Copyright © 2005 Martin Newell
Pepys 0.1 Blogware © Steve Dix
As long as I can remember, I've hated opera. As soon as I hear it, I have to remove myself from the source of it. It may be different in other countries, but in England, it's always been the music of the ruling classes, snobs and toffs. From the bombastic melodramatic music, through the singers who sound as if they're singing through a bout of fellatio, to the starchy fat-ass clothes and Miss Tiggy winkle opera-cloaks of its adherents, it is repellant, insulting and stupid. (In my opinion.) Offered a chance to go to the Royal Opera House for free, several years ago, my answer...after an expletive, was." Do I have to? Can't someone else go?"
Gilbert and Sullivan on the other hand, a thing which is regarded by many opera snobs as lightweight, middlebrow 'operetta' is a different thing. A sort of ASDA hybrid of opera and the musical, it often possesses slick and witty word-play along with some charming tunes. That's why there are Gilbert and Sullivan Societies all over our clutterered island. We're not really a highbrow nation and we like to say so. I can put up with that. I've occasionally even reviewed such things. Wivenhoe has a Gilbert and Sullivan Society. They're quite good and rather popular. They put on one G&S production every two years. Alternate years they do a popular musical. The year before last it was My Fair Lady, which was great. Last year it was Madame Butterfly, which would have been alright were it not for the fact that they set it in a modern car factory , with half the cast clad in Chinese car-worker overalls. The end effect of this was to make it resemble a production by the inmates of Guantanamo Bay. It was well performed though, and the scenery painters and backstage cast always sit up on the scaffold like the diligent crew of a Blenheim bomber, working lights, effects and all the other stuff. You should be so lucky to have crew like that.
One thing that I don't like, when the G&S Society put on a production, is how after they've taken their curtain call, they swan mob-handed into my local, when I'm playing at the Tuesday Busk. Readers of past entries here will know how much I love the Tuesday busk. It's not folk, it's not jazz and it's not hard rock. However it is acoustic. So when three or four of you are trying to do a song and a bunch of amateur luvvies sashay triumphantly in, in their " HI! WE'RE HERE THEN!" manner and then stand around yattering and braying so loudly that you can't hear yourself play or sing, it's a bit annoying really. After all, do Tai Chi Dave, Alec or I go clinking lager tankards and shouting the odds, while they're trying to do the Soliloquy from Carousel?
I know it's only a pub and it's only a busk but it's still music isn't it? And it's our music, Which they do actually ackowledge. They do this by occasionally glancing over in our direction with faintly-amused smiles and by twittering even more loudly. Naturally this makes me behave badly. I do this by picking up my guitar, and walking throught the crowds of them, singing loudly and raucously. Occasionally I shout "Amateur luvvies!" over the racket. Mostly, however, I content myself by sitting there hammering the bass and looking at them like I want to kill them. I never mind them coming in. After all they've been singing. They've had a good gig. Who would begrudge anyone that little pleasure? It's just the sneaking feeling I get somehow, that they think, they are engaged in a rather more celestial form of music than we are and therefore have no need to reduce their yattering volume for the low music which we like to engage in. We don't expect reverence, silence or even their attention. We just wish to hear ourselves above their braying and whinnying. Which is why, when I finally got home last night, I found myself trying to rationalise the situation in a mature and caring way. This is what I did: Having thought it all out, I rampaged around my house repeating the relaxing and life-affirming mantra (below) in order to calm myself.
"The terrible, rude, middle-class cunts!."
I felt very much better after this. I exhort all rock musicians to try it, when under duress.
I have a bit of a headache this morning.
A Gilbert and Sullivan