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The Puppini Sisters with Duncan Galloway lead singer of the Pasadena Roof Orchestra.

The Puppini Sisters with the Pasadena Roof Orchestra and lead singer Duncan Galloway.

Winning combination brings piano festival to joyous climax

Pasadena Roof Orchestra with the Puppini Sisters: St Mary in the Castle, Saturday 7 March, 2020. Hastings International Piano Festival brought two class acts together to reach a joyous climax at the weekend. HOT’s music correspondent Brian Hick is among the many who are keen to see it return in two years’ time. Photos by Peter Mould.

What a wonderful way to end two weeks of magnificent music-making! The Pasadena Roof Orchestra and Puppini Sisters turned Saturday night into an end-of-season party for all of us, greatly helped by the gradually increasing numbers of dancers who made excellent use of the space available.

If managing director Ian Roberts needed any vindication of the undeniable risks involved in launching any new venture, this was it. A full house, at the end of a series of wide ranging events, which had encouraged a large number of generous donations enabling the Hastings International Piano Festival to support educational work with young musicians in the area and provide over 1,000 free tickets for under 18s. This alone makes the festival worthwhile, and when the quality of performances is added into the mix we are doubly blessed.

Duncan Galloway and the PRO.

Duncan Galloway and the PRO.

The Pasadena Roof Orchestra (PRO) opened with a breezy reading of High Society which included a number of solo breaks which were to become a feature of the evening. The Puppini Sisters, dressed alarmingly like Carmen Miranda, then joined the orchestra for their first set, opening with Sing, Sing, Sing.

If Boogie, Woogie Bugle Boy was to be expected, their use of more modern favourites, in highly effective 1940s arrangements, was not, and proved to be all the more captivating. Dolly Parton’s Working 9 To 5 sounded as if it had been written for the Land Army! They ended this set with Jealousy, announcing it was a tango and bringing dancers onto the floor again. Throughout the evening we were increasingly entertained with fine examples of Lindy Hop, Balboa, Swing Jive and Shag.

PRO’s lead singer Duncan Galloway then introduced Jubilee Stomp before he crooned What More Can I Ask. His range of styles enabled him to move smoothly on to I’ll Be Glad When You’re Dead, You Rascal You, but his finest moment came with Bing Crosby’s classic Don’t Fence Me In with the Puppini’s standing in admirably for the Andrews Sisters. To move on immediately to I Will Survive – again in 1940s style – was unexpected and stunningly impressive.

puppinis 350After the interval the dancers were able to enjoy Anything Goes, before we heard an Italian number from the Puppini’s and a foxtrot which was a mashup of Lady Gaga and Billie Holiday. I Put A Spell On You and Putting On The Ritz brought us once again to Duncan Galloway with Zing Went The Strings Of My Heart and a very up-tempo version of Old Man River.

The Sisters’ final set opened with I Want To Dance With Somebody and then exploded with a salsa version of Dancing Queen!

The last number was supposed to be Mack The Knife, when the dance floor heaved with excitement, but encores were of course wildly encouraged and we ended the evening where we had begun, back in the 1940s with an improvised rendition of In The Mood. We were – and could have gone on for much longer. Let’s hope the festival becomes a fixture for many years to come.

The Pasadena Roof Orchestra.

The Pasadena Roof Orchestra.


Posted 14:01 Monday, Mar 9, 2020 In: Music & Sound

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