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“Lochrian Lollipops”
George Gershwin (arr. C. Martelli): Slap That Bass – Just Another Rhumba – Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off
George Gershwin (arr. B. Thorp): Our Love is Here to Stay – ‘S Wonderful
George Gershwin (arr. D. Fraser): Summertime
Walter Donaldson (arr. B. Thorpe): Makin’ Whoopee
Cole Porter (arr. B. Thorp): Let’s Do It – Anything Goes – Every Time We Say Goodbye
Cole Porter (arr. T. Esposito): Just One of Those Things
Scott Joplin (arr. B. Thorp): Roseleaf Rag – Ragtime Dance
Karl Suessdorf (arr. B. Thorp): Moonlight in Vermont
Leonard Bernstein (arr. B. Thorp): New York, New York
Richard Rogers (arr. B. Thorp): My Funny Valentine
Leroy Anderson (arr. W. Zinn): Plink, Plank, Plunk – Fiddle-Faddle
Manning Sherwin (arr. B. Thorp): A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square

Lochrian Ensemble: Catherine Black, Alison Black (violin), Nerissa Dando (viola), Christine Johnstone (cello)
Recording: Hoxa Sound, Clifton, Bristol, England (2001) – 68’40
Hoxa Sound HS 5026-22 (Distributed by Naxos of America) – Booklet in English

A lollipop, you ask? What in the world does the circular-shaped confectionary have anything to do with classical music? The ingenious Lochrian Ensemble took a page out of Sir Thomas Beecham’s playbook when he came up with the idea of an encore piece, nothing drastically long, to end an evening’s programme on a lighter note…on the equivalency of something syrupy or saponaceous.

All chosen selections have at one time or another closed one of the troupe’s concerts. In this manner, the experience became a personal expedition, a search of their own favorites. For British and Americans, especially, “Lollipops” is a trip down memory lane, filled with numbers hanging on a wire strung across pre and post-World War II. And while many of the scores were penned for full orchestra, the chosen arrangements give four instruments their own chance to articulate their own soul with warmth and sincerity. For many of us, these are songs we grew up with cherished fondness.

These tunes span a wide range of vibe, all bearing “twists” to the melody, be it rhythmic changes (i.e. Just One of Those Things), chord variations (i.e. Our Love is Here to Stay), musical insertions (i.e. Slap that Bass) or other asterisked notations….we’ve now been invited to a pleasant soirée with unpredictability. Indeed, many arrangements allow these women the ability to broaden the schmaltz with appropriate dollops of saccharine additives, such as in Every Time We Say Goodbye. Formed in 1991, it’s no wonder they’ve become one of the legendary chamber ensembles in Southwestern England.

Though they’re plenty of conversations to go around for these four instruments, the album’s overall framework rests in the hands of Christine Johnstone’s cello. Normally her notes act as the support, yet Mlle Johnstone occasionally pulls out “front and center” to share the limelight. From this basis we begin the clever shadings by the bowstrings and plucks of Catherine and Alison Black and Nerissa Dando.

As lollipops come in a wide variety of flavors, so, too, does the music presented on this CD re-issue. Sassy Key lime Joplin Ragtime; innovative Anderson pizzicato with hints of sour apple, as the teams polishes through a delightfully spunky rendition of Plink, Plank, Plunk [music used for the television game show I've Got a Secret - a personal favorite!]; longing moments inside Moonlight in Vermont with a root beer additive...deeply ripened persuasions through Nerissa Dando’s suave viola; the catchy 'yum-yum,bubble gum'-esque Bill Thorp rendition of New York, New York in its magnification of the 1944 silver screen featuring Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra and Jules Munshin.

If frivolity sparks tutti-frutti sabor into Fiddle-Faddle, then perhaps sentimentality distinctly bites away with small hits of black cherry: Bill Thorp’s idyllic yet simultaneous dubious reflections giving bittersweet voicings during Manning Sherwin’s A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square. This passerine songbird, a personification of virtuosity, translates into musical lines like a glossy weave, plaintively threading its way via violins and viola with semi-somber decorum.

Tony Esposito’s Just One of Those Things is, ironically (and from the Cole Porter musical Jubilee), condensed by a licorice melancholy weight. The tempo, severely reduced, gives the music more moodiness.

Though other passages have yet to be referenced, the ultimate treat is in the listen. When all is said and done, “Lochrian Lollipops” makes us happy, like a pleasant dream. An independent oasis, it's refreshing enough, particularly as the world is in the throes of the pandemic.

Lochrian Ensemble Website

Christie Grimstad




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