N & O Titles

N

NELL GWYNN
See MIDNIGHT MATINEE

NEVER AGAIN

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The lyric of the verse section may date from the 1920's - early workings of lyrics included the complete verse section as it occurred in this 1938 song (see BD p.120);
Set To Music (USA, 1938/9) (Eva Ortega and Hugh French)
Sigh No More (UK, 1945) (Graham Payn)
Sep.Publ. (for SNM)
NCSB
NCG2
NCR
When performed in STM in 1938/9, the number was placed at Act I No.8, with Lillie's sketch 'Madame Dines Alone' at No. 7 and 'Midnight Matinee' following at No.9. For this performance the programme has a credit to Will Irwin for a "special arrangement" of this song (the rest of the orchestrations are credited to Hans Spialek). The number here was also danced, by a group of 3 men. But it was sung by Eva Ortega, whose performance was remembered by Coward as "evading the wordly cynicism implicit in the lyric by the cunning device of singing it quite unintelligibly." [NCA]
The theme of the song is one that recurs sporadically throughout NC’s output, the disillusioned or broken-hearted lover promising himself that he will never allow such agonising loss of self-control again, but never is it more astringently expressed than in this song. There is little doubt in my mind that the subject is highly self-referential to the composer.
NC was good at modally-shifting, dark-atmosphere verse sections (e.g. ‘Parisian Pierrot’, ‘Half Caste Woman’, ‘I Travel Alone’, ‘Most Of Ev’ry Day’, etc.), but with this verse section he achieves an almost sinuously-constructed and highly atmospheric composition which is a very effective piece of word-painting for the turbulent emotions it expresses. Though this verse starts in a sort of Ab it quickly moves into Eb minor, and then swiftly passes through Eb7 and Db7, B7 and Bb7 before its halfway point in Eb major. No sooner has it touched ‘home’ before it shifts sideways via F7 and Bb7 into C, then via Ab minor into Gb major. The final phrase, which copies the opening, slips semitonally from C7 to Bb7 (which leads to the refrain in Eb). Perhaps this bald description of key-shifting sounds confusing on paper: it is no less confusing to the ear of the listener, and is wholly intentional and effective. The exquisite touches come with resolutions into the simplicity and harmonic sunlight of Eb major (in bar 21 to the words “[my heart] belongs to me again”) and C major (in bar 25, a high E natural set to “[the brief illusion I lived for has] gone”.
The 32-bar refrain section falls into clear and balanced 8-bar phrases, and is also more straightforwardly harmonised; but the melodic and rhythmic elements which make up the phrases are varied and repeated in different combinations, for example, the triplet of the original ‘Ne-ver-a-/gain’ also leads into the second phrase and closes it. Nor is the refrain void of interesting keyshifts and effective word-painting: its climax comes on an illustrative upwards flourish to the highest note of the piece (top F) on the words “strong enough to “flout romance” - you can almost sense the dismissive hand-gesture.
To my mind, Greta Keller (ONR’s 91 & 92), singing reticently at the lower octave, gets very close to the song’s intent, particularly in the verse section, and it was clearly a song she thought deserved recording twice. Carmen McRae (ONR 16) is also good, with discrete but rhythmic band accompaniment, but only gives the refrain.
ONR 92: Greta Keller + orch (1939)
NCR 27: + Piccadilly Th. Orch. cond. Mantovani (1945)
ONR 93: Tommy Dorsey orch + vocal (date unknown)
ONR 22: Laurence Harvey (1968)
ONR 05: Bobby Short (1972)
ONR 91: Greta Keller acc. Walter Grimm (1972)
ONR 16: Carmen McRae (1974)
ONR 28: Barbara Lea acc. Keith Ingham (1999)
ONR 23: Ian Bostridge acc. Jeffrey Tate (2002)
ONR 05a: Steve Ross (2004)

NEVERMORE

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(1934)
Conversation Piece, 1934 (Yvonne Printemps)
Sep. Publ.
NCSB
A 32-bar slow waltz aria with short verse section. The theme is summed up in the final words: “Others may regain their freedom/ But for you and me/ Never, Nevermore”. The refrain may be of no great stature, but if small it is perfectly-formed. For a ‘second’ waltz number (the ‘big’ one here was, of course, ‘I’ll Follow My Secret Heart’) this is not half bad. A couple of touches which help it hold its head up above the ordinary are the surprising upwards seventh interval to the last note of the first phrase, and its balancing upwards octave at the end of the third phrase. A flowing but rubato style is strongly suggested by the short passages of quavers, which surely need time to be allowed to speak clearly.
OCR 08/NCR12: Yvonne Printemps & Louis Hayward (1934)
ONR 06: Lily Pons + orch. cond. Engel (1951)
ONR 14: Joan Sutherland + orch. (1966)

NEW TAORMINA
See ITALIAN INTERLUDE

NINA

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South Africa, March-April 1944
by NC in South Africa and subsequent wartime concert tours
Sigh No More, 1945 (Cyril Ritchard)
Cabaret performances 1951-55
Together With Music, 1955
Sep.Publ.
NCSB
SA2
STA
NCG1
Vocal Score Cowardy Custard
“On the night journey from Bloemfontein to Pretoria I was suddenly aware of a rather tiresome South American rhythm thumping in my head. This went on intermittently all night and emerged next morning as ‘Nina’. Both Norman and I were delighted with it, and gaily ignoring the fact that both the ltric and the accompaniment were complicated, we decided to put it into the second half of our programme the following evening. Experience should have warned me that to attempt to sing a new song when it was still hot from the oven was dangerous ... it was only when I heard myself announcing to a packed audience that black fear descended on me. I shot Norman a hunted look ... started on the first verse and dried up dead. Norman, with misguided presence of mind, prompted me loudly with what I knew to be a phrase from the second verse ... I laughed with agonised nonchalance, asked the audience to forgive me, and started again from the beginning, praying that when I came to the forgotten phrase, it would drop automatically into my mind. This was a desperate risk, but it worked ... the audience were delighted with it. I, on the other hand, was furious with myself and ashamed of my casual non-professionalism, and before I attempted ‘Nina’ again it had been rehearsed two hours a day for a week”. [NCA]
Recent research on the (unpublished bits of the) Noel Coward Diaries shows a little more, and a little bit more accurate, detail:  the precise origin was the night of 27/28 March on the night train to Pietermaritzburg, and that on 28 March they “spent most of the morning working on a new song called ‘Nina’, designed to kill South American rhythmic numbers for all time”.  On 29th March they spent the day going back to Bloemfontein in the train.  They also “worked on ‘Nina’ most of the afternoon” of April 1st.  Putting the song into their show “the following evening” did not actually occur until April 3, when after some rehearsal he “gave public performance at the Capitol. House, audience, performance all good.  Tried out ‘Nina’, dried up and started again. Everyone delighted”.
It is a narrative comedy song with lyrics that are little short of remarkable, but their musical setting is as beguilingly-crafted as the lyrics; together they form a marvellous pastiche of all things South American, cemented around the fact that 'Nina' and all the words that rhyme with her in the main phrases coincide with the syncopated bottom-jerk of the rhumba. Subsidiary sections imitate a flamenco-style chordal guitar accompaniment, and an almost complete “joke” quote from Porter’s ‘Begin The Beguine’. The critic Christopher Palmer thought this song “worthy of the Sitwell-Walton collaboration in Façade"; but thinking of Hernia Whittlebot, I doubt very much if NC would have appreciated the comparison, however flatteringly it may have been intended!
Norman Hackforth’s original accompaniment for the piece, which he knew would be “far too detailed and pianistically difficult” for mass-market publication, was a casualty of the simplification process that often happens when light-music is published. Needless to say, the original was much cleverer, more varied and more tightly integrated to the lyric. The song was one of six tracks recorded by NC and NH in Calcutta in 1944, and this infinitely superior piano accompaniment can be heard on a recent Naxos CD release (NCR 27). [Further comments about this original accompaniment can be read in DV.]
NCR 27 also preserves some early alternative lyrics – the “Carmen Miranda” lines in the “flamenco” section of the second verse.  These were rewritten on July 6th 1945 [“And she could not refrain from saying...”] after somebody had advised that the Carmen Miranda lines could be libellous [unpublished Diaries entry].
This song is among the top thirty Coward numbers in terms of current royalties earning potential (see Appendix 3).
NCR 27: pno.acc. Norman Hackforth (1944)
NCR 28: Piccadilly Th.Orch. cond. Mantovani (14 Sept.1945)
OCR 12: Cyril Ritchard (1945)
NCR 30: + orch. cond. Mantovani (1947)
ONR 94: Mantovani Orch. (1947)
ONR 32a: Harry Noble acc. Stuart Ross (1953)
NCR 38: pno. acc. Peter Matz (June, 1955)
OCR 16: NC + Peter Matz orch. (Together With Music, 1955)
ONR 05: Bobby Short (1972)
ONR 07: John Moffat (Cowardy Custard, 1972)
ONR 95: Jill Gomez + orch.cond. Wordsworth (1990)
ONR 96: Alexandra Browning acc. Vivenza Ens. (1995)
ONR 28: Barbara Lea acc. Keith Ingham (1999)

NINETEEN HUNDRED AND SIX
See Appendix 1.c

NINETY MINUTES IS A LONG, LONG TIME

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Jamaica, early Sept. 1955 [NCD]
Together With Music, 1955 (NC & Mary Martin)
Ubpubl. MS. This MS is a photostat of the original ‘Piano-Conductor’ sheet-music.
There is one refrain, followed by a longer instrumental section using the same theme over which conversation between NC and MM took place. The song is basically saying, “how are we going to keep this show up in the air for ninety minutes using just our own talents and songs?”
The MS presents the theme in 6/8 tempo, but changes to 2/2 for the instrumental section. It’s a pleasant enough thing for its purpose, which was as one of the two curtain-raisers. (The other is TOGETHER WITH MUSIC, q.v.)
OCR 16: NC & Mary Martin (1955)

NO MORE
See Appendix 1.b

NOTHING CAN LAST FOR EVER

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(1949)
Ace Of Clubs, 1950 (Sylvia Cecil)
Sep. Publ.
Vocal Score Cowardy Custard (in medley)
Ballad-song for Rita (the nightclub owner)
The show that finally became Ace Of Clubs went through a lot of changes of story and structure before settling into the form we know, and the great majority of the musical material was composed before 1950, some of it many months earlier.
This is another song of gentle regrets for lovers’ parting. Neither verse nor refrain of this song are very strongly developed, but both have some charm. The verse is a moderato 4/4 in F, with an amazing keychange from Db to G major in the second bar of its introduction. Its gentle phrases have good vocal range. The piece changes to a slow waltz at the refrain, in C. Its weakness lies in the straight repetition of the first four bars of melody which consists entirely of alternating low C’s and D’s with an upwards leap of a seventh to end it - not inherently very loaded with musical potential, and its repetition only emphasises its lack. There’s a touch more interest and direction to the material in the refrain’s second half; but it never gets beyond the formulaic four-bar phrases and comes to a close, with nothing more to say, rather too soon for comfort.
OCR 14: Sylvia Cecil (1950)
ONR 22: Laurence Harvey (1968)

NOW I'M A WIDOW

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(1960) (for Later Than Spring before it became Sail Away)
Unused
Unpubl. MS
This is a sort of Mrs Wentworth-Brewster celebratory number - a woman resolving to go off on her own and have a bit of fun with her life while there is still time to enjoy it. In fact the character was originally conceived as a developed Mrs Wentworth-Brewster. The song is in a bright waltz tempo, and is good enough, as far as it goes. But it doesn’t really do more or go further than a basic minimum 32 bar-structure of four 8-bar phrases. True, the second phrase repeats the first up a tone, and the third has some rhythmic impetus, and the fourth shows some melodic development, but it isn’t enough to make a really satisfying whole. There are two verses of lyrics.
NCR 42: acc. ?Douglas Gamley (1959/60)

NUNS AND POLICEMAN
See PAS DE TROIS