Friday, March 20, 2015

Paint Table, er, Friday, music for the North West Frontier, an undetectable eclipse and Eric the Shed's Birthday!

Paint Table Saturday, which I haven't contributed to for a very long time is, naturally, on Saturday, but I am posting my paint table on Friday as Saturday is looking horrendously busy.  I did get an hour done this morning, while waiting for the invisible eclipse, on my North West Frontier British and Indians.  Front to back we have the British, the Sikhs and the Corps of Guides.  More on them in the next month or so.

Given I am back to the grinding tedium of painting figures for units (while I retain the enthusiasm) I need some good stirring music (especially as I use Humbrol enamels) to paint by.  So what to use for the 1879 colonial sub-continent?  Well if we go back to 1878 (it takes some time to get tunes from Europe to India - although the phonograph was invented by Edison in 1877 it was some time before the device could reproduce music properly) then the biggest piece we have is Tchaikovsky's fourth symphony.  However, that always reminds me of Ivanhoe as it was used for the theme music for the BBC series in 1970.  It featured Peter Dyneley as Cedric the Saxon who is best known, by me anyway, as the voice of Jeff Tracey from Thunderbirds.  "Five-Four-Three-Two-Wun!" as he memorably intoned at the beginning of each episode of my absolute favourite TV series ever.  Also premiered in that year is another favourite, Dvorak's Wind Serenade which has a rather martial sounding opening.  We also have my favourite Violin Concerto ,by Brahms, which is certainly dramatic enough.

Dropping back to 1877 there are less blockbusters in the classical word (I'm sorry ,I just don't care about Bruckner) but there is a link to an Islamic war with a European power in one popular song from that year.  This is Abdul Abulbul Amir by the Irish songwriter Percy French. The first three verses go like this:

The sons of the Prophet are brave men and bold 
And quite unaccustomed to fear, 
But the bravest by far in the ranks of the Shah, 
Was Abdul Abulbul Amir. 

If you wanted a man to encourage the van, 
Or harass the foe from the rear, 
Storm fort or redoubt, 
you had only to shout For Abdul Abulbul Amir. 

Now the heroes were plenty and well known to fame
In the troops that were led by the Czar, 
And the bravest of these was a man by the name 
Of Ivan Skavinsky Skavar.

Defence of  Beyazid, June 8th 1877 by Lev Feliksovich Lagorio,  Russian (foreground) troops and Cossacks (roof) repel the Turks (background) 

The song is a satire of the Russo-Turkish War which took place between 1877 and 1878.  Outpost Wargames Services even do a range of 28mm figures (no!) for this obscure conflict which, nevertheless had a large impact on the future of the Balkans and saw Cyprus coming under British control as a reward for Britain supporting the Ottomans against the Russians in the post-war Congress of Berlin.

The names of the heroes of the song will be very familiar to anyone from Britain of my generation, as the song was re-written for a series of  eighties TV adverts for Whitbread beer (starring a young Stephen Fry as Ivan Skavinsky Skavar).  The original song was a huge hit and was performed around the world, so is quite likely to have been sung by British soldiers in India.  Sadly for French, he sold the song for £5 to a music publisher and failed to copyright it, so never made any money from the music sales.

However, while sitting here this morning, waiting for the eclipse (a good title for a novel) doing the tedious black bits on my British (I hate doing the black bits) I was looking at my iTunes playlists and spotted the Elgar one.  Haven't played that for  a long time, I thought, as the garden stayed just as light as it had been earlier.  After the usual Pomp and Circumstance marches and other tunes (I have eight and a half hours of Elgar, I'm surprised to note) on comes the Triumphal March from his oratorio Caractacus.  This, I remembered, was used for the theme of the BBC TV series The Regiment, starring Christopher Cazenove, in the early seventies.  The first series was set in the Boer War and the second in India and the North West Frontier.  Perfect!  Victorian bombast at its best.  Slightly anachronistic, of course (it was composed in 1898 so would be perfect for Studio Miniatures North West Frontier line), but just the job!  A perfectly stirring piece with a particularly strong finale.

Charlotte's shot of the eclipse

The eclipse, in the South East of England was a great disappointment.  It was so murky anyway that I really couldn't tell the difference between eclipse and non-eclipse.  Charlotte, on the roof of the Meteorological Department in Edinburgh, had a better view and sent me some pictures she took.

The Shed in all its glory!

I can't let today pass without noting that Eric the Shed has reached his half century today.  Congratulations!  The existence of his shed has latterly made me (nearly) a wargamer, rather than just someone who vaguely paints model soldiers in  a vague style!  His focus and output is legendary!  He does amazing things with cork bark!  I hope he has a good day!


  1. Great work on those Mike Owen inspirational troops for the NWF.


  2. Love a bit of Elgar...usually followed by a bit of Vaughan Williams, though he's a bit late for the North-West Frontier.

    The figures are coming on well. I shall certainly be borrowing your colour scheme of Home Service blue for some of my units, it'll break up the Kakhi a bit.

  3. I do love the home service blue trousers with the Kakhi. Its good to see you painting units who knows you might finish them and take them to the Shed. I haven't heard that march but fortunately someone but it on youtube so I am now.

  4. Yes, there will be quite enough khaki with the rest of the army!

  5. I see some exciting stuff on your table, including boobies. I hope those are Polish Lancers in the back row.

  6. Saint-Saens' opera "Samson et Delilah" was premiered/composed (not sure which) in 1877; it has one of the best love duets in classical music, IMHO. It's a good time for late 19th century colonial wars. The new Artizan 2nd Afghan War range is very tempting.


    1. Yes, I have the Bacchanale from Samson & Delilah on my Saint-Saens playlist but that works more with the Pathans! Never really got on with French opera (apart from Carmen) - always preferred Wagner and Italian opera (probably because I used to go to La Scala a lot).