Kenneth Alford’s “Fore” Thought

Marking the birthday of British bandmaster Kenneth Alford (1881-1945) today with an insight into what inspired his most famous piece, the WWI-era classic “Colonel Bogey.”   New England Brass Band leader Stephen Bulla had a fascinating insight into where he got the idea for the two-note theme:

The “Fore” Thought behind “Colonel Bogey” by RoeDeo


So, naturally, a few “links” to share.   First, check out this charming flashmob performance by the British Army Band on the streets of Cardiff, Wales:

And here’s more of Bulla and the New England Brass Band in action, from that Fraser Performance Studio appearance…

Click this link to hear the entire performance:  The New England Brass Band In Concert The New England Brass Band

Fancy a Keyboard Duo?

Doing my research for my next Concert Preview for the La Jolla Music Society, (billed as “Two Pianos, Three Composers, and Four Hands“) I happened across what could possibly be the first piece written for “keyboard four hands” – a century before Wolfy and Nannerl were barnstorming their way around Europe. It’s by English composer Thomas Tomkins (1572-1656), and it’s called “A Fancy For Two To Play.” Fancy that! I’m trying to imagine two Proper English Ladies in hoop skirts sitting side-by- side at a tiny virginal keyboard trying to play it. No wonder it took another century for the four-hand idea to catch on!

As for the good composer from Worcester, England, the Thomas Tomkins Forum labels him as

arguably, the culminating musical genius of the English Renaissance. Like Bach, he was primarily a great consolidator, who perpetuated – often in perfect form – the styles of an earlier generation. But that is not all. He is often called a conservative composer, and so he was: the times in which he lived must have made him highly sceptical of change. Yet he was by no means lacking in individuality and – again like Bach – was not incapable of employing some aspects of contemporary style.”


He may have written A Fancy, but Tomkins certainly knew misfortune.    At the age of 77 we wrote his most famous piece, the profoundly moving “A Sad Paven For These distracted Tymes.”  “Distracted” is an understatement….it came right after the execution of Charles The First in 1649 and the abolishment of the British monarchy.  Check out this wonderful performance by the Badke Quartet

The Ultimate “Music Video”

This is why I love YouTube. It all started when Dr. Wizard came down the stairs humming the old British Music Hall song A Mother’s Lament, and looking for the words. And then I remembered that Cream actually recorded the song on their Disraeli Gears album. Which led to finding this bit of video silliness. Who’d a thunk it? Could this replace the “Yule Log?”

Holiday Leftovers: The Royal Tube and Missing the Parade

Sitting around the table on an overcast (what else?) North Norfolk afternoon, I got to witness a UK holiday tradition for the very first time: The Queen’s Annual Christmas Day Message. In a nice touch, the broadcast began and ended with excerpts from her very first Royal Christmas Message was delivered 25 years earlier – in 1932, by Elizabeth’s grandfather George V).

But – no slouch she – this was not a mere exercise in nostalgia for the Queen: She began her speech by saying, “One of the features of growing old is a heightened awareness of change,” and indeed the message marked the launch of The Royal Channel (or, “One’sTube” as the Telegraph headlined it), which you can find on your favorite video portal.

The hit count so far? 866,000 for t. Next time I heard a performing-arts organization whine and bleat about how they can’t keep up with new technology and new media opportunities, I’ll remind them of the fashion-forward oh-so-trendy Royals….

That’s a lesson that was seemingly lost on the editors of Parade magazine, who on Sunday ran a present-tense interview with Benazhir Bhutto, maintaining it was “too late” to change the over and the interview was “too important” to drop.

Fair point on the latter point; regarding the former, Are You Kidding? Parade’s cover went to bed on Dec. 21. Bhutto was assassinated on Dec. 27.

The cover appeared on Jan. 6th, with no explainer, no “box,” no nothing. All in the present tense. Shocking, surprising, and dismaying legions of the Sunday mag’s millions of readers.

Oh, they issued an online explainer:

After her assassination, PARADE immediately posted the entire interview online, and [author Gai] lSheehy appeared on network and cable TV news shows to discuss her face-to-face conversations with Bhutto.

Fine, but what about in your own magazine? Ten days between event and cover, and do you really, truly, believe that the magazine was absolutely powerless to change things? If that’s so, then print-reliant publications like Parade truly are wooly mammoths making their last footprints on Earth.

For the record, the mag’s readers aren’t buying that excuse. Check out the 400+ comments at the end of the Bhutto interview, ironically titled “A Wrong Must Be Righted.”

And there’s Dan Fratello’s column in the Huffington Post: Snarky, but amusing nonetheless:

Sources indicate this isn’t the last time Parade will get a black eye in 2008. Consider these cover stories already in the queue at Parade, and coming to your Sunday brunch soon:

Lighting a Fire: Fred Thompson Is Transforming the GOP Race for President

Rocket Fuel: Roger Clemens on His Workout Routine and His Plans to Play a 25th Season

Britney: All Cleaned Up, Calmed Down and Ready to Be a Mom

Bloody Hell – It’s a Whole Subgenre!

Meanwhile, Dr. Wizard merely rolled her eyes and pointed out that “Dancing Diggers” are a common attraction at agricultural fairs and other rural hotspots in Old Blighty. And yes, there are to prove it. Who knew? If nothing else, check out this soulful duet of man & machine (and one amazing anonymous bucket operator), called the “JCB Ballet” (JCB being the UK equivalent of CAT), set to Saint-Saens’ “The Swan.” “Deere John,” indeed!

400 musicians, 1607 voices…and Bruuuuuuce!

UPDATE: 15 MAY 07: Fred Child has been on location from the Virginia Arts Festival, broadcasting Performance Today from WHRO in Norfolk, along with some select excerpts from the Festival.

animated_final2The Queen may have gone home, but this is actually the big “America 400th” weekend in Virginia. The actual anniversary date of the Jamestown landing is Monday, May 14th. On-point editorial (“From Jamestown’s Swamp“) in today’s WaPo:

Americans love tidy success stories. Jamestown — Pocahontas notwithstanding — was anything but. Many of the original settlers were well-born men of leisure who supposed they would lead a life of ease in Virginia, provisioned by London, fed by docile natives and enriched by vast stores of easily accessed gold. They were misled…

The RoeDeo has been following the Jamestown saga for some time now, both for its historical thread and modern-day musical expressions. The “disovery of America” theme permeates the programming of this year’s running of the excellent Virginia Arts Festival, (a/k/a the “Tidewater Tanglewood.” Check out what’s happening this weekend:

Jamestown 400th Anniversary Weekend
May 11-13, 2007

The Virginia Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of JoAnn Falletta, and the Richmond Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of Mark Russell Smith, play separately and then combine – for the first time ever – to premier new works written especially for the commemoration by John Corigliano, John Duffy, Adolphus Hailstork and Jennifer Higdon. The works were commissioned by Jamestown 2007, a sub agency of the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation, in partnership with the Virginia Arts Festival.

Sure, it’s all a little gimmicky — Sunday, a 400-piece orchestra and a 1607-voices choir will perfom the Grand Finale program that may or may not be televised. But what an impressive line-up of first-rate American composers! (The Arts Festival also runs a John Duffy Composers Institute – this year’s faculty also includes Anthony Davis and Lee Hoiby.) In between, check out this lineup for “400 minutes of Music” Local hero Bruce Hornsby, Ricky Skaggs, and Chaka Khan, headline “an afternoon-long program featuring contemporary rock infused with native American musical traditions from Brule, a mix of folk, world, blues and soul music from South African artist Vusi Mahlasela, folk roots music from Michael Seeger, poetic urban folk from Jen Chapin, and alternative country from Scott Miller & The Commonwealth.”

Wow – that’s a helluva music mix. Mahlasela (former member of the African National Congress!) was just interviewed on Morning Edition, Mike Seeger (Pete’s brother) is an authentic roots-music hero – I can’t believe I first saw him perform – gulp – 40 years ago, with the New Lost City Ramblers. Jen Chapin (daughter of the late Harry) is a promising singer-songwriter whose debut CD Linger I thought was quite good if a tad overproduced. And Scott Miller? He’s been tagged “The Virginia version of John Mellencamp,” which I suppose is as good a description as any.

So, Unusual for most pop musicians, but utterly Hornsby, who’s one of the most interesting musicians around. (Yes, I’m in the tank for the other Bruuuuuce. I had a hand in bringing him to NPR last year. Check out his performance on Talk of The Nation, and/or his solo show at the Gilmore Festival.

You’re liable to hear Bach, Bebop, or bluegrass in the midst of his solo-piano shows, and over the years his collaborators have included (according to Bruce’s website – I can’t keep track of them all: The Grateful Dead, Shawn Colvin, members of the NY Philharmonic Orchestra, Ricky Skaggs, Ornette Coleman, Bill Evans, Robbie Robertson, Branford Marsalis, the aforementioned Chaka Khan, Roger Waters, Bonnie Raitt, Pat Metheny, Gregory Hines, and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.) Oh, and forward-thinking enough that you can
download some of his live shows. For a price, to be sure, but they’ll even make CD copies for you.

On the subject of concert audio, and getting back to where we started, you’ll be able to hear some select Virginia Arts Festival concerts on Performance Today, including the appearance in Portsmouth, VA. by the Academy of Ancient Music. No word yet on if/when the May. 11 concert featuring Duffy, Hailstork, Higdon et al will appear…

Sheesh. Meant this to be short now turned into another novelette of a post…