An Ode to Guy Noble

Have you ever been to a classical music event that could have been jaw-droppingly boring, except Guy Noble was there to save the day? I have.

There was one in particular — an orchestra’s media launch — which began with the customary speeches by sponsors, politicians and management. You know the type? Overly serious, using big words like “responsibility”. I’m sure these people were brilliant at their jobs and had better things to do than write speeches worthy of a TED conference. But did they HAVE to be so dry? Would it have killed them to throw in a little tap dancing?

You’re supposed to be gracious at these functions, I know. Stand still, smile, don’t drop the mini spring rolls you stalked the waiter for. But as the speeches dragged on, I felt like a fidgety primary school kid being held hostage at Monday morning assembly. I wanted to throw my pencil case at the school principal (not that I’ve ever done that). I just wanted to be entertained.

Then, to the great relief of me and probably many others in the room, Guy Noble took the mic. A conductor, ABC Classic FM broadcaster, Limelight columnist and many other musical things, Guy has that enviable ability to get on stage and actually look like he’s having fun. He uses wit and whimsy to make the audience feel at ease. Heck, he’ll even don a silly hat if necessary.

And if you’ve ever seen him in performance, you’ll know he’s one of those few maestros who will (shock, horror) turn around and chat to the audience! How refreshing is it to be at a concert where you feel involved? I’m not likening orchestral musicians to dead people, but Guy works like a supernatural musical “medium” — translating the language of the classical music realm to us Muggles. Rumour has it he was seen buying his baton in Diagon Alley.

I’ve also come to look forward to reading his Limelight “Soapbox” column every month, a treasure trove of humour and wisdom about the magical world of music. But when his column spread to the Limelight blog, and even turned up one day in song form, I decided it was time to turn the tables. The maestro needed his own theme song!

So I wrote An Ode to Guy Noble, a musical tribute with a whimsical style to suit. I did it to show my appreciation, but also did it for a writing and composing challenge. I just couldn’t go past the opportunity to play around with the double meanings of “guy” and “noble”. Plus, trying to fit “noble” into a song was a challenge in itself!

It’s not an elegant word to sing. The end syllable disappears beneath your tongue and you can’t hold it over long notes. You risk sounding like a turkey: “Noble Noble, gobble gobble”. (Sorry Guy, but it’s true!). There’s also very little that rhymes with “Noble” and I wasn’t willing to write a chorus as obvious as “Guy Noble / One day he’ll go global”. But as you’ll hear, I found a way to sneak it into the verses as an ongoing theme, rather than shine a spotlight on it in the choruses. And no turkeys were harmed in the process!

As for content? I didn’t go into this half-heartedly! I googled Guy’s biography to find out more about his work, and noted that he’s often described as being “versatile”. Hence came the idea for the chorus.

I also sifted through a few of Guy’s columns, looking for common themes. I noticed his lamentations over the state of the arts today, and came up with the "saviour" angle for the verses: “There’s a Guy who’ll say that Bach will keep us Noble”.

So, I dedicate this silly song to Guy Noble out of appreciation for his own art of silliness on stage and in print. May he keep us entertained for years to come, and one day, go global...

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Wendy Lang
Wendy Lang is a singer and clarinet player who likes to examine the world in the most whimsical way possible. A sunny Brisbane native, she works at 4MBS Classic FM where she has gained two of her most boast-worthy experiences - interviewing Sting's lute player and helping to break the curse of the Gothic Symphony. She divides the rest of her time between two musical opposites - writing quirky pop songs and performing serious folk music from the Balkans and the Middle East.
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