Tag Archives: The Three Belles

Singing trio’s brand spanking wartime show tells Blitz’s biggest secret

Vocal vintage-style trio The Three Belles who formed in Portsmouth three years ago need your help.

The popular trio are heading to Edinburgh to launch London Life, a riotous comedy revue based on the little-known “specialist” magazine from the 1930s and 1940s.

"Dig for Victory!" (photo copyright (c) Beck Photographic www.beckphotographic.com
“Dig for Victory!”
(photo copyright (c) Beck Photographic www.beckphotographic.com

The normally reserved singers decided to put on the show after stumbling on a pile of London Life magazines in an antiques shop.

“We started reading the magazines and couldn’t believe what we were seeing,” explains Anneka Wass of The Three Belles. “Because this magazine, published in the middle of the war was dedicated to people with very particular fads – like wearing rubber or spanking.  It was in fact, a World War 2 fetish magazine.”

A cover from a 1941 issue of London Life
A cover from a 1941 issue of London Life

She goes on to say that after they picked their jaws up off the floor they began to see the comedy potential.

“Their stories are often funny, poignant and sometimes moving. They never spoke about it in public, but these people decided to seek fun in unconventional ways at a time when rubber, leather and clothing was strictly rationed.  It’s never rude, always in good taste – but extremely funny.”

True stories in the show include the woman who made herself a rubber dress from bath curtains only to nearly choke on rubber fumes after sitting in front of a fire, or the married couple who discovered a stiff-upper-lipped love of cross-dressing at a Christmas party.

“The background to their lives is danger,” says Sally Taylor, also of The Three Belles. “It’s tragi-comic. It’s never been told before.”

The Three Belles will be weaving 1940s songs into the show such as Gimme Some Skin, Beat Me Daddy Eight To The Bar, and the earlier Masculine Women, Femine Men.

In order to take the show to Edinburgh, the singers need to raise £10,000 to cover expenses.

“It’s not a cheap business going to the Fringe,” says third Belle Isabelle Moore. “We need help, and have launched a fundraising campaign on Indiegogo that runs until May 24th. Remember, your Belles Need You!”

London Life, The True Story of the Secret Kinks of World War 2 will premiere in July in London before transferring to the Edinburgh Fringe on August 11th.

To find out more about The Three Belles show go to: http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/the-three-belles-go-to-edinburgh-fringe#home

For more information about London Life magazine: http://Londonlifemagazine.org


You Didn’t Know – The Three Belles and Bevin Boys “In Full Swing” CD track review

You Didn’t Know, the sixth track on the Three Belles new album “In Full Swing” was written by the Bevin Boys’ Will Keel-Stocker.

The Three Belles present their new debut album "In Full Swing".
The Three Belles present their new debut album “In Full Swing”.

It begins as a torch song with the lines:

“I didn’t know that you were looking for me last night / I wasn’t home when you called round. / You didn’t know, I saw I saw you leave with her last night / My baby in the arms of another / So it’s true you’ve found a love in somebody new / Just when I was feeling that our own love was true…”

The tremolo in the vibraphone backs up the melancholy message, maintaining a wistfulness throughout.

But as is so true to the Belles, these girls shake off their blues and get on with life, turning the situation round once again, never wallowing, always doing.

In the merry fast world the Belles live in, by the end of the song the situation is fully reversed. Along the way, there’s an irresistibly catchy melody, backed with the Belles’ trademark harmonies and each of the girls get to show off their solo singing voices.

Sally / Gail’s voice has a wonderful crystal clarity to it. Anneka / Betty’s has a richness, while Isabelle / Dorothy’s has smooth deeper tones that remind me sometimes of Judy Garland’s, of warmth and valve radios.

In all a chilled out number that varies the pace beautifully between Say Si Si and the next track on the album, In Full Swing…

Order your copy of The Three Belles debut Album, In Full Swing.

“One of these days” by The Three Belles “In Full Swing” Album Track Review

The Three Belles present their new debut album "In Full Swing".
The Three Belles present their new debut album “In Full Swing”.

From the big catchy horn intro, settling into the harmonised melody, “One Of These Days” feels like a traditional 1930s number, maybe in the style of “Why Don’t You Do Right?”

The singers seem to be following the traditional role of the woman singer hard done by with her useless man.  “One of these days you’re gonna do something right / you’ll work all day and you’ll come home at night…”

But this number is one of those wolves in sheep’s clothing that definitely has a bite.  It’s a modern number with modern sensibilities – and rather than the helpless victimhood of songs like “All Of Me” in which the woman is paralysed by the grief she receives from her man, The Three Belles have something far more punchy to tell you.  By the end of the song, they are giving their fellah an ultimatum – and eventually the big kiss-off.

Just as Amy Winehouse did with Motown that had a distinctly modern feel, it’s a wonderful example of the way that modern sentiment can be expressed in the voice of the past.

Once again the arrangements here are cracking – like a big number from a Hollywood movie.

Sally Taylor, AKA Gail Winters solos in this one, with her clear voice cutting the man down to size with every syllable she utters.  This is a great number, that signs off with a cruel “bye bye”.

Vintage stuff!

Order your copy of The Three Belles debut Album, In Full Swing.

“Belles Are Swingin’” by The Three Belles “In Full Swing” Album Track Review

The second track on The Three Belles’ In Full Swing debut album is their bubbly signature song Belles Are Swingin’.

The Three Belles present their new debut album "In Full Swing".
The Three Belles present their new debut album “In Full Swing”.

For those who’ve bought the single, this wholly new version of Belles Are Swingin’ will come as a real eye-opener.  Gone is the stripped-down Bevin Boys trio of the single, to be replaced with the full big band sound of the WKS Studio Orchestra.

From the trumpet riff intro with the bouncing bass line and a foghorn bass horn marking the end of each lyrical line and the start of the next, this version of Belles Are Swingin’ is an extraordinarily catchy gem of a signature song.

After the initial warm nostalgic brass chords that hark back to golden times of sunshine along with a triumphant trumpet’s declaration of the melody, the horns pull back to make plenty of space for the vocals.  In that space, the guitar bounces the song along with a strong bass line punching underneath it all. As the melody goes on, the excitement grows and the horn lines come back in again blending their ’30s dance orchestra feel.

Swinging along with a bass line that underpins the melody perfectly, the song suddenly erupts into a higher level when the chorus kicks in with a luscious harmony and the girls split into a wider harmonic spread telling us they want to “see the whole place jumping” and that we should “get with the rhythm, you gotta learn how”. With this tune, that’s easy to do.

Then, with wonderful attention to dynamics, the song drops down so the girls are singing over a stripped-down rhythm section before the song comes back strong with the finale as the whole orchestra joins in.

It’s a vibrant mix drawing on thirties and forties harmonies, but with a modern drive that pushes the melody irresistibly along.

Thanks to Will Keel-Stocker’s close attention to the arrangement there ere are so many different textures in this song.

It leaves you knowing you’ve heard real class.   And damned catchy class at that, too!

Order your copy of The Three Belles debut Album, In Full Swing.

The Three Belles New CD “In Full Swing” Track Review: “In The Mood”

I’ve been handed an advance copy of The Three Belles’ debut album In Full Swing.

It’s so fresh the cover hasn’t yet been printed, so the piccie below only shows the disc, adorned with the unmistakably vibrant artwork of fourth Belle, Chloe Seddon.

The Three Belles present their new debut album "In Full Swing".
The Three Belles present their new debut album “In Full Swing”.

In Full Swing‘s first track is the Glenn Miller classic In The Mood. It’s a great choice for an opener. Familiar to big band and Belles fans alike, it’s also the name of the super-popular dance night they pack out when The Belles stage their fab, fun recreation of a forties dance.

While the track sounds familiar at first, kicking off with the classic Glen Miller riff,  it also has its surprises, breaking out from the smooth Miller arrangement with unexpected orchestral stabs and with the girls’ close harmonies driving the track along with boundless energy. It’s really cool to hear The Three Belles heading in a whole new direction in this track, fronting a big band as they vivaciously perform this absolute gem of a tune.

What I can say about In The Mood is that with this track the album starts as it means to go on: it’ll come as a familiar friend to forties fans and will also be a welcome bit of joy for the lover of swing and the connoisseur of great sounds. It feels modern and vintage all at once.

In The Mood’s fresh swinging sound is brought to you by The Three Belles and the WKS Studio Orchestra led by the extraordinarily gifted William Keel-Stocker, whose arrangements and energy shine throughout this lovely opener.

For Belles afficionados who know the girls’ work well, there’s more freshness and fun to come. But more of that soon!

Advance order your copy of In Full Swing!


After You’ve Gone – What Next After The Three Belles and Sing Sing Sing?

The Three Belles - fond memories...

A forlorn sight meets the eyes of the Pompeyite out for a walk on Southsea Common a few days after the circus leaves town.

A circle of yellowed grass and a few handfuls of sawdust are all that tell of the wonders that paraded, galloped, shimmered and sparkled there only days before beneath the Big Top. Standing at the ring’s centre, the roars of laughter, the gasps of amazement, bursts of applause and shouts of joy are silent; the only movement a few dried stalks in the sea breeze.

I know that departed circus feeling so well. It’s 3.45 in the morning after The Three Belles put on their show Sing Sing Sing at the New Theatre Royal in Portsmouth and my mind is still buzzing with the triumphs of the night, still blaring in the silence that has now come.

The Three Belles - fond memories...
The Three Belles – fond memories…

Fast forward two years, with a ton of other writing jobs and Belles adventures in between. The latest step in developing their original idea came in a very short time – just 6 brief weeks. In mid-December, I’d immersed myself in reading a full history of World War 2, then poring over eyewitness accounts of the Blitz and watching hours and hours of documentaries and war films. After that, we had a meeting at my house in which I presented to them a storyline for a completely revamped show. The idea was to take  elements from previous shows we’d worked on, add more depth of characterisation and more character interaction so that we could unfold a story of humour, tragedy, pathos and drama in a setting of beautiful music.

The new script proper was started on 2nd January by all of us to an agreed plan, completed on the 18th and rehearsed relentlessly for the next two weeks. I by no means wrote it all – it was a genuinely shared project with emails flying between us in a frenzy of writing activity.  We steered it along together, creating, nipping and tucking as we went, quietly focused on what we wanted, changing lines, adding scenes and working collaboratively in a way that was completely new for me.

Before then I had virtually stalked The Three Belles! I had caught them in live shows whenever I could so I could learn the rhythms of their natural speech and the qualities, pitches and timbres of their spoken voices.  Now, writing for their characters alongside them and seeing them deliver the lines we had written was utterly fascinating. There were times I got it wrong. There were times when their inventiveness amazed me. And there were times when it just felt absolutely right that a scene should be such a shape, or have such an outcome.

Those rehearsals were intensive and they were fun. The sheer hard work and professionalism of The Three Belles and of William Keel-Stocker left me feeling delighted just to know them.

Then came performance night.

There is a moment before a show when there are just hours to go and a writer has nothing left to do except sit there, hold his breath and cross his fingers while the actors and stage crew work it all out. Would it work?  Would it all come together? I felt sick with not knowing if we’d got it right. Had I got the rhythm of the scenes right, did the narrative arcs work? Would the audience like it?

The answer was a very big YES. The cast were magnificent. From the opening in which Will introduced the Belles – right the way through to the roar of the crowd at the end, the show had a vibrancy and joy that lifted people up.  It was a fantastic night.

Now I wonder what I’m going to do next? I’ve lived and breathed The Three Belles’ world for the last 6 weeks: reading, writing, sleeping, dreaming, waking and creating.

My mind’s a yellowed circle of grass. I wonder what new tent will pitch up here? What new show? What characters will dance before me in the Big Top of my mind’s eye?

I don’t know. All I know for now is that this was a fabulous night and the hard work was so very, very worth it.

As for the next project… Well. We shall see!

Dorothy’s Response To Hearing There Are Only 50 Tickets Left for Sing Sing Sing

I told Dorothy there were only 50 tickets left for Sing Sing Sing at The New Theatre Royal on February 2nd.  This was her response…

Dotty… Profound thoughts from the songstress…
Dotty… Profound thoughts from the songstress…


Sing Sing Sing with The Three Belles – Nearly Sold Out – Rehearsal Piccies…

Another fascinating day with The Three Belles, Joe Bishop and Will Keel-Stocker today. Full rehearsal this time, with props and full stage layout.  The next time we work this, it will be at The New Theatre Royal in rehearsals on Saturday.

Here are some shots I snapped today:

Gail Prepares for the worst....
Gail Prepares for the worst….


Will and Anneka Dance Dance Dance while Izzie looks on.
Will and Anneka Dance Dance Dance while Izzie looks on.

It has been quite an experience. I’ve never written like this before – in a pragmatic and collaborative way, and it opens up whole new possibilities.  Fascinating stuff.

My thoughts?

How hard everyone has worked!  From Chloe, the sound and lights woman closely annotating the script, through the Belles learning lines, working the staging, perfecting their characters and applying themselves to selling tickets – through Joe Bishop working up his character, and how he has managed to arrange a surprise guest appearance, to Will Keel-Stocker making the music happen, arranging the scores and in between times learning his lines, too.  I suppose I have worked on it, too, but this has been such a positive experience it hasn’t felt like work.

Latest news is the Dress Circle is sold out, the stalls are nearly full and the theatre has now opened the Upper Circle.

You can get your tickets for Sing Sing Sing from the New Theatre Royal, here.  The show will be on Saturday 2nd February, at 7.30 pm.

The Three Belles – Next Round of Rehearsals

Well, another fascinating day at “the office” with a full run-through of Sing Sing Sing. Will Keel-Stocker added an extra layer to the proceedings, with his easy smile and questioning brain.

There were some really interesting moments as The Belles took hold of their characters and begin to inhabit them more.  Here are some thoughts about each character, as I saw them start to blossom and grow:

Betty – rich, impulsive, living for the moment. Betty is neither good nor bad, but a bundle of self-interest whose real pay-off in life is enjoying the now. She’s also a Polar Responder. If you tell her she can’t do something, she’ll do it, just to prove you’re wrong. It makes her morally complex, and at times unpredictable – both in her thoughtlessness and her generosity. She is exciting because of it, prone to daydreaming and being creative – and is also morally ambiguous and certainly not the best person to go to for advice.

Gailpoor, smart, feisty – she’s a redhead who will put you in your place if you step out of line.  Gail is your salt of the Earth working class gal, who says what’s on her mind.  She’s all too aware of her vulnerability in a world in which her hometown is being flattened around her. Unlucky in love, she’s looking for a man who can do right by her, and although she is at times hostile to “Lady Muck” Betty, she also knows Betty has a certain careless charm that she wants to learn. Watch out for Gail losing her temper – because when she blows her stack, it’s nuclear.

DorothyA sweet-natured and honest young middle class woman who has just married, and whose man is away fighting.  Dorothy is steady, reliable and caring. She has a sweet generosity in her nature that is fed by her faith.  She always sees the good in people, and trusts in Providence that things will work out right.  She loves Gail and Betty very much, and although she sometimes becomes exasperated with the latter, she maintains an optimism that Betty will grow and mature in time to become a moral person.  Whether she is right, needs to be seen!

So, a few thoughts.  We are working on the final notes as we go along.  It’s getting exciting!

Tickets for Sing Sing Sing are available here.

The Three Belles – Sing Sing Sing Script Sign-off!

So, with two weeks to work it up, The Three Belles and I signed off the new incarnation of “Sing Sing Sing” on Sunday!

The Greenwich Court Wrens at play...
The Greenwich Court Wrens at play…

This came during a weekend which included a fantastic Saturday night at The King Street Tavern, where the Belles did their magic to a packed, raucous house.

I’d had my head down on the script all day, ironing out minor problems and reworking some of the  scenes from early morning, then turned up (flagging a little from not seeing the light of day!) at the pub to have it reconfirmed why I love working with these women. Brilliant is the word.

Back home, rather unsteady on my feet after a good few beers, then a quick review of the script with Anneka on Sunday morning  – and boom – done.  Great feeling sending it off, getting their minor edits back and then it was finished.

Things get lively...
Things get lively…

It’s a funny old thing. The work has been intense in a short time on this script and it leaves a bit of a hole for me to fill. That thing that happens when suddenly the close intense thinking you were doing comes to a halt. But then, I’m excited about  seeing it come to life.

Rehearsals, here we come!

Sing Sing Sing! will be performed on 2nd February 2013 at The New Theatre Royal. Click here to book now!