Friday, September 24, 2010

For the Birds: A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square

The Manhattan Transfer: A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square


This week, we have been treated to some beautiful, realistic nature photography, as well as some more humorous images. But this post needed a romantic picture. For a few moments, we leave the real world behind, as The Manhattan Transfer transports us to the world of idealized romantic love.

I am a long time hater of love songs. They are often presented in huge productions, drowning in schmaltzy strings. Or the singer belts out the song with no nuance whatsoever. Or someone decides to jazz it up, and it sounds hokey and false. All of this and more has been done to A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square. The song is a standard, which means that it has been ruined in more ways than anyone can count. The song dates from 1939, just before Britain’s entry into World War II. Berkeley Square is in London, and no one has ever seen a nightingale there. To do so would be as miraculous as the love described in the song. The Manhattan Transfer would revisit the song on an album they did with a full orchestra. But this was how they first recorded it in 1981, with just four perfectly blended voices, and no instruments at all. And this simple arrangement is as lush and romantic as anything I have ever heard. So, I don’t actually hate love songs at all. I just hate how they are often performed.

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