Swann Songs at the Falcon

By Binzy Reynolds:

On Wednesday 10th April at the Falcon Hotel, Bude, Jan Baker, Robert Barber, and Peter Clarke, performed their tribute to composer Donald Swann, who was probably best known as one half of Flanders and Swann. He wrote and performed comic songs with Micheal Flanders and their shows toured worldwide.

The songs in this evenings show were linked by biographical snippets and anecdotes, giving some background to the songs in an elegant fashion.

The performance began with a selection of Flanders and Swann gems such as ‘The Gasman Cometh’, ‘Transport of Delight’, ‘The Gnu’, ‘The Armadillo’, and the poignant ‘Last of the Line’ and ‘Slow Train’. ‘The Hippopotamus’ took us to the interval with the 50-strong audience singing “Mud, mud, glorious mud! Nothing quite like it for cooling the blood.”

The second part of the show concentrated on Swann’s compositions outside of his partnership with Flanders. He composed music for many poems, and we were treated to, among others, his arrangements for the Robert Frost poem ‘Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening’ and Hermann Hesse poems, including the evocative ‘In the Mist’. Composed while in hospital, Swann’s music for W. B. Yeats’ ‘Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven’ is hauntingly beautiful.

Swann was a friend of J.R.R. Tolkien and composed a song cycle of the poems and songs from Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. Tolkien loved them and they remain the only Tolkien approved music for his work. We were treated to several of these songs, including ‘The Road Goes Ever On’ and the show finished with ‘Bilbo’s Last Song’.

Swann Songs was billed as a one-off show to raise money for Connect Bude. I sincerely hope that there will be repeat performances as I would happily go to see this show again.

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