Playing for pantomimes: bad jokes, lead sheets… and beer


This morning I heard Andrew Gold’s ‘Thank you for being a friend’. Now – as Obi-Wan Kenobi might have said – I haven’t heard that for a long, long time. It instantly brought up memories of playing in a 5-piece band for pantomimes when I was about 20; in one of these, the last song was the aforementioned ‘Thank you…’ (I can see them now “stand up and take a bow”).

With 19 performances in 15 days (three on Saturdays, at 2pm, 5pm and 8pm) at Erith Playhouse, Kent, each lasting well over 2 hours, it was a non-stop, wonderful feast of a range of music, combined with terrible jokes (I remember one of the principal protagonists was Patty O’Dors).

In between numbers the band would nip under the stage for a beer served from those 7-pint cans with the gas pump widget to keep it from going flat (little CAMRA influence in those days!). It was both good fun, and another important influence on my musical life.

As well as the beer and some welcome pocket money, these gigs brought a number of other benefits, including tight ensemble and the discipline (and thus inherent freedom) of playing from lead sheets with just guitar chords, e.g.

D | G | e A7 | b | f# e | Asus–A7 | Eb ||

only kidding 🙂

Good grounding for playing from guitar chords for “modern Catholic” music and from figured bass in continuo work later on.

So thanks to Terry Wogan for playing that disc. Hasn’t music got great power for memory?

By the way, Keith and Stella Jarman, are you out there?

Comments, as always, welcome. 🙂

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