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Joined: 15 Jun 2006
Posts: 1341
Location: Portland, OR

Programme Guide to That Obscure Hurt
Wed Jun 12, 2013 4:09 am
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That Obscure Hurt reimagines Henry James' ghost story, The Jolly Corner, relocating it from an apartment block in New York to a jazz club in Soho.

There is a prologue about the dance bands who worked on the transatlantic liners. The Cunard dance bands ("Geraldo's Navy") are legendary in the jazz world - musicians such as Ronnie Scott, John Dankworth and Stan Tracey would sign on with the sole intention of rushing ashore in NYC to hear the new music being played in the clubs of 52nd Street and the Village by modern jazz giants such as Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, and Bud Powell.

Originally there were no songs or spoken narration planned for That Obscure Hurt. But as things developed, Guy Barker began hearing songs, and while experimenting with an idea for the prologue set in NYC, all he could hear in his head was Kurt Elling's voice. And so Kurt was asked to play Harry Prince, Harry Prince Jr., and Spencer Brydon. Then it became apparent that a different form of narration was required in addition to Kurt's vocals, so British actress and mezzo soprano Janie Dee was invited to narrate.

That Obscure Hurt has numerous allusions to Britten and James. Britten wrote a ballet called "The Prince of the Pagodas" from which Harry Prince's name and home club are taken. Curlew Rivers, a dissolute jazzman, also appears as a character; "Curlew River" is one of Britten's church parables.

According to Robert Ryan, "that obscure hurt" refers to the unrequited love Alice feels, and it could also refer to the missing two fingers of the ghostly apparition in The Jolly Corner. Henry James also called the mysterious injury he suffered as a young man his "obscure hurt," which may have led to his lifelong disinterest in marriage.

On his blog, Ryan has posted these notes about the structure of That Obscure Hurt:

These are the notes the audience at Snape will have as a guide to the piece's structure. It is based on The Jolly Corner by Henry James, but is set on a Transatlantic ship, New York in the late '40s and Soho present day. Spot the Benjamin Britten references (because there's none in the music).

Music by Guy Barker.

PART ONE. Prologue: An Atlantic Overture.

Early 1950s. The English musicians of Geraldo's Navy arrive at the docks in awe at the size of their ship, the SS Lucretia. As they board the ship, the captain and the crew bark at the disorientated new hands, sending them this way and that, looking for their cabins, their instruments, their gig and then, as they set sail into rough seas, the newcomers try unsuccessfully to find their sea legs. Eventually, they locate their berths and settle into work and, over the sounds of the ocean, we hear the strains of the dance band and we find ourselves momentarily in the Verandah Ballroom before the skyline of Manhattan makes in appearance. The excited musicians drop their instruments and scuttle ashore. They take in the sights, sounds and throbbing energy of the city exciting and intimidating in equal measure. They find themselves on 52nd St.

PART TWO. Prince At the Pagoda.

Early 1950s. The jazz club on 52nd St where the musicians listen in rapture to host Harry Prince as the band plays a roaring be-bop piece that incorporates passages from the solos of the great modern jazz maters of that era: Bud Powell, Fats Navarro and even a four-bar quote from Dizzy Gillespie's "Ow".

PART THREE. In Darkness.

Present Day. Spencer Brydon is watching CCTV from a remote location and sees the 'ghost' haunting his club (Gordie's or AMJG) in Soho, London. An account of the encounter is read out by Jennifer Muldoon, an investigator into psychic phenomena.

PART FOUR. Opus 50 / A Time There Is

Present Day. Spencer, still reeling from the images he saw on the CCTV, visits the Soho jazz club (Gordie's, above) he inherited from his father, which is in its final week of operation before its proposed sale. Harry Prince Jr. the son of the man Spencer's father saw in NYC all those years ago sings a song about the passage of time.

PART FIVE. Powder Monkey.

1960s flashback. Harry Prince Jr., with a little help from Alice Staverton, the club manager, evokes the sounds of the club in its sixties heyday.

PART SIX. Notturno.

Spencer is alone in the club after hours, the room silent and deserted, the tables with empty glasses, the walls slick with 60 years of smoke and sweat and the echo of all the music that has been played and is about to disappear forever.

PART SEVEN. A Kind of Ghost.

Spencer becomes aware he is not alone. He glimpses a figure. He chases him backstage, terrified but determined to confront the spectre. But the ghost doesn't want to be caught it is elusive and playful, giggling, darting and dancing (in one instance to a tango) through the club, shredding Spencer's already taut nerves, until, finally, an exhausted Spencer manages to corner the phantom. When he finally does confront the 'ghost', he realises he is looking at a different version of himself. This was the terrifying image he saw on the CCTV. This is the man he would have been, had he not left London for exile. But this ghost is suffering he has cancer, is constantly chewing nicotine gum to suppress the urge for the cigarettes that have killed him. He has come to warn Spencer. And enlighten him.

PART EIGHT. I Hid My Love.

Spencer reels yet again at the revelations from his other self (musically, the brass chorale in Opus 50 reappears, but this time played on the strings). The ghost departs and Spencer discovers cans of old film from the days when his father was alive. He plays the Super-8 movies and sings a song about the love of his father (and Alice), and how he denied it. This piece is designed to echo 'the sounds of the era of The Great American Songbook'.

PART NINE. Alice's Gift.

Alice finds Spencer passed out in the club. She wakes him. He reveals what the ghost told him - that Alice has paid off the gangsters who had been threatening him and that she has saved the club if he wants to keep it, he can. Alice makes a speech explaining herself and finally declaring her love for Spencer. He realises he has been a fool he can have the club, and Alice, too.

PART TEN. Floods of Noise.

The spirits of every musician who has ever played the club celebrates, including a reprise of Powder Monkey.


Joined: 14 Mar 2009
Posts: 333
Location: Sweden/Stockholm

Wed Jun 12, 2013 2:31 pm
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Great and very beautiful music in " That Obscure Hurt".
Kurt Elling was fantastic. Loved his scatting and singing, great performance.
I love everything he does, cant help it!Id love to listen to this one again.

Thanks for the broadcast!



Joined: 15 Jun 2006
Posts: 1341
Location: Portland, OR

Podcast is available now & for 7 more days
Wed Jun 12, 2013 6:27 pm
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Solweig, so glad you liked this concert!

Fortunately, the BBC has made the recording available so you can listen to it as many times as you'd like in the next week.

We only heard the first half or so ourselves and look forward to some quality time to take in the rest. What we heard from Kurt was terrific, as usual.

The producers at the BBC told me beforehand that they were going to play music from Scotland after That Obscure Hurt to fill out the 2 hours 30 minutes in the Live in Concert programme slot. Their theme this month is celebrating British music; hence the Scottish selections (unrelated to That Obscure Hurt).

The on-demand podcast is here:




Joined: 13 Jun 2013
Posts: 13

The Obscure Hurt
Thu Jun 13, 2013 2:16 pm
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Last nights performance was fabulous. Thanks to all involved. Guy and Rob seemed very moved by the audience's response when I had a quick chat with them afterwards. I hope you are all pleased with how it went. Have just listened to the recording; whilst it can't capture the full drama which Kurt, Janie and such a large and amazing group of musicians gave us, I still found it very affecting.

My fellow audience members in row M thought Kurts' control, commitment and story telling was just wonderful. Janie's delivery so dark and immersive, she was clearly having a ball - we were very jealous of her dress! Am just sorry the BBC didn't record it for TV. I hope you get to perform it again.

Am going to see the National Youth Jazz Orchestra at the Hideaway in London this Sunday. Jazz is in a good place in the UK right now so much talent around.
A wonderful evening again many thanks. Mudita.


Joined: 15 Jun 2006
Posts: 1341
Location: Portland, OR

With gratitude
Fri Jun 14, 2013 6:18 am
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Deep bows of gratitude, JaneM, and welcome to the Forum!

What a wonderful surprise to hear from someone who was at Snape Maltings for the concert and had the full-color surround-sound immersive experience. From listening to the end of the BBC podcast, the audience was clearly very appreciative, and Kurt's acknowledgements and thanks were energized and very happy. The BBC's Louise Fryer was equally energized and pleased.

Bravo and kudos all around! Mudita.

From Twitter, we learned that Janie Dee's dress was slinky, backless, and black. Very cool that she did the frug to Powder Monkey (make it funky). She's probably too young to remember the frug from its heydey in the '60s, but she's done musical theatre, so perhaps that's where she got her dance moves. Agreed that it's too bad the BBC didn't record the concert for TV.

In an interview with Sean Rafferty for BBC Radio 3, Kurt remarked that That Obscure Hurt has lots of potential for future development, perhaps with dancers or projected images. He suggested that if the audience at Snape Maltings took a few minutes to read the programme notes and then closed their eyes, they would see a movie in their minds.

Was that your experience and that of your fellow audience members in row M?

In listening to the podcast, we've found it challenging in some places to note the transition from one part to another. It seems more like a continuous piece of music, rather than discreet segments. Was that your experience, too?

It's great to have the podcast available until next Wednesday night, 19 June, so we can listen, pause, and then go back and listen again to particular sections and segments. With Robert Ryan's guide on hand, it makes the listening that much more meaningful. We're still looking for more of the the various Britten references/allusions. Cool

From Kurt's FB page:

PODCAST: If you missed the premiere of That Obscure Hurt feat. Kurt Elling, you can listen to it over the next 6 days. The concert begins a minute into the BBC programme. Louise Fryer & composer Guy Barker introduce the piece from 02:00-0:10. It runs to about 01:45:47. For your listening pleasure be sure to check out author Robert Ryan's guide to the 10 parts of That Obscure Hurt:


Enjoy Sunday's concert with the National Youth Jazz Orchestra, and thanks again. We look forward to your comments in the future!


Joined: 15 Jun 2006
Posts: 1341
Location: Portland, OR

That Obscure Hurt - full concert now available on Radio 3
Fri Jun 14, 2013 8:42 pm
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BBC Radio 3 has just added That Obscure Hurt to their Music Showcase as a full concert.

It's 1:34:41 and does not include the 8 minutes of conversation with BBC presenter Louise Fryer and Guy Barker to introduce the piece.

Guy Barker: That Obscure Hurt
BBC Radio 3 Live in Concert
BBC Concert Orchestra, Guy Barker Big Band
Kurt Elling, Janie Dee
Audio - Clip duration: 01:34:41

12.06.13 Benjamin Britten wrote two operas based on ghost stories by Henry James. In a BBC Radio 3 and Aldeburgh music co-commission in Britten's centenary year, jazz trumpeter and composer Guy Barker has worked with author Robert Ryan to complete this trilogy with his new work That Obscure Hurt.

Adapting the James short story The Jolly Corner, Barker's work for orchestra and jazz orchestra incorporates both jazz and echoes of Britten's operas to create a 70-minute-long suite.

Louise Fryer presents live from Snape Maltings at the 2013 Aldeburgh Festival as the BBC Concert Orchestra join forces with the Guy Barker Jazz Orchestra, conducted by the composer to perform That Obscure Hurt.


Joined: 11 Mar 2007
Posts: 4
Location: Chicago

Not Obscurely Hurt -- Very Hurt
Sat Jul 27, 2013 2:34 pm
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Yeah....very hurt that I haven't checked in of late and missed the opportunity to hear the BBC podcast of "That Obscure Hurt."

Anyone have any other links?



Joined: 15 Jun 2006
Posts: 1341
Location: Portland, OR

Tue Jul 30, 2013 7:45 am
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JKaelin, sadly no. No other links on the BBC website or elsewhere that I could find. Sad

So I asked the good people at the BBC if they would extend the time that concert was available in their Music Showcase, perhaps until 1 September.

One of their broadcast assistants replied:

Im afraid were currently limited to 30 days availability for music clips on, due to rights and BBC Trust policy. Sorry its not better news.

So I encourage you to check in more often so you can learn about opportunities like this one before they expire. Are you on Kurt's newsletter mailing list? Signup:

Or are you one of his 25,220+ fans on Facebook?

Sorry you missed hearing this concert!



Joined: 11 Mar 2007
Posts: 4
Location: Chicago

Obscure Heart
Tue Jul 30, 2013 7:04 pm
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Thanks for the effort, Trudy, even contacting the BBC! Above and beyond; but then not really for the love of our Kurt...

Though I've been a fan for over a decade and checked in occasionally at the website -- and I used to love going to the Green Mill when you could still get a seat -- I had failed, until now, to sign up on the email list. You correctly anticipated my corrective action. Thanks again for trying, Trudy.

JKaelin / Chicago

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