I Went to a Marvellous Party
"I Went to a Marvellous Party" (sometimes known as I've Been to a Marvellous Party) is a song with words and music by Noël Coward, written in 1938, and included in the review Set to Music. Although a melody exists, the text is most often recited over a piano accompaniment. Out of Noël Coward's approximately 300 songs, this piece is one of his most popular, ranking among the top 30 in royalty potential.
The lyrics of I Went to a Marvellous Party are a first-person description of five parties attended by the singer on the French Riviera. The character of the song is humorous and giddy. It has been suggested that the activities described in the lyrics were typical of the "frantic, addleheaded search for amusement" of the Train bleu society, which flocked to the Riviera each summer in the 1920s and '30s.
Noël Coward composed this song after he and Beatrice Lillie attended a beach party given by Elsa Maxwell in the south of France, an event which his memory placed in either 1937 or 1938. The lyrics in the first stanza are based on a real life experience of Coward and Lillie: The two were invited to "come as they were," but on arriving they discovered the other guests were formally dressed. Perhaps this explains why the singer claims it was hell to stay dressed as they were. "Poor Grace" in the first stanza is a reference to Grace Moore, the opera singer and movie actress, who was also a guest. The song was first sung by Bea Lillie in the revue Set to Music in 1939.
Although the text is published in various collections of Noël Coward songs, Coward's own recording from 1956, heard on the Noël Coward Album, contains variations from the printed page. When written out, this version does not scan well. However, Coward maintains the major textual stresses in performance and fits added words and phrases before and after the stresses. He also places the second verse after the second stanza, instead of after the third, as it appears in the sheet music.
The song is published separately as sheet music or in a number of collections, including the following:
- The Noël Coward Songbook, London: Michael Joseph, 1953.
- Noël Coward - Songs to Amuse, London: Chappell & Co. 1970.
- A Noël Coward Gala, Volume 1, Chapell & Co./Random House, 1972(?).
- Cowardy Custard, John Hadfield, Ed. London: Heinman, 1973.
- The Lyrics of Noël Coward, London: Heinman, 1965.
- The Complete Lyrics of Noël Coward, Barry Day (Ed.) London: Methuen, 1998. ISBN 0-413-73230-4 / 9780413732309.
- 1939. Orchestra conductor, Emmet Dolan. LP AIE 2122.
- 1947. Noël Coward on the Air, piano accompaniment, Mantovani. Past CD 7840.
- 1956. Noël Coward Album, piano accompaniment, Peter Matz. Sony CD MDK 47253 AAD; CD DRG 19028 (2003).
Other notable recordings
- 1939. Beatrice Lillie (A Marvellous Party), piano accompaniment, Will Irwin. AIE CD 006; PLATCD 118.
- 1972. Patricia Routledge (Cowardy Custard), piano accompaniment, John Burrows. RCA LSO 60160 LP.
- 1994. Kernan, Robertson, Gold (Noël/Cole-Let's Do It), Song CD 910.
- 1998. The Divine Comedy (Twentieth-Century Blues: The Songs of Noel Coward)
- 2002. Elaine Stritch (At Liberty), DRG Theater 12994.
- "Noël Coward Society". 2003. Retrieved 2009-02-04.[dead link]
- The Noël Coward Album (Liner Notes). Sony Masterworks. 1956. p. 3. MDK 47253 AAD.
- Day, Barry; Noël Coward (2003). Introduction (SCRIPT). Noel Coward's Long Island Sound (Samuel French, Inc.). Retrieved 2009-02-06.
- Kenrick, John (2008). "Coward's Musicals" (WEBSITE). Musicals 101.com, The Cyber Encyclopedia of Musical Theatre, Television and Film. Retrieved 2009-02-06.