Advent 21: I got rhythm, I got matches…

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Kevin Richmond in Prague, summer 2008

Kevin Richmond in Prague, summer 2008

Around the same time as the Gary Harris/Indian River Music story, Kevin Richmond was playing Scrooge in Christopher Hampson’s Christmas Carol. So there we all were, in the National Youth Theatre studios up Holloway Road, doing class (it might even have been the same class).

Scrooge was a speaking part, most suitable for Kev, who had trained as an actor. I think he must have decided to train his voice that day, for instead of doing the allegro, he was sitting out front, warming up for his speaking bit later. Stage Management had brought in an amp and a handheld mike and set it up ready for rehearsals after class.

Typical of Kev, really, to play with anything in sight that could be played with, which in this case was a mic, and amp, and  – what the hell – a box of matches.  So when it came to the medium allegro/batterie enchaînement, I was suddenly aware that it was all a lot easier than usual – for there, in the background, was a sexy, maraca/shaker percussion part providing a whole rhythm section to the rhumba-ish thing I was playing for the exercise. When I looked over, Kev was sitting at the stage manager’s desk, holding a box of matches in front of the handheld mic and shaking it gently in time to the music, providing a lovely amped South American vibe to the piano music.

It’s nice to be able to say about someone that they exemplify a single thing, especially when that thing is rhythm. Kev is famous for his role in Christopher Bruce’s Swansong, in which rhythm plays such a huge part. I also remember Kev going into the pit on tour with ENB and grabbing the cymbals in the percussion section to add extra oomph to the grand allegro bit of class. And my favourite joke is one of Kev’s which depends on rhythm for its effect (though it’s almost impossible to retell on paper) – it goes something like this, but you have to tell it deadpan like Kev does:

“What’s the secret of good comedy?”

“I don’t know, I suppose it depends what you…”

“Timing.”

The more I write these blogs this year, and the more I consider jokes like that one, the more I conclude that great comedy and great art balance on the same knife edge.  That’s the serious bit (or the comic bit). On a pragmatic level, I wish more people would put rhythmic stuff into class like Kev does – it’s so much more fun and effective.

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