Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Andrew Sisters - Apple Blossom Time

July, 2012: In Echuca for the Winter Blues Festival, the challenge was: how to avoid paying the tourist premium?*  In a restaurant, I ordered fettucine with veal meatballs, the second cheapest main-meal (which reminds me, the most popular coffin is the second cheapest in the catalogue) and the waiter pressed me strongly to order the veal shanks instead, $10 dearer.  Finally I said, "Why?  Is there something wrong with the meatballs?"  
But Andy scored a bargain at the Moama markets: eight pieces of sheet-music, 50c each.  The Stephen Foster songbook promises nights of entertainment, but it was Begin The Beguine (a song that even Cole Porter, who wrote it, couldn't play without the music in front of him) that led us back to the Andrew Sisters.  I hadn't heard the Andrew Sisters since childhood - Errol had a best-of I'd listened to almost as much as the Supremes.  APPLE BLOSSOM TIME was my favourite back then.  Andy looked it up in 1001 Pop Songs, and hearing it again, I understood why I'd loved it.  The first line: "I'll be with you in apple blossom time" - in my mind's-eye, I see masses of soft, white petals, bees buzzing, grown-up me in a white dress, veil floating on a sunny breeze...It is a happily-ever-after fantasy with all the stops pulled out.  But children like a hint of darkness in their art, because they know it's there, out in the wide world, and in their own bedrooms as soon as the light goes out.  The minor chords of APPLE BLOSSOM TIME, the unexpected twists and turns in the melody, the weird intervals (which, as we discovered, make for difficult harmonising), give it a piquancy I would have responded to as a child.  Now, of course, I hear it as a war-time song, and the piquancy is even sharper: the longing for peace and tranquility, fruitful life and love, while in a world of turmoil.
*It is worth paying the tourist premium just to see, and perhaps step foot on, the Echuca paddle-steamers.  Was anything made by man more lovable than an old paddle-steamer?  Seeing the steam of the approaching PS Emmylou rising above the red-gums, hearing the 'plash-plash' of her paddle, then the sound of Andy's fiddle (a three-hour engagement on a Murray River cruise), was very exciting.  I uncharacteristically took more than one photo.

Vera Lynn's version of APPLE BLOSSOM TIME is the most beautiful:


Amazingly enough, here is a clip of the Supremes and the Andrew Sisters singing each other's songs on a TV show: