I have never made any secret of my love for Patricia Routledge who I consider one of the great performers in my lifetime of theatre going. I first saw her in 1967 at Toronto’s O’Keefe Centre in the Broadway bound Darling of the Day (though it may have been called Married Alive at that point). It was a show that changed titles almost as often as it changed directors and sadly folded after 31 performances in New York. Blame for its failure was laid at many door steps – leading man Vincent Price, the work of five various book writers, even Jule Styne’s music and Yip Harburg’s lyrics came in for some criticism. But the praise for Patricia Routledge was unanimous and she was – howbeit briefly – the toast of Broadway. Her next Broadway appearance was to repeat the story: Leonard Bernstein and Alan Jay Learner’s 1600 Pennsylvania Avenuewas savaged by the critics and lasted seven performances after a tortuous try-out period. But on opening night Patricia Routledge received a mid-show standing ovation for her performance of “Duet for One (The First Lady of the Land)”. And on closing night the orchestra stopped the show to give standing-voice to their delight and approval. Flop or not that’s one show I wish I had seen. Routledge was to receive Tony Awards for both these shows.
I was to see her again the summer of 1969 on stage at Chichester in Pinero’s The Magistrate holding her own with Alastair Sim who was giving what was considered by many as his greatest onstage performance. It was one of those theatrical events that stays in my mind until today. For Routledge it was only the first of her many appearances at the Festival in comedy, musicals and drama.
She makes Chichester her home and works tirelessly for local and national charities both church and theatre related. It was for these efforts as well as her theatrical work that her name appeared on the 2017 New Year’s Honours List. On Friday a very smartly attired Patricia Routledge arrived at Buckingham Palace and was made a Dame Commander of the British Empire for her services to the theatre and charity work. At her investiture Prince Charles recognized that it was an long overdue honour for the 88 year performer.
Though she is best know for the widely-viewed Keeping Up Appearances her television career has included the proto-type for what was to become Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads monologues, murder mysteries, drama and comedy. On stage most of her initial successes were in musicals – which comes as a surprise to anyone who every heard her Hyacinth Bucket vocalize for poor Emmett. In a recent interview she said that you have to be a good singer to be able to sing off key. Anyone who has listened to that episode would draw the conclusion that she must be a great singer.
Here she is giving proof of what had the critics and audiences on their feet back in 1967-68 in the eleven o’clock number from the ill-fated Darling of the Day: Not On Your Nellie!
Around the same time she appeared as the Mother Superior in a studio recording of The Sound of Music. Where the previous clip showed a bit of the Broadway belter this excerpt is almost operatic.
Though she has slowed down a bit she is still tours doing two shows: Admission: One Shilling about the Wartime concert pianist Myra Hess and Facing The Music – reminiscing about her career on the musical theatre stage.
Congratulations Dame Patricia – there truly isn’t nothing like a Dame!
Some other appearances by Dame Patricia on Willy Or Won’t He:
As the very opinionated and not at all shy Kitty on Victoria Wood: Lunedi Lunacy
A very rare early recording of popular songs: Mercoledi Musicale
On this day in 1807: The Swansea and Mumbles Railway, then known as the Oystermouth Railway, becomes the first passenger-carrying railway in the world.
Yes it appears that this morning at 06:39 Spring arrived in all it’s glory! Even as I speak write people are throwing aside gloves and scarves; boots and downy coats are being jettisoned, and toques and muffs cast to the (very strong) winds. And then they are very quickly gathering them up again and shivering as they put them back on. Yes it is Spring on the Island – or at least on some Island somewhere.
I honestly think we should rethink this whole: the sun is directly overhead the celestial Equator so that makes it Spring theory. We all know that here in Canada – and it appears this year no region is being spared – snow at Easter is not an unknown; hell snow for May Day isn’t much of a surprise either.
However in honour of the season – if not the day – I call to mind a little ditty (oh grow up I said ditty) that one of my former supervisors at Air Canada use to recite every March 20th. George was an Ottawa valley boy and had an accent that suggested that exotic mix of Irish and French that you find out Packingham way. To this day I can see him standing on the steps of the control podium and in my mind’s ear (!) hear him declaim:
Spring has sprung!
The grass has rize!
I wonder where
the birdies is?
They say the bird
Is on the wing!
But we all know that
We know the wing
Is on the bird!
They are real poets in the Valley!
Happy first day of spring – now where the hell did I put that thermal underwear?
I have held forth previously on the fact that as a Son of the Auld Sod (once removed) I will have little or nothing to do with singing songs about boys named Danny, women called Mrs Murphy who’s recipe for chowder includes underpants, or bleary eyes of any nationality accomplishing the near impossible feat for eyes of smiling. I will partake of no beer that has been laced with spinach juice or worse to make my bodily fluids turn green. And I will not kiss some stranger because they are wearing a green made-in-China sweatshirt proclaiming false citizenship*. Nor will I celebrate some snotty nosed Briton who came over and drove all the little folk and fairies underground. Mar sin ann!
And in the spirit of a true cráiteachán I offer the following as my tribute to the Blessed Mother-sweary wording Pádraig!
*Unless they happen to be ginger and built!
On this day in 1969: Golda Meir becomes the first female Prime Minister of Israel.
I suppose it is the time of year, and possibly the fact that there has been no travel for an extended period of time, that has led me to go back over photos of our trip to Ireland, England and the North Atlantic last September. That and you are now reading a missive from the newest member of the Benevolent Irish Society of Prince Edward Island – founded in 1825 it is one of the oldest organizations on the Island. It was established to assist Irish immigrants and as an aid society for families in need. Today the emphasis is on preserving and presenting Irish history, arts, culture and its heritage here on PEI. A major part of that heritage is a musical one; not the “Irish” music of tin-pan alley or the pseudo-Celtic sounds mingling with the healing potpourri that drifts through your local holistic food shop but the music as it was and is played in the Four Provinces.
The Observation Car late in the afternoon.
The very well-stocked Bar.
Matt with the Hat entertains with stories and a few songs.
The Baileys – a very well-known Irish group.
A talented young harpist whose name I didnt’ get – she’s from Trois Rivière – go figure
I’ve mentioned previously that on our journey on the Grand Hibernian we had entertainment every evening after dinner in the Observation Car. Traditional artists include a Celtic harpist (from Trois Rivières Quebec????), a local storyteller, The Baileys and a husband and wife duo. All were exceptionally fine performers but unfortunately Belmond didn’t provide us with the names of the performers and had the Baileys not given us one of their fine discs I would not have been able to give them their credit.
Perhaps the most serious omission when it came to introducing artists was on our visit to Galway and our lunch at Ard Bia. We were in a private room on the second floor and prior to a splendid lunch begin served a singer was introduced. Though the room had a country charm it was strangely set up and all angles; this meant that one end of the room could neither see nor hear the lady and the other couldn’t hear the introduction. That introduction was perfunctory at best , and hardly worthy of Nan Tom Teaimín one of the great singers of Sean-nós or “old style” Irish music. It is a style of music that I knew only very slightly but have started to investigate more deeply – it is certainly not what most people think of as “Irish” music and many of our fellow travellers were puzzled by her performance.
The first of these three pieces on this clip is a Sean-nós song The Flowereen Bán as sung by Nan Tom Teaimín – unfortunately I haven’t been able to come up with a translation except I do know that “bán” means “white”. The two pieces that follow are performed by Martin Dowling and are traditional Irish fiddle music: an Air: An raibh tú ag an gcarraig? (Have you been to the rock?) and a reel: The mother’s delight.
As I was writing this I thought of my late brother who, where ever he may be, is chortling and I hope highly pleased at all this. A chuimhne grámhara mo dheartháir.
Dedicated to the history of Charlottetown Harbour and yachting on Northumberland Strait on Canada's East Coast. Winner of the Heritage Award from the PEI Museum and Heritage Foundation and a Heritage Preservation Award from the City of Charlottetown