It’s back to the books for me and the dissertation year of my MA in Music. As much as I’d intended to catch up on lots of reading over the summer break, I found myself catching up on loads of chores and so it continued today when a much overdue sort out of my study room took place. The great thing about doing chores (pauses to say that there aren’t many ‘great things’ about doing chores…), is that the radio can play quite happily in the background and you can tune in and tune out as interesting, and not so interesting things, are broadcast.
And so it was with today’s broadcast of Woman’s Hour on Radio 4. It’s not a programme I listen to either regularly or avidly but I did stop my work to listen to a piece about the centenary of the birth of the wonderful Ella Fitzgerald. Now, I do have to declare a bias here. To my ears and eyes, Ella can do no wrong. I’ve admired her for all of my adult life and often tried to sing her songs and emulate that wonderful, easy, melismatic, velvety, melting chocolate voice. A voice which is, for me, perfection itself. She may not have the edge of Billie Holiday or the gutsiness of Nina Simone but she charmed audiences and the musicians she worked with and toured, recorded and performed relentlessly throughout her life.
Back to Woman’s Hour, and an interview with Juliette Pochin (about 33 mins in). Pochin has worked with Decca and Verve records (Ella’s recording label during the 1950s) and with the London Symphony Orchestra to create full orchestral versions of recordings Ella made in the 1950s. The original, simple recordings featured only a piano accompaniment and we hear Ella’s version of ‘People Will Say We’re In Love’ from Oklahoma! Pochin describes the difficult job of extracting Ella’s voice from the original mono recording in order to place it over the orchestral arrangements. Then we hear the vocal alone. And what a voice. And what a treat to hear that pure, warm Ella sound without any accompaniment. I simply stopped in my tracks and sighed. I will never possess such a voice but I will carry on trying to emulate Ella – there’s truly no better voice.
The resulting recording and remastering of Ella’s voice with the LSO is out today. Pochin describes the work as adding colour to Ella’s voice (the album also includes a duet with Gregory Porter) and the snippets I’ve heard sound great. But do you know what, I’d love to hear an album of the just the voice of Ella. It’s a voice that doesn’t need the addition of colour. It’s truly all the colours of the rainbow in their purest form.
Debbie, Notes from Last Night
About Debbie: A lifelong lover of music of all types, Debbie Nichol is currently studying an MA in Music, focussing on music performance and repertoire, and music reception and social histories. By trade she’s a freelance marketing specialist and when not studying or working, spends time singing with a chamber choir and performing solo, and writing a music blog: http://www.notesfromlastnight.co.uk