Claire Martin & Richard Rodney Bennett - Live Review - Bewdley Festival

20 October 2011
Bewdley Festival
Brian Weaving

As they walked on stage, the first impression was of an ill matched pair in terms of age and style. It was when they started to perform together that one realized what a comfortable and creative partnership this is.

With apparently 1500 songs under Irving Berlin's belt, it was clear that this was only going to be a taster, and so it proved with the selection ranging from the familiar to the unknown.

Sir Richard Rodney Bennett, and Claire Martin declared their lifelong passion for Berlin's music and the jazz singer style, and this was apparent from the start. Playing a wonderful toe tapping piano, Richard provided throughout a strong support for Claire's singing. Whilst his Noel Coward style fitted the lyrics, he was never going to get prizes from his voice teacher. The vocal star was Claire, and she charmed everyone with her wonderful delivery. She remarked on the early influence of Ella Fitzgerald and it showed.

The two halves were significantly different. The first, a series of complex jazz arrangements, the second much closer to the originals. I suspect that the audience was divided in their preference.

Although there were some anecdotes, both personal and about Berlin, I would have welcomed learning more about the song writer's life.  After all, much of the music was written before the audience was born. I also wasn't sure why the programme went beyond Irving Berlin for material.

This was a delightful evening of nostalgia for a long gone world of music. It was a pleasure to see Richard shed many of his 75 years in this mutually stimulating partnership. A great way to keep young.

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