Ev­er­green Melodies

Evergreen - - Contents - Ken Reeves

For many years Do­minic Combe has been qui­etly pro­mot­ing an in­ter­est in the early Bri­tish mu­si­cal the­atre, pre­serv­ing cylin­ders and early shel­lac discs on CD. Lit­tle ma­te­rial was recorded prior to the 1910s, how­ever, when things be­gan to change and acous­tic records came out in quan­tity.

Among these were The Happy Day which opened at Lon­don’s now lost Daly’s The­atre in 1916, Kiss­ing Time which opened at the sim­i­larly lost Win­ter Gar­den in 1918, and Who’s Hooper which opened at the still op­er­a­tional Adel­phi in 1919.

Do­minic has sup­ple­mented the mu­sic with beau­ti­fully il­lus­trated A5- sized book­lets based on con­tem­po­rary is­sues of Play Pic­to­rial mag­a­zine, the­atre pro­grammes and other sources. Three CDs fea­ture mu­sic from the fa­mous but also lost Gai­ety The­atre, such as Theodore & Co. ( 1916), Go­ing Up ( 1918) and The Blue Kit­ten ( 1925). Among First World War com­mem­o­ra­tions were sev­eral pop­u­lar re­vues, many of which were staged at venues such as the Hol­born Em­pire, Palace and Hip­po­drome, all fea­tur­ing mag­nif­i­cently bright cos­tumes. Joy- land opened at the Hip­po­drome with a scene show­ing a large liner at the Liver­pool land­ing stage which Play Pic­to­rial de­scribed as “... a huge piece of stage prop­erty built in three weeks

un­der a rail­way arch at Peck­ham in South Lon­don be­cause no or­di­nary work­shop was big enough”. Rag­time was all the rage and re­lated num­bers ap­peared in most mu­si­cals, such as “Raggy Re­frain” in Joy- land per­formed by Shirley Kel­logg.

The first Al­ham­bra re­vue at Le­ices­ter Square was the 1916 pro­duc­tion of The Bing Boys Are Here which fea­tured the duet “If You Were the Only Girl in the World”, sung by George Robey and Vi­o­let Lo­raine and “Rag­ging the Dog” with Phyl­lis Monkman and Jack Christie. The “Bing Boys” came from a fic­tional coun­try vil­lage called Bing­hamp­ton who de­cided to try their luck in the city of Lon­don. The next Al­ham­bra re­vue was The Bing Girls Are There ( 1917) and fea­tured the mem­o­rable song “Let the Great Big World Keep Turn­ing”, again by Vi­o­let Lo­raine. The trio of re­vues was com­pleted with The Bing Boys

on Broad­way in 1918, thus the Bing Boys and Girls kept the Al­ham­bra op­er­a­tional un­til the end of the war. Orig­i­nally the Royal Panop­ti­con of Science, then a mu­sic hall, it was re­built as a the­atre be­fore be­ing de­mol­ished in 1937 and re­built again as a cin­ema.

Some of the num­bers from Do­minic’s record­ings of the Bing Boys/ Girls pro­duc­tions will be played as part of an af­ter­noon ac­tiv­ity to recre­ate some of the re­vues later this year, un­der the aus­pices of the George Ed­wardes Mu­si­cal Com­edy So­ci­ety which reg­u­larly recre­ates early mu­si­cal stage works.

For fur­ther in­for­ma­tion about his work you can con­tact Do­minic at d. combe@bt­in­ter­net.com.

The huge ship back­drop for “Joy- land” at the Lon­don Hip­po­drome in 1915.

As he pre­pares to leave the fic­tional vil­lage of Bing­hamp­ton for Lon­don, Ge­orge Robey duets with Vi­o­let Lo­raine in the hit song “If You Were the Only Girl in the World”.

“Rag­ging the Dog” sung by Jack Christie and Phyl­lis Monkman was one of many pop­u­lar First World War rag­time songs and dances.

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