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This is day 24 in my Dance Inspirations Advent Calendar (II)

241206_small.jpgIn March 2002, Wayne Sleep organised a gala evening for Dame Beryl Grey‘s 75th birthday , known, at least to Wayne, as ‘DBE’ – Dame Beryl’s Evening. (As chance would have it, it’s only two days ago that I was playing for a rehearsal of Giselle taken by Dame Beryl, who at 80 is in fantastic form, flitting around the studio demonstrating steps and giving advice with the sassy sense of fun and lithe grace of someone 60 years younger).

Wayne would of course be doing a special number for the evening, and so there we were again, sitting at his kitchen table throwing around ideas. Whatever we did had to be put together almost overnight as a backing track on CD, so when he said he wanted to do something that would involve There is nothing like a dame, I knew I was going to have to find a chorus of record-ready sailors somewhere in Tooting at the drop of a hat.

Fortunately, Daniel Jones was only a phone call away.

True friend that he is, he was round in a flash, score in hand, and with a bit of on the fly harmonization, track-copying, panning & delay, we began to build up that chorus of sailors. And true professional that he is, Dan gave this song everything he’d got. As usual, we ended up having far too much fun for something that was supposed to be a job, which was just as well, because having done this sketch, I could see a whole host of problems ahead, not least with obtaining the rights to arrange one of the most famous musicals of all time for MIDI orchestra and mate with a microphone.

By 10am the next morning, Wayne had reworked the routine around a comic verse from Punch in 1949 which began “Miss Grey and Miss May are still away” which (I hope I’m not giving too much away) we recorded in my front room in one of the funniest recording sessions I’ve ever had. How I ever found the microphone through my tears of laughter, I don’t know.

By all accounts, it went down a storm with the audience (article a review, and postings) but I’ve still got the first draft that Dan and I did, too, and I can’t hear the song or think of the Dame Beryl Gala without remembering his utterly convincing performance, and the great fun we had recording it.

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Jonathan Still, ballet pianist