They Played the 'Alls
Friday Night Is Music Night - "They Played the 'Alls".
Hot foot from accompanying the likes of Dame Shirley Bassey; Sir Elton John and Sir Paul McCartney at the Diamond Jubilee last Monday - the BBC Concert Orchestra are back on regular duty for this week's "Friday Night is Music Night". Tonight they are joined by special guests Barbara Windsor, Anita Harris, Roy Hudd and Mark Walsh to celebrate the golden days of variety and the music hall.
The British music hall heyday was from 1850 to the end of the First World War - the amusements included: song, comedy; dance, magic, animal acts; hypnotists, contortionists; fire eaters, siffleurs(whistlers) and funambulists(tightrope walkers).
Tonight's show is presented by Barbara Windsor. Anita Harris pays tribute to a performer who started life as Matilda Alice Powles and ended life as Lady de Frece - wife of Sir Walter de Frece, MP for Ashton Under Lyme and later for Blackpool. She was one of the top paid music hall artists of her day - her act was as a male impersonator and her stage name was Vesta Tilley. Anita recalls 3 of Vesta's songs - "Burlington Bertie"; "Following in Father's Footsteps" and "After the Ball".
Roy Hudd - an authority and devotee of the traditions of the music hall - pays tribute to a number of his heroes including Harry Champion ("The End of Me Old Cigar"), Morny Cush ("I Live in Trafalgar Square") and Will Fyffe. Fyffe is best known for his composition "I Belong to Glasgow" - though in fact he was born and raised in Dundee! The story goes that Fyffe was inspired to write the lyrics when he met a drunk on Glasgow Central Station. "Do you belong to Glasgow" Fyffe asked. "No" the inebriate replied "Glasgow Belongs to Me". As a character actor Fyffe was sought after on both sides of the Atlantic and tonight Roy recalls one of Fyffe's great comedy monologues - "The Scot's Man's Lament".
Mark Walsh is a young man whose act includes tributes to Max Miller; Billy 'Uke' Scott, Frankie Howerd and George Formby. A ukulele virtuoso he performs with the BBC Concert Orchestra in " Leaning on a Lamp Post" and "Limehouse Blues Medley".
The BBC Concert Orchestra under the baton of Mike Dixon perform Luigini's "Egyptian Ballet" as used by sand dancers Wilson, Keppel and Betty; Johann Strauss II's "Memories of Covent Garden" incorporating a host of music hall songs and "Roses of Picardy" perhaps as you have never heard it before - performed on the musical saw.
The evening is brought to a close by Barbara and Anita as they lead the audience in two songs made famous by Matilda Alice Victoria Wood - better known as Marie Lloyd, "The Boy I Love is Up in the Gallery" and "My Old Man Said Follow the Van". Lloyd was queen of the 'double entendre'. She was once refused entry to the United States on the grounds of her racy stage lines. When confronted by a journalist about her act being a bit "blue" she told him "They don't pay their sixpences and shillings at a music hall to hear the Salvation Army".
During tonight's interval - Joe Haddow takes a trip to two of the UKs most prestigious musical halls to discover what is on offer for a 21st century audience. International chart sensation, Gotye, talks about his love for Wilton's Music Hall in London and Joe takes a tour of The Leeds City Varieties. Plus fellow Radio 2 presenter, Paul O'Grady, tells Joe about his fond memories of "The Good Old Days".
Friday Night is Music Night - "They Played the Halls" was recorded at the Mermaid Theatre in London.