Sunday, April 26, 2009

Istanbul (Not Constantinople)

Today, I chanced on the original version of the song "Istanbul (Not Constantinople)" recorded by the Four Lads on August 12, 1953. The song hit #10 in the Billboard chart. I had only known the 1980 version by They Might Be Giants. The Four Lads, as it turns out, was a Canadian group from Toronto. Connie Codarini, Bernie Toorish, Jimmy Arnold and Frank Busseri met at Saint Michael's Choir School. They performed under various names including (my favorite) The Otnorots--Toronto spelled backwards. They were discovered by American band leader Mitch Miller and moved to New York City, also known as Old Amsterdam (according to the song lyrics). "Istanbul (Not Constantinople)" made the Four Lads famous. I wish I had known this trivia when I was in Toronto with fellow Byzantinist Vasilis Marinis, getting a Licentiate at the Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies in Saint Michael's College. Saint Michael's Choir School belongs to the Pontifical Institute of Sacred Music in Rome and the Toronto Catholic District School Board. I'm tickled by Toronto's Catholic influence on American pop culture.

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Kostis Kourelis

Philadelphia, PA, United States