Vocalists Gary Williams and Allan Harris conjured up benign ghosts during a performance of the musical arrangments of Nelson Riddle at the NCH, writes Gerry Colgan. Frank Sinatra used to call his early recording years (under the baton of Axel Stordahl) the Old Testament, by way of contrast with the later collaborations with Nelson Riddle, naturally dubbed the New. The two came together in the mid-1950s, when Sinatra was trying to climb out of a mid-career slump. Together they were a revelation and the eponymous album is recognised as one of popular music's brightest gems. At the weekend, the RTÉ Concert Orchestra, conducted by David O'Rourke, gave two performances of a concert dedicated to the musical arrangements of Riddle, mostly featuring his work with Sinatra, and including some of the hits he created with Nat King Cole. Two exceptional vocalists, Gary Williams (UK) and Allan Harris (New York), added lyrics, but not in imitations of the dear departed. They did better; nestling into the Riddle sound, they conjured up benign ghosts.
The first half included well-known favourites such as Please Be Kind, Lonesome Road and a couple of near-forgotten songs in Gabrielle and French Foreign Legion from the Sinatra oeuvre. Nat King Cole got a good innings with Mona Lisa, Unforgettable and Straighten Up And Fly Right, ranging from the lush to the bouncily effervescent.
After the interval, a feast of standards was offered, including Don't Worry 'Bout Me, Learnin' The Blues, I've Got You Under My Skin and One For My Baby. The vocalists interpreted their songs with brilliance, among them I Get Along Without You Very Well, I Thought About You and My Heart Stood Still. There were also pyrotechnical solos from trombone, guitar and clarinet. This was an unforgettable journey down Memory Lane.
Gerry Colgan for The Irish Times