Tom Carradine launched his first album of his Cockney Sing-A-Long at the wholly appropriate setting of Wilton’s Music Hall, one of the few Victorian Music Halls left standing in London. The album, recorded at the Bull and Gate in Kentish Town, is attractively produced, with an accompanying booklet of words, featuring the songs in his repertoire, a selection of which are performed in his shows.
Wax mustachioed and suitably dressed, Carradine took his place at the piano amid great cheers from what transpires to be a regular, dedicated and growing following of quite a diverse age range.
Starting straight into the sing-along, with little introduction, Carradine really gets the atmosphere going. The evening features songs from Music Hall, Wartime, West End and some pop songs from various decades. The second half also includes ‘guest medleys’ of various themes, which change from show to show. Tonight featured a sitcom medley which included the Dad’s Army song , One Foot in the Grave, and Only Fools and Horses; and also a medley of love songs (Valentine’s Day is just around the corner) and songs from ‘Cockney’ musicals such as Oliver and My Fair Lady.
He explains that apart from song and the ‘joanna’, there are 3 main elements to a cockney sing-along – a) drink – the bar is open throughout, b) dancing – there is room at the sides and in the balcony for a knees up, and c) interjection – which he provides with gusto.
The audience need no encouragement to join in, not only singing, but gesturing, getting up on their feet, the lot. During the Wartime section, Union Jack bunting is produced and hung around the hall. The group of elderly people beside me were among the most active, but the younger audience in the rows in front were smiling and singing with enthusiasm also. This is very much a family affair, with some dressed in old cockney outfits for the occasion.
As well as an accomplished musician, Carradine is a good showman with a charming personality and very nice singing voice. The audience clearly love what he does.
Wilton’s is beautifully restored, maintaining a somewhat ‘ruined’ feel – not too polished or glitzy, very atmospheric and keeping the rough- hewn walls. The twisted pillars are particularly noteworthy. The stage is tiered and the words for the sing-along are projected on slides onto the back wall between the red velvet curtains.
This is ultimately a very simple idea – just a lot of people round a piano led by the musician – an extension of a family get-together. It has possibilities of growing, not only in terms of larger audience numbers in bigger venues, but artistically. Personally, I would like to see it enhanced by adding guest performers, interspersed with stories, and perhaps histories of the songs themselves.
It is refreshing to think that in this day and age of digital, instantaneous and over-produced everything, there is still a market for such an old-fashioned concept as a sing-along and knees-up. And well done to Tom Carradine for making it happen, especially in such a perfect venue for it.