Photo Gallery: Michael Ball brings this year’s Kenwood concert season cheekily to a close
- Credit: Archant
As headline act Michael Ball cheekily put it, the last night of this year’s Kenwood proms had to finish early “otherwise Warren Mitchell will get angry”.
So it was that on a glorious September day, at the end of a summer that reminded everyone of the joys of England under sunny skies, we gathered on picnic rugs on warm Sunday afternoon to hear a programme of Gershwin.
M-C-ed and conducted by the charming, experienced Jae Alexander, the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra struck up an overture of music from Crazy For You, and as the jazz infused strains stirred the slight breeze, we knew that musically we’d be in safe hands.
Although Ball, along with West End singers Kerry Ellis and Gina Beck, steered us smoothly through show tunes from the likes of An American in Paris, and Lady Be Good - the undoubted highlight was solely orchestral - the American composer’s 1924 musical love letter to his native New York, Rhapsody in Blue.
From the iconic rising clarinet note to the final piano crescendo, the whole of Kenwood held its collective breath as we were transported to jazz age New York, or for Woody Allen fans, to 1970s Manhattan.
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Ellis, Beck and company reminded us of the enduring genius of the American songbook that has seen songs such as Embraceable You, Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off, I Got Rhythm, Someone To Watch Over Me and They Can’t Take That Away From Me covered time and again.
For my money the Gershwins’ trailblazing 1935 jazz opera Porgy and Bess was their finest work and, although slightly incongruous in both the setting and the polished delivery by musical theatre voices, we were well served with a selection of memorable tunes from the story of poor black Charleston folk – Summertime, Ain’t Necessarily So, I Love’s You Porgy and I Got Plenty of Nuttin’.
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While no-one would claim that Ball’s voice is suited to the jazzier side of things, he proved an engaging and jocular host, belting out Strike up the Band and leading a rousing finale of I Got Rhythm to bring the show down by the regulation 7.30pm curfew.