Thursday, 1 September 2011

September Song

Oh, it's a long long while from May to December
But the days grow short when you reach September
When the autumn weather turns the leaves to flame
And you ain't got time for waiting game
Kurt Weill -
unfamiliar with cricket

Kurt Weill is a favourite of Fantasy Bob.  His wistful song about growing older, sums up September for all cricketers.  It is always shock to Fantasy Bob to find it is already September.  No more nets, no more sandwiches to make, no more undefined aches in the back, the shoulder, the side - at least until winter nets start up.  Fold the kit away and stow it deep in the time for the waiting game.

Kurt Weill is unlikely to have played or even been familiar with cricket and apart from the scent of the damp and unlit pavilion that surrounds this song, cricketers may find it hard to find much depiction of the game in his work.  But  The Threepenny Opera (1928), a reworking of The Beggar's Opera written in collaboration with Bertolt Brecht remains one of the masterpieces of the 20th Century.

Weill was born in 1900 in Dessau and pursued a musical career taking him eventually to Berlin where he was drawn in to the world of theatre and left wing politics.  His most celebrated work came in that period.    The Threepenny Opera contains Weill's most famous song, "Mack the Knife" eventually turned into a standard by Louis Armstrong.  But it also contains a range of other songs that have lost none of their savage satirical bite over the years.  They will always be Test Match Quality. 

Weill's working association with Brecht, although successful, came to an end over politics in 1930.  Brecht tried to develop a more radical left wing viewpoint, Weill is reported to have commented that he was unable to set the communist party manifesto to music.

Jewish and left wing wasn't a great combination in Nazi Germany and Weill left Germany in 1933 first for Paris and then New York .  He Americanised - did not speak German ever again and immersed himself in the American musical idiom.  He wrote a number of successful Broadway shows.  September Song came from such a show and was written specially for Walter Huston who requested that he should have one solo song in a show called Knickerbocker Holiday. Weill wrote the song specifically for Huston's gruff voice and limited vocal range, in a couple of hours.  The lyric was written by Maxwell Anderson, whose work included the play on which the 1936 film Mary Queen of Scots, featuring Katherine Hepburn as Mary, was based.  Knickerbocker Holiday enjoyed only moderate success and closed in April 1939 after six months, but the song quickly became established as a modern standard.  Many artists have covered it from Sinatra to Lou Reed.

Kurt Weill died in 1950.

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