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Friday, August 13, 2010

The Puppini Sisters 

For those who don’t know them, The Puppini Sisters are a trio of women who sing in the close harmony style that was popular in the 1940s. Their repertoire covers hits from the era as well as more recent songs adapted for the style. Their albums have "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" rubbing shoulders with "Wuthering Heights" or "Don’t Sit Under The Apple Tree" following "Walk Like an Egyptian". It is not a combination that you think would work immediately but when you hear it you find it works very well indeed.

I’ve been a huge fan ever since David gave me their first CD (Betcha Bottom Dollar) for Christmas. I listened to it on the drive down to the Kent coast to see my family for Christmas and I had a big grin on my face all the way. By the time I got there, I was so in love with the album I could talk about little else.

I would love to see them cover a few other modern pieces. Matt Bianco’s "Get Out Your Lazy Bed" could be interesting, for instance, and would suit their style. Some of Jill Sobule’s numbers would work well, I think. I can just imagine them with "The Resistance Song". Actually, I could just imagine them singing with Jill. What a show that would be!

Last night, David and I went with a collection of people from work to see the girls at the Cadogan Hall where they had been loosely slotted into its Hits from the Blitz week. I was worried that they might restrict their set to purely songs from the 1940s but fortunately they chose an eclectic selection from both Betcha Bottom Dollar and The Fall and Rise of Ruby Woo as well as some new material that enabled each of the trio to show off their respective skills.

What was great about seeing them in concert was that, for the first time, I could see them as individuals and not as pictures on a CD cover and a group of anonymous voices. Personalities emerged.

Marcella (Puppini) is the small dark haired sultry one who looks vaguely like a young Maureen Lipman. She wore a red outfit with a huge puffy half skirt that swished around like some huge tail.

The other two are, shock, horror, not really her sisters. Kate Mullins is the blonde one and she has a wicked sense of humour (“Now we have a song from one of the best American composers of the last 150 years … Beyoncé Knowles” ) and, as well as singing, plays the Melodica, an instrument that I haven’t seen since Primary School. She played it to good effect, however. She was largely the group’s spokeswoman introducing the solo performances for the other two.

Stephanie O’Brien was a powerhouse of energy and strutted around the stage filling it with enthusiasm and red hair. She also played a weird S-shaped electric violin. She smiled a lot and very genuinely. She had a fantastic solo number and had the audience in the palm of her hand.

All three girls looked stunning and had lovely long legs which were probably lost on large portions of the male members of the audience. The audience were, it has to be said, a bit of a mixed bag. I couldn’t make up my mind whether they were fully representative of the Puppini Sisters’ fans. There were girls dressed in 1940s finery with one even wearing a land girl type scarf. There were older men and women who may have been there as Puppini followers but it was just as likely that they were there as Forties fans. And there were, to my surprise, lots of gay men. I hadn’t realised the Puppini Sisters had a gay following other than me and David.

The front row seemed to the Puppini Sisters Fan Club with one man practically floating out of his seat when they directed mock ire at him for "I Will Survive".

There were some male Sisters on the stage as well: Blake Wilner on guitar, Henrik Jensen on double bass and Pat Levett on drums. They were a little too loud at the beginning but that was largely down to the balancing of the sound engineer who, for some strange reason, seemed to favour the instruments over the voices. I was struggling to hear any of the vocals. It did spoil the first number for me and for most of the other members of the audience but a proper balance was achieved and we were able to hear the wonderful voices that we had paid to hear.

It was a great evening which ended on a lovely high note when we dragged the six of them back on stage for an encore and they sang Glen Miller’s "In The Mood". They had us sing the refrain “in the mood” at various points and Henrik and Blake danced around with some very impressive gravity defying stamping.

Where’s the next album, ladies?

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