Roger Whittaker

Roger WhittakerWhen Roger Whittaker moved into a house in the village where I lived in 2012  I certainly remembered the name. I remember watching a BBC documentary about him – I don’t remember exactly when; it could have been in the 1970s. I do remember that he came across well with a humble and appreciative nod to his success. Since then he has not really been on my radar – a name from the past who had an impact musically. The concept, however, of a celebrity moving into the area did arouse my curiosity.

I did what lots of us do I Googled him and subsequently YouTubed him. What I discovered really did surprise me.

I discovered that he was more famous in Germany, the rest of Europe and the US than the UK. I discovered an enormous and I really mean enormous amount of music. I discovered that he came out of retirement and went on to work well into his 70s particularly in Germany. Above all I discovered that I really liked his music, his voice his style and yes he whistles beautifully.

For those that don’t know of him – many will be too young to have been touched by his early performances here is a brief bio from his website, from Wikipedia and from his fans.

Roger Whittaker was born in Nairobi Kenya in 1936. He was drafted into the Kenya Regiment in 1956 to do his national service and subsequently studied at the University of Cape Town in South Africa and then the University of Bangor in South Wales. He left University in 1962 after a successful three years of study with a BSc degree. Whilst studying he had also been writing and singing in local clubs. His first single was “The Charge of the Light Brigade” but it was his second release “Steel Men” that was to be the first song to enter the British music charts.

He continued to pursue a career in music working initially in Ireland. He spent five years performing and gaining a reputation as a serious and talented performer. His early reputation was predominantly outside of the UK but in other parts of Europe. “Mexican Whistler” reached number ONE in three European countries and “If I Were a Rich Man” peaked at number TWO.

In the spring of 1964, Roger met Natalie O’Brien, and they married in August. They have five children: Emily, Lauren, Jessica, Guy and Alexander.

His career continued to flourish particularly in Europe, in the Nordic countries and German. He also toured in the US. His highest charting single in the UK was “The Last Farewell” which reached number TWO. Other chart successes have included “Durham Town (The Leavin)”, “New World in The Morning”, “I don’t Believe in If Anymore” and “The Skye Boat Song” the latter with Des O’Connor.

This is an extract from an article in the Guardian by Ann Giles

“I have loved Roger’s voice since I was 12. I used to feel that he’d get away with singing from the telephone directory, if necessary. Luckily he hasn’t had to resort to that. He writes his own songs, as well as recording many well-known songs from elsewhere. In the shops they call it easy listening, and as I skulk in HMV I feel vaguely ashamed. Thank God for internet shopping.

Roger Whittaker may have begun his career as an Elvis soundalike, but since becoming himself, he’s just got better and better. Forty-six years on he’s still singing, and his voice has got deeper and sexier with age. Some know Roger only as ‘the one who whistles’.  He whistles beautifully – a skill learned in his childhood in Kenya. He sings in many languages, including Swahili, and I’ve even heard him tackle a Danish nursery rhyme.”

There is no need for me to write more here. Do what I did and turn to Google and YouTube – it surprised me in many ways.

I think Roger Whittaker really has retired now and I know he has found a great place  to live. I wish that I still did too.

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Ella Henderson

Mirror Man is the latest track from the delightful Gabriella (Ella) Henderson. This follows her very successful launch of the single Ghost described as the best-selling single in the summer; it was launched at the beginning of June. Her debut album will be released in the UK on October 13 2014.

Ella Henderson was a finalist on the ninth series of the X Factor in the UK in 2012. She finished in sixth place. Her debut single Ghost went straight to number one.and remained in the top 5 for eight consecutive weeks. Her second single Glow is to be released a week before her debut album Chapter One.

Since her departure from X-Factor she has been busy performing live and on TV. She has written the songs for her album collaborating with Claude Kelly. According to Capital One FM Ella also collaborated with Emili Sandé.

Leaving the X Factor early was almost certainly a blessing. Ella is a songwriter as well as a performer and already had her own style by the time she reached week six. The X-Factor process seems strange to me. Aspiring performers are chosen because of their talent and originality and potential X-factor and then encouraged to sing in every style under the sun. It might make good television but I am sure it is not beneficial to the performers.

I’m looking forward to seeing her progress.

You can preorder Ella’s debut album “Capital One” by clicking on the cover on the left.

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Kate Bush

Kate BushWhen we are knee deep in “popular” singers and musicians the key to longevity is elusive. Most come and go. They are good but not memorable. What are the key elements? Talent, passion, grit, persistence and above all else uniqueness. There are some secondary needs – support, publicity, intelligence and perhaps a desire for celebrity status.

Kate Bush – talent yes, passion clearly and from her work that is already well documented grit and persistence in droves. Uniqueness – she almost defines it!

Individuality is perhaps a better expression. And that perhaps is the most challenging thing in a world where one is encouraged to conform; by parents, peers and institutions. Not conforming has its risks of course but the benefits can be much greater; especially if it is combined with genuine talent. Kate Bush stands resolutely stubbornly individual. She would be true heroine in an Ayn Rand novel.

Reading about Kate Bush’s early life to date she was precocious in a good way and wilful with her sponsors – effectively so – she got her way with the choice of her first recordings and apparently even the graphics on the album covers. I will borrow a phrase from music critic Nick Coleman who writes in The Independent “she has stood firmly for artistic independence in the face of corporate will”.

She has refreshingly not sought “celebrity” status – indeed has steadfastly avoided it. Her fame is purely down to her work and talent not her lifestyle. Kate Bush’s reputation is based on her performances and her talent.

Secondary needs were provided for – support from friends and family and intelligence in abundance.

She is there now starkly in the news arising from her current live show at the Hammersmith Apollo. Sadly I have not seen it but have been struck by the reviews and by the response of people interviewed after seeing the show – effusively emotionally favourable – extraordinarily so.

Alexis Petridis writes comprehensively in “The Guardian” – she gets 5 stars from him and he concludes “Already widely acclaimed as the most influential and respected British female artist of the past 40 years, shrouded in the kind of endlessly intriguing mystique that is almost impossible to conjure in an internet age, Bush theoretically had a lot to lose by returning to the stage. Clearly, given how tightly she has controlled her own career since the early 80s, she would only have bothered because she felt she had something spectacular to offer. She was right: ‘Before The Dawn is another remarkable achievement'”

Kate Bush is described as reclusive – to me that is negatively loaded – unfairly judgemental. She had choices in her life that she stuck to resolutely – she has avoided many of the pitfalls of stardom. She seems to have applied the same resolute rules to her daily life as to her performances – she has stood firmly by her decisions. It has of course tantalised her fans and the members of the audiences many of whom were not born when she last performed. Her performances have a mystery about them like her life.

I admire her independence, objectivity, conviction and talent. She should be an inspiration to aspiring young artists especially if they have talent, passion, grit, determination and more than anything else something new.

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BBC Last Night Of The Proms 2014

The BBC Last Night of the Proms took place on Saturday 13 September 2014.

It was a first for conductor Sakari Oramo. He was joined by

  • Dutch Violinist Janine Jensen
  • Singer Ruthie Henshaw
  • Soprano Elizabeth Watts
  • Tenor John Daszak
  • Baritone Roderick Williams
  • And of course The BBC Singers, BBC Symphony Chorus and essentially

The programme comprises

Composers Piece Duration minutes
Gavin Higgins Velocity BBC Commission world premiere Three
Arnold Peterloo New choral version with lyrics by Sir Tim Rice – another world premiere Nine
Walton Façade Popular song Three
Chausson Poème Sixteen
Tavener Song for Athene Paying tribute to the late John Tavener Seven
Richard Strauss Taillefer Eighteen
Khachaturian Gayane Sabre Dance Three
Ravel Tzigane Nine
Kern Show Boat Ol’ Man River Two
Traditional Joshua Fit the Battle of Jerico (Arr R Williams) Three
Richard M & Robert B Sherman Mary Poppins Medley marking the 50th anniversary Eight
Ansell Plymouth Hoe Eight
Arne Rule Britannia! Arr Sargent Seven
Elgar Pomp and Circumstance March No 1 in D Major Land of Hope and Glory Six
Parry Jerusalem Orc Elgar Four


The conductor Sakari Oramo (OBE) was born in Finland in 1965 and started his career as a violinist and concertmaster of the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra in 1989.

From 2003 to 2012 he went on to conduct the same orchestra. He is married to the Finnish soprano Anu Mormsi. He was awarded his honorary OBE in 2009 for services to music in Birmingham where he conducted The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra.





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Lauren Bacall

Lauren Bacall

Lauren Bacall

There is something about those stars of film from the early to mid 20th century that I find so touching; emotions I cannot define. Touching but they were untouchable. I felt this incredible sadness surrounding the news of Lauren Bacall.

She was not of my generation – really between mine and that of my parents. She was always there classy and cool. In her early years, and she was a star at an early age she clearly made an impression that continued through her life and was reinforced through her relationship, personal and professional, with Humphrey Bogart who she eventually married.

I cannot pretend to be a film buff but she was one of  the icons of her era – famous but mysterious. It will never be like that again. There is no mystery now. Modern communications see to that.

The news of her death touched me more than the news of that of Robin Williams despite his being premature. Certainly little mystery there. It is sad and raw and in our faces. His demise took precedence on some news channels, notably the BBC, above other significant world events in Syria and Iraq. I was not comfortable with that. One death a world event vs statistics!

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Amanda Palmer

A diversion from my earlier entries – this time an artist of the moment

Amanda Palmer – American performer who first rose to prominence as the lead singer, pianist, and lyricist/composer of the duo The Dresden Dolls. Continue Reading →

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I am continuing my theme of notable older singers. This was not a planned entry. She appeared in the closing ceremony of the Commonwealth Games at Hampden Park in Glasgow singing her famous hit “Shout”. For that reason is seemed a timely choice.

Looking and moving in a way that belied her age she demonstrated that she is still a consummate performer.

Lulu (Marie McDonald McLaughlin Lawrie) was born in 1948 and has been performing primarily as a singer since the 1960s.

She is a member of an exclusive club – winner of the Eurovision Song Contest with “Boom Bang-a-Bang” in 1969; she shared the title that year with three other entries,” Vivo Vantando”, “De Troubadour” and “Un Jour Un Enfant.”

She was married to Bee Gee Maurice Gibb (1949-1003) in 1969; they divorced in 1973.

In her Wiki entry Lulu is credited with 21 studio albums and 65 singles.

Following her performance at the closing ceremony Kylie Minogue looking dramatic in a basque and an enormous head-dress performed some of her hits. She changed into a pretty white dress later in the show and for me looked much more endearing. Her contribution was to mark the occasion of the next Commonwealth Games to be hosted at Gold Cost City in Queensland Australia in 2018.

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Dionne Warwick

Dionne WarwickDionne Warwick. Another remarkable artist. Born in 1940 as Marie Dionne Warwick (pronounced I am told War-Wick and not Worrick). She is an American singer, actress and TV-show host as an artist. As a human being Dionne Warwick is a United Nations Global Ambassador for the Food Agriculture Organization and a United States Ambassador for Health. According to the Wiki article and based on the Billboard Hot Singles Charts Dionne Warwick is second only to Aretha Franklin as the most charted female vocalist of all time with 56 of her singles making the Billboard Hot 100 between 1962 and 1998.

She has won a string of awards and was No 1 female vocalist in the NARM best seller awards for 7 years out 8 between 1964 and 1971; she just missed out in 1965.

She is still very active – a glance at her website  will leave you in no doubt.

Dionne Warwick has  been active since 1962.

With her cousins Witney Houston and opera singer Leontyne Price and aunt Cissy Houston she is from a family with a musical pedigree. Her sons Eamon and David also have had successful music careers along with her sister Dee Dee Warwick.

Here is the music and lyrics for her song All The Love In The World is here

Her recordings if you are in the US – Dionne Warwick

Her recordings if you are in Europe Dionne Warwick

She has perhaps not been so good at keeping control of her tax and financial affairs since she was declared bankrupt in 2013.


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Vera Lynn

Dame Vera Lynn

The influence and contribution that some extraordinary people make to other people’s lives is truly staggering.

In working through my collection of sheet music I have just come across a piece of music called “I Love To Sing“. It featured in the film “Rhythm Serenade” starring Vera Lynn. The film, a patriotic musical romance, was released in 1943. I was only a tiny fraction in 1943.

What really struck me was that Dame Vera Lynn who is now 97 released an album in June to mark the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings. Her previous album released when she was 92 topped the UK album charts. Her latest “Vera Lynn: National Treasure -The Ultimate Collection” reached number 13.

Her contribution during WW2 is well known and there she is still providing entertainment to millions of people worldwide.

Vera Lynn – your are fantastic.

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San Toy

San Toy – The Emperor’s Own

A “Chinese” musical comedy

Amongst my collection of music I found the complete score for San Toy.  Since I had not heard of it I did my research. I discarded the US ship and the US ghost town of the same name in Ohio. My score is for a “Chinese” musical comedy. It was first performed at Daly’s Theatre, London on 21 October 1899 and then ran for 768 performances. Although the musical is described as “Chinese” this relates to the story rather than the origin. The musical was not Chinese nor created by Chinese. At least I don’t think so from the names of the author, lyricists and composers. The story was written by Edward Morton, musical score by Sidney Jones. Lyrics were written by Harry Greenbank and Adrian Ross with addition material by Lionel Monkton. Further performances followed at the same theatre between 1901 and 1905 and opened on Broadway in 1900. The musical was also regularly performed by amateur theatre groups up until the 1930s but according to the Wiki article rarely after that.

The Wikipedia article suggests that the language and stereotyping in the show would not now be considered politically correct. A look at the names of some of the characters might be rather mocking. There is a Captain Bobby Preston – nothing sinister there but then we get Sin Hi, Fo Hop, Fang, Li Hi and Li Lo, Li , Chu, Wun Lung, Ko Fan, Yung Shi, Yen How and his daughter San Toy. There are some mickey-taking westernised names too. Mrs Hay Stackpori, Mary Lambkin and Harley Streeter. It seems rather a shame that no one will take it on. It looks like great fun. There is a synopsis (from Wikipedia) The score is complete and in good condition bearing in mind its age. Pages are a little yellow and the cover, which may be leather, is a little scuffed. It is gilt embossed with the name “Ada Slater”. The score is on this website – here is the link San Toy Musical Score. Or you can download a digital version free of charge. Continue Reading →

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