Q The Music At Piz Gloria 1st June 2019
Piz Gloria, is a revolving restaurant and exhibition centre that sits at the peak of the Schilthorn in the Swiss Alps at a height of 2970 metres. It can be reached by cable car from Stechelberg via Gimmelwald, Murren and Birg amidst some of the finest mountain scenery anywhere in the world.
During the winter of 1967/8 Eon were searching the Alps for locations for their sixth James Bond film, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. In particular they needed a site for Blofeld’s lair, described in Fleming’s novel as a fortress atop a Swiss mountain, accessible only by helicopter and cable car. Location manager, Hubert Frohlich received a tip about an unfinished restaurant on the Schilthorn that might be suitable. He showed it to Brocolli, Saltzman and Hunt and a deal was negotiated with the owners. In return for designing and finishing the interior and building a heliport, the location filming was secured for the following Winter.Unusually, the contract allowed Piz Gloria to use the Bond/007 brand which explains the sale of Bond merchandise and an 007 exhibition. This apparently was an oversight which is an extreme irritation to Danjaq even to this day.
The 1st June 2019 was a glorious day. Sunny and warm with a crystal blue sky contrasting with the peaks covered with snow. At about 5.15 pm several hundred Bond fans from around the world entered the cable car at Murren and headed towards Piz Gloria. Some of us had been on a 10 day celebration of the 50th anniversary of the OHMSS taking in locations in Portugal and Switzerland. Others had come for just a few days to the Swiss location. On the journey up, someone played ‘Bond Meets the Girls’ and Journey to Blofeld’s Hideaway on their phone. A surreal moment.
We stopped off at Birg and on it’s gorgeous sun terrace consumed Martinis (other drinks were available) before completing the journey to Piz Gloria. Here, following a meal in the restaurant, and views of a glorious once in a life time sunset we proceeded to the main business of the evening and one of the high lights of a high light heavy trip. Q the Music would perform a two hour programme of Bond music.
I’d seen Q the Music at the Adelphi in London in March where to a packed audience they performed a stunning programme combining songs and cues. At Piz Gloria the programme was a little different. Before dinner the band were introduced to George Lazenby and they posed for pictures. The performing and viewing space was inevitably more limited than usual but there was a bar at the rear with friendly helpful staff for replenishments between songs.
Promptly at 9.00 pm the band took to the stage. Some people, including some members of the band, felt a little quaesy because of the altitude but it didn’t show in their performance. Leader Warren Ringham introduced the members and was, as usual, a congenial and informative host throughout.
Unlike at the Adelphi, there was no string section but there was an enhanced keyboard section which performed brilliantly all evening. . The gig started with the James Bond Theme and then proceeded with a pulsting vibrant version of ‘007 ‘and a powerhouse vocal of Goldfinger from Kerry. If asked to sum up a Q The Music concert in one word, I’d use ‘Dramatic’ . The arrangements and performances retain the drama of the originals, these are not watered down, cocktail bar versions. The music has the power and intensity and beauty to set the spine tingling.
The highlight of a highlight heavy set was a 20 minute OHMSS suite. Featuring, This Never Happened To The Other Fella, Try, SKi Chase, Blofeld’s Plot, Over and Out and Gumbold's Safe. I had to constantly remind myself that this music was actually being performed at Piz Gloria. All cues were beautifully played, inevitably they didn’t sound exactly the same as Barry’s originals recorded in Autumn 1969 at CTS Bayswater with a large orchestra. But have no doubt, this was the real deal with keyboards and brass especially effective At the end of the suite, Steven Saltzman came on to the stage and gave Warren a hug and said how the suite had done his father proud.
Bond 77, with keyboards again highly effective was another stunner. You Know My Name, Live and Let Die, Nobody Does It Better, For Your Eyes Only...........all brilliantly performed. An unusual inclusion was ‘Dirty Love’ from License to Kill. I’d have preferred If You Asked Me To’ but Warren is prepared to push the boundaries of a Bond music programme and the audience loved it.
The soundtrack performances of Bond songs are definitive which makes cover versions difficult but Kerry Schultz, with percussionist, Matt Walker used on some songs, do a more than convincing job of reinterpreting classic material whilst retaining the essence of the originals. Kerry’s performance of Licence To Kill can only be described as an awesome display of controlled vocal power.
All too soon, it was well after 11pm and Warren was being told to wind up because the last cable car was due soon. Unfortunately he had to abandon Do You Know How Christmas Trees Are Grown, Surrender, and Backseat Driver but finished with the Propellerheads version of OHMSS. Great to participate in a singalong with the audience to the Space March interlude. A great end to great night. We made our way to the cable car. Monitors had Piz Gloria related exerpts of OHMSS showing as we waited. As we returned to Murren, Steven Saltzman said ‘say goodbye to Piz Gloria everyone’. We looked behind us, as Piz Gloria slowly disappeared into the night, and waved.
Bond music brilliantly delivered, with a James Bond actor present at a Bond location high in the Alps.
An event unlikely to ever be repeated.
The concert at Piz Gloria was recorded and is available through a patreon scheme where for just $4 per month you can get a track per month in mp3, wav and video form + a commentary pod cast. The $4 is supporting the band as well as paying for the tracks.
‘Q The Music’ are well worth supporting and the tracks are well worth having.
Here’s the link