Ivor Novello's Valley of Song (2014 Finborough Theatre Production - London) A FOOTLIGHT EXCLUSIVE!
Composer: Ivor Novello
Lyricist: Christopher Hassall
A FOOTLIGHT EXCLUSIVE!
A link to a review of the CD, dated July 9, 2014, can be found HERE!
Perhaps you haven't thought much about Ivor Novello since the 'Novello-Craze of 2001' after Jeremy Northam's tip-top portrayal of the great composer and showman in Robert Altman's film GOSFORD PARK? Well, are you in for a treat and a surprise!?! Ivor is back (63 years after heading for the Heaviside Layer) with a show that will figuratively knock your socks off. [It's much cooler sock-free in July and August. Don't your feet deserve that?]
For a sampling of the songs on the CD, just CLICK HERE! If you are familiar with Ivor Novello, I'm certain you are already sold, if not, I can think of NO BETTER WAY to familiarize yourself with the great composer and showman's work! Left unfinished at the time of his sudden death, and completed by his longtime collaborator Christopher Hassall, Valley of Song is a unique – and final – opportunity to see (AND HEAR!) a world premiere of Novello’s work upon the stage.
VALLEY OF SONG
A Musical Romance
Music by Ivor Novello.
Lyrics by Christopher Hassall.
Book by Phil Park.
Music Adapted and Arranged and Additional Material Composed by Ronald Hanmer.
Valley Of Song was presented Sunday, 12 January through Saturday, 25 January 2014.
The production was the professional world premiere of the Ivor Novello musical.
Part of the Finborough Theatre's
Celebrating British Music Theatre and THEGREATWAR100 series.
Set in a world of optimism on the eve of the Great War, Valley of Song is a homage to Wales – Novello’s homeland – and a touching farewell to the music of his youth. Set in The Welsh Valleys, in 1913, Nan Brewster is the largest landowner in the valley and supports the local valley choir, run by choirmaster David. David’s love for Lily, his leading soprano, creates beautiful music for the choir. But when Lily is given an opportunity to sing in Venice, she jumps at the chance, and into the arms of Ricardo, a wealthy count set on making her an international star. But, by opening night, it becomes clear that Ricardo’s intentions are not entirely honourable... As Europe is plunged into the First World War, how much is David willing to sacrifice for the woman he loves?
REVIEWS OF THE SHOW:
“Enchanting” Giles Cole, WhatsOnStage
“The Finborough have unearthed quite the little gem here: hugely witty, extremely tuneful and full of heart.” The Public Reviews
“Somewhat eclipsed in terms of popularity by his contemporary Noël Coward, Ivor Novello’s works get far less exposure than his name would suggest. A revival at the Finborough Theatre...proves this to be a rather gross injustice.” A Younger Theatre
“A gem of a venue, with a healthy history of putting on, not just new plays, but also reviving forgotten musicals from the 19th and 20th centuries, under the directorship of the inspirational Neil McPherson.” Kensington and Chelsea Today
“Fizzes and sparkles with absolute confidence in its retro content.” The Public Reviews
ABOUT IVOR NOVELLO:
Welsh-born composer, author and actor Ivor Novello (1893-1951) was one of the most eminent British entertainers of the 20th century. The Finborough Theatre recently enjoyed huge success with sell-out productions of two of his musicals – Perchance to Dream (2011) and Gay's The Word (2012) which subsequently transferred to the Jermyn Street Theatre. As a composer, he trained in Cardiff, Gloucester (alongside eminent British composers Ivor Gurney and Herbert Howells) and at Magdalen College School, Oxford. His musicals include Glamorous Night, The Dancing Years and King’s Rhapsody; his more than 250 songs include Keep the Home Fires Burning, I Can Give You the Starlight and Waltz of My Heart. As an actor, he was one of Britain's first major film stars, appearing in over twenty films including playing the title role in the original silent version of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Lodger; while his long stage career included many of his own plays and musicals. Novello’s musical legacy is commemorated in the Ivor Novello Awards, established in 1955 to honour excellence in British music writing.
ABOUT THE CELEBRATING BRITISH MUSICAL THEATRE SERIES:
In 2006, the Finborough Theatre began the Celebrating British Music Theatre series with a sell-out production of Leslie Stuart’s Florodora. Productions since then have included sell-out rediscoveries of Lionel Monckton’s Our Miss Gibbs, Harold Fraser-Simson’s operetta The Maid of the Mountains, A "Gilbert and Sullivan" Double Bill featuring Gilbert’s play Sweethearts and Sullivan’s opera The Zoo, Dame Ethel Smyth’s opera The Boatswain’s Mate, Sandy Wilson’s The Buccaneer, Oscar Asche’s Chu Chin Chow, Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley's The Roar of the Greasepaint – The Smell of the Crowd, Ivor Novello's Perchance to Dream and Gay's The Word, Gilbert and Sullivan's The Grand Duke, Edward German's Merrie England and Paul Scott Goodman's Rooms: A Rock Romance.
A NEW REVIEW OF THE CD:
Following a successful run of Ivor Novello’s last musical show Valley of Song, the cast of the Finborough Theatre production have recorded the songs for the first-ever CD of the score. Michael Darvell reports...
It has taken 63 years for Valley of Song to reach the professional stage in Britain but, as Craig Glenday said in his review of the Finborough production for this website: “Very much a product of its era, Valley of Song is a light, sentimental and old-fashioned work that would have emerged at a time when British musical theatre of this kind was starting to become a thing of the past, facing challenges from the new wave of American musicals.” It is Novello’s homage to his homeland of Wales in which he bids farewell to the music of his youth. The cast of the Finborough show are members of The WestEnders, an international vocal group who, between them, have appeared in some 25 of the West End’s biggest hits. They have featured in more than 400 UK theatres as well as touring Europe and appearing on several cruise ships. The new (and the first-ever original cast) recording of Valley of Song is certainly a feather in their collective caps.
Jae Alexander, musical director of The WestEnders, has produced an excellent album, letting the songs speak – or sing – for themselves, and he has gathered a very fine 12-piece orchestra (which the Finborough production obviously didn’t have) to accompany them. The sound quality is just brilliant, through the skilled, sympathetic and well-balanced mixing of Jon Hiseman at Temple Music. Every syllable is crystal clear and can be heard over the playing of the orchestra under their conductor Adam Morris.
Some may consider the plot of Valley of Song a tad perfunctory, a peg on which to hang a romantic boy-meets-girl, boys-loses-girl situation in which the pair are separated but eventually get back together. The setting is the Welsh Valleys on the eve of the First World War. A valley landowner and shopkeeper, Nan Brewster, sponsors the local choir whose choirmaster, David, is in love with Lily, his leading soprano. When Nan decides to sell up and move to Venice, Lily leaves with her, hoping to further her singing career in Italy. Unfortunately Lily falls for Ricardo, an unscrupulous Count who promises to make her a star – but of course, as every girl knows, he is only after one thing. Meanwhile, David has gone to war and when Lily returns home to the valleys she wonders if she will ever see David again or has she lost him to the war? It’s not difficult to figure out the conclusion.
Novello’s score is a tuneful reminder of what musicals were like in the 1920s to the 1950s. A romantic story deserves a romantic score and Novello, like his celebrated contemporary, Noel Coward, knew exactly what he was doing even if, by 1951 his style had become rather dated. That said, however, Benji Sperring, director and producer of the original production has assembled a company of terrific voices who do complete justice to the songs. After a rousing overture, the choir sings ‘Cambria’, a tribute to Wales, the land of song. Then comes a point number, a jolly ditty detailing the delights of Brewster’s Grand Emporium where ‘Nothing is Over Sixpence’, sung by owner Nan Brewster, her housekeeper Olwen and her general factotum Gwilim. Emphasising how happy they are, David and Lily sing ‘I Know a
Valley (where my dreams will come true)’ setting up the plot and their relationship.
Then there’s more nostalgia ahead in ‘What Is It Now?’ and ‘Those Were the Days’ sung by Gwilim and Olwen.
Christopher Hassall’s lyrics are a cut above the usual British musical output, mixing wise words in the love songs and with not a little humour as well, as in ‘Sing!’ which compares what other countries do while the Welsh are at choir practice, the conclusion being that “all they do in Pontypool is sing, sing, sing!” What is also
unusual is that the songs do push the plot forward by letting the characters express their feelings. Another fine comic number is ‘Where Do We Go From There?’ sung by Nan, Olwen and Gwilim’s Italian girlfriend Maria as they point out the shortcomings of their menfolk.
It was fortuitous that so many good voices came together in one show, and now here too on record. They are led by the superb ringing tones of Katy Treharne as Lily. Her numbers ‘I Know a Valley’, ‘Sail Away’, ‘Look in My Heart’ and ‘Rainbow in the Fountain’ are simply stunning. In this modern age of sharp-edged voices it is a pleasure to hear such pure and simple musicality as Katy trills her way through Novello’s immensely appealing melodies.
Other notable performances come from the assured playing and singing of Lee van Geleen as Gwilim, Linford Hydes as David, Sandy Walsh as Nan, Jill Nalder as Olwen and Amira Matthews as Maria. Gareth Snook makes a fine but dastardly Count Ricardo. Even in his delightful solo number ‘Lanternlight’ you can almost sense that, if he had a moustache, he would definitely be twirling it. The ensemble chorus is also very fine indeed, perhaps because many of them are Welsh!
There are 20 numbers in the show including a bonus track of Novello’s ‘We’ll Gather Lilacs’ (from Perchance to Dream), while for the First World War song 'Soldier Lad’ a verse of ‘Keep the Home-Fires Burning’ has been interpolated within the main song. All in all this new CD is a notable addition to the Novello canon and it makes one long for a fully-staged West End production of Valley of Song. Surely the blessed Novello’s last show doesn’t begin and end at the Finborough?