Cole Porter

COLE PORTER was the most gifted of a richly talented generation of composers who transformed popular music in the 1920s and 30s. It had started the century, for the most part, bland, patronising and trite, the gauche, poor relation of classical music. Cole Porter, more than anyone, made it musically, and lyrically sophisticated, emotionally satisfying and subtle. Remarkably, not only did he write some of the best music ever, but was also one of the greatest lyricists in the English language. Cole Porter began his career at a pivotal moment in the history of music. Classical music, after several centuries as the undisputed master of the field, had decided to embark on a journey into dissonant, harsh, complex music that the mainstream audience couldn’t follow, far less enjoy. A vacuum was thus created and popular music seized the chance to take over classical music’s former role as the main provider of intelligent, sophisticated music for the general listener. No one did this with greater effect than Cole Porter. Classically-trained, he could have made a career in ‘art music’. Instead he chose to write in the popular field. His classical background was of great significance, though, because he enriched popular music precisely by using the sophisticated techniques of classical music. But he used them so cleverly that the pop audience didn’t find anything outside or beyond its taste. No other popular composer wrote more songs in a minor key, for example. Porter brilliantly squared the circle, writing worldwide, enduring hits that can stand comparison with the romantic songs of any composer – whether ‘classical’ or ‘popular’ – from any age. From I Get A Kick Out Of You to Love For Sale, from Anything Goes to Let’s Do It, Night & Day to Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye, in Porter’s hands the popular song came of age, and the history of music in the twentieth century was to undergo a sea change.

Directed & produced by David Jeffcock

[List of contributing musicians for this programme: Stephanie O’Brien and members of the Purcell School jazz department performed Love for Sale and I get a kick out of you. Tom Randle sang Night & Day. Sarah Lambie of the Lady Eleanor Holles School sang Dowland’s Flow my Tears. Tasha Johnson of the Arts Educational School Tring Park sang Goodbye Little Dream, Goodbye and All through the night. Simon Butteris, Bruce Graham and Peter Nulloy of the Carl Rosa Company performed from Gilbert & Sullivan’s The Mikado, Simon Butteris also sang Everybody Loves a Chicken. Cyrille de France and Oriola Islami danced part of Porter’s ballet Within the Quota, choreographed by Leah Hausman. Danielle Jordan and Michael White danced at the Rivoli Ballroom and Edwardians Unlimited provided the theatre audience at Wimbledon Theatre. Drummers from the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama inCardiff drummed atOgmoreCastle.]