Playing with ENSA
(From Norman Dannatt - February 2007)
(ENSA - "Entertainments National Service Association", or depending on your point of view "Every Night Something Awful !!!)
in ENSA at the time that Ivy Benson and Band came to play in the Schauspielhaus
(theatre) in Hamburg. It was Xmas time and she was due to give a stage
show for the troops which was also to be broadcast. She was asked to
get the Band to play "I'm dreaming of a White Xmas" but she
did not have the band parts for it. At that time I was working as pianist
in a Big Band made up of musicians recued from the German concentration
camps and I can write music.
At the time, whilst waiting to rehearse for a new show called "Bandstand", I was helping Robin Stark, (the author), the officer responsible for liaison between the Theatre and the NW Germany Broadcasting Company. It was he and I who had to liaise with Ivy about the stage show and broadcast, and was responsible for me being dragged in to write band parts. Robin had a far greater opinion of my musical prowess than I warranted.
Band I was put into as pianist was "The Grasshoppers", conducted
by a Belgian sax and fiddle player. Others in the band (all rescued
too from concentration camps) were Dutch, Lithuanian and Russian. The
star of the show was Billy Whittaker, a fine red-nosed comic and also
included Peter Felgate who, when he left ENSA, ran the Fol de Rols concert
party. The show started with a park scene with a full size bandstand
on it. In the second part, the bandstand opened up to become a stage
at the back of the scene on which we in the band played, periodically
through the rest of the show. I ceased performing after I left ENSA
and for some years wrote music for Peter Myers for West End shows.
taken during the show were by T. Bobsien (known to everyone as Bobby).
She was half Chinese and half German and worked as lecturer in photography
in Hamburg University. I used to go to her evening classes. She taught
me all I know about darkroom techniques - all of which are now redundant
with modern digital cameras.
I was in college the students put on a Carnival parade. A group of the
male student musicians dressed as girls and marched along with a banner
"IVY BENSKIN'S GIRLS BAND". Benskin was the name of a brewery.
I was not in their group however, but in a much more disreputable one!