An audience with Barbara Moore with the wonderful Lorraine Bowen

The tiny Marlborough Theatre in Brighton. What a great place for spirited Lorraine Bowen to have an audience with the wonderful Barbara Moore.

No! I had never heard of Barbara Moore either, but two hours later and we had been  entertained and inspired by the exuberance of Barbara, full of anecdotes about her musical life.

Barbara’s  father had joined the great Joe Loss and his band in the 30s as a young man. As a result, despite a modest upbringing in Yorkshire, the family had to move to London where she had had the advantage of a good musical education at a well known school. She married early and had a child, later divorced, so was grateful when she started her career in music as a backing singer with an engagement at the BBC once a week.

Later her career developed by a serious of happy accidents,  one of which included meeting Dudley Moore and subsequently working with him for fifteen years. Some of her tales of these times were very poignant, giving new insights into the many famous people she had worked with.

When she first met Dudley for instance,  he was living in flat in Notting Hill Gate but had no piano, in no time Barbara had offered him the use of her piano in her house in Ealing, this was the beginning of a long friendship and many musical collaborations,

Later in the evening Barbara played an arrangement of ‘Bye bye Blackbird’ written by Dudley especially for her,  she admitted it brought tears to her eyes. On a more cheerful not she told us that Dudley could play just about everything in eight different ways!

Barbara also encouraged Elton John in his early days (he was apparently known initially  as Reg) and got him some session music hours when he most needed them!

Lorraine re-discovered Barbara  by accident, partly because her friend Marco from Italy was intent of finding out more about her.  Eventually they tracked her down to a flat in Bognor Regis and ensured that she made it into the limelight in Brighton.

A truly magical evening where Barbara told us about her career as session singer with ‘The Ladybirds’ for such records as  ‘Puppet on a String’ and countless others. In those days, however, the chances of being included in the credits were almost nil. Her true vocation emerged sometime later when she had the opportunity of   ‘arranging’ when someone dropped out a prestigious engagement at the last minute.

Her first substantial breakthough was an arrangement of Scarborough Fair this had been found  so that we could all listen to it.

‘Arranging’ music means that the musician has to interpret a piece of music and imagine how each instrument in an orchestra will sound collectively when the piece is played.

Lorraine’s imaginative prompts had Barbara, at 80 and suffering from arthritus  moving from the gold throne chair to the keyboard to demonstate her many musical talents. At such times, her age melted away and we could see her enthusiasm for music and her love of an appreciative audience had not diminished.

I was  thrilled to have greater insights into the process of ‘arranging’, not least because my father had his own band and ‘arranged’ music when I was a young child, before he took up puppetry. Barbara thinks that ‘arranging music’ is a gift and not something that can be learned.

I remembered later as a teenager, with a marionette act in variety, taking piles of band parts that my father had ‘arranged’ to  rehearsals on Monday mornings.  My band parts had neat covers with band parts for each instrument, one for each of the different trumpets, violins, the sax etc.  (I still have some of them) Sadly however, pit orchestras as they were called, gradually got smaller and smaller and less than ten years later we were lucky to have a four piece quartet and eventually pre-recorded music removed the need for any live musicians.

Barbara’s career however just gone from strength to strength, working with dozens of talented people and developing her skills,  She created themes, including one for the Terry Wogan show, others for the BBC,  but her most lucrative work turned out to be that of writing catchy tunes for commercials. By her own admission, despite bringing up her daughter alone, she had had a very exciting and prosperous career.

At the end of the show, Lorraine and Barbara did an impromptu duet singing laughing and loving each other’s company. Lorraine’s obvious delight in discovering Barbara in Bognor Regis, made this an unforgettable evening.  I know she had the proceedings recorded by her freind Marco and I can’t wait to see this interview played again. Brilliant theatre/interview/musical evening.

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