Last night, June 20th, was the memorial concert for the late John Barry, who passed away earlier this year. A sad occassion? You bet. But also happy, in that it was one of the warmest gatherings of friends I've experienced and a truly remarkable concert to a packed Royal Albert Hall.
What made this concert special? Well, to a great extent, I think what you take away from a concert is what you bring to it. In this occassion, we were all bringing our love and memories. At the Riverside restaurant of the British Film Institute, we remembered friends old and new, past conversations,old stories, old record shops, you name it. At The Gore hotel, we continued.
So, what of the concert itself? Well, the program was not in itself a revelation but the performance was splendid. Well, there were a couple of shaky moments in the first half. Rumer messed up a line in We Have All The Time In The World and the harmonica, whilst performed well, came in shriekingly loud at first. By contrast, Derek Watkins was truly sublime in his perfect trumpet solo of Playing By Heart, Nick Dodd made the James Bond suite come alive more than I've ever heard and what can we say about Shirley Bassey? On May 12, my birthday, the West End's legendary gentleman projectionist, Dave Norris (sat about twenty yards to my right on this night), treated me to see Bassey sign Goldfinger live at the Classical Brits. She was awesome. She was again this night. There's something about seeing and hearing Shirley Bassey knock out Goldfinger that is just electrifying.
Perhaps what added to the special-ness of the event was the persons-in-presence and tributes. John's son Jonpatrick introduced the conductor. Laurie Barry thanked everyone at the end. Barry's sister June Lloyd-Jones was present (I was kindly introduced to her and I can tell you she was so sweet) as were other family members including daughter Sian. Our much reverred writer Jon Burlingame and wife Marilee Bradford were in attendance as were, I'm sure, many other names well known here.
Michael Caine seemed to choke just a little as he said, "Last time I was at the Royal Albert Hall, it was to introduce John Barry. Tonight, it's to say Goodbye." (Caine also got a laugh when he re-told the story about how he lodged with Barry while he wrote Goldfinger. As he said, "When I went to bed, John was still at the piano. When I got up, John was still at the piano," and, "I was the first person to hear Goldfinger. And I heard it all night.")
George Martin and Don Black were equally generous. And David Arnold made me smile when he said, "I'm sure John Barry is here with us in spirit. In the auditorium. In the instruments. And in the bar." (Forgive me if I didn't get that quote exactly right.)
Of course, talking about music is, as it was once said, a bit like dancing about architecture. And even the experience of being there can't be truly conveyed in words. Except to say, it was special.
The show was interspersed with clips from shows such as Drumbeat, the Omnibus special on John Barry and Moviola.
Sir Michael Parkinson - introduction and tribute
Jonpatrick Barry - introducing the condutor
Goldfinger - instrumental
Sir Michael Caine - tribute
The Ipcress File
Somewhere in Time
Don Black - tribute
Midnight Cowboy (harmonica: Julian Jackson)
The John Dunbar Theme
Nicholas Dodd - tribute
We Have All The Time In The World (vocal: Rumer)
Sir Michael Parkinson
Body Heat (solo sax: Nigel Hitchcock)
Remembering Chet (solo trumpet: Derek Watkins)
Out Of Africa
The Beyondness Of Things (to a photo history projected to the large screen)
Ave Maria (Wynne Evans standing in for the advertised Alfie Boe) (Chosen as it was one of John's favourite pieces.)
A Blessing by John O'Donoghue read by Timothy Dalton
Tick The Days Off One By One (solo guitar and vocal by David Arnold)
The James Bond Suite
Sir George Martin - tribute
Diamonds Are Forever (vocal: Shirley Bassey)
Goldfinger (vocal: Shirley Bassey)
Flower presentation and thanks from Laurie Barry
Encore: the James Bond theme with David Arnold on guitar
(Thanks to my Barry fan friends for bringing these up.)
And, finally, let me name check some of the wonderful Barry fans who met for the pre-concert gatherings: Geoff Leonard, Pete Walker, Gareth Bramley, Ruud Rozemeijer, Ian McDonald (Ian, can you re-tell me that one about when Alan Warner showed you the original, signed and stamped manuscript of The James Bond theme?), Dave Wooley, Andrew John, Peter Senior, Peter Greenhill, Tony Weeks, Colin Callaghan, Nigel Martin, Jerry Daly (who worked catering during the making of the The Omen in 1976 and can, I tell you, show you some very interesting behind-the-scenes photos, as well as photos from the 1972 Barry concert), Mark Langdon, Adam Cousins, Graham Sutton, Keith Calnan, Raphaël Tchelebi (check out his Trackzone blog) and forgive me if I failed to mention you.
Here's to John.