Wednesday, September 21, 2005

A history of Liberalism and music

Tonight sees the highlight of the Liberal Democrat Conference in Blackpool: the Glee Club. Party members will gather to sing political songs and enjoy the occasional turn from the great and the good.

To enjoy the Glee Club to the full you need a Liberator songbook. And this year's songbook has an introduction by my old friend Lord Bonkers. With his permission I reproduce it below.

I have long been a lover of music. I recall visiting the Aldeburgh festival during the East Coast floods of 1953 and enjoying a recital of British folk song. Just as Peter Pears was giving "The Bonny Earl o' Moray" both barrels, the sea overwhelmed the coastal defences and flooded the concert hall. In the resultant confusion I had the presence of mind to straddle a double bass that floated past and paddle myself to safety (accompanied by Benjamin Britten on the piano).

Nor am I alone amongst Liberal Democrats in my enthusiasm. One thinks of Susan J. Kramer and her Dakotas, of Andrew "Boy" George and of Lembit Öpik who, as a tribute to his patronage of the nascent Estonian rock scene, is known in every Baltic port as "Öpik of the Pops".

Other Liberals have been immortalised in song. Who does not know the jazz classic "It Don't Mean a Thing if it Ain't Got That Ming"? Then there is that candid tribute to the member for Southwark North and Bermondsey by the 1910 Fruitgum Company: "Simple Simon Says". Above all, there is the delightful Miss Sandy Denny's performance of the traditional air "The Lowlands of Mulholland".

So at the Glee Club, when you buy your songbook from one of those amusing young people who produce Liberator magazine and treat yourself to a foaming pint of Smithson & Greaves Northern Bitter from the bar, remember that you form part of a living tradition of musical Liberalism.

1 comment:

Niles said...

I've been looking forward to a rousing chorus of "John Hemming was my father"