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I'll remember who? Coventry's links with musical greats

March 20, 2020

  • The Coventry Carol, written for the Tailors’ and Shearmen’s pageant in the 1590s, was voted number seven in a recent poll of the nation’s favourite carols.

  • Its theme, a lament for the infants slain by Herod, was the basic story line for the Coventry Mysteries, staged every three years until recently.

  • The roof of St Mary’s Hall, Coventry’s mediaeval guildhall, features ten14th century angel musicians, playing string and wind instruments. Their presence is reflected in The Minstrels sculpture in the guildhall courtyard.

  • In the 15th century, the waits, or town band, was based at St Mary’s Hall. There were four of them, led by a trumpeter, and they were forbidden from playing outside the town, except at priories and abbeys within a 10-mile radius.

  • Coventry’s most prominent musical figure in the 18th century was Capel Bond, organist at St Michael’s and Holy Trinity churches and composer in 1766 of Six Concertos in 7 Parts, a piece that was last performed in the 1950s.

  • Among the audience for the second Coventry Festival of Sacred Music at St Michael’s Church in October 1838 was the young Mary Anne Evans (George Eliot), then aged 18. She wasn’t impressed, feeling it was somehow more profane than sacred.

  • The codename for the Luftwaffe bombing raid that destroyed much of Coventry’s city centre, including its cathedral, on November 14, 1940, was Moonlight Sonata, echoing Beethoven’s 1801 piano sonata.

  • Benjamin Britten’s greatest work, his War Requiem, was premiered at the consecration of the new Coventry Cathedral in May 1962, as was Michael Tippett’s King Priam.

  • Jazz legend Duke Ellington played at the cathedral on February 21, 1966, when he performed the suite In The Beginning, God.

  • Concert pianist Denis Matthews, a regular soloist with leading British orchestras throughout the 1950s and 1960s, was born in Coventry in 1919.

  • In the 1960s, another Coventrian, electronic music pioneer Delia Derbyshire, turned Ron Grainger’s music for Dr Who into television’s most famous theme tune.

  • The city was also the birthplace of light opera and variety star John Hanson, crooner Vince Hill and disc jockey Brian Mathew, who began his working life as a milkman in the city.

  • In June 1968 John Lennon came to Coventry with Yoko Ono to plant two acorns for peace outside Coventry Cathedral. They were promptly dug up by trophy hunters.

  • Frank Ifield, the UK’s most successful recording artist of the early 1960s, was born in Coventry of Australian parents. His father had come to England to work with jet pioneer Frank Whittle.

  • Chuck Berry, legendary R and B star, recorded his chart- topping hit My Ding A Ling at Coventry’s Locarno ballroom in 1972.

  • Pop producer Pete Waterman began his career at the same venue, working as a DJ while living in his home city.

  • The 2 Tone British Ska movement, which took the charts by storm in the late 1970s, emerged from Coventry, pioneered by The Specials and The Selecter.

  • Coventry-born former engineer Dave Willetts made his name on the musical stage in the late 1980s by starring in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s huge hit Phantom of the Opera.

  • Paul Daniel, one of the biggest names in English classical music, received his early musical grounding from piano teacher Joan Hall in Coventry.

  • In 2007, The Enemy became the first Coventry band to reach Number One in the album charts with We’ll Live And Die In These Towns.

Pictured (top): Rock 'n' roll legend Chuck Berry with (inset) Frank Ifield and (above) The Specials

 

 

 

 

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