Redbridge Music Society - A Celebration of Flanders and Swann

PUBLISHED: 09:16 23 October 2010

REDBRIDGE Music Society’s programme of events for the year has some rather unusual and interesting programmes scheduled.

Last week, James Mitchell (baritone) and Grahame O’Connor (piano) were the society’s guests, presenting a celebration of the lives and music of actor and singer Michael Flanders (who died in 1975) and composer pianist and linguist, Donald Swann (who died in 1994).

They collaborated in writing and performing comic songs, and between 1956 and 1967 performed their songs in two long-running revues: At the Drop of a Hat and At the Drop of Another Hat.

James Mitchell, with his pleasant baritone voice took the part of Flanders, although he did not have quite the required timbre. Grahame O’Connor took the part of Swann, providing an accompaniment of outstanding brilliance with a keyboard technique such that you could easily imagine Swann was in the room with you.

Many of the well-known songs were performed including The Gasman Cometh – a verse-and-chorus song in which a householder finds that no tradesman ever completes a job without creating another – which was helped along with the audience singing the chorus, and Misalliance, a wonderful political allegory concerning a love affair between a honeysuckle and a bindweed.

No collection of Flanders and Swann songs would be complete without the slightly risqué Madeira M’ Dear — a song about seduction, full of complex word-play, including oft-quoted examples of syllepsis: “She lowered her standards by raising her glass, her courage, her eyes and his hopes”.

Richard Stilgoe and Peter Skellern were also represented in this humorous programme with their wonderful tales of Mrs. Beamish and Joyce the Librarian.

James read Richard Stilgoe’s clever poem about the Caithness Self-Lift Chair, and Grahame played Lecouna’s Mazurka Glissando. Of course, the evening had to include The Hippopotamus - one of Flanders and Swann’s best-known songs.

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