the list of personnel in the programme. At one time, when a previous conductor became indisposed, we had scarcely any time to find his replacement. Fortunately for us, we had a tremendous stroke of luck. Gavin Sutherland – in my experience and opinion, the best in the business today, was available, and he happily agreed to conduct.
Gavin was in fact our original choice of conductor four years ago. I had played before under Gavin’s baton, and witnessed his music-making with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra on many occasions. He is a maestro in every sense of the word, and an expert in all musical genres, who clearly enjoys listening to all of them equally. Gavin’s photographic score-reading memory pin-points the slightest error or wrong note before any of the musicians ever has the chance to make them apparent, and this is exceedingly helpful where time is of the essence. He even volunteers to lend a hand in the setting-up of the stage, if necessary, demonstrating a commitment that extends far beyond the imminent performance. Gavin’s rehearsals always run swiftly and efficiently mainly because the musicians so obviously like his personality, and his crystal-clear way of communicating with them.
From the start of the rehearsal, all the pieces immediately spring to life almost in the exact way they were intended. After a single three-hour rehearsal, during which the musicians will see the music parts for the first time, often having to cope with handwritten parts that are barely legible, and exercising virtuosic techniques or effects rarely seen in the symphonic repertoire, they do not see the music until the performance itself.
Mantovani was unequivocally the greatest writer for strings of all time, and his orchestra is still revered throughout the world for that reason. String players adore playing his music, with wind players also revelling in beautifully-crafted solo passages and counter melodies. As challenging as his string writing is for them, string players are in no doubt that Mantovani was himself a true master and virtuoso on the violin, and because every note has been fluently crafted to get the best out of the strings, they relish playing his music. When you mention his name either at home or abroad to people who are old enough to remember his music being played daily on the radio, faces light up. And rightly so! We ourselves are very fortunate to be able to witness faces lighting up within our own audiences, further proving that the BBC made one of their biggest blunders of the last century by trying to ‘kill off’ Light music in the early-Seventies. In Britain it might seem as though they have succeeded, but in most countries Light music remains popular with whole stations devoted to broadcasting it. Nevertheless, huge internet sales of CDs continue here, even though the high street shops apparently do not know how to classify it. Our Mantovani concerts are further proof that audiences are ready to fill halls, given half a chance, and in fact the managers of the Pavilion Theatre in Bournemouth have come to regard the Magic of Mantovani Orchestra concerts as among their most important events. Auditoria for symphony concerts are nowadays rarely more than half-filled, and when they are, the reason is often when the programme features film music, which until recent times was always regarded as inferior music.
Unlike in the great movie studios of the ‘Golden Age’ (with their multiple departments and fixed-rank structures), so-called "backroom boys" don’t exist in our business, and as far as I can tell, they never did; every person involved in the production of music for recordings or concerts, without exception is always very much in the foreground, and therefore is indispensable. They have to be! Anyone working on a musical project has a valid say in all matters, and decisions are often the result of combined ideas. In music and concert production it is common to find that, as well as being administrators or technicians, one’s team members are also highly competent all-round musicians. Many of them read music, compose, or play an instrument to a very high standard, and as such are not easily fooled by another’s ineptitude. Therefore, their opinions are valid. Mantovani always counted his arrangers, musicians, recording engineers, and agents, as equals, and among his closest friends. He never lost sight of the fact that they spelled his success, and always gave credit where credit was due. He kept in touch with them over every relevant matter, in the same way we do today. The great bandleaders, with few exceptions all worked in this way. Owing to the rules of the various music unions of the United States, Europe, and Great Britain during the pre-CD era, it was considered unnecessary to clutter record labels and sleeves with information. The ‘arranger’ of a piece of music was often considered to be irrelevant to buyers. They, it was felt, were rather more interested in the publication details so that they could acquire song sheets, or piano sheet music for their own domestic use.
Today, the tables have turned, and more often it is now the name of an arranger that actually sells an album, with publisher’s details frequently omitted. We have made it our policy to recognize all contributors, such as the arrangers in both the presenter’s announcements, and in our printed programmes, and we often provide details that were never previously published, such as the identities behind the various noms de plume. The former friendships between the maestro and his arrangers Ronald Binge, Cecil Milner, and Roland Shaw have been affirmed through numerous letters, articles, and photographs, with Milner evidently as a frequent visitor to the Mantovani home ‘Greensleeves’ in Branksome Park. Milner and Binge were also established composers in their own right. Indeed many of Cecil Milner’s compositions enjoyed first and frequent performances by the Bournemouth Municipal Orchestra under the baton of Dan Godfrey. For them arranging music was very much of secondary consideration. In fact Ronald Binge was perhaps better known among music professionals as a performer, despite worldwide acclaim as composer of Elizabethan Serenade, a piece which incidentally was first performed in concert in 1951 by Mantovani’s orchestra, and which, according to Binge’s original handwritten parts (scored to include only one flute and one clarinet), was first entitled Theme From "The Man In The Street"* before being adopted as the signature tune to BBC’s Music Tapestry – just to add further mystery to the idea that it was specially composed for a ‘mood music’ library, and called simply Andante Cantabile – among other postulations.
Behind every hugely successful concert there is a devoted team for whom their unrelenting dedicated work will seemingly evaporate within one final climactic, fast-paced day, in order that the audience may experience some ninety minutes of delight, and as if created by pure magic.
*The Man In The Street may have been a documentary shown on BBC Television between 1949 and 1951, according to Vera Parton, Ronald Binge’s widow.
GOLDEN HITS OF THE SIXTIES - MANTOVANI STYLE
Colin MacKenzie reviews the latest Mantovani Success in Bournemouth
April in Paris ? Well, not quite, but the next best thing was to be in Bournemouth on 14th April 2013 to attend another tribute to the "Mantovani Sound". Returning to the Pavilion Theatre were the musicians of The Magic Of Mantovani Orchestra under conductor Gavin Sutherland with the intention of recreating Mantovani's original interpretations of some of the best popular music of the 1960s.
After a long, hard winter which seemed to go on forever - even cosy Bournemouth had been feeling the chill for weeks - and a very wet Saturday - nearby Swanage was the wettest place in the country that day - this show was just the tonic for this particular Mantovani loving weather watcher. In setting the scene for his fifth concert of this type co-promoter and percussionist Paul Barrett told Radio Solent's David Allen in a lengthy interview how he had first become involved with Mantovani's music. On attending a concert in Sheffield in the fifties with his father, he was thrilled to hear music of a type he had never previously encountered. A key factor, too, was the kindness of Charles Botterill, Mantovani's percussionist, who, recognising the youngster's eagerness to learn, took him under his wing and lit a fire which still burns brightly after all these years.
Paul Barrett described how he had played semi-professionally in various theatres for many years in the Sheffield area, and, among other things, spoke warmly of his colleague and producer Franck Leprince, who has a musical pedigree of his own. Special mention was made, too, of arranger Ronald Binge and also the Mantovani family who co-operate so generously on these occasions by providing the original scores used by their father. Paul told David Allen that by highlighting these songs of the sixties he was hoping to introduce the "Mantovani Sound" to a new generation of fans, hence the title of the concert which was indeed a sixties retrospective of some fine film themes and popular song hits.
Unfortunately, orchestra leader John Bradbury was unwell, but his place was splendidly filled by Matthew Scrivener, currently leader of the English National Ballet Orchestra since 2004 and the present leader of the National Symphony Orchestra since 2006. Co-leader Jack Maguire had recruited some members of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra for the string section which also included a graceful Taiwanese player, Joanne Chen. There were some familiar faces elsewhere including stellar trumpeter Mike Lovatt who lined up in a seven man brass ensemble (three trumpets, three trombones and a French horn player), guitarist Max Brittain (who, of course, accompanied vocalist Val Doonican for some 30 years), accordionist Eddy Hession and, naturally, Paul Barrett himself, playing percussion, vibraphone and every other "kitchen sink" department instrument from his raised platform at the back of the stage.
First up was an intriguing melange of sixties tunes which set the scene for what was to follow. Unusually, "Charmaine", Mantovani's signature tune, was presented in bossa nova style by arranger Franck Leprince who also introduced snatches of "Up, Up and Away", the "Pink Panther" theme, music from an Austin Powers movie and even "Batman"! It was entertaining and well received, although some purists may have felt that such a classic tune as "Charmaine" should be left well alone ...
The full version of "Up, Up and Away" was heard next in a meaty Roland Shaw arrangement. Never one of my favourite Mantovani recordings, this was a revelation in its live form, being a splendid work-out for the enthusiastic musicians. Just as we were wondering where the famous "Mantovani Sound" was, it appeared as if by magic in an enthralling arrangement by the maestro himself of "Allison's Theme" from the "Peyton Place" TV series which was so popular in times gone by. As happened so often during the evening, the rich strings were complemented by the lovely undertones of the massed violas and celli (six in each department) supported by three double basses and the trademark sound of the vibraphone. Marvellous!
Bringing back memories of the Broadway show and film, the musicians offered up a good Cecil Milner scoring of "Hello Dolly" before moving onto "Les Bicyclettes de Belsize", another Shaw arrangement. Here Paul Barrett caused some audience mirth by donning a beret and a string of French onions for the occasion. Accordionist Eddy Hession had a starring solo part and was supported by the obligatory bicycle bell provided by percussionist Barrett. An eagle eyed member of my party spotted that the accompanying film on the overhead screen showed a cycle ride, not in France, but in the English countryside! No matter, it made no difference to our enjoyment of a lovely song which made a lot of money for singer Engelbert Humperdinck. Cecil Milner's exemplary scoring of "What Now My Love" which followed allowed for good use of snare drums and tympany as well as fine brass work with Mike Lovatt leading his troops on towards the song's pulsating climax.
In my Mantovani biography written some years ago I recorded that the score of "Yesterday", the Beatles hit, was due to Cecil Milner. This was based on information received at the time, but in fact, this is very much a Mantovani arrangement, as confirmed by inspection of the original score. And what an arrangement! It's an absolute masterpiece in symphonic style, creating a tingling effect on this particular writer and many others in the audience. You could have heard a pin drop in the theatre. The tempo was right, the presentation perfect, it was a joy to hear. Afterwards, one lady member of the audience was overheard saying that she would like to have this version played at her funeral!
Philip Green's masterful "The Singer, Not The Song" was the perfect follow-up to "Yesterday". It's a movie theme that deserves much more recognition than it has had, and this Roland Shaw arrangement brought out the powerful, haunting melody which created quite a stir. The three trumpeters were all gainfully employed in this wonderful setting. Next, we heard Roland's gentle rhythmic scoring of "By the Time I Get to Phoenix" which featured a good saxophone solo and Paul Barrett playing vibraphone and snare drum simultaneously. Compere Ed Stewart was moved to tell us that this was one of the best arrangements of his favourite Glenn Campbell song that he had ever heard. He then introduced Sumatran singer Joy Tobing, an innovation for this type of concert. Joy, who was appearing in Europe for the first time, is a household name in Indonesia and had the support of that country's ambassador and his entourage who were in the audience. Accompanied by the orchestra and her musical director, Mattheson Bayley, on keyboards, she gave an unflinching performance of the Dusty Springfield song "You Don't Have To Say You Love Me", which had been carefully arranged by Frank Leprince.
Taking over on keyboards (in reality, an electronic synthesiser with a harpsichord stop), Sam Hanson delivered a rousing Shaw interpretation of the popular German hit "A Walk In the Black Forest", ably supported by the orchestra and Paul Barrett, who wore a Tyrolean hat. Ed Stewart then told us that the Mantovani arrangement of "Come September" was a Bobby Darin hit but, in fact, it’s not the same song, rather it's a melody written by Lena Martell under her real name of Helen Thomson. This enchanting waltz, given the full "Mantovani Sound" treatment, featured lush strings and vibraphone adorning a simply beautiful song which has always been one of my favourite Mantovani recordings. Surprisingly, Monty never recorded the Maigret theme but next up was a good Leprince arrangement of this TV opus which highlighted accordionist Eddy Hession and reminded us of actor Rupert Davies, who starred in the role of the famous detective.
When Paul Barrett asked me to identify the arranger of "Puppet on a String" for the concert programme, I advised him that it was unclear in the Mantovani family's music catalogue who the arranger was. I plumped for Roland Shaw after seeking expert help from various Mantovani fans both here and in America and thus it was credited to Shaw in the programme. Imagine my surprise on inspecting the original violin score to find the handwriting of Cecil Milner there! Apologies to him. As the orchestra performed his score, we enjoyed good percussion effects including woodblocks and a metal cowbell as well as a quaint film on the overhead screen showing those perennial TV puppets Muffin the Mule and The Woodentops! Memories indeed. Part one of the concert then came to an end when guitarist Max Brittain introduced a masterful Milner arrangement of "Love is Blue", a Eurovision Song Contest hit for Greek songer Vicky Leandros but an even bigger success for French orchestral leader Paul Mauriat. The particular Mantovani edition we were hearing was embellished by a powerhouse climax with brass very much to the fore.
Part two began with three French movie themes, the first two written by Francis Lai. The well-known "A Man and a Woman", arranged by Roland Shaw, took us into less familiar territory, this being "Where Did Our Summers Go", rarely heard nowadays and undeservedly neglected. Monty appreciated its qualities and arranged it himself as an outstanding example of his ability to recognise a good song and make it into a lustrous gem. It is truly a superb melody which was regally played by the orchestra. Ed Stewart amusingly observed that it was a very appropriate piece of music in view of our recent weather! The outstanding Michel Legrand hit "I Will Wait For You" was well played, using the Cecil Milner scoring, then we moved to "The Shadow of Your Smile" which gave us not only the excellent Johnny Mandel theme but also the presence of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton in the film "The Sandpiper", an excerpt from which was shown on screen as the orchestra played the film's memorable theme song.
Ed Stewart now drew our attention to the "Anniversary Waltz", which was performed by Mantovani on 1942 recordings with singers Vera Lynn and Alan Kane. So what was it doing in a sixties tribute concert? As Ed reminded us, it was revived by local Bournemouth girl Anita Harris in 1967 and her recording sold a lot of copies. The audience clearly appreciated hearing the full Mantovani treatment of this grand old song in its new setting with sweeping strings and rich brass. Two excellent Franck Leprince scores of big sixties hits were appropriate at this juncture of the concert; first, came the lively "James Bond Theme" with good guitar and brass sounds, then a stirring treatment of the theme to the TV series "The Avengers" with vibraphone intriguingly involved in the rhythmic introduction. Both tunes were very well played and much enjoyed.
Joy Tobing then came back on stage to present a very tuneful song called "Love's Promised Land", written by Charlotte Cumming and arranged by Joy's musical director, Matheson Bayley, who accompanied her with the orchestra. This was the longest song in the entire show, lasting four and a half minutes, well worth hearing for the emotion and feeling put into her performance by Joy. She has a good stage presence and sings passionately, and on this occasion evoked a warm audience response which encouraged her to thank everyone for her welcome on these shores.
Playfully joking about the pronunciation of the Henry Mancini film theme "Charade" (in the States it is pronounced "Sheraid" to rhyme with Masquerade etc), Ed Stewart led us into yet another fine Mantovani interpretation while Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn appeared in a film clip overhead. "Strangers in the Night" was a most welcome addition to the programme, incorporating the many talents of two favourite orchestra leaders, Mantovani (arranger) and Bert Kaempfert (composer). Featuring guitar and strings, this particular item did not disappoint. A Shaw arrangement of the delicious Tony Bennett hit "I Left My Heart in San Francisco" led to a mystery item which had been omitted from the programme due to an oversight. Even Ed Stewart seemed a little mystified. Recognising that we were "Almost There" in terms of the concert's conclusion, he spoke of Andy Williams but omitted to mention the name of the Cecil Milner arrangement which followed. Hopefully, most of the audience would have recognised that the song was "May Each Day", which invariably closed Andy's TV shows. This particular piece was built up into a big finish, allowing Paul Barrett to pound his drums as the melody came to a close. It left me wondering where he gets his energy from!
Two encores followed: first, a really rousing version of the Tom Jones hit "Love Me Tonight" in which the entire orchestra vigorously interpreted a great Roland Shaw arrangement. Everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves, and up on the big screen you could see Monty leading his 1936 orchestra, swinging and swaying so much that his grandson Paul told me later that he was amazed to see his grandfather in such a lively musical mood. There was even a cameo appearance by Ronnie Binge on accordion, and it all seemed remarkably appropriate with what was going on down below on stage. It brought the concert to a terrific climax except for "Charmaine", of course, in its original setting. A fine muted trumpet solo and the lovely tone of principal trombonist Liam Kirkham enhanced this great Binge arrangement and moved Timothy Milner, the nephew of Cecil, to say that this was the best live version he had heard since Monty's heyday.
This show was equally as good as the previous Pavilion concert featuring Gavin Sutherland, who certainly has the ear for this type of music. With a carefully chosen menu of romantic pieces and some "racier" material, the Mantovani experience was memorable especially where I was sitting in the fourth row of the circle alongside fellow RFS members Timothy Milner and Alan Dixon. I suppose you could lament the omission of a Mantovani composition in the programme but I'm assured that next time around this will be remedied. Ed Stewart with his usual aplomb provided much good humour for the audience which numbered over a thousand. Sponsored once more by Poole Audi, it was a wonderful evening of memories, and our thanks go out to all of those who worked so hard to make it possible.
This article and review appeared in the August 2013 issue of ‘Journal Into Melody’