BPO – Moondog: Sidewalk Dances – Andy Sheppard (saxophones), Joanna MacGregor (conductor/piano)

The performance started from a silent stage with two figures, Andy Sheppard and Joanna MacGregor.
There was a quick hiss of breath which very swiftly drifted into the hauntingly soulful voice of a mournful saxophone melting into the auditorium. Andy Sheppard wooed and enchanted us with the magical effortlessness of his playing, and his sensitive rendering of work by Johnny Cash, Tom Waits, Nick Cage and many others. He was accompanied by Joanna McGregor, who from time to time darted about the stage playing either her piano or her keyboard. Then all of sudden the music faded away, and the lights came on!


Andy Sheppard – credit Sara Da Costa

In the second half we were greeted by the full orchestra, all of whom were smiling and jolly, in particular the violinists. It was as if they were in on some private joke! Well perhaps they were.

Joanna MacGregor, who met Moondog in 1999, described him as if he had walked out of a painting by William Blake. She invited the audience to dance if they wished. There were even reports of people dancing away – it was like a party.

And so a glistening sarabande unfolded, first with hints of Sephardim and then on to a subtle amalgam of jazz and classical music along with native American rhythms in short staccato bursts. Moondog’s music is joyful,  melodic and poetic, with a pounding beat, hints of Duke Ellington, Archie Shepp and many others.

It was a fascinating introduction to Moondog, a musician I knew nothing about. I really enjoyed it.

Brighton Dome,
12 November 2023


Bernard Dutton-Briant

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