Procol Harum

the Pale

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Christiane Legrand

21 August 1930 – 1 November 2011

There have been numerous Procol Harum concerts with orchestra and chorus: but until recently we had never heard of anybody but Christiane attempting the beautiful solo that adorns Fires (Which Burnt Brightly) on the Grand Hotel album (though Jane Clare did dare to do it, in Gary Brooker's presence, at the first Palers' Convention in Guildford, September 2000, and Katie Hockley repeated the feat at the ninth Palers' Convention in Zoetermeer, May 2016).

In the second decade of the twenty-first century, however, Procol gave about half a dozen performances of the song with the wonderful Matilde Isabella Arenholt Mosekjaer, a Harum fan since her birth, in the Legrand role (photos here, for example).

Gary Brooker told BtP in October 1999 that he had always liked Bach, though in 1966 and 67 he knew that music mainly through the recorded versions of Jacques Loussier and the Swingle Singers: and that's directly how Christiane Legrand came to be involved in Fires in 1973.

Right, a picture of the famous Swingle Singer. The Michel Legrand whose orchestra accompanies on this recording is of course her famous younger brother: read his biography here.

From 'Who did What' on the back sleeve of Grand Hotel LP:
'Christiane Legrand, who is the featured voice with 'The Swingle Singers' kindly came from Paris to sing on Fires (Which Burnt Brightly) ... Oo-la-lah!'

From 'Who did What' on the liner to the Castle CD reissue of same:
'Christiane Legrand, who is the featured voice with 'The Swingle Singers' kindly came to Paris to sing on Fires (Which Burnt Brightly) ... Oo-la-lah!'

One of these cannot be true!

Chris Copping writes (November 2011): 'Yes, there is an incorrect preposition in the second account of her recording of Fires as we never recorded in Paris. BUT – she did come on the stage with us at La Salle Pleyel [10 December 1975] which was rather special.'

Peter Cullivan writes to BtP
I understand that Christiane Legrand co-founded Les Swingle Singers with American expatriate Ward Lamar Swingle in Paris in the late 1950s. Swingle had studied with the great German pianist Walter Gieseking on a Fulbright Scholarship and he met Legrand while working as an arranger for Les Double Six de Paris.

The Jazz Sebastien Bach CD release appears to consolidate their 1963 and 1964 releases - Bach's Greatest Hits and Jazz Sebastien Bach. The CD No is Philips 824 703-2.

(Christiane is also a featured soloist on two of her brother Michel's most famous film soundtracks - Les Parapluies de Cherbourg and Les Demoiselles de Rochefort)

The Swingle Singers: 'Anyone for Mozart, Bach, Handel, Vivaldi?': Released in 1986 by Philips/Polygram (#826948).
The Swingle Singers is one of the most unique modern vocal groups, known for innovative, jazz-inflected performances of everything from Bach keyboard works to songs of the Beatles. The group formed from members of the Blue Stars, a jazz ensemble under the direction of Blossom Dearie. In 1962, Jeanette Baucomont (soprano), Anne Germain (contralto), Claudine Meunier (contralto, Claude Germain (tenor), Jean-Claude Briodin (bass-baritone), and Jean Cussac (bass-baritone) gathered in Paris under the direction of Ward Lamar Swingle (tenor) and Christiane Legrand (soprano); their goal was to improve their overall musicianship and sight-reading skills by performing intricate instrumental works vocally. While making their way through Bach's Well Tempered Clavier the idea came to "swing" the piece; the resulting fusion gave birth to the Swingle Singers. They began performing Classical and Baroque works with a jazz rhythm section, employing a distinctive scat style in the vocal parts.

Their début album, Bach's Greatest Hits, avoided the potential pitfalls of kitsch and instead proved a testament to the durability and flexibility of Bach's music, as well as to the group's vocal prowess. It also became a commercial success, appealing to a broad audience that might not otherwise have shown interest in classical music. Numerous television and radio appearances followed, as did back-to-back world tours; their music was on US and UK Top 20 lists, and they won several Grammy awards, including Best Choral Performance and Best New Artist in 1963.

After their début album, the Swingle Singers applied the same formula to the music of Mozart, Handel, and Vivaldi well into the 1970s. Then, in 1973, Ward Swingle traveled to England to form a smaller group called Swingle II, to perform a broader base of repertory. Swingle worked with the group until he left for the United States in 1985, where he then spent a decade lecturing and guest conducting. During that time he continued to direct the Swingle Singers as they explored the music of Dvorak, Lennon, Mancini, Bizet, Rogers/Hart, Debussy, George Butterworth, and Gerald Finzi on albums such as Pretty Ringtime, Notability, Ticket to Ride, and Screen Tested. As of 1999, Ward Swingle lives in semi-retirement near Paris.

This 16-track, 63-minute CD is compiled from the best material off the Swingle Singers' classic mid-60s LPs. The sound is excellent (and offers a serious edge over the original LPs which, unlike later Philips classical releases, were pressed in America and were usually fairly noisy), and the repertory is chosen perfectly. Among the highlights is the group's version of Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, featuring their version of the closing Rondo, which became the closing theme of The Clay Cole Show (a cooler version of American Bandstand, out of New York) for at least a year after its 1965 release. Among the singers featured here is soprano Christiane LeGrand, who subsequently sang on Procol Harum's Grand Hotel album.

Sonata No. 15, K. 545: Allegro/Andante (Mozart)

Ah! Vous Dirais-Je Maman (Mozart)

Allegro from Sonata No. 14, K. 333 (Mozart)

Fugue from Sonata No. 37, K. 402 (Mozart)

Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, K. 525: Allegro (Mozart)

Badinerie from the Suite in B Minor (Bach)

Air from the Harpsichord Suite in E Major) (Handel)

Gigue from the Cello Suite in C Major (Bach)

Largo from the Harpsichord Concerto in F (Bach)

Prelude No. 19 from the Well-Tempered Klavier (Bach)

Preambule from the Partita No. 5 in G (Bach)

Fugue from the Estro Harmonico, Op. 3, No. (Vivaldi)

Prelude No. 7 from the Well-Tempered Klavier (Bach)

Solfeggietto (Bach)

Der Fruhling (Spring) (Bach)

Prelude No. 24 from the Well-Tempered Klavier (Bach)

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