Piccadilly Dance Orchestra

The stage is set at Sonning Mill

Many years ago my husband I both discovered a love for the music of the twenties and thirties. Forties stuff was also acceptable. We had come to it from different directions. When I was at University I had spent many weeks in Sheffield crossing the city so I could watch the next episode of Pennies from Heaven, which was a great introduction. Also in my childhood at home we had quite a nice collection of various old 78s both in Polish and English, with lots of jazzy dance tunes. At university too we listened to Roy Fox and his dance band and lots of similar orchestras. This did not interfere with my love of the Rolling Stones. But they were more of a sideshow.

Then in the very late seventies my husband and I were given a record featuring the Pasadena Roof Orchestra, which we listened to non stop. We danced around our flat to their jolly tunes. And made people join in. And tangos. We love tangos. but that’s another story.

In the early eighties s we found out that someone in Poland had discovered a cache of perfect condition 78s from prewar Polish dance bands and had them transcribed onto cassette tapes. We acquired the whole range and listened to them incessantly. We alsolistened to Benny Green on Sunday afternoons. Gradually it dawned on us that some of the Polish music was exactly the same as the English. The dance bands certainly seemed to share the same composers if not the lyrics!

So yesterday evening (last Sunday now) we had the time of our lives. Michael Law, and his Piccadilly Dance Orchestra, regaled us with a dozen or so numbers which we knew from both countries.

They played mainly stuff from the nineteen twenties, in as original a way as possible.

We knew we would enjoy the evening because we have followed Michael Law and his band for years. He used to play for outdoor free dances at the Barbican. We used to take the children. Then about thirty years ago they had a concert in the Porchester Baths. That was a great venue. Also the original singer of “I heard a nightingale in Berkeley Square” was at that concert. She sang. What a treat.

FEventually after several years we tracked Michael down again and asked him to play a charity concert in aid of St John Ambulance at the Polish Embassy. Ever so slightly risqué, it went down very well with all the unsuspecting Poles, both young and old! (The Polish Embassy is a somewhat unlikely venue for English/american cabaret, and the audience was very pleasantly surprised they were not in for another evening of Chopin. apologies to all who love Chopin, me included.)

Meanwhile we went to a very grand wedding, and there they were again , playing lots of foot tapping numbers. We had a ball.

So back to yesterday. (Last Sunday now)The audience, I have to say, was not in its first flush of youth. Lots of sticks and Snow White hair. Some Alice bands too. But my goodness, did they know how to enjoy themselves. It was as much as some could do, not to get out and Charleston in the aisles.

They would have done. We would have done. but there really was no room. Not like in Cecil Sharp House, a few years ago, when we went to see them. That was another brilliant evening. I knew it would be, and I had bought 20 tickets, sure that I would be able to use them with my friends. Except that I didn’t, as my best friend, who was going to take ten, suddenly died. I was devastated – but the concert was a fitting tribute. And people danced in the aisles!

But in Sonning we were very entertained by the dancer who was very versatile. The young crooner- unfortunately I have no names – was delightfully witty as a singer but best of all was the banjo player. He looked very lugubrious until you saw the twinkle in his eyes. He also sang, but when he played a very amusing piece about the sophistication of Mayfair, it was tinglingly brilliant.

Martin Wheatley I looked him up. Still can’t find the other names.

The concert was great. It would have been nice to have a programme, so that I could refer to it now, a week later, but never mind. I

As one of Michael’s oldest groupies (in time, not necessarily in age, though that too, ) I will go to any concert of his I can get to. Always good humoured, uplifting and producing many Happy Feet. Thank you.

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