Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Blues and the chapel pianist

click photo to enlarge
I think it was 1969 when I bought "King of the Delta Blues Singers" by Robert Johnson, a collection of acoustic blues recorded in the 1930s. And it was probably two years later, in 1971, that I bought the newly issued "King of the Delta Blues Singers Vol. II". These were 33rpm L.P.s with paintings of Robert Johnson on the front. The first album showed him from above. The second had an illustration of him playing his guitar in front of a microphone that was positioned in the corner of the living room of a house. Comprehensive cover notes (of a kind that died with the advent of the CD) said that, despite his wonderful song-writing ability and great guitar playing, he was incurably shy and reticent about recording and would only perform without making eye contact with anyone.

I was reminded of this illustration recently when we visited Wimpole Hall in Cambridgeshire. This stately home is in the care of the National Trust and features, among many splendours, a private chapel with interesting trompe l'oeil paintings. When we visited it we were entertained by a pianist who was sitting at his instrument facing the wall at one end of the chapel. I don't think he suffered from the performance terrors that afflicted Robert Johnson because between pieces he was chatting to visitors. However, it did look odd and it appeared somewhat unkind that he should be so positioned. Perhaps it was his choice to avoid the distractions of the steady stream of visitors.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Camera: Olympus E-M10
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 14mm (28mm - 35mm equiv.)
F No: f4.9
Shutter Speed: 1/40 sec
Exposure Compensation: 0 EV
Image Stabilisation: On