Bill's Musical Notes
You Must Be Joking
I'm told that I am passionate about music and, you know what, I have to admit it's true. The realisation has crept up on me as the years pass by. There are things about music, however, that I don't like and, particularly for classical music, one of them is that it's taken so seriously. Fair enough, it can require a lot of concentration on the part of listeners and players, and who can blame those post World War II composers for creating all that angst ridden music after the horrors that influenced them. As I write, it's VE day reminding us of the harsh realities that exist in our world. Music expresses many things, the good and the bad.
Recently I've been reminded of the good by music that has made me smile and even laugh out loud. This little spate started off a couple of weeks ago, ostensibly nothing to do with classical music, with a gig at a London club for the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band's 50th anniversary celebrations: The Urban Spaceman, Jollity Farm, Here Comes the Equestrian Statue, etc., etc. It wasn't a late-night session as most of the band, or what's left of them, i.e., not deceased, had to get to bed early. My point is that there is a long line of comedy music stretching well back in time, even beyond the music hall acts that thrived on it. Another bit of light entertainment that I really enjoyed last week was the Muppet style musical 'Avenue Q' at the Tomkins Theatre in Hereford, featuring full puppet nudity.
This is supposed to be about classical music though, so how about me reminding you of Victor Borge a comic musician who was a household celebrity still remembered by many but who may now not recall the reason for recognising his name. The Danish comedian (1909-2000) achieved widespread fame in the USA and Europe as a classical pianist who single-handed took the pomposity and elitism of classical music and reduced it to tatters. Musical skill and comedy timing are used as the blade that slashes at the classical bubble and boy does it let rip. He clearly provided inspiration for Morecambe and Wise's musical sketches, including the one with Andre Preview, and made his own notorious appearance on the infamous Muppet Show. But then which celebrity of any note didn't. Try finding some clips on YouTube of Victor Borge at work. You will not regret it.
Going back even further in time, the great Father of the Symphony, Joseph Haydn, liked a good joke. There is a quartet of his called 'The Joke' which pranks the audience; there is his 'Surprise' Symphony, with its guarantee of silencing the chatterers and waking the snoozers; there is the 'Farewell' Symphony with its less that subtle hint to Haydn's patron, after a super-long stint of work, that it was time for Haydn and his orchestra's musicians to go home.
Haydn was not averse to having a laugh. Even the 'Clock' Symphony with its ticking mechanism of bassoon and strings in its second movement makes me smile. I'm looking forward with the rest of our Newent Orchestra members to playing this on our annual orchestral workshop day at the end of the month. But before that, there is the small matter of our Spring Concert this Saturday (9th). Hope to see you there.
Bill Anderton, May, 2015
Find out more about Bill's work:
The Final Score - book
Exploring the powerful effects of music and features the Newent Orchestra. Read more or even purchase at billanderton.uk
Alchemy in Music - CD
The CD, "Alchemy in Music", composed and produced by Bill.
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