Unknown P G Wodehouse songs found in family attic
DOZENS of unknown songs written by P G Wodehouse have been discovered by his great-grandson, Hal Cazalet, in the attic of the family home near Lewes, in East Sussex.
The lyrics were written between 1905 and 1935 for the Broadway musicals upon which Wodehouse forged his early career. Although some of his songs, like Anything Goes and You're The Top, were recorded and achieved lasting fame, there are many that have not been heard since their live performances.
Mr Cazalet, 31, an opera singer, believes that they are just as worthy of critical acclaim. He will be performing the cream of the new collection at a concert on Wednesday in the Library of Congress in Washington with his sister, Lara, and the soprano, Sylvia McNair. He plans a similar concert in London in November.
In addition, Mr Cazalet has recorded 16 of the songs, and a CD entitled The Land Where Good Songs Go will be on sale in record shops in Britain in September. Mr Cazalet said last week: "Finding the songs was like exploring a gold mine from a lost era. Had P G Wodehouse died in 1925 rather than in 1975 he would have been remembered as a great lyricist."
Although Wodehouse is now primarily remembered as the champion of chinless wonders and bossy grande dames, he had a career as a lyricist in the years before and after the First World War. In 1917 he had five shows simultaneously on Broadway.
Mr Cazalet said that his father, the High Court judge Sir Edward Cazalet, had catalogued the songs but never thought of doing anything with them. "I was very uneducated about the musical side of P G Wodehouse's life - but once I found these songs I became fascinated by it. One gets the impression he had a twinkle in his eye when he was writing these songs."
One example of that twinkle, he added, was If I Ever Lost You, which was set to music by Ivor Novello for a show called The Golden Moth in 1921. The song, which is as much a testament to the cuisine of Britain between the wars as to Wodehouse's inability to write love poetry with a straight face, goes:
Think how sad a carrot would be if no boiled beef was near
Think how sad an egg would feel if ham should disappear
Think how a sausage's hopes would be dashed if one day it awoke and missed its mash
Or what grief a steak would feel if it found that there wasn't an onion around
Wodehouse collaborated with a number of the leading Broadway lyricists, composers and singers of his day including Cole Porter, Jerome Kern, Guy Bolton and George Gershwin. His most celebrated song Bill, from Showboat, was, Mr Cazalet says, "deliberately unconventional".
"Rather than those huge, florid cadenzas that Sullivan wrote for Gilbert, it was more normal, something audiences could relate to. It was sophisticated with real dialogue that flowed effortlessly and was tongue-in-cheek".
It was the publication and subsequent success of The Inimitable Jeeves in 1923 that put an end to Wodehouse's career in musicals. Mr Cazalet, who trained as a singer at Guildhall in London, lives in New York where he has performed for the composer Philip Glass.
He said: "I feel a closeness to my great-grandfather. But I am not recording these songs because he is a relative - they are of real interest. The songs are often profound and dreamily romantic."