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Thursday, 18 August 2016

The dark of light

Light music worries me. Officially "music with an immediate appeal" which "bridges the gap between classical and popular music", it aims "to entertain and enjoy" and offers "a strong emphasis on melody". My immediate reaction is: why bother?

Light music includes operettas - operas that have shrunk in the wash, typically by Gilbert and Sullivan and Offenbach. Other light composers include Johann (not Richard) Strauss, Sousa, Eric Coates and Robert Farnon none of whom race my motor. Enthusiasts for this genre must have taken a knock when "light" transmuted recently into "lite", generally taken to be insubstantial and unimportant.

So why, you may ask, did I download the score of Ivor Novello's We'll Gather Lilacs In The Spring Again - echt light music - and why am I presently and hurriedly teaching myself to put notes to such lines as:

Although you're far away,
And life is sad and grey.

The obvious answer is: V said I should. The final ten minutes of Monday's lesson were devoted to a scrambled attempt on my part to sight-read Lilacs (Honestly, I'm not that good.) with promise of more to come next Monday.

Now you know me. I'm pretentiously and boringly committed to musical masterworks: Grosse Fuge, Cosi, Ives' Concord sonata, Bach's English Suite. How come I'm prepared to swallow Lilacs? Because, says V, she and I will eventually do it as a duet. I've always yearned to do a duet.

It makes sense. Duets are as thrilling as music gets but for the moment Rodolfo (with Mimi in Boheme), Papageno (with Papagena in Flute) and Wotan (with Brünnhilde in Walkure) are way beyond me. Novello must be my baby-walker

One good thing: Sinatra's done Lilacs.


  1. The idea of you singing duets, that is. And I'm no musical snob: happily played and sang standards for my mother, and still do, and hung out with the G&S crowd at university. So "Lilac" away!

  2. The idea of you singing duets, that is. And I'm no musical snob: happily played and sang standards for my mother, and still do, and hung out with the G&S crowd at university. So "Lilac" away!

  3. Beth: Ah yes, dear Beth, arriving as the bearer of another can of worms. I am a snob (and not just a musical one) and might, just might, mount a defence for that.

    You must remember that, until the beginning of this year, you and I saw (and heard) music from different perspectives. You were and are a practitioner whereas I was a mere listener. All I had going for me was a list of preferences and thus, not surprisingly, I tended to say I liked this and didn't like that. Immediately the subject of preferences comes up among practititioners (You are not the first to take this line.) the wagons are formed into a circle and the practitioners go defensive; it is Hell's own job to get any practitioner to admit to musical antipathies.

    I sort of understand. Practitioners see music in terms of how it may be rendered; thus some vapid piece (eg, the introduction to Lilacs as opposed to the much better known refrain) may include technical niceties which deserve effort. As to whether the piece itself deserves such effort - aesthetically that is - the argument is not allowed to show its head. There's always that diminished seventh in the final phrase to be discussed; no such thing as good and bad.

    But this is not - as I'm sure you realise - an attack on my part. Since January 2016 I ceased to be a mere listener. Music, reproduced on a score, is now a technical steeplechase and the aim is to arrive at the finishing post without falling off. Or, rather, falling off as little as possible. The challenges do not hinge on beauty but, typically, on singing a terminal dotted breve with or without a swelling vowel. The name of the composer (more particularly his or her reputation) doesn't arise; the task is to create something resembling music from a string of symbols hung out on five washing lines (plus some spaces).

    Yes, I'll sing Lilacs with V as best I can and hope I'll sing it better on the morrow. But this won't eradicate the effect of those decades spent as a mere listener; there'll always be a quiet, malicious voice saying: ah, would that I were involved in:

    Don G: Andiam! Andiam!
    Z: Andiam!
    Both: Andiam, andiam, mio bene,
    a ristorar le pene,
    d'un innocente amor.

    It's all your fault, you know. That and the fourth of the Seven Deadly Sins.