One of the most important musical genres associated with London is the music hall song, and this needs careful handling by a classical singer. Stick your thumbs through imaginary braces and bellow ‘Let’s all go down the Strand’ and your audience will recoil in horror before you can say ‘Knocked ’em in the Old Kent Road’. But music hall was once a hugely popular part of London life, and its best songs have a comic or sentimental appeal that still entertains and convinces. Victorian Londoners were less afraid of sentiment than we are today (were they, in our modern phrase, more ‘in touch with their feminine side’?) and, keen philanthropists that they were, enjoyed wistful songs about homeless waifs and strays. One of the finest of these is Harry Dacre’s While London’s fast asleep
. Let’s not forget that there are still, in the twenty-first century, pockets of the most abject poverty in London.
from notes by Catherine Bott © 2004