Elsa Lanchester stuff

Elsa with Dick Cavett part 1

Young Elsa

Thanks to her bohemian upbringing, Lanchester was always looking for venues to express her creativity. In the mid-1920s she decided to open a nightclub in London called Cave of Harmony. This gave Lanchester an outlet for performance, as well as becoming a popular meeting spot for London artists and intellectuals such as H.G Wells, Aldous Huxley and James Whale.

Cavett Show Part 2
Bride of Frankenstein

Lawton released three LP albums in the 1950s. Two were entitled “Songs for a Shuttered Parlour” and “Songs for a Smoke-Filled Room” and were vaguely lewd and danced around their true purpose, such as the song about her husband’s “clock” not working. Laughton provided the spoken introductions to each number and even joined Lanchester in the singing of “She Was Poor But She Was Honest”. Her third LP was entitled “Cockney London”, a selection of old London songs for which Laughton wrote the sleeve-notes. – Wikipedia


Sister Wendy, nun and television art critic, dies aged 88

Sister Wendy Beckett, the nun and art critic who found fame in the 1990s with her popular TV documentaries on art history, has died aged 88.

Sister Wendy, born in South Africa in 1930, died on 26 December at the Carmelite Monastery at Quidenham in Norfolk. 

Sr Wendy joined a teaching order, the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, in 1947 at the age 16. Recognising her intelligence, the order sent Sr Wendy to Oxford University in 1950, where she was awarded a Congratulatory First Class degree in English literature.

Sister Wendy

She returned to South Africa in 1954 to teach but, after 15 years, she was forced to give up the classroom after having epileptic seizures. in 1970, the Vatican gave permission for her to pursue a life of solitude and prayer.

Her order agreed to her living under the protection of the Carmelites in Norfolk as a hermit, devoting herself to prayer.

In her caravan in the grounds of the Carmel, Sr Wendy began to study art history, and in 1988 she published her first book, “Contemporary Women Artists”, to raise money for the convent.

She also began writing a weekly art column for the Catholic Herald.

In 1991, the BBC commissioned her to present a television documentary on the National Gallery in London.

Sr Wendy, who presented the programme unscripted dressed in a traditional black and white habit that she had designed herself, proved hugely popular.

Further programmes followed including “Odyssey”, “Sister Wendy’s Grand Tour” and “Sister Wendy’s Story of Painting”.

Her popularity was so great that she even had a musical written about her. “Postcards from God: The Sister Wendy Musical”, created by the originators of “Jerry Springer: The Opera”, ran briefly in the West End.

Sr Wendy presented her final series in 2001, after which she declined offers of TV work.

Review: Sandra Kerr & John Faulkner – “The Music From Bagpuss”

Recommended restorative listening from the children’s TV classic, review by Barney Harsent

In 1974, a saggy old cloth cat and his rag-tag bunch of friends managed, in just 13 episodes, to influence a generation. Ask pretty much anyone who watched Bagpuss what their first experience of traditional folk music was and the answer is unlikely to be Fairport Convention or Steeleye Span. The music of Sandra Kerr and John Faulkner, multi-instrumentalists with links to Ewan MacColl, Peggy Seeger and the London Critics Group, earwormed its way into a nation’s consciousness via a cloth cat, a rag doll, a carved wooden bookend in the shape of a woodpecker and colony of mice who were more likely to yarn bomb your sitting room than shit in your cornflakes.

The Music From Bagpuss is nothing if not exhaustive, bringing together all of the songs featured in the series, plus outtakes and alternate versions. A mixture of traditional pieces, original compositions and improvisations – often in the space of just one song – it is a Proustian journey back to childhood and a bone fide bucolic folk-roots classic.

The album is littered with sophisticated playing, intricate instrumentation and playful phrasing, but above all is the sheer strength of the songs. Whether it’s renosing traditional folk standards, as Kerr and Faulkner did for “The Weaving Song” and “Uncle Feedle” (adapted from “The Tailor and the Mouse”) or inspired original compositions such as the “The Miller’s Song”, one can’t help feeling that, these days, such care, craft and experimental bravery simply wouldn’t feature on music created for a children’s television show. It’s  certainly absent from 90% of the Mercury short list.

Of course, there’s nostalgia at play, but that isn’t incidental – it is this music’s strength. A yearning for something lost to childhood is, I suspect, universal. There are times when we can all feel a bit tired, a bit saggy and loose at the seams. It’s getting old. The music that Sandra Kerr and John Faulkner wrote for the 13 episodes of this wonderful series manages to find that part of us, bind it, stick it with glue glue glue, and leave us feeling like new again. Recommended restorative listening.

The Arts Desk