The Royals Concert Party

Since this site is about Park Royal Vehicles it should include anything associated with the Company and therefore it would be remiss of me not to embrace something about the lighter side of Park Royal, as amongst its work force were a number of very talented entertainers.

Not that I am an historian but, seemingly during the War years and growing out of the, sometimes bawdy, Music Hall tradition, there was a new more refined style of amateur variety show that could be delivered to a wider audience more appreciative of less vulgar entertainments; the Concert Party.

After the War, in the late '40s through to the early '60s I think, there were many companies that supported staff in extramural activities and dare I say perhaps especially where these activities helped the company’s name become more familiar.  I know not when exactly it began, but PRV evidently supported its very own Concert Party most especially by providing an old coach to ferry the "entertainers" around.

Headed up by Tommy Harwood, "The Royals" concert party was typical of the period and valiantly delivered superb little shows around London and the Home Counties.  How do I know?  Well I found amongst my parent's papers one of the concert programmes.  And of course they would keep it as a memento as their little son was one of the performers.

So here is the programme.  This particular show was entitled "An Entertainment" and performed at the Village Hall, High Street, Potters Bar on Saturday 26th September 1959 for the Royal British Legion meeting of war disabled ex-service men and local disabled people.

Grand Variety Show
The  " ROYALS "  Concert  Party
ARTISTES
George Hines Compering Things
Valerie Willing Youthful Steps
Eric West Singing for You
Tommy Harwood Laughs Without A Smile
Eileen Musical Memories
Johnny Qail A Little Bit of Blarney
Mich Lyden Moderns With Mich
Daphne Delaney Rhythm on Tap
Graham Hill The Voice With The Boy
Pat Monk At the Piano

_______________________

Stage Manager:

Dusty Miller

Show Produced by:

Tommy Harwood

Amplification:

Fred Tolman

_______________________

GUEST ARTISTES  from London Cabaret
Frank Bedford Violin
Bernadette Singer Guitarist

_______________________

Incidental Music by:

Ray Farrell

_______________________

Click here for the original images of the programme pages.

Tommy Harwood was a singing comedian and I recall his act.  Imagine this very tall man dressed as a schoolboy with short ill-fitting trousers giving jokes and amusing recitations with absolutely no facial expressions whatsoever.  He was able to keep a deadpan face even when the audience was in fits of laughter.  He always finished with the 1910 Music Hall song "I'm shy Mary Ellen, I'm shy" about the proverbial wimp, that also perhaps did have some rather unbecoming connotations.

Apart from being the compeer introducing the 'turns', as he would always call the entertainments, George Hines had a wonderful tenor voice and he would sing classic romantic songs in the style of Richard Tauber; "You are my Heart's Delight", "Roses of Picardy", "Ah! Sweet Mystery of Life", "Girls Were Made to Love and Kiss", "Vienna, City of my Dreams" (Vienna Mine) & etc..  You can tell from this that his bel canto voice made an impression on this then 13-year-old boy soprano.

It was a constant source of amusement that I was introduced as 'the voice with the boy'.  It was of course a misprint but Tommy was sure not to make the same mistake again.  He was a little embarrassed I recall, but I thought it funny.  

The programme above wasn't the sequence as we each had a 'turn' in the separate halves either side of the obligatory interval and, above all, I would never be put on last and never before the comic acts as my rendition of the tearjerker "Skylark" (a song about a little boy whose mother has died) would bring tears to even the hardest of the audience.  Follow that?  "No way" said Tommy!  I always had to cheer them up with a finalè of Vera Lynn's wartime song "We'll Meet Again" which was hardly the happiest of numbers either.  When my voice broke I never managed to achieve my wish to become a 'George Hines'.  Like many boy sopranos, I ended up with a voice straddling between baritone & tenor and, whilst my pitch was accurate, I struggled to achieve any richness of tone and it was sadly lost forever.

I remember Pat Monk well as we would practice my pieces often and she became somewhat of a mentor.  She was a very accomplished pianist who could change the key of any composition, whether she was sight-reading or not.  And she had to do this to accommodate the vocal range available that, especially in my case, didn't always meet the intended key demanded by the composer.  She was an excellent accompanist, as she would follow the vocalist with great care altering her timing to suit the whim of the artiste, or their mistakes!  She also knew when the artiste had messed up and on occasions gave me the modulation and timing required to get me back on track and to where I should have been going but wasn't.  Pat covered up the blunders brilliantly well!

My aunt, Eileen (my mother's youngest sibling), had a beautiful mezzo soprano voice and along with a selection of popular songs, such as "Around the World (I searched for you)", would also sing, in English, Lauretta's Solo, "Oh, My Beloved Father" ("O Mio Babbino Caro") from Puccini's Gianni Schicchi.  A beautiful arietta although, in the story line, it is wreaked with cunning and subterfuge.

I do not recall the other artistes so well although I remember that Daphne Delaney's tap dancing act was stylish and Mich Lyden had an unique, pleasingly resonant, voice that favoured those songs familiar to the followers of the Rat-Pack!  Dressed in the style of the period, sometimes complete with the spats, his mellow singing and relaxed manner was always popular.  I remember Mich drove an Austin Mayflower car that I thought was really cool, to use a modern expression to express my youthful views at the time.  Interestingly, Mich (Mick) Lyden is pictured as a very young man some 20 plus years before in the PRV Works page works photo (second row seated and second from the right).  

So the not-for-profit troupe regularly toured widely within its environs even managing a performance at the wonderful Golders Green Hippodrome (that I understand was acquired by the BBC in 1963).  I recall being awestruck when we arrived as nobody had told me what to expect (no doubt for fear I might back out) and I remember being somewhat daunted and getting a bit of stage fright there, as the audience was huge in comparison to what I had been used to.  How that special booking came about I do not know as we mostly played to smaller audiences in more modest locations such as old peoples' homes, village halls and clubs.  And at one such venue in particular on the Shepherds Bush Road we were surprised to find my mother's somewhat long-lost and elderly second cousins in the audience.

Having been active with the troupe from maybe age nine or ten, I guess I was, through nature, forcibly retired, but I believe that also coincided with the troupe's closure.  By 1960, I think, it had run its course.  But I remember having fun.  They were good days out, with exciting trips on coaches from the PRV works.  What more fun could a young lad have?

Odd how discovering a printed programme brings about memories of a distant time that I had almost forgotten!

Tommy Harwood performing
"I'm shy, Mary Ellen, I'm shy"

Unknown singer

The tenor, George Hines

A Sketch - with L to R - Unknown, Tommy Harwood,
Unknown (standing), Mich Lyden & Unknown

Barber Shop Quartet