Claire Martin - Witchcraft - Remote Goat Blog
26 February 2012Remote Goat Blog
Richard Rodney Bennett, who turned 75 last year, has had a career which
includes the composition of numerous scores for both concert hall and
cinema, pianism of various kinds, and collaborations with many very
varied artistes. Equally at home (and equally successful) in all of
these genres, he now perhaps derives the most pleasure from his long
partnership with jazz singer Claire Martin. The pair closed Buxton Opera
House's Four Four Time festival with an evening largely devoted to the
songs of Irving Berlin, in the intimate setting of the Pavilion Arts
In keeping with informal, cabaret style seating, and low lighting, the
pair announced the items verbally as they occurred; quite properly
keeping these introductions brief in order to present as many songs as
possible. Nevertheless, the evening was packed with informative
comments, and although Berlin penned numerous hits amongst some 1500
songs, in a thoughtfully constructed programme, we were treated to a
number of less well-known items in addition to the expected classics.
The first two songs featured the joint vocals of both artists, beginning
with a classy rendition of Putting on the Ritz. We then heard the two
singers solo. Firstly Claire in low voice in Get Thee Behind Me Satan
underpinned by a searching pianism worthy of Bill Evans; then Richard
who provided his own nifty piano accompaniment to Change Partners.
Richard explained how some of Berlin's biggest hits were actually tunes
originally consigned to his bottom drawer (so the story goes) at a
period in his career when he was convinced he couldn't write any more,
such as the 1932 song Say it isn't So delivered by Richard in a voice
almost like a whisper.
In the first half Claire also sang some of Berlin's best known items.
Her haunting performance of What'll I Do? was beautifully complemented
by an outstanding accompaniment, whilst Cheek To Cheek was given a
groovy jazz twist in Richard's arrangement. Perhaps the finest
performance of the first set was Steppin' Out with My Baby, a superb
rendition worthy its dedication to Tony Bennett. And before one knew it
the first half closed with a stomping rendition of When the Midnight
Choo-Choo Leaves for Alabam'...and 50 minutes had gone by!
The second half presented 5 more Irving Berlin songs including Let's
Face The Music And Dance (with an excellent syncopated accompaniment);
the humorous why is he The Loneliest Man in Town (He ain't got rhythm);
concluding with 2 songs from the 1948 film Easter Parade.
The remainder of the evening featured songs by other composers including
The Best is Yet to Come, presented as a fetching call and response
duet; and A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square. Two songs were included
in tribute to female vocalists cherished by the evening's artistes:
Just a Little Lovin' (for Dusty Springfield, and sung as a duet with
gentle scatting), and The Man that got Away (for Judy Garland) sung by
Claire in lovely velvety low tones.
All too soon we had arrived at the encore (The Very Thought of You), 2 hours had passed, and a swell time had been had by all.
Related LinksClaire MartinRichard Rodney Bennett