Andrews Sisters Show Review

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By George Fleeton The Andrews Sisters Show helped to get the Summer Season under way at the Newcastle Centre on Friday 1st July . This tribute, to that exceptional close harmony singing group whose heyday had been around 1937-51, was led by Dublin chanteuse Derby Browne with Eileen Coyle and Lou van Laake – the self-styled Bugle Babes. What they delivered were spirited, vocally syncopated renditions of about twenty-five of the better known Andrews Sisters’ numbers, to backing tracks which had not been too well rehearsed technically. [caption id="attachment_25313" align="alignleft" width="400" caption="The Bugle Babes appeared in Newcastle last weekend opening up the summer entertainments. "][/caption] In the end that didn’t matter as their delivery was infectious and their harmonising faithful to the origins of this wonderful music. They swung straight into Don’t sit under the Apple Tree, and Bei mir bist du Schoen, the song  which was the Andrews Sisters’ first no. 1 Billboard magazine hit  in 1938. In quick succession came Beat me Daddy Eight to the Bar, Straighten up and Fly Right, In Apple Blossom Time, Ac-cent-tchu-ate the Positive, Rum and Coca-Cola, Don’t fence me In, Swinging on a Star and Roll out the Barrel. They finished the first part of the show with Irving Berlin’s Sisters. In part two, in red satin, with the nerves and occasional flat notes out of the way (although the opener, Mr. Sandman, seemed out of tune),  the Bugle Babes really hid their stride especially with some Duke Ellington and Glenn Miller medleys. There was an extraordinarily slow version of I love Coffee I love Tea, and of course they didn’t leave out either Lullaby of Broadway or Alexander’s Ragtime Band, before rounding off a splendid evening’s entertainment with the Andrews Sister’s signature song The Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B. Many of these songs were first heard in the dozen or so B movies which the Andrews Sisters made at Universal Pictures during WWII. In parallel with those movies they had massive followings on radio and early television and on vinyl (mainly Decca Records) just as it was replacing shellac as the material of choice for the phonograph record. From the early 1950s however their personal relationships were conducted in anything but close harmony. Sadly LaVerne Andrews died in the 1960s, Maxene Andrews in the 1990s, before reconciliation was possible, but youngest sister Patty (93), the group’s lead singer, is apparently still alive and well. By all accounts they were the best-selling female vocal group in the history of popular music. Their close harmony and syncopated style of voicing is not unrelated to the music genre called barbershop, whose later exponents were, among many others, The Beach Boys, the Everly Brothers, and Simon and Garfunkle. While little of this history was reflected in the Bugle Babes tribute show in Newcastle, they certainly captured the mood and the moves, the segues and the shimmies of the Andrews Sisters at the zenith of their popularity. The Bugle Babes will be at the Belfast Rose Festival on 17th July  at 2pm. George Fleeton teaches Opera and Cinema in Higher Education]]>

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