Readers who are familiar with the history of Gilbert and Sullivan’s operas or who have seen the film Topsy-Turvy will be aware of the importance of George Grossmith who was the mainstay of the D’Oyly Carte Company when the major operas were written and who introduced many of the original ‘patter songs’. However Grossmith was famous in his own right as a lyricist, composer and comedian.
The Gay Photographer was one of the early hits which Grossmith had when playing with his father and other hits followed including I am so Volatile and The Muddle-Puddle Porter, the latter being inspired by his experience with a late train and a monotonous station announcer. A mutual friend suggested to Sullivan that he would be a good player in his forthcoming opera The Sorcerer. Sullivan interviewed him and offered him the part. Grossmith hesitated because it would interfere with his blossoming concert career, however he accepted and was with the Company for 12 years (after he left, his parts were taken by Henry Lytton). After he left the Savoy he gave around 3000 recitals including visits to Canada and USA.
This disc contains renderings of the above-mentioned items together with songs from some of his Gilbert and Sullivan parts and with songs and sketches written after his Savoy years. The Savoy numbers include My name is John Wellington Wells from the Sorcerer and a curiosity, recorded for the first time, being the full-length version of I Once was as meek as a new born Lamb, this includes two verses which were removed after the first performance (to simplify the plot). Most of the songs and sketches have not been sung for nearly a century and not only are pleasant in their own light but also gives a fascinating insight into Victorian Concert Parties.
The final two items on the disc are not by the modern artists listed above, but are of two songs Bertie the Bounder and Yip-I-addy-ay sung by George Grossmith III (Grossmith’s son) recorded in 1909. Apart from the recording, one would have thought this was the same singer as the other items — a good illustration of how well Leon Berger has caught the Grossmith way of singing. The accompaniment is very important in this material and Selwyn Tillett’s playing sounds just right. The recording and notes are up to the usual high standard of Divine Art Records. An unusual disc, interesting and entertaining.