“A packed house of satisfied customers,” – so said Irving Berlin upon attending a performance of Cole Porter’s ‘Can-Can’ in 1953; and, indeed, matching feedback from attendees of Westminster Music Library’s Celebration of Cole Porter proved that Porter’s music continues to stir up the same enthusiasm today.
“Most enjoyable – loved by the audience,” wrote one guest, while another commented, “These events give us a kick!” – a reference to Porter’s timeless song I Get a Kick out of You.
Our Celebration of Cole Porter marked the 50th anniversary of the prolific songwriter’s death, and the evening’s programme spanned nearly 30 years of tireless composition, featuring songs from Paris (1928) through to High Society (1956). In classic Westminster Music Library form, audience participation was encouraged and our guests became fellow performers as we piped our way through classic numbers such as Anything Goes and I’ve Got You Under My Skin, led by Anthony on piano and ‘Principal Chorister’, Ruth! We also heard a selection of anecdotes, extracts from letters and biographical details about Porter’s fascinating life, in addition to a number of solo performances from Anthony on piano, demonstrating the wide variety of interpretations that Porter’s songs have been treated to over the years.
Our guests’ confident singing and familiarity with all the evening’s numbers, some 50 years on, is sufficient to prove that Porter had a gift for penning enduring songs. His training in violin and piano at a young age surely contributed to a great understanding of music, and reports of his infamous rigorous self-discipline demonstrate that his lasting success was indeed earned through unflagging work. His lyrical output, too, exhibits a certain knack for communicating with the listener. As we heard during our event:
“His lyrics were literate, sophisticated, yet could be charming, suggestive, even naughty.”
Perhaps this natural ability to resonate in relevance to the audience is a key factor in determining the secret of Porter’s success. Indeed, our closing song, Who Wants to be a Millionaire, speaks just as loudly in 21st century London as it did in 1950s America:
“Who wants to be a millionaire? (I don’t!)
And go to every swell affair? (I don’t!)
Who wants an opera box, I’ll bet? (I don’t!)
And sleep through Wagner at the Met? (I don’t!)
I don’t, and I don’t, ‘cause all I want is you!”