Last week I was asked if I would compere (M.C.) a musical concert being given by group of singers of my acquaintance; The person who had originally agreed to do this had become unavailable. The show is to take place tomorrow night (Friday). I said that I would and I attended last Sunday's rehearsal.

There are five singers in the concert, all with excellent voices.

Ninety percent of the items in the programme are operatic arias – in a variety of foreign languages. So on Sunday I asked for and was given a list of the titles. I began to make notes about the songs so that in my introductions, I would be able to convey to the audience the settings and a little of what the songs were about.

I was quickly told that this wasn't necessary as, “We don't want to bore them with too much talking!”

It has been my experience – over forty years a performer and at least twenty five of them working with and listening to vocalists – that most singers care little for the lyrics of the songs they sing. I of course, being a storyteller and a 'talking' performer, think that the words should be equally as important, if not more so! – otherwise why not just, 'La-la-la' to the music?

These singers have no real interest in involving and 'entertaining' their audience. As far as they are concerned the audience has only been assembled for the purpose of hearing them sing!

The really top singers understand that in most cases a song is a story set to music. Or perhaps the song conveys a mood or emotion that the singer wants to convey. When it is done well, the audience also catches the mood and becomes emotionally involved, with their enjoyment considerably enhanced.

If the audience has no idea what it is that the singer is singing about, that enjoyment is substantially reduced.

Someone recently bought me a DVD entitled 'Jerry Herman's Broadway at The Holywood Bowl'. It is the recording of a tribute, honouring the composer of such hit shows as 'Hello Dolly', Mack & Mabel', 'Mame' and 'La Cage au Folles' etc. Many Broadway stars sing in the concert and pay homage to the man who composed both the music AND the lyrics to these shows.

The wonderful Carol Channing makes an opening address, and concludes by saying pointedly, “If you want to double your enjoyment of the music - listen to the words!”

“Hear hear”, says I.

Unfortunately, tomorrow night's audience will sit in bland ignorance about the meaning of most of the music they are hearing!

Tuesday, 13th. April 2010

With the U.K. elections under way, I thought this cautionary tale would be appropriate:

While walking down the street one day a Member of Parliament is tragically hit by a truck and dies.

His soul arrives in Heaven and is met by St. Peter at the entrance.

'Welcome to Heaven,' says St. Peter. 'Before you settle in, it seems there is a problem. We seldom see a high official around these parts, you see, so we're not sure what to do with you.'

'No problem, just let me in,' says the politician.

'Well, I'd like to, but I have orders from higher up. What we'll do is have you spend one day in Hell and one in Heaven. Then you can choose where to spend eternity.'

'Really, I've made up my mind. I want to be in Heaven,' says the MP.

'I'm sorry, but we have our rules.'

And with that, St. Peter escorts him to the elevator and he goes down, down, down to Hell. The doors open and he finds himself in the middle of a beautiful green golf course. In the distance is a clubhouse and standing in front of it are all his friends and other politicians who had worked with him.

Everyone is very happy and in evening dress. They run to greet him, shake his hand, and reminisce about the good times they had while getting rich at the expense of the people.

They play a friendly game of golf and then dine on lobster, caviar and champagne.

Also present is the Devil, who really is a very friendly & nice fellow who has a good time dancing and telling jokes. They are having such a good time that before he realizes it, it is time to go.

Everyone gives him a hearty farewell and waves while the elevator rises....

The elevator goes up, up, up and the door reopens on Heaven where St. Peter is waiting for him.

'Now it's time to visit Heaven.'

So, 24 hours pass with the MP joining a group of contented souls moving from cloud to cloud, playing the harp and singing. They have a good time and, before he realizes it, the 24 hours have gone by and St. Peter returns.

'Well, then, you've spent a day in Hell and another in Heaven. Now choose your eternity.'

The MP reflects for a minute, then he answers: 'Well, I would never have said it before, I mean Heaven has been delightful, but I think I would be better off in Hell.'

So St. Peter escorts him to the elevator and he goes down, down, down to Hell.

Now the doors of the elevator open and he's in the middle of a barren land covered with waste and garbage.

He sees all his friends, dressed in rags, picking up the trash and putting it in black bags as more trash falls from above.

The Devil comes over to him and puts his arm around his shoulder. 'I don't understand,' stammers the MP. 'Yesterday I was here and there was a golf course and clubhouse, and we ate lobster and caviar, drank champagne, and danced and had a great time. Now there's just a wasteland full of garbage and my friends look miserable, what happened?'

The Devil looks at him, smiles and says, 'Yesterday we were campaigning.. ...

Today you voted.'