Delightful answers to fatuous questions

From: Gramophone’s digital archive:

Introduction by Compton Mackenzie (December 1926)

I have gathered together what I am inclined to boast is one of the best symposiums of distinguished men and women any paper has ever offered to its readers. The subject of this symposium is ‘My favourite song, my favourite composer, my favourite tune, and my favourite singer.’ A sufficiently fatuous set of questions to invite people to answer, yet perhaps just because they were so fatuous they have produced some most delightful answers.

The first thing I have to say about this symposium is a word of very grateful thanks to the contributors both on behalf of our readers and for myself personally. You will see by Mr Bernard Shaw’s reply what a risk one takes in issuing this kind of unwelcome invitation, and, of course, Mr Shaw is, as always, perfectly right. However, if the questions were foolish, nobody can accuse the answers of being so, and I must say that I agree with Miss Sybil Thorndyke that confession books are amusing, and like her I wish they were in favour once more. If literature and the stage predominate among the guests, that is because they produce the most good-natured victims of this sort of thing. I did not invite any member of the legal profession to contribute, because you can’t very well ask a judge to admit that he has favourites, and you can’t very well ask a KC, because he is liable at any moment to become a judge. The absence of any distinguished representatives of the Anglican Church and the Nonconformist bodies is due to their unwillingness to commit themselves, not to my failure to invite them. The comparative scarcity of musicians is also due to this, and I am particularly grateful to Sir Landon Ronald and Sir Richard Terry, because they really were abominable questions to address to a musician.

I feel I ought to register my own confession, partly because I should like to be sitting at the table with our guests, and partly on the same principle that the waiter always pours the first few drops of a bottle of wine into the host’s glass. I think my favourite song is Schumann’s ‘Er der Herrlichste von Alles’, which I regret to say nobody has yet recorded for an English catalogue. I cannot think why. My favourite tune is without doubt ‘The Rhinemaiden’s Song’. My favourite composer is without doubt Beethoven, and for my favourite singer I find myself sitting very delightfully between Miss Margaret Bannerman and Miss Madge Titheradge in naming Marguerite d’Alvarez and John McCormack. 

Noël Coward (Playwright, composer, singer, actor, director)

My favourite song is ‘L’heure exquise’ (Reynaldo Hahn). My fayourite composer is George Gershwin. My favourite tune is ‘Mountain Greenery’,  by Laurenz Hart and Richard Rodgers. My favourite singer is Yvonne Printemps. 

I am doing this during a rehearsal, so it may sound rather peculiar…

George Bernard Shaw (Playwright, critic, novelist)

Says that only people in a deplorably elementary stage of musical culture have favourite tunes and so forth, and he considers the question a monstrous insult…”

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