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Coward Songs and World Weary Coward Noble CD
The last British recordings made by Coward and
the songs of Coward sung by Harry Noble?


The long-awaited release of this CD sponsored by the Noël Coward Estate, members of the Society and friends and their families takes place on October 1st, 2005. To obtain your discounted copy please contact Adrian Wright whose contact details can be found at the end of this article.
Thanks go to John Knowles who first suggested producing the CD after he accidentally found the original recordings and who worked to secure sponsorship for the project. To Adrian Wright of Must Close Saturday Records for his consistent commitment to the project, ensuring the highest quality sound restoration and record production and for producing the CD at such an amazingly low price. This low price plus the discount to members was only made possible through the generous sponsorship provided by the Noël Coward Estate and the encouragement and enthusiasm shown by Alan Brodie of Alan Brodie Representation. Lastly very special thanks to Dominic Vlasto whose comprehensive recording notes provide a fascinating and detailed journey through Noël Coward’s career in the early 1950s and reveal the hard won results of Alan Farley and Dominic’s research into the largely forgotten world of Harry Noble.


Dominic Vlasto introduces this exciting new Coward compilation:
This CD is a sort of Golden Jubilee celebration of the immediate post-war decade, a time when Coward’s output of new dramatic work seemed to lose popular appeal, and when his polymathic talents led to his emergence, “to my own and everyone else’s astonishment”, as a highly successful cabaret entertainer. This element of his formidable achievements had been honed and tested during the war years when he undertook countless troop concerts, for many of which he was accompanied by Norman Hackforth. During 1944 they undertook a marathon series of fund-raising concerts in South Africa, followed by some weeks of troop concerts in Burma, Assam and Ceylon, through the thick of the monsoon and sometimes almost under fire near the front line. South African audiences were the first to hear the songs ‘Uncle Harry’ and ‘Nina’, and the first recordings of these songs were made with Norman Hackforth a month or two later in Calcutta.

And in 1951 it was Norman Hackforth, then accompanying Beatrice Lillie in cabaret at the Café de Paris, who negotiated Coward’s first engagement there that autumn. It was immediately apparent that Coward’s solo performances of his own songs set a standard which few artists could hope to rival - though there was some criticism of his vocal expertise. One reviewer opined that he “massacred” his own songs, to which Coward replied that, if this was true, “it was the most triumphantly efficient massacre since Saint Bartholomew’s Eve.”
These recordings - the last Coward ever undertook in the UK - were made in 1954, just after After The Ball and not long before the fourth Café de Paris season, and it is no surprise to find that Norman Hackforth is there as accompanist, though this was never acknowledged on the original LP. Indeed, it is doubtful whether this LP made much impact at all; perhaps it was a bit slow in coming out and then suffered in competition with the following year’s release of the LP made from the Las Vegas performances, failing to compete with the vigour and vim of live audience reaction, increased tempi and more “zappy” arrangements. It is certainly true that the tracks remained unknown and unacknowledged, even to specialists in the field, until extremely recently.

Here we hear Coward at an interesting stage, with the polish of three seasons performing at the Café under his belt, and with the comfort of his most experienced accompanist, but with new orchestrations, this time by Wally Stott, musical director of the newly-launched Philips Records company. Stott, as Angela Morley, was subsequently to make a notable career as composer and arranger for film and television in America. Anyone conversant with the Las Vegas recordings may find some of these 1954 tracks sounding vaguely familiar: It becomes clear that significant elements of Stott’s arrangements were re-used by Peter Matz, something particularly noticeable in the more lyrical numbers such as ‘A Room With a View’ and ‘World Weary’. Hackforth’s piano accompaniment is often allowed to take over, including for large sections of the comedy songs ‘Mrs Worthington’ and ‘Mad Dogs’, and for the entire central verse sections of the songs ‘Poor Little Rich Girl’ and ‘A Room With a View’. In ‘I’ll See You Again’ (from Bitter Sweet), the whole verse section - the “duet” between teacher and pupil - becomes a vocal/piano duet.

Meanwhile, at almost exactly the same time in New York, the singer/actor Harry Noble, with his accompanist Stuart Ross, was the first artist other than Coward himself to attempt an entire LP of Coward songs. For some years Noble was half of a vaudeville team with Frances King, who later married the well-known composer-lyricist Sam Coslow and retired. Noble and King had played the top hotels in London, New York, Florida and elsewhere, and in the early 1950s were part of the regular cast of Tony Hancock’s radio shows Happy Go Lucky
It is clear that Noble knew the Coward repertoire better than most. He includes three songs in particular which do not often feature in Coward compilations: ‘Imagine The Duchess’s Feelings’ (1941) is a concise comedy song of pleasing phrases, whose three refrains make a nice conceit of the words ‘white’, ‘blue’ and ‘red’; the central verse section of ‘Something To Do With Spring’ (originally sung by John Mills in the 1932 revue Words And Music) is a clever and complex piece of lyric /rhythmic interchange writing, where the accompaniment dovetails with and occasionally takes over the melodic continuity from the singer; and it is hard to square the effective romantic lyricism of ‘Where Are The Songs We Sung?’ with its original setting (in Operette, 1938), where at the end of the song the boy kisses and holds the girl in his arms for a moment, before she gives a little laugh and disengages herself, saying: “Darling, this is all very silly and the soup’s getting cold!”

Noble sings very tunefully and clearly, and for the most part paces the songs well. For two of the earliest - ‘Parisian Pierrot’ (1922) and ‘Poor Little Rich Girl’ (1925) - Noble and Ross allow us the rare luxury of two full verse sections in addition to well-judged restlessly rhythmic moods in the refrains. There is only one moment of poor judgement - a downwards change of key into the refrain of ‘A Room With A View’, which to my mind leaves Harry Noble in an uncomfortably low register for his own voice.

It felt like a great honour to be asked to write the sleeve notes for this CD, and its production has been very much helped and encouraged by support from NCS and the Coward Estate (a BIG thank-you to Graham Payn!). It would make an excellent Christmas present for members to give to all their nearest and dearest, and I hope that you will all rush out and buy multiple copies of it!

The Noel Coward & Harry Noble recordings
CD MCSR 3030

I'LL SEE YOU AGAIN
Sung by Noel Coward with Wally Stott and his Orchestra
Norman Hackforth at the piano

To hear a 30 second clip of each track in MP3 sound quality click on (Listen...)
1. A room with a view 3.28 (Listen...)
2. Don't put your daughter on the stage, Mrs Worthington 2.09 (Listen...)
3. World weary 2.51 (Listen...)
4. Alice 3.21 (Listen...)
5. Someday I'll find you 2.27 (Listen...)
6. Mad dogs and Englishmen 2.43 (Listen...)
7. Poor little rich girl 2.59 (Listen...)
8. Uncle Harry 3.53 (Listen...)
9. I'll see you again 3.20 (Listen...)

WORLD WEARY: The Songs of Noel Coward
Sung by Harry Noble with Stuart Ross at the piano

10. Nina 4.51 (Listen...)
11. I'll follow my secret heart 4.09 (Listen...)
12. Imagine the duchess's feelings 2.44 (Listen...)
13. Poor little rich girl 4.52 (Listen...)
14. Something to do with spring 2.24 (Listen...)
15. Parisian pierrot 4.03 (Listen...)
16. Where are the songs we sung? 2.52 (Listen...)
17. A room with a view 3.28 (Listen...)
18. World weary 3.19 (Listen...)

To contact: Adrian Wright at MCSR please write to: Must Close Saturday Records
56 The Street, Poringland, Norwich, Norfolk, NR14 7JT, UK
or email to: enquiries@must-close-saturday-records.co.uk or ring 01508 494371
or buy on-line at: http://www.must-close-saturday-records.co.uk