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Shades of Kitch

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

It is not that contrasting musical genres don’t ordinarily mix. But it is entirely possible for connoisseurs of one or the other to feel victimised by a virtual state of unnatural miscegenation whenever it is attempted. In the end, personal taste dominates.

Most members of the sizeable audience at dramatic soprano Anne Fridal’s tribute to Lord Kitchener – ‘Anne Fridal Sings Kitchener’ - would not have tolerated visible dissent, so there were others who waited silently for a final, merciful flourish.

Had a light shower (Rainorama!) not deferred an 8.30 pm start at Fiesta Plaza in Movietowne last Saturday, it would have been an earlier flight for a small number of detractors who whispered, to cite one example, that while Fridal and baritone Marvin Smith possessed superbly tuned voices and are accomplished in their own right, the evening’s rendition of Lord Kitchener’s Bees Melody contained more than a brutally painful sting. 

It might be that among the secrets of the late composer’s musical excellence was his ability to fuse rhythm, melody and harmony to paint multi-layered mental pictures of otherwise simple lyrical messages.

The humming of the bees in Kitch’s original version arranged by Boyie Mitchell, for example, is against the backdrop of a staccato horn section and percussive key strokes. In the process, the bees come ominously at you and you are afraid that “de killer bee bite me.” That was what Mitchell had clearly intended. 

Not that anyone expected a full horn section or Renegades-style engine room, but the Fridal/Smith version strips the song of its principal rhythmic and harmonic elements and the poetic intent of the melodically-beautiful composition dies.

It was not until pianist, Charles Brunner, delivered a soulful rendition of Pan in A Minor did the Kitch purists come alive.

By then accomplished pannist, Luke Walker and violinist Inge Schluer had already delivered competent interpretations of some Kitchener classics including Schluer’s stoic rendition of the rather naughty Dr Kitch. 

All along, Faye Husbands on the drums and a double bass player provided patient accompaniment.

Then came the late composer’s post-Carnival classic, The Carnival is Over, the beauty of which is captured in its original rendition through the use of a nostalgic “last lap” refrain in the form of a horn line that harks back to the rhythms of a joyous event just ended. 

Fridal’s doleful interpretation however bore no reminder of recent joy. What was delivered was a pedantic rendition of one of Lord Kitchener’s most beautifully haunting melodies minus the nuanced musical elements that made it great.

There was no doubting the professional excellence of the performers on stage, but capturing the spirit of the late musician’s work was never intended to be an easy task.


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