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A Rose By Any Other Name

January 12, 2015

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.”

So says Juliet in Shakespeare’s play, “Romeo and Juliet”.  But here are a baker’s dozen of my favourite Hollywood icons who, for whatever reasons, ditched their birth names on the road to fame.

FREDERICK AUSTERLITZ - Fred Astaire

Fred Astaire born Frederick Austerlitz

 

ARCHIBALD LEACH – Cary Grant

Cary Grant born Archibald Leach

 

DORIS KAPPELHOFF – Doris Day

Doris Day born Doris Mary Ann Kappelhoff

 

FRANCES GUMM – Judy Garland

Judy Garland born Frances Gumm

 

AUDREY RUSTON – Audrey Hepburn

Audrey Hepburn born Audrey Ruston

 

VIRGINIA McMATH – Ginger Rogers

Ginger Rogers born Virginia McMath

 

JOE YULE Jr – Mickey Rooney

MickeyRooney born Joe Yule Jr

 

BERNARD SCHWARTZ – Tony Curtis

Tony Curtis born Bernard Schwartz

 

BETTY PERSKE – Lauren Bacall

Lauren Bacall born Betty Perske

 

DAVID KAMINSKY – Danny Kaye

Danny Kaye born David Daniel Kamnsky

 

MARY SLATON – Dorothy Lamour

Dorothy Lamour born Mary Slaton

 

NATALIA ZAKHARENKO – Natalie Wood

Natalie Wood born Natalia Zakharenko

 

LUCILLE LeSUEUR – Joan Crawford

Joan Crawford born Lucille LeSueur

In the Arms of Love

January 6, 2015

Once upon a time the idea of being booked to sing in a pub would have filled an entertainer with unease if not downright dread. But the public house has moved on a good deal since those dark, sawdust-floored days and The County Arms in the London borough of Wandsworth is a shining example of what the modern inn can be when flair an imagination are put to work.

County Arms pub, Wandsworth, London

I was booked to sing during the wedding breakfast of Nick and Michelle which was held in the pub’s light and welcoming downstairs function room.

County Arms' function room Wedding breakfast in a London pub?Light and welcoming function room London pub

The room was beautifully decorated and I particularly liked this bunting made from prints of vintage sheet music:

Vintage sheet music bunting

Big love!

Wedding flowers

There was a whole table full of sweet treats including these delicious (yes, I was allowed one once I had finished!)  macarons:

French macarons

Nick and Michelle - the bride and groom

An intmate wedding ceremony in the room upstairs was followed by a drinks reception in the pub’s charming beer garden after which the guests sat down to dine with myself for musical accompaniment.

Singing at The County Arms

Vintage wedding singer in London

Nick and Michelle’s wedding cake topper was absolutely wonderful.  Made for them by their friend and cake topper creator extraordinaire Laura Hambleton it (literally) topped the wedding breakfast off perfectly.

Handmade wedding cake topper

Cutting the cake

Congratulations to Nick and Michelle – I wish you every happiness for the future.  Thanks for letting me be part of such a wonderful day!

Find out more about how I can add some elegant live music to your wedding or event by visting my website www.simonpartridge.com

PICTURE CREDIT:  Some of the photos in this post (the five decent ones!) were taken by Jordan of Michelle Lindsell Photography.  My thanks for letting me use the shots.

It’s Beginning to Sound a Lot Like Christmas

December 8, 2014

It’s that time of year when I sally forth, Wenceslas-like, through cold December nights to sing wonderful Christmas songs from years gone by at parties across the country.

I’m contractually bound, of course, to say that there really is no substitute for live music when it comes to creating the perfect Yuletide atmosphere, but I can’t be everywhere at once so if you’re in need of some festive sounds then here, in no particular order, are the albums I simply wouldn’t be without at Christmas.

1. “Ella Wishes You a Swinging Christmas” – Ella Fitzgerald

Ella Fitzgerald - Swinging Christmas

My first choice finds the legendary Ella Fitzgerald swinging her way through a dozen festive favourites under the baton of Frank de Vol and his orchestra.  From the sheer joy of tracks like “Jingle Bells” and “Let it Snow!” to the gentler introspection of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” and “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?” this is one of popular music’s greatest voices pulling out all the stops. The CD reissue by Verve is nicely packaged and features bonus tracks.

In a Nutshell: More swing than you can shake a jingle bell at.

2. “A Christmas Gift For You” – Phil Spector

A Christmas Gift For You

Long before his spectacular fall from grace in 2009 Phil Spector produced what for many is the definitive Christmas album and fifty-one years on it still packs a punch few can match. Spector’s legendary “wall of sound” is the perfect vehicle for creating a lush Christmas sound and the album rattles along at a breathless pace with some truly outstanding vocal turns along the way – particulary Darlene Love who delivers “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” as if her life truly depended on it.

In a Nutshell:  Sheer joy to fill up your silent nights.

3. “The Christmas Album” – Doris Day (1964)

The Doris Day Christmas Album

Released the year after Phil Spector’s bombastic masterpiece, Doris Day’s Christmas offering is an altogether more traditional album and is none the worse for that.

Day’s voice is pure Christmas, with all the warmth of a festive fireside scenes, but with none of the kitsch. She includes all the songs you’d expect (“The Christmas Song”, “Winter Wonderland”, ” White Christmas “) but also includes a few less well-known numbers such as “Be a Child at Christmas Time” and “Toyland” which add some welcome variety.

In a Nutshell:  Smoother than eggnog and twice as festive.

4. “Cool Yule” – Bette Midler

Cool Yule - Bette Midler

Doris may have avoided the kitsch, but my next festive essential positive revels in it.  The cover of Bette Midler’s 2006 Christmas album, “Cool Yule”, gives fair warning of its contents and while many of the tracks have their tongues firmly in their cheeks (notably the title song and an utterly glorious version of the  Hawaiian-themed “Mele Kalikimaka”) there are some wonderfully restrained numbers too (“I’ll Be Home For Christmas” and “What are You Doing New Year’s Eve?” are especially touching).  There’s a beautiful rendition of the carol “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” too.

I have one gripe about the album and that’s the whiff of autotune about Midler’s vocals, but given the quality of the arrangements and excellent song selection it’s a minor complaint.

In a Nutshell:  Camp as Christmas with a heart of gold.

5. “What a Wonderful Christmas” – Louis Armstrong and Friends

What a Wonderful Christmas

Louis Armstrong’s voice is like bottled sunshine and when he gets his musical chops on a song like “Zat You Santa Claus?” you can’t help but grin from ear to ear.  Unbelievably, in a career that spanned five decades Louis Armstrong only recorded six Christmas songs which accounts for the “friends” included on this album, but there are far worse fillers than Duke Ellington’s take on “Jingle Bells”.

In a Nutshell: Musical sunshine on a cold Christmas Day.

6. “Sweet Bells” – Kate Rusby

Kate Rusby - Sweet Bells

My final festive essential is something of a departure from the others. Barnsley-born Kate Rusby is a folk singer who, in 2009, released this gem of an album.

Before those pesky, order-loving Victorians got their hands on the hymn book and introduced a one-hymn-one-tune regime hymns and carols often had numerous accompaniments.  Different regions would have their own tunes, particularly for Christmas carols, and there would even be variations from village to village.  Rusby’s native Yorkshire has a strong tradition of this and for her album she uses a range of regional tunes to accompany well-known and obscure carols.

The title track is  a special favourite of mine.  It’s essentially “While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks by Night”, but with a chorus added between the verses.  With a brass section culled from the might Grimethorpe Colliery Band the result is a sound that is at once reassuringly familiar and startlingly new.

In a Nutshell: A joyful folk-fusion of the traditional and the contemporary.

So there you have my personal pick of the hundreds of festive albums available.  Of course if you ever fancy some real live Christmas music you can find out all about my act on my website www.simonpartridge.com

Merry Christmas!

Murder Most Fun

September 26, 2014

I’ve shared the bill with some interesting fellow artistes over the years (The White Hart Morris Men spring to mind – read my blog about the wedding we both performed at here), but last weekend was the first time I’ve (knowingly!) worked alongside a group of murder suspects.

Big Adventures Theatre Company

It was all in the name of entertainment, of course, with the suspects being played by members of Big Adventures Theatre Company as part of a vintage afternoon tea.

Murder mystery afternoon at Fairlawns Hotel

Big Adventures were there to perform one of their excellent murder mystery shows, “Murder at the Redfriars Reunion”.  The venue was Fairlawns Hotel in Aldridge.

Fairlawns Hotel and Spa

The mystery, set in the 1930s, revolved around group of old pupils from Redfriars School one of whom had been horribly murdered after the previous night’s reunion dinner.

Murder at the Redfriars Reunion

Guests took on the role of detective and had to use their best sleuthing skills to work out “whodunit”.  My job was to keep everyone entertained between scenes while the suspects mingled with the guests to answer questions.  My songs from the 1920s, 30s and 40s fitted in perfectly with the Agatha Christie murder mystery theme and created the ideal atmosphere for all the budding Poirots present.

And this is me! Vintage vocalist Simon Partridge

Our hosts for the afternoon, Phil and Diana, had taken great pains with their decoration including floral table centres which incorporated school geometry equipment and an “old school tie”…

"Old school tie" flower arrangement

…and a chocolate pistol for each guest!

Chocolate pistol

I’ve known Caroline and Dave from Big Adventures for over fifteen years now and have worked with them countless times acting in many of their theatre shows and murder mysteries. I’ve even performed in “Murder at the Redfriars Reunion” on many, many occasions playing the part of the vicar, Reverend Chaste.  It was strange watching the story unfold as a spectator rather than an actor, but hugely entertaining.

Murder mystery suspects

The afternoon was a great success and the guests had a wonderful time attempting to solve the mystery.  Host Phil said afterwards, “The drama, along with Simon’s elegant vocals, made everyone’s day”.  They’re already planning another such event for next year.

And if you’re wondering who the guilty party turned out be I’m afraid my lips are sealed.  You’ll just have to book Big Adventures for your own murder mystery evening to find out!

Find out more about Big Adventures by visiting www.bigadventures.biz

Find out more about my act of songs from the 1920s, 30s and 40s by visiting www.simonpartridge.com

“My One and Only Love”

August 26, 2014

Ella Fitzgerald once said, “The only thing better than singing is more singing”.  She was absolutely right which is why adding a new song to my repertoire is always such a thrill.

My latest addition is the wonderful ballad, “My One and Only Love”, written by Guy Wood and lyrics by Robert Mellin.  Essentially it’s a case of “one song to the tune of another” since Guy Wood’s melody was originally composed in 1947 for a song called “Music from Beyond the Moon” with lyrics by Jack Lawrence.  The song was recorded by Vic Damone in 1948, but wasn’t a hit.

Vic Damone

It’s a pleasant enough song, but it’s main problem is that the refrain sits rather clumsily in the tune.  It wasn’t until Robert Mellin added new words in 1952 that anyone really took any notice.  The first major recording of  the new composition was by Frank Sinatra  who released it in 1953 with Nelson Riddle producing a typically splendid arrangement.

Frank Sinatra with Nelson Riddle

It has since been recorded by numerous artists including the aforementioned Ms Fitzgerald in 1962 (another Riddle arrangement) and even Sting in 1995 (for the film “Leaving Las Vegas”).  My personal introduction to the song was through Doris Day’s wonderful recording with the Andre Previn Trio for her 1962 album, “Duet”.

Doris Day's "Duet" album

Strictly speaking, of course, the song only has half a claim (ie. the tune) to its place in my repertoire of songs from the 1902s, 30s and 40s, but it’s such a beautiful number and an absolute joy to sing so it’s staying!

And  here’s a clip of me performing it:

(If you can’t see or hear the clip you can listen to it on my Soundcloud profile www.soundcloud.com/simon-partridge)

I hope you agree it’s an excellent addition to my repertoire.

To learn more about other songs I sing search for posts in the “Songs and Songwriters” category in the right-hand menu. You can see a complete list of my repertoire on my website www.simonpartridge.com

Time to Drink Champagne and Dance on the Table

August 11, 2014

Okay, so I didn’t see any actual dancing on tables, but there was certainly no shortage of fizz at Holly and Matt’s wedding at Kilworth House Hotel back in May of this year.

Champagne tower

I was there to sing at the post-ceremony drinks reception on the hotel’s wonderful terrace.  I’d got the gig thanks to photographer Yvonne Lishman‘s recommendation to the couple when she learned of their vintage theme for the day.  It was great to finally work with Yvonne having met a few times at wedding fayres.

I love Yvonne’s photographic style and I’m delighted to share some of her pictures from Holly and Matt’s wedding with you.

Kilworth House Hotel

Holly and Matt outside Kilworth House Hotel

The terrace at Kilworth House Hotel

Wedding  guest balloon release

Bride Holly wore a stunning 1902s-inspired dress.

Simon Partridge with bride Holly

Matt and Holly dancing

The sun shone and the laughter filled the air from beginning to end.  I serenaded Matt and Holly’s guests with an-hour-and-a-half of songs from my repertoire hand-picked by the couple themselves.

Simon Partridge sings for guests at Kilworth House Hotel

A fabulous, laughter-filled afternoon at a wonderful venue.  Congratulations to Matt and Holly and special thanks to Yvonne Lishman for letting me share her photographs of the day with you.

Simon Partridge with Holly and Matt

Reasons to Be Cheerful Part 3: Teacakes and Terriers at Glasgow 2014

July 24, 2014

It has long been my considered opinion that one of the few things better than a Tunnock’s Teacake would be a dancing Tunnock’s Teacake. So imagine my joy when I sat down to watch the opening ceremony of the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games last night.

Dancing Tunnock's Teacakes at the Glasgow 2014 opening ceremony

It may not have had the budget that the London 2012 olympic opener had, but it had more than its fair share of fun and the enthusiasm of the volunteers and performers involved was infectious enough to be classified as a notifiable disease.

Dancers at the Glasgow 2014 opening ceremony

Karen Dunbar and John Barrowman Glasgow 2014

I’m not a fan of John Barrowman, but I jumped from my seat and applauded his fabulous kiss that was clearly aimed at the forty-two Commonwealth nations where homosexuality is still a crime.

John Barrowman's gay kiss at Glasgow 2014 opener

I could have done without Susan Boyle (fluffing her words and sounding awfully nervous) and Rod Stewart (just sounding awful).

Susan Boyle

Rod Stewart

But there were plenty of reasons to be cheerful about the whole thing, not least the genius idea of having Scottish terriers leading out each of the national teams.

Scottish terrier leading the England team

Of course, the main reason to be cheerful is what lies behind the fluff and glitter of the opening ceremony and that is the dedication and determination of the four-and-a-half thousand athletes who will compete in Glasgow over the coming days.

I salute each and every one of them (from the comfort of my sofa, of course).  With the news headlines so full of doom and misery it is their spirit that serves to maintain my faith that humanity is still capable of a greater good.

Enjoy the games!

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