Manchester 1938

QHCF 1938 Tour Opens in the UK

DjangoStudioPose

2nd – 4th July: 1938 –
Ardwick Hippodrome, Manchester

– with Scandinavian entertainer ‘Carola Merrild‘ a Danish Film Star compering and singing for all or just part of the tour including the London Palladium. Django missed the 1st couple of concerts because he did not bother to obtain a passport as he thought he was so famous he could enter the UK without one. He was turned back at Folkestone and had to return to Paris to get it.

Carola Merrild

Carola MerrildStarted as a Jazz Singer, Her 1st film was “Weekend” and sang as Carola Merrild, but was later given a key role in 4 more Danish films, she also got good receptions in England. She was even offered a contract with Paramount, but instead turned back to Denmark when war was declared.  She had 2 children. After a divorce she put her singing career on the shelf and went instead into the clothing industry as the leader of a workroom. Later, she designs confectionery and she started a company in 1948 with her new husband Ole Carlsson. The company closed in 1972. After some years of work in Aarhus she returned to private life and lived in Sandbjerg north of Copenhagen.

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Django and Stephane with Carola Merrild

ArdwickHippodrome1958

This grand historic building opened on 18 July 1904 as the Ardwick Green Empire Theatre and, in 1935, was renovated and re-named the New Manchester Hippodrome after the closure of the 1st Manchester Hippodrome in Oxford Street.

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La Chope des Puces in Saint-Ouen with a poster from the Manchester Hippodrome
La Chope des Puces 1965

The Django Reinhardt Concert

In the December 1976 edition of Guitar Magazine Charlie Scott shared this story with the readers:

It’s the year 1938– the date, Monday, July the 4th. The place – the Ardwick Hippodrome, Manchester. From behind the curtains comes the sound of a guitar – Appel Direct backed, a moment later by a solid tramping but lifting beat, and the resonant biting attack of a fiercely rhythmic violin. As the curtains swing open a roar of applause surges from the audience – drowns the music for a brief moment – and subsides as the jazz aficionados of Lancashire settle down to hear the music of their idol.  Here Django Reinhardt sits, against the contrasting background of the elegant, slim, white-jacketed standing figure of the violinist Stephane Grappelli, Django’s dress trousers hoisted carelessly up to reveal a bare calf above the top of a sock; feet clad in what looks like his street boots. The legend has come to life.

The 1st number finishes in a roar of adulation. You think: Applaud, clap until your hands are sore. He MUST play again, before we wake up and the dream dissolves. Nonchalantly Django acknowledges the plaudit with a wry, half-smile, and sweeps into another number – Limehouse Blues this time, lifted along by the solid 4-in-a-bar of the 2 other guitars and the deep rubbery thump of the plucked bass. The violin plays the 1st chorus ‘straight’, with a cool and dispassionate, almost Oriental, tone, followed by an incredible Grappelli virtuoso improvisation – and then it’s Django again! Chromatic runs bubble up from the base and stream up, unbroken, through 3 octaves. Still we can’t believe it. Rumour has it that 2 fingers of his left hand were paralysed and distorted by fire yet with the 2 remaining fingers he produces music which would defy the efforts of a many-handed maestro.

A slow number now Moonglow– with an introduction of falling cadences of augmented chords. Remember! Up to this time the guitar enthusiasts of the 1930’s– a rather misunderstood and oppressed minority – had received the records of Django with near disbelief, accompanied as they were by fragmentary and conflicting rumours about the elusive genius: ‘Only TWO fingers? -The records are speeded up in recording’ . . .

Chorus follows chorus in a rising tide of excitement and at the end of their act, curtain after curtain, and repeated encores until finally the elated crowd pour out into the dusk of a summer evening.

A few of us went backstage one morning after rehearsals to meet Django Reinhardt in person (I recall the faces of Terry Usher, John (then) – Jack Duarte, Peter Sloan and other Manchester early guitar stalwarts). Django spoke no English and we but a little, bad schoolboy French. Stephane Grappelli did the honours and conveyed our congratulations, enthusiasms and questions.

‘How did he do that long chromatic run in his record of Some of these days? His left hand did something between the nut and the 15th fret – and the faultless, smooth, scale rippled from his guitar. We looked puzzled. Again he obliged – but sadly we realised we were none the wiser – we never would be!

Could we have an autograph? Laboriously (and proudly) he scrawled ‘D. Reinhardt’ (sic) THREE times on my programme.

In a corner of the room the plump, swarthy and jovial figure of (Nadine) Madame Reinhardt sat, measuring us up with a slight sardonic smile, as if secretly amused that these mad English boys should so obviously worship her Django. Out on stage, in the theatre, an act had just finished a band call rehearsal and the orchestra played a few desultory bars of the National Anthem. An impish smile flitted across the round swarthy face as Django’s fingers danced over the strings in a deliberately corny little syncopated caricature of the staid tune.

I don’t remember how, or when, we left, but I shall always have with me the memory of when I saw Django, and his innate sense of fun shining out in that little intimate musical joke. – Charlie Scott

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