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Club Sandwich 74

            'Mistress And Maid'. "Pleased to meet you, your majesty, and are you familiar with the term 'appealing soubrette'?"
            And let's not even mention that Sally Burgess is going to sing the beautifully smoochy George and Ira Gershwin number 'How Long Has This Been Going On?'
            Actually, let's. Back in rehearsals Sally Burgess was running through 'How Long Has This Been Going On?' in such a way as to show that opera stars can also get their rocks off. It wasn't just the jazzy, smoky, three-in-the-morning-in-a-club style that she gave the song that suggested this, it was the way in which she stretched out the last "word - "on" - as awww... awww... aww... awwwwwn nnnn", in a way that reminded me, if nobody else, of that cafe scene in When Harry Met Sally.
            Ms Burgess's jazz theme continued as she began to knead her voice around 'Do You Know Who You Are?' which she first sang, in the role of a hospital nurse, in Liverpool Cathedral at the premiere of Paul McCartney's Liverpool Oratorio. Now, in the capacity of this soothing Siren, she made the song seem to massage the back of my neck and left me almost too relaxed to applaud.
            Not so relaxed, I thought, was Anya Alexeyev - not only did she have to perform A Leaf next, she had to perform it with Paul McCartney and Elvis Costello listening on. Which is a bit like singing 'Jerusalem' at school speech day only to find William Blake popping into the hall to hear you.
            Looking back at my notes now I see that I wrote the word "enchanting" against A Leaf. I didn't mean that in a gin and tonicky sense - "dahleeng, your dress is enchanting" - I meant it in an Oxford Paperback Dictionary sense: "enchant v.l. to put under a magic spell". Club Sandwich 74
            And it did. It enchanted. I'd never before heard this piano piece - or piano prelude as I understand it should be called - but for its full ten minutes I could imagine this little leaf floating and swirling in puffs and gusts of breezes and gales. And I'm seeing the whole thing in my head, an oak leaf of olde England wafting over dells and dales. I'm even seeing yeomen and villeins hoeing and scything the water meadows and a little brook winding down to a citadel in the distance. [The 1995 Pulitzer Sandwich Prize For Poetic Waffle goes to G Baker for this last sentence - Ed.]
            Good gear, this Leaf.
            "Very good, very nice," said a Liverpool accent at the end of it, quipping, "Almost as good as my Dad. No, not your Dad, luv, my Dad."
            As Anya's relief filled the stage, the point hit home that her doing this premiere in all her relative unknownship was the whole point of this benefit night. If it was just a matter of raising a few quid for the Royal College of Music, Macca could rope in friends like Clapton, Collins, Gabriel and Jagger - besides Elvis - and raise a whole bunch. Never mind St James's Palace for an audience of three hundred, do a show in St James's Park for three hundred thousand if need be.
            But the fund-raising is only part of the plan. The real point, and the best way to help young musicians, is like this scene here with Anya - to provide her with a platform, to showcase her classically-trained but scarcely known talent alongside the universally known but entirely untrained (or "untamed" as Elvis put it) talent of McCartney/Mac Manus.
            A few days later and we're backstage at the Palace again, this time for The Big Event. Out front, the Lords and Ladies have parked their bums, HRH is plumped up on his port cushions, the lights have dimmed and Paul's out on the stage introducing Anya and "a new piano piece what I wrote".
            "For me," he adds, "this sums up