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Ensemble

Requiem in Blue

REX HARLEY was at
Harvey Brough's 50th birthday concert

 

Some of us keep a low profile when the big birthdays come around. Harvey Brough, on the other hand, took a deep breath and set about organising a concert to celebrate his many years in the music business [Union Chapel, Islington, London UK, Thursday 1 November 2007]. There is a degree of irony involved here for, despite his considerable talents, as performer, arranger, composer or MD -- he's done the works -- Harvey's name remains relatively little known to the world at large. For a while, in the 1980s, when he led the eponymous Harvey and the Wallbangers, he enjoyed a certain fame, if not the fortune to go with it; but since then his work has been done largely behind the scenes. Anyone who has recently been to see the National Theatre's War Horse, for instance, will have heard Harvey in his capacity as musical director. And it is a measure of the respect in which he's held by other musicians that the stellar line-up of musicians at his birthday bash gave their time and services free.

Natacha Atlas at Harvey Brough's 50th Birthday Concert at Union Chapel. Photo © 2007 Helena Dornellas
Natacha Atlas at Harvey Brough's 50th Birthday Concert at Union Chapel. Photo © 2007 Helena Dornellas

One of the pleasures of the first half came from hearing the response of two women behind me when yet another performer took to the stage: 'Liane Carroll? I didn't realise she'd be here ... Natacha Atlas? Wow!' The wow factor was indeed considerable. In my own case, it came from seeing, and hearing, some of the finest jazz musicians in the country. Liane Carroll's version of Alfie, accompanied only by the bass clarinet of Julian Siegel, was simple perfection: scat singing not as virtuoso decoration, but soaring out of the emotional core of the song.

Gerard Presencer and Harvey Brough. Photo © 2007 Helena Dornellas
Gerard Presencer and Harvey Brough. Photo © 2007 Helena Dornellas

Also there was Gerard Presencer, leading a powerful rendition of Miles Davis's Nardis, with a rhythm section to die for: Andy Hamill on bass and the incomparable Winston Clifford on drums. Interspersed with the jazz contributions were performances of Harvey's own material. He sang the poignant Sleep, My Child, but left centre-stage to others. Marie Vassilliou performed Moon Aria from the opera he's currently working on, Stumbling Over Infinity. Then there were his arrangements, such as that for Steve Ashley's lovely, understated song The Rough with The Smooth; Jocelyn Pook and Natacha Atlas's Adam's Lullaby; and Hopetown House by Clara Sanabras, who also wrote the beautiful La Vida Callada, to words by Frida Kahlo.

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Copyright © 13 November 2007 Rex Harley, Cardiff UK

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