It would be fair to say that most of us in the audience did not know quite what to expect from Friday night’s concert for The Friends featuring musician Mike Hatchard.
Mike has had an extraordinarily diverse career as a musician. He began as the pianist for the National Youth Jazz Orchestra, and studied piano and composition at the Royal College of Music (winning the composer’s prize). Subsequently he toured America as Cleo Laine’s accompanist as a member of the John Dankworth Quintet and became Matt Monro’s youngest ever musical director.
However, a penchant for cartooning and comedy made his career take some unexpected turns. He performed for many years at the Edinburgh Festival as the comedy character ‘Marvin Hanglider’, and was described in the Scotsman as a ‘fringe staple.’ This led to cabaret on many of the world’s top cruise liners and tours of India and Europe.
He toured as musical director for comedienne Pamela Stephenson, and co-wrote songs with Frankie Howerd and Spike Milligan. For many years he was closely associated with Herbie Flowers (of Sky fame) which included all sorts of work in prisons, in schools and at the Southbank (Mike has also performed his one man show twice at the Purcell Rooms) and in disabled centres.
He has also worked with David Essex, the Pasadena Roof Orchestra, Barbara Thompson’s Paraphernalia, the Syd Lawrence Orchestra, Julia Migenes Johnson, Liane Carroll, Alan Barnes, George Martin and Tina May. And, as well as being in demand as a jazz musician and raconteur, Mike plays a good deal of classical music.
What we did not expect was this handsome mild-mannered 50 something year old (with more than a passing resemblance to Derek Jacobi!) to take his seat at the keyboard and say “So what sort of music d’you like then?” And after a fairly lacklustre response from the audience, “Well what about something like this?” as he launched into a spirited rendition of the Beatles’ “I saw her standing there” during which we were encouraged to shout out the obligatory “Whoop!” in the appropriate place. He then encouraged the audiences on each side of the aisle, in pantomime fashion, to compete to make the loudest “Whoop!”
There followed a cabaret-style evening of musical gags, inventions and amusing anecdotes but also some virtuoso performances on keyboard, piano and violin which revealed the considerable musical talent that lies behind.
Here are some examples of his musical magic.
He asked the audience to name a tune, any tune, and then a composer. Somebody suggested “Happy Birthday” which he first managed to transform in the style of a Bach toccata and then as a melodic piece of Mozart. Then we had the Beatles’ Yellow Submarine somehow brilliantly reconstructed in the style of the opening bars of Beethoven’s 5th Symphony.
Later he tells us he is going to write a song for Andrew Lloyd Webber. For this he required the audience to provide the name of a man and a woman and a few short sentences. The lyrics provided included “Don’t forget the pickles”, “I’m on the 67 bus”, “I’m working in the garden – wearing my pyjamas” and “Don’t pick your toes” and the two characters were Diane and Geoffrey. Somehow unbelievably Mike used these unpromising ingredients to not only make a story and a song (with rhymes) but then play it in the unmistakeable style of a Webber operatic aria – musical magic!
Musical comedy included playing a piece of classical music in the style of Les Dawson with strategically placed wrong notes (not easy!) and rendering a karaoke performance he had heard by a chap who got the whole way through a Frank Sinatra song (I think it was “My Way”) perfectly executed but unfortunately two whole bars behind the accompaniment.
These musical inventions were interspersed with several amusing anecdotes from a long and varied career. He told of how he and his mate had hitch-hiked from Poole to London at the age of 14 to the Beatles’ Apple headquarters to try and sell them a song he had written. We also heard of the time he was staying in a posh hotel in Kuala Lumpur while on tour with Matt Monro and bought an old butcher’s bike to take a little tour around the city. After being caught in a tropical downpour he arrived back at the hotel covered in mud and wheeled his bike up to the hotel entrance only to be ushered away by the hotel doorman thinking he was some odd crank. When he eventually produced his door key, the doorman apologised profusely and offered to park his bike for him.
Mike finished off the evening with a perfectly executed Chopin prelude.
Altogether it was a hugely entertaining and different musical experience which was much appreciated by a packed church.
We must thank Gill Laver who produced the show for us and also her team of volunteer caterers and furniture movers who together made the whole evening run with well-ordered efficiency.
Mike is planning a charity cycle ride next year from Lands End to John O’Groats in aid of the Children in Need charity. If anyone would like more information Mike can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.