Category Archives: Music

Patricia Hammond at The Poppy Factory

Great news for my UK friends! Patricia Hammond will be singing a short set of tunes accompanied by the Lovely Parlour Trio at The Poppy Factory on November 11 in honor of Remembrance Day. Located in Richmond, Surrey, The Poppy Factory employs a team of 45 disabled ex-servicemen and women in the task of making commemorative poppies for The Royal British Legion’s annual Appeal and Remembrance Day. These talented people even make the wreaths laid by Her Majesty the Queen and other Members of the Royal Family during the Remembrance Day services! Quite an amazing honor.

If any of you are in the area, do pop in and have a listen to Patricia. And please drop me a comment and share what it was like! I wish I could be there to experience it for myself.

Friday, November 11, 2011 – 11am – The Poppy Factory, Richmond, Surrey

Oh, and while we’re talking of Patricia – she uploaded a new video of a live performance of Yours for us! It’s marvelous to see her and the Lovely Parlour Trio in action.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Music

A Nice Cup of Tea with Patricia

For those of you who enjoyed my interview with sweet-voiced Patricia Hammond (part 1, part 2), I have a treat today! In anticipation of the release of Patricia’s new EP on October 23, her label has released one of the tunes free for your downloading pleasure! Click the photo above and have a listen to Honeysuckle and the Bee.

I have had the great privilege of listening to A Nice Cup of Tea – a four track EP coming out in a few weeks – in advance of the release date.

The four songs on the EP are:

  1. A Nice Cup Of Tea – this song will be remembered as a jingle for a 1970s tea advert but was a lovely little number from the 1930s made famous by Binnie Hale. Patricia found the sheet music at Oxfam. The arrangement involves spoons, glockenspiel, a ukulele, a kazoo and a whistling chorus.
  2. Let Him Go, Let Him Tarry – an Irish folk-song, sung by the actress Jean Simmons in the classic film “The Way to the Stars,” one of the greatest British War films ever made. This version has a spontaneous barberhop-quartet singalong..
  3. The Honeysuckle and the Bee – The hit song from a 1901 show at the Vaudeville Theatre entitled Bluebell in Fairyland. One of Patricia’s most-requested numbers.
  4. We’ll Gather Lilacs – Ivor Novello wrote this for his show Perchance To Dream in 1945, and here it’s given an intimate, chamber arrangement to reflect the hope in its lyrics.

The descriptions above are from the disc jacket, so if you’re in the States and have no recollection of a 1970’s tea advertisement featuring A Nice Cup of Tea, take heart. It was only aired in the UK and is sadly unavailable on YouTube (believe me, I searched!)

My favorite tune of the four is Let Him Go, Let Him Tarry. Patricia’s rendition is bubbly, bright and lots of fun. I dare you to listen to it and keep still! The description above is quite right, the tune was sung by Jean Simmons in 1945. But my memory of it comes from a lesser known Noir called A Woman’s Secret (1949) with Maureen O’Hara, Melvyn Douglas and Gloria Grahame. Maureen sings it in the beginning of the film with great spirit – just as I picture Patricia singing it!

So, have listen to Honeysuckle and the Bee and get ready to be impressed with the new EP!

Leave a comment

Filed under Music

New Album from…Doris Day!

While waiting in a long supermarket checkout line yesterday, a splashy tabloid headline caught my eye: “Doris Day making comeback!” It surprised me so much, I actually picked up the rag for a better look. I figured they couldn’t possibly be telling the truth, but vowed to find out exactly how true it was the moment I got home. Turns out – Doris Day IS releasing a new album! It’s a set of previously unreleased songs produced by her son, Terry Melcher. Among the dozen tracks on the disc are two unexpected favorites: Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries and You Are So Beautiful. The main release of September 5 is geared for the UK, though I can’t see any official reason why. However, I would guess the bosses at Sony assume an album by a beloved classic singer will be better received there than here in Doris’ homeland. Never fear, though – if you’re in the US you can order the CD from Amazon and it will be shipped from the UK.

While searching around for information about the release, I found this great article in the UK Telegraph comparing the innocence of Doris to the cheap sexuality of Amy Childs (a British reality TV star). Thank heavens someone, somewhere still understands the beauty of modesty and class!

Preorder here: Amazon US, Amazon UK, iTunes UK

-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-

Editor’s note: This is officially my 100th blog post. Yay! ;)

6 Comments

Filed under Music

An Interview with Patricia Hammond, part 2

Yesterday, I brought you the first half of my interview with Patricia Hammond, The Canadian Nightingale. Today I have the conclusion for you where Patricia and I compared notes on dressing vintage, fixing vintage hairstyles, finished up our chat about classic film stars and looked back on childhood memories.

–:–:–Continued from Interview With Patricia Hammond, Part 1–:–:–

You also like Lizabeth Scott, I have to say, I think she’s amazing. She’s my favorite Noir person.. The Strange Love of Martha Ivers.

Ohh yes! Well, isn’t that Barbara Stanwyck?

Yes, it’s Barbara Stanwyck, but Lizabeth Scott just, I think she steals it.

Yes, she does, it’s true!

I love it, she’s so feral. She’s so like a little wild animal. She talks like a kind of old man.

[laughter]

It’s true, sort of out of the side of her mouth a little bit?

Yes! “I’ve got a bus to catch…”

[laughter]

She sang, she was dubbed in a lot of these films, but she actually sang and I think she released an album.

I didn’t know that!

Oh yeah! I think she appears on- not the Ed Sullivan show, but one of those variety shows, actually singing from her album. And it’s a very different voice from what usually dubs her.

Oh my gosh. See I could never understand the point of dubbing actors and actresses who really could sing.

Yes, I know! There was this famous man – Dana Andrews?

Yes, Dana Andrews!

He’s on your list!

[laughter] Yes he is!

He was in, was it State Fair?

Yes, it was!

He was a professional baritone, and yet he was dubbed. And somebody said, “Why on earth, with your ability would you ever let that happen?” And he said, “Oh, the guy probably needed the money.”

Yes, he didn’t want to take to the job away.

Isn’t that sweet?

It is sweet! He was a great guy. I do wish he had been able to sing it though.

Oh, I know isn’t it a shame.

I notice for the photos on your website you are all dolled up in vintage attire. Do you actually wear vintage clothes, like everyday?

Well, this is what I think is so great about what you do. You actually make up clothes from vintage patterns.

Yes!

Which is brilliant, I think that’s wonderful because then you can actually wear them like they would have in the day. If you’re wearing something vintage, I don’t know about other people, but I fear for them. I think, “Oh this thing has made it unscathed more or less through 70 years and here I am wearing it on this filthy bus!”

Precisely.

I don’t want anything to happen to it, it’s an old survivor. But if it’s a replica, I can live a normal life in these wonderful clothes. But yeah, I wear a lot of replicas. I like some Betty Page. It’s made in Las Vegas.

Yes, I know, isn’t it neat?

Yes. I’m not one for the big crinoline thing, that’s too late for me. There’s one here called Silk and Sawdust. Kind of expensive, but they are all handmade by this girl. I wish I was like you and could make my own clothes.

It’s very fun. Because you get to pretend that you’re back in the 40s making it, saving your pennies.

Exactly, when choosing the material was where you got excited.

Yes!

It’s so wonderful to have that concept of going to a shop and saying, “Ooh I like this calico! I like this calico here.” It’s like the Little House Books!

You’re right, it is!

Oh I love those books, especially the first one. The Little House in the Big Woods. And yeah, precisely that happens. They go to the big town and Ma gets really excited about the bolts of fabric. It’s a great process.

Yes, it really is. And it makes you think more about your clothes. Why you are making it, where you’re going to wear it. It’s not so much of an impulse buying thing.

Yes, you really think about it. Having said that, places like TopShop and H&M are really into vintage. They literally copy old patterns now. I think it’s pretty official that they do that. So, if you really steel yourself and go there and get over the idea that the clothes are made in China under pretty bad working conditions, you can pick up some pretty convincing clothes.

When I perform my pre-war or first world war stuff I wear dresses by this lady in California called Nataya – they are really convincing. I don’t think she sets out to be a replica dress designer, but she certainly is taking her inspiration from that time.

Do you wear hats, too?

I love hats!

I do too!

Oh, hats are great. Do you ever find that it’s much easier to match the dress to the hat, than the hat to the dress?

YES.

[laughter]

Yeah, a really nice hat, there is nothing like it. But I don’t tend to perform in them because I think they obscure the facial expressions. They kind of make me feel less free with the song somehow.

Do you have a vintage hairstyle, as well?

I have a couple of vintage wigs.

You do?

Confessions, confessions! Here in East London, there is a street near Finsbury Park tube station which is basically a street of wigs. It’s loads of wigs. And I found this wonderful 20s bob made of real hair which is so convincing. And when you have a 20s bob in real life, you’re kind of stuck with it.

Yeah.

That’s it. But it’s so good. Just to be able to stick that on your head and not worry. Because it’s got bangs. And also, snoods are really useful.

Oh, yes! I have snoods too.

Oh, gosh! Because when you are doing a vintage hairstyle, it’s always the ends. It has to be all sort of packaged in there and all smooth. And you cannot have stragglers really, to be truly authentic and that’s a real drag.

It is! That’s the hard part.

So, a snood just answers all of that. You stick your hair in there and there it is!

Yup, and you’re done and it’s really easy and fast.

Yes, stick a flower in if you’re being fancy. And hairpieces are really, really useful. They used them at the time, as well. Those kind of clip-in, kind of braided buns.

And actual curls and things that they would put on top of their head.

Yes, yes, yes. The main thing I find is the fringe – I keep saying fringe, but you say bangs!

Oh, yes!

That was my first kind of- when I moved over here from Canada it was my first thing that I had to change. Bangs to fringe.

Did you change a lot of your phrasing when you moved?

A few things. Lift instead of elevator. Interval instead of intermission. But yeah, I had to change quite a few things. Oh yeah – thong, say flipflop instead. Because thong is actually a skimpy undergarment.

[laughter]

Did you have trouble growing up with the other kids not wanting to hear about your love for vintage music?

YES! Yes, yes. Absolutely. Did you?

Somewhat. I kind of distanced myself from people who didn’t agree with me.

Good for you! Did you go to a school that was large enough that you could find a few friends?

Yes, I had a little group of one or two.

Elementary school, I went to a school with like 90 kids in it.

Oh wow.

Yeah, that was tough because there was nobody else. Absolutely nobody else who was interested in old things. I got teased horribly for dressing in thrift store clothes. Oh that’s another: English to American or American to English, is charity shop and thrift store.

Oh yes! I love charity shop, I think that sounds better.

[Laughing] Sweet. But I was teased for dressing in thrift shop clothes, which it was a financial necessity in my case. It wasn’t so much of a conscious decision, but then it became a conscious decision.

Yeah, it’s very popular to do right now.

Yeah! It it sounds like with your friends, the same thing. When I went to high school and there were more kids, there were a couple of punks and they absolutely respected my desire to be different. It wasn’t different in the way they were different, but because it was different in itself, it was laudable. So that was good. I’m kind of a vintage punk in a way.

Well, at least you were able to find somebody who could understand it on some level!

Yeah, yeah yeah! Do you have scene where you are?

Well, we have a small vintage dancing culture, but it’s not at all like the vintage world you have in England. You’re so lucky to have the clubs and the stores. It’s amazing. We don’t have anything like that here.

It’s really caught on here, it’s funny because when I was in Vancouver in the mid-nineties, there was all this huge swing dance, burlesque, vintage scene and that was back in the mid-90s and then it kind of faded away. And then it came to London – kind of. Like, sort of 2003, 2004 and now everywhere you look there is burlesque, there’s vintage, there’s reenactors – everything. There was always a big reenactor scene, I think with vintage cars and that sort of thing, but yeah, it’s really caught on.

Yeah, here in America, all we really have are the cars and the people who know about the cars. There’s never really anybody who dresses up in the era and does anything, except for maybe like actual World War II military reenactments sometimes.

Yeah, that’s what we’ve always had. Yes. I think that always is going to be there. But it’s interesting the different layers of nostalgia. But it’s funny that musically, there usually it’s “Oh yes, we’ll have a vintage DJ!” But actually having a genuine band is much more rare then you might imagine.

I hope that with this CD, it will bring forward another genre, another kind of thing. It’s not classical, it’s not jazz, it’s not crossover. It’s its own thing.

Yes, it’s a whole entire style in and of itself.

Yeah, it is exactly that. And it’s hard to define. Old songs, nostalgia. I just like to say it’s just songs.

Yes, truly good songs, sung by a lady who really knows how to sing!

Awwww! Wow! I like this!

Well that’s so rare now, to have people who can actually sing.

Well, it’s funny – you don’t want opera singers to do it because they’ll sort of strangle the life out of it. They’ll make it so arch and big and you lose all the intimacy.

Right, you can’t understand the lyrics.

Yeah, and modern singers kind of bring their own modern sensibility to it and it turns into something different. Though I wouldn’t like to think that I’m kind of stuck away in another world or stagnant in any way. I just like to think that this is how, when I look at the old music, it kind of jumps out at me. And then I work with these musicians who are amazing. The two who did the arrangements for the album, Matt Redman and Nick Ball. These young guys – they are so clever and are really very good at looking at what’s on the page and saying, “Oh I hear a flute there,” or “I think this could really have an early ragtime kind of feel.” then bringing out, say, a mandolin and a pair of spoons! It’s just fleshing out the bones and I hope there’s a lot of flesh.

Yes, I think there is! It has a great sound, a really full-bodied sound and it draws you in. It’s the sort of thing- I was listening to it this morning – you kind of can’t do anything else while you’re listening to it. It’s so captivating.

Ohhh! Oh that’s wonderful! Well, I’d like to think that people can.

Well, at least on the first listen, you have to stop and really listen to all of it, because there is just so much to hear.

Oh that’s marvelous! That’s really wonderful!

Thank you so much for giving me the chance to talk with you, Patricia. I had a wonderful time!

Well, likewise! I wish you lived nearby, we could watch the Strange Love of Martha Ivers!

I wish I did, too! I would love to come and watch you perform. If you come to America, I’m definitely coming to see you!

Oh, I hope we’re coming to America. That would be fantastic!

–:–:–:–:–:–:–:–:–:–:–:–:–:–:–:–:–:–:–:–:–:–:–:–:–:–:–:–

I’d like to extend my sincerest thanks to Patricia and her publicity team for giving me the chance to talk with her. And I urge all of you to head over to her website and check out the tracks from her new CD! And after that check out her new blog!

13 Comments

Filed under Classic Movies, Music

An Interview with Patricia Hammond, part 1

Dear readers, let me introduce you to Patricia Hammond. She has a gloriously beautiful mezzo-soprano voice and puts it to good use sharing renditions of popular vintage songs from the 1900s-1940. She hails from Canada but now lives and works in England. I recently had the incredible opportunity to chat with her for 40 minutes, (direct from the UK!) about her work, her love of vintage music, her inspirations and our mutual appreciation for classic movies and their stars (particularly Deanna Durbin). She’s a joy to speak with, a fountain of facts and a truly sweet lady. I’m so happy to have met her and am determined to see her perform live one day. Please read on for the interview and have a listen to one of her sensational songs while you read!

[Large headlines are my questions and comments, regular paragraphs are Patricia’s answers, comments in square brackets are pieces of additional information I looked up after the interview and have added]

How did you become interested in vintage music?

My mom sang and also my parents both collected classical (well not classical, there wasn’t actually that term in those days) 78 RPM records – there were loads of them and I had unlimited access to all the un-filed ones, so I could just take a fistful of them and as long as I promised not to scratch or break them, I could play them. It was all these old, well – for want of a better term – dead opera singers, that I grew up with. So, I grew up with these songs and recordings from anywhere from 1900-1940, something like that.

So they were classical opera singers that you were listening to?

Yeah, yeah they were. Although there was no such thing as “crossover.” I love to talk about this. There really was no such thing as crossover a long time ago. People just sang. People just performed music. And it was only when classical music entered into the academic world and you had oh – it’s that whole institutionalized thing of classical music and when jazz became arcane and specialized and then pop kinda went off into its direction and it was all about “the now,” but if you went back, it was still about “the now” but they didn’t reject everything that went before it. So, 40’s people were still really keen about Stephen Foster and I’m sure you’ve probably encountered a few films that used Stephen Foster in the background.

Oh, I bet I have!

Yes! [Laughs] Songs were songs. You went down to your local department store to see what the latest crop of sheet music was. Which was kind of like the hit single in those days – you went and you actually got sheet music. Not record shops so much as music shops. It was just single songs and I believe that in the better shops, you had these professionals who would sit down and play and sing it for you.

Yes, have you ever seen In the Good Old Summertime – that movie with Judy Garland?

Yes! And it’s so funny, when I first saw that I thought “Oh yeah. Hmm. Yes, they sure had imaginations back then.” And it was only later on after doing research that I realized, they did do that! They were professionals. And I think, oh – what’s her name – a really energetic singer, sang Annie Get Your Gun…Ethel Merman. She started as a song plugger, that was her job.

I didn’t know that!

I believe so, you can check it. [Laughs] But I think that’s how she started – retail. Like someone working in TopShop. She worked singing the latest sheet music for people who were going to buy it. But, yeah – that was it. You got your latest piece of sheet music, but you didn’t throw away what you had before.

There wasn’t any of this crossover. So, an opera singer could quite shamelessly and joyously record the latest song by Carrie Jacobs Bond or somebody like that. Just popular songs. It was just a song.

See, I think that’s wonderful. All this segmentation in the music industry is quite unfortunate. It just boxes everybody in.

It does, absolutely! And as I say, good music is good music. A song that you remember or that you love and gives you a piece of beauty or a piece of fun or evokes something that’s universal or specific to you – it’s valuable and it should be brought back. It’s really lovely, I work with two extreme ends of the spectrum. I have all my elderly people I sing for, and I do sing for a lot of elderly because they’re amazing. They can give you their perspective on what it used to be like, stories about songs. And they all remember them they’re all “Oh yeah, I haven’t heard that for years!” And then, in the evening or late night, I go to one of these retro clubs and sing them. The same songs, to people who have never heard them before and they love them just as much!

Yes, it’s extraordinary the appeal – how well written the music was, that it can be that widely regarded.

Exactly! Yeah, it’s true. And also, there were so many out there – just thousands. I’ve got a collection – I don’t know I’ve never counted – just piles and piles and boxes and boxes and they are all different songs. There are so many that you can just keep on refining them to just the best, the best, the best and what you’re left with are really the enduring ones and they are just so good.

I expect it’s the same with movies?

Yes, it is! It’s funny how you think you’re a movie historian or a movie buff and you think you’ve seen them all and then of course there’s always more and more you never knew about.

And I noticed that you like Deanna Durbin?

Yes!

That is fantastic.

She is a great singer!

Oh yes, and actually looking at what she sang is a perfect example of what I’m talking about. She sang old songs, she sang opera, she sang sweet little tunes (again, Stephen Foster) and then she sang stuff that was written just for her. It was just amazing how many different styles she encompassed. And yet she doesn’t do anything, she’s not like a jazz singer – she doesn’t mess about with the music. She doesn’t go, “Right, we’re bored with that, let’s do something strange.” She just sang them really simply and beautifully. I think she’s one of my favorite singers.

Yes, she had this great style that it just transcended everything. No matter what, it was her song first and then it was whatever genre.

Yes! Exactly. She’s lovely. I actually wrote to her.

Oh, you did?? Did you get a reply?

I did! Which I understand is very rare.

It is!

[laughs] I got two replies actually. Well, I wrote twice. And they were really sweet. She was mostly just- it was because I was talking about myself. Obviously, it was “I really love you, I think you’re fantastic…” and everything. And then I enclosed a picture of me backstage in an opera with a friend who also really admires her. “My friend and Iwere very inspired by you…” And then she actually hand wrote back and said “What lovely ladies and what lovely girls!” and how happy she was for us. And because I’m a mezzo, she said “the mezzo voice is one of my favorites.”

Wow, that’s amazing! You’re so lucky!

I asked her if there were any Deanna Durbin songbooks out there, which subsequently I found about five of them, but back then I hadn’t. And she said, “Yes, but I don’t have any of the DD songbooks. They didn’t have my favorite songs in them anyway!”

[mutual laughter]

And then I wrote back and asked “What were your favorite songs?” And she said, “You’ll find your own!”

[mutual laughter]

She was not going to be drawn out. She just was not going to. She’s just so lovely.

Aww, she is a lovely lady. Do you have other people who have inspired or influenced your style of singing?

Well there have been so many, because listening to the old 78s, a lot of times I was listening to about 15 different singers in an evening, at the age of whatever…12, 13. And I don’t remember them all, but I did have this horrible snobbery when I was that age, well – when I was, gosh, about age 12 to (it lasted awhile) to about 24. I was a terrible snob and I would not listen to modern singers. I would only listen to the old ones because I thought that there were all sorts of imperceptible subtle inflections in the old songs that I didn’t want to miss. I don’t know if you understand?

Yes, I know what you mean. That you wouldn’t be able to hear what was going on in the old music if you were listening to the new.

I wanted to be as if I lived then. So that I would only hear sounds from the singers that would be from that time. So yes, but my gosh, there’s so many of them! I like Rudy Vallee actually.

Oh yes!

I like his style. He’s so…ahh he’s so suave! And very lyrical. And early Bing Crosby – though I get a bit sick of his- that little grace-note he has on every note.

YES. Bu-bu-bu-ba-boo!

Ha, yes!

[mutual laughter]

He’s got a sense of joy which I really love. And Dick Powell!

Oooh yes!!

Dick Powell is SO sweet. And I always listen to the old radio dramas and they are so great.

They are, aren’t they? It’s amazing how they all make the sounds for each sound effect.

Yes!

It’s incredible to sit there and listen to it and realize that there was somebody actually making the sounds right then.

There’s a show, actually in London called the Fitzrovia Radio Hour where they do a live show. They make a big feature of actually making the sounds. Showing they’d take a balloon and scrape it with their hand to make a horrible monster noise and things like that. And people in the audience can kinda go “Wow!” But, that’s another way of being in the past. You can turn off all the lights, listen to it and think you’re actually listening to a radio back then, which is great.

But oh I love Dick Powell. “Rick Diamond, private detective…

[laughs] Yes!

I really love those French Chanson singers from the 30s, like Nitta-Jo. She’s amazing. Amazing. If you’ve listened to too much Piaf and you want something different, try her.

Of course, Deanna Durbin.

I sometimes really like, and this is something you’d definitely know about, the singers who would dub the stars.

Yes!

Marni Nixon, wonderful voice.

They don’t get enough appreciation.

I like the people who dub Lana Turner. [I looked it up, and that was Trudy Erwin.]

Where does she sing?

She sings in a couple. [After researching it, I discovered Patricia was talking about Mr. Imperium and The Merry Widow] There’s one called…

Oh, Ziegfeld Girl?

I don’t know if she sings in that! But I love it, that’s one of my favorites though, of hers. That walk down the staircase.

Yes, with the crazy hat and the big dress!

Ohhhhh, yes! And she’s got to die at the bottom of it! And that music that’s in the background. Love it. But yeah, a lot of opera singers. Especially from the 30s.

There’s a wonderful singer called Conchita Supervia, she’s just so wonderfully out there.

There’s a coloratura–soprano, actually she made a film, not enough films! She’s in something called The Great Waltz

Oh yeah, with Luise Rainer?

Yes! Yes I think so. Her name is Miliza Korjus. She sings so high, you think it’s got to be a machine, but she genuinely could sing that high and that agile and that fast. It is amazing.

All of that kind of fades into the distance when you are looking at a tattered old piece of sheet music and you bring it to… I now work with these wonderful musicians with whom I’ve done the album.

Yes, your new album! The one that’s coming out in October.

Yes, the new one – Our Lovely Day.

I’ve listened to some of the tracks on your website, they are really wonderful.

Oh, you like them?

Oh yes! How did you decide which songs would go on your album?

That’s a very good question. It took years, basically. Again, a refinement process. Since age 9, I’ve been collecting old music, basically going begging around the neighborhood. I grew up in a small town north of Vancouver on the west coast of British Columbia and I made friends with all the elderly people. Because I just thought they lived in a much more interesting time than I did. And next door to me was this little old lady who had been a genuine flapper.

I’d go there and I’d just be fascinated saying, “what was it like to be a flapper? How did you dress, what did you do?” And she would talk about how they disapproved of her and her friends because they were fast and they liked cars and “oh yes, we had really long necklaces! We swayed about when we danced and we danced really fast!” Wow. So I just wanted every old person’s stories and I discovered sheet music that way, because very often they had pianos and piano benches filled with the old music. And old music is a very affordable antique.

Yes, it is!

Yeah, with those covers. Do you have some?

Oh yes! I have some that are from actual movies that are my favorites, so they have movie star pictures on the fronts.

Yes, they tend to be more expensive now because people think, “ooh that’s a collector’s item.”  I used to look down on those growing up, I’d think, “They’re not old, they’re movies! I want the the stuff with the ladies with the big hats!”

Oh, from the 1900s?

Yes, actually the most beautiful ones were from 1919. I don’t know why, there was an explosion of gorgeous fanciful covers. All the exoticism and soiree influenced stuff. Fringing, wild prints – absolutely beautiful. A lot of great songs, also from 1919. It was a boom year. Yeah, so I look at the actual music, I pick up a song and play it through on the piano, see what it sounds like and go Yes, Maybe or No. Or there’s a forth one: Nice Cover! Makes everything irrelevant!

[laughter]

It gets kept anyway. Although I never throw anything away, never. So the Yes, Maybe or No piles. And the Maybe, I’ll put it away and then I’ll play it again later, like a week later when my ears are fresh. And I’ll put them in a Yes, Maybe or No and usually there’s a lot more No. Then I’ll get this Yes pile and then I’ll try it out in front of audiences. A very good place is retirement homes, nursing homes. And in Canada, there’s something called Health Art, which is a charity that sends professional musicians into retirement homes. You get paid for your time, which is good. And also they audition people so that people who go out there can sing to a professional standard. So, they don’t get tired. Among other things, if you’re doing a tour, it can be very tiring, so you’ve got to have the endurance.

Yes, build it up.

Yeah, yeah. And performers have to be personable and be able to hold somebody’s hand and be able to sing one-on-one if need be. So I do a lot of work with that kind of an outfit. There are two that I work with in England called Music in Hospitals and Lost Chord, singing in retirement homes. Before, when I was just learning, I used to do it for free. I used to just go up to a retirement home and say, “Do you mind if I do a little bit of a performance?” And they’d say, “Oh, oh go ahead!” And that way, you could really tell which songs would go over and not go over. Because residents are quite fussy. They remember how the music should be and they didn’t ask you to come there so you’ve got to be good!

[laughter]

So, I gradually built up this collection of songs that really worked. They were just always good in performance and people wanted to hear them. Sometimes there would be requests, “Could you sing this? I remember my grandmother used to sing it.” “Oh, certainly!”

And then in my work as a classical singer, I’d always do them in encores. And then when concert organizers gave me enough artistic license, I’d say, “Well, I’d like to do include some of my older songs.” And they would ask “like what, Mozart?” And I’d say, “Well… no.” This album is a distillation of the most popular ones. The ones people really react to the most. Although, I have enough to do 10 albums right now.

Wow, you could? You should! They are such great songs.

Oh, I’d love to! There is just an endless array. If you go to my website, you can see a big list of them. I actually need to update it because I’ve added about 20 and I need to add them.

So many songs haven’t been recorded in years, which is really strange. Jazz musicians do them, but then they mess about with them.

Ugh yes, and they change everything.

They change everything! Yeah, like they’re bored with them. How can we be bored with them? We’ve forgotten them. Maybe back in 1950 or 1940, they were going, “Oh gosh, this is the one that’s on every organ-grinder, every street corner, every pub there’s somebody playing this in the corner. Let’s do something funny with it. But we’ve kind of lost sight of those original songs.

Yeah, I think most people have never heard any of them.

Yeah! So this is what I want to do. I want to bring them back. I want to make people sick of them again.

[laughter]

Aww, well, I think people are ready for some nice nostalgia.

–:–:–:–:–:–:–:–:–:–:–:–:–:–:–:–:–:–:–:–:–:–:–:–:–:–:–:–:–:–:–:–:–:–

The last half of this interview will be posted tomorrow, [read it here] because I want to give everyone a chance to read through all of it without bombarding you. In the latter part of the conversation, we discussed vintage fashion, London shops and Dana Andrews! In the meantime, be sure and have a listen to Patricia’s new CD, here!

And if you are in the US and have access to TCM, The Great Waltz is playing today (July 22) at 6pm eastern time. I’m definitely tuning in to catch the performances of Miliza Korjus!

11 Comments

Filed under Music

Music for the Vintage Lover

For some time, I’ve been aware of a void in my wide circle of vintage involvement. Yes, I have the clothes, the hairstyles, the slang words, the movies, the dancing, and the music from days gone by. But, while all the other areas are experiencing revivals with modern twists at the moment, I couldn’t find a place where vintage music was flourishing in the capable hands of modern artists… Until now, that is.

Let me introduce you to a very lovely lady: Patricia Hammond.Patricia is a mezzo-soprano singer with an undying appreciation for what she likes to call “old songs” – classic vintage tunes from the 1900s through the 40s. She’s a performer in the style of Deanna Durbin, Alice Faye and Jane Powell and the range of her repertoire impresses even the most diehard vintage lovers. And because Deanna Durbin has been a major source of inspiration for her, Can’t Help Singing (the title song from one of Deanna’s technicolor spectacle films) appears on Patricia’s new not-yet-released album, Our Lovely Day.

I was given the unforgettable opportunity to speak with Patricia direct from England and have prepared two posts full of links, videos and fascinating tidbits for you to get to know her. Look for the first installment right above this post and the second tomorrow. And be sure and listen to the first few tracks of Our Lovely Day over at Patricia’s site!

2 Comments

Filed under Classic Movies, Music