Tuesday, 17 December 2013

A Ferrari, a cottage in Cornwall, peace on earth and a cure for cancer, please, Santa…

(hat-tip: Bob Prabhu)


  1. Every Christmas a neighbour of ours holds a delightful drinks party which includes a group of professional singers performing carols for about a quarter of an hour.

    Last night their director recommended what he regards as an extraordinary 1932 recording of Silent Night by a German ensemble which had been brought to his attention in the past few days. See what you think.

    He was particularly struck by one of the tenors' high Cs, taken so comfortably that it might as well have been in the middle of his range.

    Very Christmasy.

    And then you discover that this "ensemble" is actually a jazz band.

    And the Nazis, as much fans of jazz as they were of Jews, and half the band being Jewish, destroyed their wildly successful career – one year they gave 130 concerts, next year their singing on the soundtracks of films was erased.

    Once, some Brownshirts invaded a concert of theirs and tried to stop it – the SS and SA officers in the front row of the audience on that occasion saw them off and the concert proceeded.

    But they couldn't survive. Their concert bookings in Germany were cancelled for them. They tried America, where they gave 40 concerts, including one on a warship broadcast to 85,000 troops, but William Randolph Hearst's newspapers reckoned that a German was a German was a Nazi.

    They went back to Germany and ultimately the band split up.

    There's a long documentary available here from which I've pinched the stories above.

    They were a hugely successful, popular band and you can hear virtuosity in all the pieces featured in the documentary but most of them are – to my ears – pretty irritating.

    But that Silent Night of theirs is special.

    Merry Christmas.

  2. Fascinating! Ineviatbly, the Nazis had a list of rules covering the performance of jazz in the Fatherland, which you can find at http://boingboing.net/2012/03/10/nazi-rules-for-jazz-performers.html
    Strictly Come Dancing judge Len Goodman presented a rather good documentary on BBC4 last ngiht about British dance bands of the 1930s. Apparently the Jack Hylton Orchestra - which included several Jewish musicians - were a big hit in Germany, and were once disconcerted to find themselves performing in an enormous hall in Berlin with a vast Swastika flag as their backdrop.