Thoroughly Good

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Benjamin Britten vs. Sid James

The likeness between composer Benjamin Britten and notorious lethario and Carry On star Sid James is uncanny. Judge for yourself below.

Benjamin Britten and Sid James Lookalike

I can’t lay claim to having identified the resemblance myself. In the great tradition of media cliches, this idea is not my own. It’s someone elses. I’ve nicked it. What makes me a classy fella though, is that I’m prepared to be transparent about my mild deception. Not everyone is prepared to be so honest in the competitive media world, I hasten to add. So, stick with me. I’m one of the good ones.

When the Britten-James revelation was discovered (or rather, revealed to me at least) earlier this week during a meeting with a colleague, I found myself immediately conflicted. Hearty laughs were quickly followed by an overbearing sense of propriety. Even now – a few days later – I’m thinking the same way.

Britten seems to me at least, untouchable. Not perfect, obviously. Not without sin. But a composer, an artist. Someone whose life – not to mention the efforts of subsequent scholars attempt to narrate that life – poses more questions than it answers. A life that is interesting not just because of the man himself but because of his legacy as well.

It’s not that such consideration should only be serious if it is to be valid (and generally accepted amongst other devotees and scholars). One presumes for example that Britten liked to and did laugh. He was a human being after all. He couldn’t have been pompous and sour-faced all the time. So on that basis, surely a bit of irreverence is OK, isn’t it?

In fact, given the pomposity that so many level at the classical music world as the root of its projected long-range decline, you’d think that us serious fuddy-duddy disconnected self-obsessed out-of-touch devotees would be crying out for an opportunity to poke fun at one of our heroes, wouldn’t we?

Or is it too soon to do that with Britten? I’m not sure yet. At the moment, I’m wondering whether irreverence could be interpreted as poking fun at other people’s intelligence. Giggling like a schoolboy about ‘Penetrating Wagner’s Ring‘ seems absolutely appropriate. Poking fun at Britten seems oddly unfair.

I am indebted to the marvellous Aldeburgh Alumnus & former Britten-Pears School Woodwind Tutor Nicholas Daniel for bringing my attention to the ghastly Britten-Pears Cufflinks currently on sale in the town and – conveniently – also here online. I kid you not. It seems I’m way behind the pack.

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Benjamin Britten

Jon Jacob • February 2, 2013


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