In the comments to Tara’s recent beautifully evocative review of L’Artisan‘s Tea for Two (you have to read it if you haven’t read it yet – I promise: you’ll be charmed) several people mentioned they didn’t like the name. They didn’t explain why but it surprised me so I kept thinking about it.
For a long time I couldn’t figure out where and when I heard Tea for Two song for the first time. Actually, I could have sworn that the first time I heard lyrics of this song in 2007 on the CD Hey Eugene! by one of my favorite group Pink Martini. They recorded this song with a guest – 81-year-old legendary jazz singer Jimmy Scott. I found an interesting small article about that version of the song on NPR website:
… singer China Forbes starts off with the seldom-heard introductory verse, which makes it clear that the whole thing is a fantasy. There is no tea, and no twosome. She’s making it all up, because her love life is a disaster. […] Their [Forbes and Scott’s] “Tea for Two” becomes the confession of a woman and her imaginary lover, their innocence shielding them from all the things that might go wrong.
Since there’s no real video for the clip below can I suggest listening to it while quickly scanning through the rest of the article?
But I had a feeling that I knew this song… well, at least a line from the song (“tea for two and two for tea”) long before then. But from where? I haven’t heard this song before – either when I still lived back in my native country or after I moved to the U.S. But somehow I knew those words and recognized the tune… When I found the explanation I was amazed.
I was right: I haven’t heard the song before. What I heard many times through my childhood was Tahiti Trot, Op. 16 (listen to 10-15 seconds starting from 44s) – Dmitri Shostakovich‘s (a prominent Russian composer and pianist) 1927 orchestration of Tea for Two:
Shostakovich wrote it in response to a challenge from conductor Nikolai Malko: after the two listened to the song on record at Malko’s house, Malko bet 100 roubles that Shostakovich could not completely re-orchestrate the song from memory in under an hour. Shostakovich took him up and won, completing the orchestration in around 45 minutes.
Tahiti Trot was first performed in Moscow on 25 November 1928, and has been a popular encore ever since.
Of course I liked and recognized the melody! Of course I thought it was a great name for perfume! And when I tried Tea for Two perfume I immediately liked it as well.
Tea for Two is the only bottle from L’Artisan Parfumeur in my collection. And it’s one of a very few that are truly shared perfumes in my collection: I enjoy both wearing it myself and smelling it on my vSO. Perfume for two.
I have one more “musical” association for this perfume’s name (in case you still haven’t changed your mind about it). It’s an abstract linguistic joke I heard many years ago (told in Russian). Recently I discovered that it exists in some other non-English-speaking cultures (probably in those without long and short vowels).
A tourist who doesn’t speak English well calls hotel’s front desk from his room No 22 and tries to order two cups of tea:
Concierge: (cheerfully) How can I help you?
Concierge: Pardon me?
Concierge: (with a shrug and eye-rolling, thinking: “Those crazy foreigners!”) Purum-pum-pum-pum! (rings off)
I keep murmuring that Tu-ti-tu-rum-tu-tu for the last couple of weeks.
Images: my own