Music

Talking Movies

This past weekend the latest James Bond movie hit cinemas across the world.

'No Time to Die' is the 25th in the series of films featuring the British secret agent James Bond -  based on the original spy novels by author Ian Fleming 

For actor Daniel Craig it's his fifth outing as '007',  the fictional British MI6 agent, and it's his final Bond film so next time around there will be a new Bond.

After various delays in production, the latest movie in the Bond franchise was due out in 2019 and then 2020 but release was delayed several times because of the global COVID19 pandemic.

The producers and distributors resisted temptation to release the movie early via one of the streaming sites and decided instead to wait to release it in cinemas. And finally, No Time to Die had its world premiere at the Royal Albert Hall in London on 28 September 2021. An exciting, sparkling event by all accounts packed full of royalty and celebrities!

Loads of my friends have already seen the movie - it was released in cinemas on 30 September 2021 in the United Kingdom and here in Jersey (as well as other countries like India where Bond is huge) . It is set to be released in the United States on Friday this week - October 8th -  and is now being rolled out across the world.

But it's already a massive success - in its first weekend Universal Pictures reckon No Time to Die took $121 million at the international box office! 

In fact, No Time to Die is being credited with 'saving' cinema. Across the world, the coronavirus has closed cinemas  and James Bond is bringing people back to movie houses in their millions!

But I'm not talking about this today just because of the latest 007 phenomenon, but also because October 6th marks another important day in movie history.

It was on this day in 1927 that a film called The Jazz Singer posterThe Jazz Singer was released.

Starring Al Jolson - a big stage and musical star of the day and reckoned to be the most well-known American entertainer of the 1920s - although it wasn't the first film to have pre-recorded sound, it was the first feature-length movie to have pre-recorded dialogue as well as music and song. 

And so it's gone down as the first 'talkie'.

The movie premiered on this day at the Warner Theatre in New York and it was a sensation! Although many people in the industry may have thought 'talking movies' were a 'flash in the pan',  actually The Jazz Singer revolutionised the motion-picture industry and marked the end of the silent-film era. It was a huge investment and gamble for Warner Brothers, who were just a small studio in those days ... but it paid off.

Film dates back to the 19th century and by the early part of the 20th century movies were very popular ... but they were 'silent'.

There were HUGE stars of the Silent Movies (just think people like Charlie Chaplin for starters), but no one heard them speak or talk, or sing. There was no sound at all and when the films were shown in cinemas there was usually organ accompaniment which was a whole genre of entertainment in its own right.

And then came The Jazz Singer!

The film is the fictional story of Jakie Rabinowitz, a young man born into a devout Jewish family who defies tradition - he decides not to follow in his father's footsteps to become a 'cantor' in a New York  synagogue but instead decides to aim high to make it in the world as a jazz singer. It's not just a change of name (he becomes Jack Robin) but also a change of direction which puts him into conflict with his faith, his culture, his home and his heritage.

Although it's gone down in cinema history as the first talking film actually most of The Jazz Singer is still silent with subtitles. There are actually only nine scenes with lip-synchronous singing, two of which also include a few spoken words, lasting less than two minutes.

But it was enough to see off the silent film era. In 1928, the year after its release, The Jazz Singer was given an Honorary Academy Award and by mid-1929, Hollywood would be producing almost exclusively sound film. By the mid-1930's movie makers in Western Europe were doing the same. If you're interested in all this, why not go to  A Brief History of Sound Film (1895-1930) to find out more or click here?

The Jazz Singer has been re-made a couple of times as movies - namely in 1952  starring Danny Thomas and Peggy Lee; and - one of MY favourite movies - the 1980 remake starred Neil DiamondLucie Arnaz, and Laurence Olivier - a classic, in my opinion, with some amazing songs!

Cinema has come a long way since 1927! The majority of those who flock to the 'movies' to feast on No Time to Die may never have watched a black and white film and some might even turn their noses up at the 'old stuff', thinking them to be unsophisticated, 'old fashioned' and a bit 'simple' because they don't have all the bells and whistles, effects, tensions and pounding soundtracks of today's films.

But it's worth remembering that without the trailblazers of movie making, those willing to take a risk, try something completely new, step outside the normal conventions of the day and reach, literally, for the stars ... we wouldn't be where we are today, and not just when it comes to movies!

So to mark this landmark day ... let's enjoy a clip or two from the original 'talkie, learn more about his amazing film that broke the mould, and give thanks for those pioneers of cinema1

Have a great day everyone!

 


I Find Your Love

Don't you just love modern technology?

There was a time when to listen to music you had to sit in the house, switch on the radio or put on the record player, cassette player of CD machine.

Now we can take our music with us on our 'phones. I can take mine to the beach, can listen as I walk and I can even plug my 'phone into my car's audio system and listen to hundreds of my favourite songs to my heart's content as I motor along. 

I do have masses of music and songs on my playlist, some are just great pop songs, some which remind me of younger and happy days, some more 'religious' and some which sort of cross over different genres.

There's a song on my list which I want to share with you this Sunday. When I listen to my music on the 'phone I have the system on 'shuffle' and for some reason this one's been popping up a lot recently.

It's a great song, I think... and one which works for me on the faith and the pure music enjoy front.

'I Find Your Love' reminds me to look for love in everything and in all circumstances. Thanks to the fabulous singer Beth Nielsen Chapman for a wonderful song and sentiment! 

So inspiring. 

Enjoy!

 


I Will Survive!

If you're on social media, you'll know that often there are 'viral' posts which urge us all to get involved in answering a question ... mostly just for fun.

I don't usually take part in these kinds of conversations but I saw one the other day which made me laugh ... so I answered the question.

The post said this 'Age Yourself with the poster you had on your wall as a teenager!'

And what was my answer?

'Donny Osmond. The Osmonds. T-Rex/ Mark Bolan ....a few more I could mention ... and I’m proud to be from that era!'

Yes, that does 'age' me ... I was a teenager in the 1970s! 

But who cares? As I said in my answer, I am proud to be the age I am and to have lived through my teen and early adult years at a time when there was some fantastic music around. Not just ballads and those 'teen' songs, but some fantastic rock and roll AND, of course, DISCO!!

Which brings me to one of my favourite songs of all time!

'I Will Survive sung by the fabulous Gloria Gaynor!

This is a tune that often got us up on the dance floor and it didn't matter if there were boys available to partner up. We were happy, us girls, to just get up there and freak out!

Yeah I said it ... freak out! I am a product of my age!!!

I will surviveI love this song not just because of it's freaking out value but also because of those words in the title - I WILL SURVIVE!

In 1978, when this song hit the charts, I was still a teenager and I had the world in front of me.

I was still to fall in love properly for the first time, still to travel the world, still to go to university, still to become a journalist, a TV and radio presenter and an author. I had dreams but I still had all that to come.

I was still excited about life and what might lie ahead. I was still rather naïve about the realities of life.

And I was still to lose important people in my life, including my darling Dad. I was still to have my heart broken (several times) and to feel battered down by life and love.

I was still feeling I needed to 'fit in' with what others wanted me to be - I had still to discover the 'real me'!

OK... so this is a 'break up' song ... but it is the words of the chorus which rang true with us all!

Oh no, not I, I will survive
Oh, as long as I know how to love, I know I'll stay alive
I've got all my life to live
And I've got all my love to give and I'll survive
I will survive, hey, hey

Years on, they are STILL important words.

With all the 'stuff' that's happened in the intervening years, it is love that helps us survive. Despite the heartache and the missed opportunities, the unfulfilled dreams, even the love that did not materialise ... I have survived!
Sometimes that feels a bit like a miracle, but it's true.

And today the sentiment of the words is even more important ... I HAVE survived so much, I WILL survive so much more!!!

So why am I sharing this brilliant song today - September 7th?

Well, today is the birthday of the woman who's voice rang around those dancefloors and who has graced our airwaves for decades. Gloria Gaynor was born on this day in 1943... and she was one of the legends of music who epitomised the disco era of the 1970s and 1980s!

Happy Birthday Gloria ! Thanks for the fun! Thanks for the music! Thanks for the inspiration!

A footnote ... if you watch this video you'll see something that is Typical Disco ... a roller skating dancer. It's an iconic image. And yes, in the early 1980's when I first visited the USA I also went to a Roller Disco!

WHAT fun! What bruises! I'm no skater ... but my did we laugh!!


We can be Kind

If you joined me yesterday, you'll know that here in Jersey, Saturday September 4th was a day to celebrate kindness at the fourth Jersey Kindness Festival.

I've been working with the festival organiser Brian Clarke, founder of Kindness Connects here in our lovely island, to promote the event which was held in the beautiful setting of St Aubin's harbour.

Kindness is a big thingAround 30 charities were there, talking to people and showing what they do every day to share kindness in our island. 

There was loads of fun for all the family, and art and music ... it was phenomenal.

Hopefully the thousands who came along will have been inspired, to be kinder in their daily lives but maybe even to help some of the charities in their work. 

Kindness, as this image says, is a REALLY big deal ... it can make a difference to everyone ... those who receive the kindness and those who give it. 

Yesterday I saw Kindness in Action and it was a privilege. I was at the Kindness Festival all day just helping out and I have to admit, today I'm pretty tired.

So I'm not going to try to wax lyrical  ... there will be more about kindness coming down the line because as I also told you yesterday, I'm actually also writing a book about the subject.

Today I'm just going to share a song with you which says it better than I do I think.

It's from the British singer/TV presenter Aled Jones and, I have to admit, it's one of my favourites on my playlist.

Enjoy and be inspired!

Have a kind day everyone!

 

 


Remembering Roy

Today I'm remembering a great man!

I was privileged to meet him just once ... as a young reporter in Jersey I interviewed him because he was the star of the annual summer parade - The Jersey Battle of Flowers.

Roy Castle was a HUGE personality, a star of stage, screen and TV -  musician, singer, comedian, actor, dancer and television presenter - he was a true legend.

Many will remember him because for years he became well known to British TV viewers as the presenter of the children's series Record Breakers

But before that he was well known for his roles on stage, television and film and because of his amazing musical talent - he was an accomplished jazz trumpet player but he could play many other musical instruments. He was also a person of great Christian faith and a family man - years after that meeting with Roy I actually got to know his wife Fiona ... what a lovely family!

I'm thinking about Roy today because it was on this day - September 2nd - in 1994, that he passed away aged just 62. I remember the shock of hearing about his death ... he had lung cancer but he had never smoked. He blamed his illness, which was diagnosed a couple of years earlier, on passive smoking during his years of playing the trumpet in smoky jazz clubs.

Roy was brave. Even in his final months and with his health declining he continued to work hard, including on the high-profile Tour of Hope to raise funds for the erection of the building that would become the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation, the only British charity dedicated solely to defeating lung cancer.  Fiona continued to work with the charity after her husband's death, and campaigned for the British smoking ban which came into effect in Northern Ireland in 2004, Scotland in 2006 and England and Wales in 2007, banning smoking in virtually all enclosed public places.

What a legacy!

Sometimes when you meet your heroes, it's a disappointment because they turn out not to be the person you think they are.

But when Roy Castle came to Jersey in 1988 to be 'Mr Battle' at our island's annual floral parade, the highlight of the summer season, the Jersey Battle of Flowers - there was no disappointment.

He was JUST as lovely as I thought he would be. He was jolly and kind, and smiling. A consummate professional and actually a really nice chap. I  interviewed him for the local TV station - Channel TV (ITV) - and filmed him during the Afternoon and the evening Moonlight parades. I saw first hand how hard he worked and how brilliant he was with the public, and us media! There was no 'stardom' about him really - he was full of fun and laughed and chatted to anyone and everyone. People loved him!

That same year - 1988 - Roy presented a TV series for the ITV network which was also close to my heart.

Marching as to warIt was called 'Marching as to War' and it told the story of The Salvation Army, it's founders William and Catherine Booth, and explored all sorts of aspects of the work and music of the global church and charity Christian movement.

For me, as a young Salvationist and someone who was working in television at the time, it was exciting to see my church and it's history being shared with the world, and I was thrilled that Roy Castle - so empathetic and compassionate - presented that series of programmes and was able to bring something of his own personal Christian faith to the project. And I know, from talking to people who were in that series with him (some of whom I can still recognise on the films) that Roy was a pleasure and joy to work with!

A few years after the programmes went out I found myself living in Norwich where the series was made by Anglia TV. By the late 90's I was actually working in the network religious department at Anglia ITV. It felt like a circle was complete.

The whole 'Marching as to War' series is available on YouTube, thanks to my friend Rob Westwood-Payne, who also hails from Norwich and who is  now a Salvation Army officer, or minister.

Some of the footage is now rather dated. Times have changed ... among other things, the uniforms are different and some of us don't wear uniforms at all these days ... and of course the world has altered around us. 

But the message of Booth and his life-altering mission movement remains as strong today as back in 1988 when the series was made, and in 1865 when William Booth first set up his East London Christian Mission, which in 1878 would be renamed The Salvation Army.

So - if you have half an hour to spare - why not  sit back and enjoy this episode?

It's the one where Roy tells us all about 'Soup, Soap and Salvation' - one of the key message of the early Salvation Army ...

 




In His Hands

Life is a Roller Coaster - there's a pop song which expresses that sentiment isn't there? 

And it's true! 

Ups and down, valleys and mountain tops. And life can change very quickly. One minute things are going along nicely, then something can happen which changes not just the present but the future - illness, bereavement, new opportunities, unexpected meetings. 

I've been thinking a lot about that recently. 

Sometimes the change is of our own making, and we can plan the transition from one phase to another, but at other times life is beyond our control.  

Stuff Happens.

It's Sunday so I'm having a spiritual thought or ten, and I'm encouraged by the fact that whatever life might throw at me I believe I'm not on my own.  My Christian faith reassures me that wherever life might take me, God is there, even if I don't always take notice of him. Even if he allows us to go through challenges, he doesn't desert us. And when we have joys beyond compare, he's also always there!

I'm in His Hands!

There's a great song which I think I have been singing all my life. It's popular in The Salvation Army church and the words are profound and encouraging.

Originally written by an American Salvation Army leader and musician, (Commissioner) Stanley E. Ditmer and the words are so deep and yet the message is also simple...

I'm in His handsI shall not fear though darkened clouds may gather round me;
The God I serve is one who cares and understands;
Although the storms I face would threaten to confound me,
Of this I am assured: I’m in His hands.

I’m in His hands, I’m in His hands;
Whate’er the future holds, I’m in His hands;
The days I cannot see have all been planned for me;
His way is best, you see; I’m in His hands.

What though I cannot know the way that lies before me,
I still can trust and freely follow His commands;
My faith is firm since He it is who watches o’er me;
Of this I’m confident: I’m in His hands.

In days gone by my Lord has always proved sufficient,
When I have yielded to the law of love’s demands;
Why should I doubt that He would evermore be present
To make His will my own? I’m in His hands!

The song is in the Salvation Army Song Book (Hymn Book) and in recent years another brilliant songwriter and musician, Phil Laeger., has  re-imagined 'I'm in His Hands'  to another tune, using just the chorus which repeats that phrase and reassurance over and over. The interesting thing is that although it's a new tune, those who know the original melody to Commissioner Ditmer's classis song  will hear that tune coming through in the third rendition. 

This is a piece of music which I've listened to often in recent years, especially as my life has taken different and unexpected twists and turns. Life hasn't quite worked out as I might have planned but then I've been given opportunities which I might never have had if I had got all my 'dreams' and 'wishes'.

I don't know where in your Life's Journey you are today ... but I share this with you, simply hoping that it will bring you encouragement, comfort, inspiration and peace.

Happy Sunday! And Be Blessed!

 


Streets of London

Yesterday I took a drive and was listening to the radio when a song came on which I haven't heard for many years.

It's a song which, back in the day, I used to sing while strumming my guitar - quite badly probably - and I think it's sheer poetry.

'Streets of London' tells a story, of people who are marginalised and socially excluded. Homeless people. People we may see every day in the street, but maybe we pass them by. Or perhaps we just don't notice them. They are the 'invisible'.

Streets of LondonThe words always make me think deeply and not just about all those who go under our radars, although I believe that is the purpose of the song, to remind us that these people are important, albeit living lives that are so unlike ours.

It challenges us, I think, to put our existence and our own worries and concerns, into some sort of perspective. It makes us consider our own good fortune, hopefully, and encourages to open our eyes to the desperate situations that others may be living in.

As the lyrics remind us ... 

So how can you tell me you're lonely
And say for you that the sun don't shine?
Let me take you by the hand and
Lead you through the streets of London
Show you something to make you change your mind

Streets of London was written and originally recorded in 1969 by Ralph McTell. It was on his album of that year - Spiral Staircase. 

However, it wasn't released in the UK as a single until 1974, and it's been  covered and recorded by many many other artists down the years. One I remember well was the 1971 version from another great singer ... Roger Whittaker.

It's a song about homelessness and social exclusion and in December 2017 the song was re-released, featuring Ralph McTell with Annie Lennox, as a charity single for CRISIS, the Homelessness Charity in the UK.

SO today I just share the song with you, and the video from CRISIS which was produced for that charity release. 

For me, it's even more poignant because it features members of the Crisis Choir, a group made up of Crisis clients from across Britain, people who HAVE been homeless, or at risk of homelessness, people who have walked that road and slept on those streets. It's a great video and I love not just its poignancy but also its hopefulness, especially the joy and smiles at the end of the presentation.

As someone who once worked for and actually grew up in the church and charity organisation The Salvation Army, who among other things also supports and cares for homeless men, women and families, I've met many people like this and I know they're often wonderful people, with so much to offer the world. They should not be 'invisible'.

Please, if you can, take time to watch it ... enjoy the song ... but also maybe absorb the message? 

 


I Look to You

Do you have a favourite song, or maybe a whole host of tunes and music and songs which you love?

In the UK there's a national radio programme called 'Desert Island Discs' (BBC Radio 4) in which 'famous' people are asked to imagine that they are to be 'abandoned' on a desert island and they are allowed to select eight songs or tunes which they would like to take with them.  It's a great way to share their life story!

I love that show and it's so interesting to hear the music the guests select, and why it is part of their imaginary 'castaway' experience.

I've often wondered what eight songs I would pick, and I've come to the conclusion that it would be hard to narrow it down to just eight! I have songs that remind me of my childhood, my teen years, my young adult and later life, my family, experiences across the years ... etc etc etc ... and they are all important to me.

But if I had to choose and make that very difficult decision, then this song would definitely be on my list.

I'm sharing it with you today because the version of this song that I love the best is by the fabulous Whitney Houston, who was born on this day - August 9th - in 1963. 

Whitney was an amazing talent, a beautiful singer and she was hugely famous in her lifetime.

Unfortunately life wasn't always happy for her, despite the fame and fortune, and she died far too young, in February 2012. That was a shocking day for all her fans, as well as her family and friends. But although she is no longer with us, we are privileged that she left behind so many great songs. 

Some of Whitney's legacy hits are just pure 'pop', just fun, and remind me of my younger years. Driving in the car singing out loud at the top of my voice, dancing at parties with friends, chilling out on the beach!

But some of the pieces that Whitney recorded in her lifetime are much deeper. They reflect her faith, her hopes and fears and her struggles in life.

I look to you lyrics''I Look to You'  was released on July 23, 2009, so it was one of her last hits., and I've listened to it many many times down the years because the words just inspire me... 

I look to you
I look to you
After all my strength is gone
In you, I can be strong

I look to you
I look to you
And when melodies are gone
In you, I hear a song
I look to you

When I'm feeling down, alone and 'without a cause', this song reminds me that there's something bigger than me and this moment in time.

For me, it's a truly spiritual song. It encourages and uplifts me, takes me out of myself and my worries and cares.

But whenever I hear Whitney singing this song, there's also a touch of sadness ... with the thought that that despite singing these inspirational words ultimately it appears she struggled to prevent the walls falling down on her, and  to find that open door to health and wellbeing. I'm not judging, because ultimately none of us know another person's inner thoughts and being, but there is a touch of pathos in the song.

I trust that she she did, eventually, find peace. But in the meantime, I'm thankful that Whitney Houston DID walk this earth and left us such a legacy.

Including this unbelievably beautiful song!

Thanks Whitney!

 

 


Bow the Knee

A few weeks ago I was privileged to take part in a very special online 'gathering'.

The senior choir - the Songsters - at The Salvation Army church in Felixstowe in Suffolk in England meet every week online ... they can't meet in person because of the coronavirus, so they meet 'viritually' to stay in touch, be inspired and occasionally to hear from someone different.

So, I had the honour to speak to them, actually about my books, and then to lead them in a prayer 'devotion'. It was, I hope, 'different'.

Bow the kneeFor months a certain song has been travelling with me and has meant so much especially during the lockdowns and the uncertainty of the pandemic, so I chose this song to share with them.

This week especially it kept popping up all over the place, including on the random selection on my music library on my I-Phone. Like someone is trying to tell me something!

It's sometimes hard to pray and trust when life seems out of your control. But these words encourage me to keep trusting God however uncertain life may be. And to keep 'talking' to God and praying and believing.

So this Sunday I simply share it with you and hope it encourages you too.

The full lyrics are beneath the music video... but  the words of the chorus are worth repeating, and repeating, and repeating ...

Be blessed!

Bow the knee
Trust the heart of your Father when the answer goes beyond what you can see
Bow the knee
Lift your eyes toward heaven and believe the One who holds eternity
And when you don't understand the purpose of His plan
In the presence of the King, bow the knee

 

Bow the Knee

There are moments on our journey following the Lord
Where God illumines ev'ry step we take
There are times when circumstances make perfect sense to us
As we try to understand each move He makes
When the path grows dim and our questions have no answers, turn to Him

Bow the knee
Trust the heart of your Father when the answer goes beyond what you can see
Bow the knee
Lift your eyes toward heaven and believe the One who holds eternity
And when you don't understand the purpose of His plan
In the presence of the King, bow the knee

Bow the Knee

There are moments on our journey following the Lord
Where God illumines ev'ry step we take
There are times when circumstances make perfect sense to us
As we try to understand each move He makes
When the path grows dim and our questions have no answers, turn to Him

Bow the knee
Trust the heart of your Father when the answer goes beyond what you can see
Bow the knee
Lift your eyes toward heaven and believe the One who holds eternity
And when you don't understand the purpose of His plan
In the presence of the King, bow the knee

Bow the knee
Trust the heart of your Father when the answer goes beyond what you can see
Bow the knee
Lift your eyes toward heaven and believe the One who holds eternity
And when you don't understand the purpose of His plan
In the presence of the King, bow the knee

 

(words and music by Michael Harland and Christopher Machen)

 


All we need is Love

Here's another one of my 'favourite films' moments.

Ok, so it's a bit unseasonal ... but today I'm thinking about the 2003 movie Love Actually.

It's associated with Christmas, of course, because it's set in that season. But as the title indicates, it's all really about love.

Love in different forms, unrequited love, love which is not returned, love which is complicated, people showing love and sharing love, love at different stages of life.

I love it!

Why am thinking about this ... in July?

Well it's not to do with the whole 'Christmas in July' thing, I can assure you!

No it's because there's a song in the movie, near the start of the film, which is one of my favourites.

And it was released as a single this day - July 7th - in 1967.

All you need is loveI'm talking, of course, about All you Need is Love, from the 'Fab Four' - the Beatles!

Although it was written by John Lennon, it was credited to the Lennon–McCartney song-writing partnership. Lennon apparently deliberately wrote lyrics that were simple because the song was actually written not just for the British market, but for s specific global event and it needed to have international appeal.

All you Need is Love was Britain's contribution to Our World, the world's first live global TV special. The Beatles were filmed performing the song at EMI Studios in London on 25 June 1967 and the programme was broadcast via satellite, and seen by over 400 million people in 25 countries. 

It's one of those songs that's in our psyche and in our history. It's certainly in mine.

Many of us can just sing along. It's a song which with the constant repetition of the chorus 'All you need is love' .. has a powerful message. And it's not about love we can't attain. It's about doing everything with love.

I mentioned that on Sunday, but it's definitely worth the repetition. 

So - combining one of my favourite songs, with a favoured movie... here it is - as featured in Love Actually.

It's a strong reminder of something that's really important, and which - if we all just tried to love a little bit more -  could change the world.