A Garland for Edinburgh

(from an article produced in July 1951)

From the moment she stepped on to the stage, at the Edinburgh Empire the diminutive singer was eager to please and appeared genuinely moved to tears as the audience shouted, stamped and whistled their approval from the beginning and throughout the evening.

She’s a bonny lass, this Judy Garland, with a well turned leg, and a fine Scottish complexion (is gift from her “Irish Grandmother” she says). A bit sturdier built than we are used to and with darker hair, she is very much the girl we fell in love with 12 years ago. She was quick to tell the audience she felt at home in Scotland and that her Grandfather’s people were called Milne originally from Aberdeen. Between songs she told show business and family stories, saying she was “Scots and Irish and that her grandparents house was “filled with music from those countries” and she and her sister often danced kind of a “fling” with their Grandfather while their grandmother lilted the tune. Leaning over the apron, she chatted with children and women in the front rows. She invited several delighted girls who presented her with a posy up on to the stage for an impromptu Highland Fling and Irish jig. Kicking off her shoes, the American star was graceful, quick and clearly proved a natural aptitude for our national dance. Unlike other American celebrities (who only come for out golf courses) she is well able to understand and hold her own with our humour, filling the hall often with an impish schoolgirl laugh as musical as her singing.

Make no mistake, Judy Garland was in control last evening. Her voice is rich, sweet and powerful. She shook the walls of the theatre with her raucous version of “It’s A great Day for the Irish”, telling us that it was written just for her. Some of the audience danced in the aisles while others kept time by clapping and stamping their feet. She told the audience that she had added a few “new things” just for Scotland and Ireland. The audience was whipped into a frenzy with “Loch Lomond”, starting soft and sweet with no musical accompaniment then joined only by a lone bagpiper at the back of the house for the second chorus, gradually building into a jazzy swing number involving the entire orchestra with a lung bursting finale. With all the coyness and charm she shouted back to the audience over the applause “did you like that one?”

Songs from Hollywood to the deep American southlands her songs were happy, sad, patriotic, loud and gentle, songs of love lost and love found she effortlessly changes key several times in a single lyric. She mimics and pulls faces and did a wonderfully funny impression of Mickey Rooney doing an impression of Sir Harry Lauder.

Her voice is a fine instrument and something that she seems to take for granted. I don’t think this lady knows how talented she is, which contributes to her appeal.

Like a lost highland lassie alone in the spotlight, for one number, then in the next, arms waving, expressive hands coaxing their magic she is a sorceress weaving a spell, and we her willing victims. Her rebel-rousing version of “Flower of Scotland” (one of the additions just for Scotland) brought the audience to its feet in thunderous applause. Followed by the Trolley Song, every bit as fresh as the day we first saw and heard her in that colour masterpiece of Americana, Meet Me in St Louis, nearly 10 years ago.

Each time one thinks “She can’t top that” the show’s over she goes on to prove us wrong. Her final number for the evening was “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” sung from the very edge of the stage, no microphone, her lovely legs (which she shows plenty of) gracefully folded, her angelic wistful voice soared through the theatre with a reverence that one (only) feels in the presence of greatness. Childishly brushing her fringe away from her face the final notes “oh, why, oh why can’t I?” rang with the clarity of bells on a Sunday morning and faded into a hushed silence before the audience rose in unison to applaud this phenomenon who is nothing less than a human marvel beyond country and ethnic boundaries, she is a universal treasure, touched by these Celtic islands of song and story and me things – probably God. Judy Garland turned a formal concert into an intimate singsong house party with 3500! The audience adored her and would have carried her on their shoulders out of the theatre and down the Royal Mile if she had allowed it. I can say for Scotland – “Miss Judy Garland, will ye no come back again?

Judy Garland

Judy Garland always an accessible star to her fans accommodates happy children during her UK Tour which included: London, Birmingham, Manchester, Glasgow, Edinburgh and dates in Ireland.

Many thanks to Carl von Ohsen for forwarding this review which he found at the National Library of Scotland.