Classical review: Simon Keenlyside & Friends

Simon Keenlyside Picture: Ben Ealovega

Simon Keenlyside Picture: Ben Ealovega

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In complete contrast to the more usual EIF vocal recitals of wall-to-wall Lieder and art-song, baritone Simon Keenlyside led an inspired and informative morning of American songs yesterday.

Working his way through Broadway and Hollywood legends such as Irving Berlin, Kurt Weill and George Gershwin, Keenlyside, along with his big band sound backing ensemble, moved from one to another with natural ease.

Sharing his personal passion for this great era of the development of American music through scripted chat about the composers and their place in history, Keenlyside educated as well as entertained. Although the formal setting and stark light of the Queen’s Hall weren’t best suited to this repertoire, Keenlyside’s wealth of operatic stage experience and highly skilled vocal technique made for a classy and polished presentation.

As the first half became less earnest and the warmth of his voice opened up, highlights were Weill’s Song Of The Big Shot and Lonely House. Similarly well-characterised was Gershwin’s Love Is Here To Stay, with every note and phrase perfectly placed in the voice.

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