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77 tracks of golden nostalgia on 4 compact discs
including the music made famous as the signature tunes to Music While You Work, The Secret Garden, Dick Barton—Special Agent, Children’s Favourites, Jennings at School, the Paul Temple detective series, In Town Tonight, The Archers, Down Your Way, Dr Finlay’s Casebook, Television Newsreel, Housewives’ Choice, My Word, Top of the Form, BBC Morning Music, Desert Island Discs, BBC Farming, The Barlows of Beddington …
with music by 45 composers, including Charles Ancliffe, Ronald Binge, Ernest Bucalossi, Eric Coates, Frederic Curzon, Robert Farnon, Herman Finck, Albert W Ketèlbey, Lionel Monckton, Gilbert Vinter & Charles Williams
The earliest piece in the collection is the lilting Pas de quatre by Wilhelm Meyer Lutz (c1829–1903). Lutz was born and educated in Münnerstadt, near Kissingen, Bavaria. He came to England in 1848 and, after various posts as an organist, began a career as musical director in London theatres. From 1869 he was the musical director at the Gaiety Theatre, composing songs and dances for numerous shows there. Among them was the rhythmically engaging Pas de quatre which appeared in the burlesque Faust Up to Date (1888). It gained immense popularity, the more so for the fact that its tune fitted the steps of the barn dance, which had just then been imported from America into British ballrooms.
The years immediately before the First World War were especially rich in British waltzes. The appropriately named slow waltz Dreaming (1911) is by Archibald Joyce (1873–1963), a Londoner who conducted a popular society dance band and became known as the ‘British Waltz King’. Several of his waltzes achieved international success, this being the best known.
Destiny (1912), distinguished by its elegant cello main theme (a favourite of John Barbirolli who played it as a cello solo at Hallé balls), is by another Londoner who likewise composed several waltz successes. Sydney Baynes (1879–1938) was an accompanist, organist and choirmaster before becoming chorus master at Drury Lane Theatre. From 1910 to 1914 he was musical director for John Tiller’s troupe of dancing girls at the Palace Theatre, and it was for them that he composed the melody that he developed into this celebrated waltz.
The swirling Nights of Gladness (1912) is by Charles Ancliffe (1880–1952), an Irishman from Kildare who served for some years in India as Bandmaster of the South Wales Borderers. It was one Christmas Eve, on returning home from service in India, that he composed this waltz, the best known of many superbly crafted dances, marches and novelty pieces from his pen.
Albert William Ketèlbey (1875–1959) occupies his place in British musical history for a particularly distinctive body of ‘narrative music’. Far from creating anything specificially British, Ketèlbey sought a peculiarly exotic sound in works such as In a Monastery Garden (1915), In a Persian Market (1920), In a Chinese Temple Garden (1923) and In the Mystic Land of Egypt (1931). In his Bells Across the Meadows (1921) we hear distant church bells introducing a typically broad Ketèlbey melody into which they cleverly blend. Ketèlbey was born in Birmingham, was educated at Trinity College, London, and was a church organist and theatre conductor before establishing his reputation with his famous body of compositions.
Far more specifically British was the work of the undisputed king of British light music, Eric Coates (1886–1957). A native of Hucknall, Nottinghamshire, he began as an orchestral violist before beginning to make his name with well-crafted songs and some most elegant and tuneful orchestral suites and other pieces of light music. Many of these gained familiarity as signature tunes during the heyday of radio, as was the case with the wartime march Calling All Workers (1940) which was for many years the signature tune of the radio programme Music While You Work. The tune was chosen very carefully from many among others for its tempo. The idea was not only to cheer people up in the war factories but also to pace their work—they worked faster because of the speed of the music.
For some composers, light music was no more than a sideline. Such was the case with Cecil Armstrong Gibbs (1889–1960) who composed much vocal, choral, stage, chamber, instrumental and orchestral music, including three symphonies. The slow waltz Dusk appears in his Dance Suite Fancy Dress (1935), and became widely popular during the 1940s when recorded in a string arrangement by orchestra leader Jay Wilbur.
Winchester-born Geoffrey Toye (1889–1942) was primarily a conductor of symphony concerts, opera and ballet. It was in this last capacity that he composed the music for two ballets choreographed by Ninette de Valois. One of these was The Haunted Ballroom (1935), the waltz from which became immensely popular. Likewise Anthony Collins (1893–1963), a native of Hastings, was a conductor of ‘serious’ music who recorded much music by Elgar, Vaughan Williams and others, and whose early ‘long-playing’ recordings of Sibelius symphonies are still highly treasured. Besides symphonies, concertos and operas, Collins also composed film and light music, from which the gently dancing Vanity Fair is his acknowledged masterpiece.
Charles Williams (1893–1978) was born in London and was a violinist in concert, theatre and cinema orchestras before becoming a musical director in theatres and cinemas. This film experience led to him composing and scoring for many Gaumont–British films, of which his Dream of Olwen for the 1947 film While I Live became a classic. He also composed and conducted a wealth of short ‘mood’ pieces for the Chappell Recording Library. Many of these gained wide familiarity through their use as radio and television signature tunes. Such was the case with the two pieces here, the suitably sinister Devil’s Galop being used as signature tune for the radio serial Dick Barton—Special Agent and The Old Clockmaker for Jennings at School.
Frederic Curzon (1899–1973) was another who produced some particularly well-crafted light music. London-born, Curzon studied violin, cello, piano and organ, became pianist in a London theatre orchestra, and by the age of twenty was conducting and composing for silent films. He eventually became the head of the light music department of the publisher Boosey & Hawkes, for whom he composed his most successful compositions. Of these, The Boulevardier (1939)—a jaunty portrayal of a Parisian man-about-town—became especially well loved.
One of the outstanding British theatre composers of the twentieth century, Vivian Ellis (1903–1996) is known primarily for shows such as Mister Cinders (1928) and Bless the Bride (1947). Following in the musical footsteps of a grandmother composer and violinist mother, he took up the piano before concentrating on popular song composition for the theatre. Later he also entered the field of ‘mood’ music. It was in 1938, while travelling by train between his homes in Somerset and London, that he conceived his portrayal of a steam train in full flight, Coronation Scot. Its popularity came about when it was chosen as the signature tune for radio’s ‘Paul Temple’ detective series.
The locomotive depicted in Puffin’ Billy by Edward White (1910–1994) was of altogether more modest pretensions. It was while on holiday in the Isle of Wight that White saw some ancient steam engines that chugged along country branch lines, one of them bearing the name ‘Puffin’ Billy’. The chirpy composition which it inspired became familiar during the 1950s when it was adopted as the signature tune for the Saturday morning radio programme Children’s Favourites. Largely self-taught, White was born in London and became a dance-band violinist and arranger in his home city, besides directing a ballroom orchestra in Bristol after the Second World War.
Ronald Binge (1910–1979) was born in Derby and worked his way from a position as cinema organist, orchestral pianist and piano-accordionist to arranger for the Mantovani Orchestra. As such he evolved the ‘cascading strings’ effect for which Mantovani became famous. A serious student of orchestration, Binge also experimented to good effect in his own compositions. Elizabethan Serenade (1951) builds two light but contrasted melodies upon an insistent rhythmic bass. The piece was introduced in a broadcast by the Mantovani Orchestra, became more widely known through its use as a radio signature tune, and went on to achieve popularity around the world. The Watermill (1958), another pastoral piece by the same composer, is written for oboe and strings and was used as the signature tune for the BBC television series The Secret Garden.
The doyen of latter-day British light music composers is Robert Farnon (1917–2005). Born in Toronto, Canada, he learned a variety of instruments and became dance band trumpeter and arranger, besides having two symphonies performed. It was as the conductor of the Canadian Band of the Allied Expeditionary Forces that in 1944 he came to England where he became a prolific arranger, composer and conductor, directing the backing orchestras for a range of front-rank recording artists. Many of his compositions have become international light-music classics, among them the jaunty Jumping Bean which is claimed to have been used as signature tune around the world more times than any other piece. Certainly it exemplifies as well as anything the characteristic of so many of these light-music classics that the title and composer may mean little but the piece itself is instantly and gratifyingly familiar.
Britain’s light music heritage constitutes a veritable treasure-house of music that may plumb no intellectual or emotional depths but which lifts the spirits through imaginative effects, delightful melodies and consummate craftsmanship. In Victorian and Edwardian days pieces were composed for the bandstand, ballroom and salon orchestra, or as interval pieces for theatre performances. Later came publishers’ libraries of ‘mood music’ for the silent cinema, while between the Wars new compositions served to entertain the audiences who listened eagerly to the ‘wireless’. In the second Elizabethan age such works have come to be used as television signature tunes or interval pieces. This further selection will help confirm the almost boundless store of pieces whose titles may be unfamiliar and composers largely unsung, but which are instantly recognizable to many listeners.
Exceptionally, the senior composer represented in the present collection needs no introduction, for Edward Elgar (1857–1934) was Britain’s greatest symphonist. But he never disdained light music and composed many charming little pieces in the genre. Born in Worcester, he was active largely in the west of England before gaining widespread fame in his forties with the ‘Enigma’ Variations. Elgar went on to write two symphonies and his Violin Concerto before, in 1914, he composed the gentle Carissima for small orchestra.
By contrast Elgar’s near-contemporary Ernest Bucalossi (1863–1933) was a light-music composer through and through, now remembered solely for one enduring (and endearing) lollipop. Himself a London theatre conductor, he was the second son of theatre conductor/composer Procida Bucalossi who migrated to London from his native Italy. Ernest studied at the Royal Academy of Music and in 1881 began his theatre career by deputizing for his father. He went on to compose for a variety of theatrical purposes. The jaunty ‘characteristic piece’ The Grasshopper’s Dance (1905) is one of those items that perfectly exemplifies its title, with the percussion department having a field-day reproducing the sound of the grasshopper. The piece’s popularity and familiarity has not dimmed over the years, with milk deliveries being just one of the products and services that television advertisers have used it to promote.
Herman Finck (1872–1939) was born in London as Herman von de Vinck, the son of an immigrant Dutch musician. For over twenty years he conducted the orchestra at the Palace Theatre of Varieties, and he was musical director at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, in the 1920s during the heyday of big musical successes such as Rose Marie and Show Boat. He composed a great deal of music for musical plays and revues, as well as short orchestral pieces. It was for a skipping-rope routine for the Palace Theatre’s troupe of John Tiller dancers that Finck composed the graceful little In the Shadows (1910), which went on to enjoy international success.
Arthur Wood (1875–1953) was born in the Yorkshire town of Heckmondwike, between Bradford and Dewsbury. He began his musical career as flautist and deputy conductor of the municipal orchestra in Harrogate under J Sidney Jones, father of the composer of The Geisha. This led to his becoming a London theatre conductor for some thirty years. Among the shows for which he was musical director was The Arcadians, whose overture he arranged from melodies by Lionel Monckton and Howard Talbot. As an original composer he was notable for orchestral suites that recalled his native county—among them My Native Heath (1925). Its first three movements are ‘Knaresboro’ Status’, ‘Ilkley Tarn’ and ‘Bolton Abbey’, and its fourth ‘Barwick Green‘. This last has endured thanks to having been used for almost half a century as the signature tune of the radio series The Archers. It is easy enough to appreciate its original conception as a portrayal of maypole dancing on the village green of Barwick-in-Elmet, east of Leeds.
One of few light music specialists whose name is universally recognized is Albert W Ketèlbey (1875–1959). Born in Aston, Birmingham, he was educated at Trinity College, London, where he studied piano, organ, cello, clarinet, oboe and horn. He was a church organist, theatre conductor and piano soloist before making his name with his own individual brand of exotically conceived descriptive compositions. Sanctuary of the Heart (1924) is described as a ‘méditation religieuse’ and typifies their extravagant orchestration and broad melody.
Percy Fletcher (1879–1932) was another musician of wide accomplishments. Born in Derby, he played violin, piano and organ and became conductor and orchestrator of theatre shows, including the long-running Chu Chin Chow. He was also a fine and prolific composer of music for voice, brass band (Epic Symphony) and orchestra. The swirling, exhilarating waltz Bal Masqué (1914) is one of his Two Parisian Sketches and remains one of the most perfect evocations of those seemingly enchanted days before the First World War.
Haydn Wood (1882–1959) was no relation of Arthur, but was another Yorkshireman—from Slaithwaite, near Huddersfield. He reputedly received his unusual first name because his father had just attended a performance of Haydn’s The Creation. Married to the soprano Dorothy Court, Wood achieved recognition first as a prolific composer of sentimental ballads that included Brown Bird Singing and, above all, Roses of Picardy. Responding to the fashion for light orchestral music that was such popular fare for radio broadcasts, he produced numerous popular orchestral suites. Among them was the London Landmarks suite (1946), the final movement of which is the march The Horse Guards, Whitehall. Like Arthur Wood’s Barwick Green, it became famous as the signature tune of a long-running radio show—in this case Down Your Way.
The master of the genre in which Haydn Wood came to specialize was undoubtedly Eric Coates (1886–1957), without whom no collection of British light music could possibly be complete. Coates’s technical accomplishment and his fund of refined melodies were remarkable. Born in Hucknall, Nottinghamshire, he was educated at the Royal Academy of Music and was an orchestral violist before being forced to give up playing and concentrate on composition. Like Haydn Wood, he gravitated from finely crafted songs to elegant and always richly tuneful orchestral suites and other pieces of light music. Many were taken up as radio signature tunes, and never to greater effect than with the march Knightsbridge, the third movement of his London Suite (1933). Shortly after it was recorded the BBC began a new weekly feature programme entitled In Town Tonight, and the brass introduction to the march’s trio section made it a particularly effective signature tune. Oblivious of its difficulties for performers (notably the difficult staccato bowing for the first violins), the public took it to their hearts and overwhelmed the BBC with requests for the identity of the piece and its composer.
Charles Williams (1893–1978) was a Londoner who played the violin in concert, theatre and cinema orchestras before becoming a theatre and cinema musical director. His film experience led to composing and scoring music for many Gaumont–British films, and his Dream of Olwen for the 1947 film While I Live became a classic. He also composed a wealth of atmospheric pieces for the Chappell Recording Library, many of which gained wide familiarity from their use as radio and television signature tunes. Among these was the march Girls in Grey, which was used as theme tune for the BBC’s Television Newsreel.
Frederic Curzon (1899–1973) was another Londoner who brought similarly fine craftsmanship to his light music compositions. He studied violin, cello, piano and organ, became pianist in a London theatre orchestra, and by the age of twenty was conducting and composing for silent films. He eventually became head of the light music department of the publisher Boosey & Hawkes, dispensing valuable encouragement to would-be young composers. It was for this firm that he composed some outstandingly fine pieces, of which The Boulevardier appears on volume one. Another was the March of the Bowmen, the third movement of his Robin Hood Suite (1936).
Fred Hartley (1905–1991) was another who specialized in light music throughout his career. Born in Dundee, he studied at the Royal Academy of Music, toured as piano recitalist, played with Jack Hylton’s Kit-Kat Band, and formed his own ensemble to broadcast light music. From 1940 he was the BBC’s supervisor of light music. Of his original compositions, the best-known is Rouge et Noir, a will-o’-the-wisp evocation in waltz time of the red and black of the gaming table.
Like Edward Elgar, Benjamin Frankel (1906–1973) had aspirations as a serious composer. London-born, he composed eight symphonies, concertos for violin and viola and much other orchestral and chamber music; but he was also prolifically active in more popular forms. Whilst a student of piano and composition at The Guildhall School, he was playing as jazz violinist in night clubs, and during the 1930s was in demand as conductor and orchestrator for West End musical shows, including Noel Coward’s Operette. He composed over a hundred film scores, among them music for the 1950 film So Long at the Fair starring Jean Simmons and Dirk Bogarde. The fair in question was the Paris Exhibition of 1889, and he subsequently brought together themes he used to capture journeys through the city into the concert piece Carriage and Pair.
Gilbert Vinter (1909–1969) was another versatile musician who was a choirboy at the cathedral in his native Lincoln, studied bassoon and cello at the Royal Military College of Music, and became professor of bassoon at the Royal Academy of Music. His career as composer and arranger developed while he was conductor of various RAF bands during the Second World War, after which he was with the BBC as conductor of the BBC Midland Light Orchestra and the BBC Concert Orchestra. He composed much music for brass band, as well as fantasias on the melodies of various countries. It was the rhythms of one particular country that he captured especially effectively in the lively Portuguese Party.
Clive Richardson (1909–1998) was born in Paris of British parents and brought up in England. At the Royal Academy of Music he studied not only piano, orchestration and conducting but also organ, violin, clarinet, trumpet, trombone and timpani. He became active as pianist and arranger for various light orchestras as well as conductor for theatre revues of the 1930s and musical director for the singer Hildegard. In 1936 he joined Gaumont–British as assistant musical director, working alongside Charles Williams. He made his name as a composer with his London Fantasia, depicting London in wartime. His gift for light, bright, melodic pieces is well demonstrated by the relaxed Beachcomber (1949), depicting idle wandering along the sea-coast inspecting the debris washed up by the tide.
Edward White (1910–1994) was another Londoner. Largely self-taught, he became violinist in a trio and in various dance bands, performing also on saxophone and clarinet. He then became known as an arranger and, after service with the RAF, directed his own ballroom orchestra at the Grand Spa Hotel in Bristol. His atmospheric light music compositions proved ideally suited to the demand for ‘mood music’, among them Puffin’ Billy (see volume one) and The Runaway Rocking-Horse (1946) which is heard here.
Ronald Binge (1910–1979) was one of the most talented of British light music composers and, like Percy Fletcher, was a native of Derby. He worked his way from cinema organist, orchestral pianist and piano-accordionist to the position of arranger for the Mantovani Orchestra. As such he evolved the ‘cascading strings’ effect for which Mantovani became famous and which was just one of the products of the fertile mind of a serious student of orchestration. Two of his best-loved compositions were included on volume one, and another is his Sailing By (1963) which has become familiar to many as the closing music of the day on Radio 4, easing listeners gently towards their beds.
Another composer without whom no collection of British light music would be complete is Robert Farnon (1917–2005). His highly successful Peanut Polka (1951) was conceived as a follow-up to Jumping Bean, on volume one, while The Westminster Waltz (1956) became widely familiar as one of the linking themes for the radio programme In Town Tonight.
Robert Docker (1918–1992) was born in Paddington, London, and studied piano, viola and composition at the Royal Academy of Music between 1937 and 1941. After army service he took up freelance activities, becoming valued as a highly reliable pianist, composer, arranger and conductor. He was a particularly brilliant improviser at the piano. He broadcast a great deal, forming a two-piano duo with Edward Rubach for twelve years and becoming a familiar contributor to light music broadcasts right up to his death. Perhaps his most successful short piece was the sparkling Tabarinage (‘Buffoonery’), a sort of eccentric British view of the French can-can.
‘Trevor Duncan’ is a pen-name that hides the real identity of the composer who was born Leonard Trebilcock (from which he later dropped the final ‘ck’) in Camberwell, London in 1924. He had no formal musical training, but gained valuable experience as a sound engineer and later music producer with the BBC. The success of his light music compositions (which include a good deal of film music) encouraged him to leave the BBC in 1956 to devote himself full-time to composition. He achieved his greatest success when the March from his Little Suite (1960) was adopted as the signature tune for the BBC television series Dr Finlay’s Casebook.
With this third collection of ‘British Light Music Classics’ we offer yet more evidence of the extraordinary richness of this underestimated genre. The programme balances perpetual favourites against others whose one-time celebrity is now perhaps unfairly diminished. Only one of the pieces dates as far back as the nineteenth century. It is one of the most familiar numbers of that great master of melody, Lionel Monckton (1861–1924). The Runaway Girl (1898) was one of a series of Gaiety Theatre musical plays which he composed in collaboration with Ivan Caryll. The hit number was the song Soldiers in the Park, which is perhaps better known by the first line of its chorus: ‘Oh, listen to the band!’ It was probably Monckton’s regular orchestrator Carl Kiefert (c1855–1937) who arranged the full-scale orchestral march, with its contrasting trio section.
Monckton’s collaborator on those Gaiety shows, Ivan Caryll (1861–1921), was a bon viveur and larger-than-life character. Belgian by birth, he spent most of his mature years in Britain before moving to America. It was actually for America that he composed The Pink Lady (1911). This included the waltz song My Beautiful Lady, which London arranger H M Higgs (1855–1929) made the principal melody of the waltz on themes from the show.
Three other pieces in the collection date from that period of astonishing melodic richness just before the First World War. The Irish bandmaster Charles Ancliffe (1880–1952) was a light-music composer of particular accomplishment. He followed his famous waltz Nights of Gladness (1912) with others in similar style, of which Smiles, then Kisses (1913) enjoyed renewed familiarity after World War II with the craze for ‘olde tyme dances’.
Archibald Joyce (1873–1963) was a popular bandleader before and after World War I and, like Ancliffe, a successful waltz composer. He enjoyed lasting success with the waltz Dreaming (1911), but this was only one of a series of internationally popular pieces, of which Songe d’Automne (‘Autumn Dream’, 1908) was only marginally less successful.
French titles were very much in vogue at the time, as witness Valse Septembre (1909) by Felix Godin. One might wonder how a composer with such a French-sounding name finds a place in this collection; but that, too, demonstrates the mystique of anything French. It hides the identity of the more mundanely named Henry Albert Brown (c1864–1925), who under his nom d’artiste was, like Archibald Joyce, a popular dance-band leader before and after World War I. This waltz has recently enjoyed renewed exposure by featuring prominently among the period music played in the film Titanic. We hear it here in the original orchestration by Adolf Lotter (c1870–1942).
Among British light-music composers who enjoyed celebrity between the World Wars, three names stand out. Albert W Ketèlbey (1875–1959) was born in Aston, Warwickshire, and achieved his reputation with a series of pieces evoking exotic locations. One of the best loved is In a Persian Market (1920), evoking images of camel-drivers, jugglers and snake-charmers, and heard here complete with its chorus of beggars singing: ‘Baksheesh, baksheesh Allah. Empshi, empshi, empshi’.
Seemingly effortless in his creativity was Eric Coates (1886–1957), who hailed from Hucknall, Nottinghamshire, and who was without question the finest exponent of British light music. His march Music Everywhere (1948) became known as the ‘Rediffusion March’ because of its use as the call sign of Rediffusion Television.
The third member of this illustrious between-the-Wars trio was Haydn Wood (1882–1959), who was born in Slaithwaite, Yorkshire, and raised on the Isle of Man. Like Coates, he was a one-time composer of ballads who later turned to orchestral suites. From the latter, the swaggering march Montmartre forms the rousing finale of the three-movement Paris suite (1937).
Tolchard Evans (1901–1978) was a north Londoner who achieved celebrity between the Wars as a songwriter and dance-band leader. So successful was he at imitating the Spanish paso doble style in his song Lady of Spain (1931) that it was accepted with enthusiasm even in Spain itself. We hear it here in a concert arrangement by Ken Warner (1902–1988) from the original version by Fred Hartley (1905–1991).
Jack Strachey (1894–1972), born in Brighton, became known between the Wars for his theatre songs, among them ‘These Foolish Things’ (1936). Later he composed orchestral pieces for light-orchestral libraries, of which the two most popular are included here. The march Theatreland (1940) provides testimony to his love of the theatre and is heard here in its original orchestration by Don Bowden (1906–1966). The suitably jolly In Party Mood (1944) was for many years familiar as the signature tune of the BBC Light Programme’s Housewives’ Choice.
Vivian Ellis (1903–1996), a Londoner, was another of Britain’s leading theatre-composers between the Wars who likewise turned to light-orchestral composition. Coronation Scot (1948) has become a classic, but Alpine Pastures (1955) was scarcely less familiar at one time through its use as signature tune of the long-running radio series My Word. We hear it in the original orchestration by Sidney Torch (1908–1990). Sidney Torch was born Sidney Torchinsky of Russian parents in East London. A talented pianist, he became a theatre organist between the Wars as well as a prolific composer and arranger, and then conducted the BBC’s Friday Night is Music Night for many years. On a Spring Note (1952) may be counted among his most popular compositions—thanks largely to its use in the cinema for Pathé Gazette.
George Melachrino (1909–1965) was born in London and studied at Trinity College of Music, working as violinist, violist, saxophonist and clarinettist in various bands before directing his own dance orchestra at London’s Café de Paris. Of his various original compositions we here hear Woodland Revel, an insistent and engaging little piece dating from 1949.
Clive Richardson (1909–1998) was born in Paris of British parents and studied at the Royal Academy of Music. He composed a great deal of orchestral music, among it Melody on the Move (1946), which also gave its name to a radio series. It is heard here in an arrangement by Ronald Hanmer (1917–1994).
Among the outstanding post-World War II exponents of British light music was Ronald Binge (1910–1979). Born in Derby, he created the ‘cascading strings’ sound for Mantovani before revealing his compositional and orchestral inventiveness in a range of fine compositions. Here we sample the delicate charms of the fun-loving Miss Melanie (1956).
Harry Dexter (1910–1973) was born in Sheffield. Classically trained, he became a prolific composer and arranger in various styles, and it was he who founded the Light Music Society in 1956. His Siciliano (1953) takes its name from a lightly tripping dance style popular in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
Finally we hear from three latter-day composers. Robert Farnon (1917–2005) was born in Canada and came to England as conductor of the Allied Expeditionary Forces Band in 1944. He was soon in demand as arranger and conductor, thanks particularly to a remarkable sequence of compositions which became highly popular in the late-1940s through exposure on radio—especially on the programme In Town Tonight. Among them was the aptly named Portrait of a Flirt (1947), which ends provocatively after flitting playfully between one rhythm and another.
‘Trevor Duncan’ (1924–2005) was born as Leonard Trebilcock in Camberwell, London. He was a BBC sound engineer for music programmes before the success of his early creations encouraged him to take up composition full time. The delightfully wistful The Girl from Corsica (1959) was inspired by a real-life Corsican girl he met on holiday one year.
Ernest Tomlinson, born later in 1924 in Rawtenstall, Lancashire, studied at the Royal Manchester College of Music. He has pursued a varied musical career as organist, composer, arranger and conductor, making many radio and television appearances. His most successful composition, Little Serenade, began life in a musical play The Story of Cinderella (1955). After being extracted as an independent piece, it became widely familiar, not least as signature tune for various radio and television programmes.
This fourth dip into the well of ‘British Light Music Classics’ finds the source as fresh and sparkling as ever. All the music featured here dates from the first two thirds of the twentieth century, which may be considered the golden age of the genre. Of the composers featured, some have already been encountered in the first three volumes, but others are new to the series.
The earliest composer represented is Frederick Rosse (1867–1940). Born on the island of Jersey, he was educated at Harrow and later in Leipzig, Dresden, Brussels and Vienna. He was active mostly in the London musical theatre—as singer, musical director and composer. He wrote the score for the 1895 musical comedy All Abroad, and in 1896 was chorus master for the original production of Sidney Jones’s The Geisha (recorded on), as well as creating the minor role of Takemine. It was the incidental music he later composed while musical director at various London theatres that proved most lasting. Above all there was his music for the 1905 Garrick Theatre production of The Merchant of Venice with Arthur Bourchier as Shylock and Violet Vanbrugh as Portia. The Doge’s March especially has kept his name alive.
Albert William Ketèlbey (1875–1959) was born in Aston, near Birmingham. He studied piano, organ, cello, clarinet, oboe and horn at Trinity College, London, and had an extensive career as church organist, music editor and theatre conductor. Contrary to popular belief, the name under which he became famous was—give or take the accent added to get the stress right—his own. As one of the outstanding names of British light music, he has featured regularly in this series. After Bells Across the Meadows (recorded inof this series), Sanctuary of the Heart ( ) and In a Persian Market ( ), we have here what is perhaps his very best known composition, In a Monastery Garden (1910). It was inspired by a friend’s invitation to the Franciscan Friary at Chilworth, near Guildford in Surrey. Ketèlbey admirably captured the atmosphere of the place, complete with a male chorus of monks chanting the ‘Kyrie eleison’.
Just six days younger than Ketèlbey, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (1875–1912) was born in Holborn, London, the son of a doctor from Sierra Leone and an Englishwoman. He studied violin and piano at The Royal College of Music and was recognized as a composer of great promise after his Hiawatha’s Wedding Feast was premiered at the college in 1898. He went on to complete a Hiawatha trilogy, as well as much other vocal, chamber and orchestral music, including a violin concerto. Besides more ambitious works, he composed lighter compositions, of which the most enduring was the Petite Suite de Concert (1910), a work that set a standard for many subsequent four-movement suites. Its grace, charm and polish are such as to merit the inclusion here of all four movements. It begins with the coquettish ‘La caprice de Nanette’ and continues with its most familiar movement, ‘Demande et réponse’, a work of Elgarian grace whose ongoing popularity led to its arrangement as a song ‘Question and Answer’. The third movement, ‘Un sonnet d’amour’ (‘A Love Sonnet’) is a lyrical serenade, while the final ‘Tarantelle frétillante’ (‘Frisky Tarantella’) provides a suitably lively conclusion.
Henry Balfour Gardiner (1877–1950) was educated at Charterhouse and in Frankfurt, before going to New College, Oxford. He later taught for a time at Winchester College but, having private means, was able to devote himself to composition and to promoting works not only by himself but also by Bax, Holst, Grainger, Quilter and others. His most widely familiar composition, Shepherd Fennel’s Dance (1911), was inspired by Thomas Hardy’s short story The Three Strangers. Composed for large orchestra, it is dedicated to Henry J Wood. Gardiner’s great-nephew is the conductor John Eliot Gardiner.
Percy Fletcher (1879–1932) was born in Derby, and played the violin, piano and organ. He became musical director for various London theatres and, as such, conducted and orchestrated the long-running Chu Chin Chow. He also orchestrated some of Coleridge-Taylor’s posthumous works, and his own light music compositions possess much the same refinement and polish. His Two Parisian Sketches (1914) have remained his most treasured compositions, especially the second movement, ‘Bal Masqué’ (recorded on volume two). Here we can enjoy its playful companion, Demoiselle Chic.
Like Percy Fletcher, Charles Ancliffe (1880–1952) also remains best known for a waltz—in his case the swirling Nights of Gladness (volume 1). Around the time of the First World War Ancliffe composed many such waltzes, as well as intermezzi and marches, several of which enjoyed renewed popularity with the fashion for ‘olde-tyme dancing’ after World War II. The waltz Smiles, then Kisses was included on volume 3, and here we have another once-popular example, Thrills (1917). Himself the son of a British army bandmaster, Ancliffe was born in Kildare, Ireland. From 1900 to 1918 he was Bandmaster of the First Battalion, South Wales Borderers, seeing much service in India.
John Herbert Foulds (1880–1939) is another of the newcomers to this series. Born in Manchester, he joined The Hallé Orchestra as an aspiring conductor under Hans Richter at the age of twenty, conducting the stage band in various opera performances. Having left the Hallé in 1906, he conducted at various opera houses abroad, as well as giving concerts for the armed forces during World War I. His major composition was the once-popular A World Requiem in commemoration of World War I. Rather more lasting is his Keltic Suite (1914), which he dedicated to his friend the actor Lewis Casson. Best known of the three movements is the second, the plaintive and imposing Keltic Lament.
Eric Coates (1886–1957) scarcely needs any introduction, since his is altogether the most distinguished name in British light music. Born in Hucknall, Nottinghamshire, he was educated at The Royal Academy of Music and was an orchestral violist before injury forced him to give up playing and concentrate on composition. This series has already featured three of his marches—Calling All Workers (volume 1), Knightsbridge (volume 2) and Music Everywhere (volume 3). Here, by way of contrast, we have the gentle serenade By the sleepy lagoon (1930). Like so many of his compositions, this achieved wide familiarity as a BBC radio signature tune—in this case for the long-running Desert Island Discs. Coates composed the piece originally for small orchestra, but later produced the version for larger orchestra used here.
The clear melodic lines that typify British light music are no less apparent in the music of east-London-born Charles Williams (1893–1978). Yet he was born Isaac Cozerbreit, of central European Jewish parents. His father had used the name ‘Charles Williams’ for his own career as a concert singer, and the son formally adopted that name during World War I. He studied violin at The Royal Academy of Music and composition with Norman O’Neill, and during the 1920s played under various leading conductors as a freelance violinist. His subsequent experience as musical director in cinemas led to involvement with film scores for Gaumont–British at Lime Grove Studios. He worked on over a hundred British films, meanwhile being selected by the publisher Chappell to build its library of recorded ‘mood music’. Already this Hyperion series has featured Williams’s Devil’s Galop (volume 1) and his march Girls in Grey (volume 2). Now we hear a further two pieces whose titles admirably sum up their nature. A Quiet Stroll (1952) and the ingenious Rhythm on Rails (1956) were both used as BBC signature tunes—the former for Farming, the latter for Morning Music.
Arthur Benjamin (1893–1960) was born in Sydney, Australia, and received a general education in Brisbane before coming to London to study at The Royal College of Music under Stanford. He returned briefly to Sydney as a piano teacher but soon found he preferred the musical stimulus of London. He composed a vast range of music including operas and other vocal music, orchestral and chamber music, and film music. His taste for American and Latin American sounds was developed during travels as an adjudicator and examiner for the Associated Examining Board, and in 1938 he achieved his most popular success with his Jamaican Rumba. Composed originally for two pianos, it was later arranged for orchestra (including piano).
Frederic Curzon (1899–1973) was another stalwart of British light music and a fine craftsman. As head of the light music department of Boosey & Hawkes, he was also responsible for encouraging many younger composers. London-born, he studied violin, cello, piano and organ, became pianist in a London theatre orchestra, and by the age of twenty was conducting and composing for silent films. Later he was active as a cinema organist but concentrated increasingly on composition. This series has already featured The Boulevardier (volume 1) and March of the Bowmen (volume 2), and now we hear his wittily titled and whimsically conceived Dance of an Ostracised Imp (1940). Whatever the title means, it seems to capture the spirit of the piece admirably!
Jack Beaver (1900–1963) was, like Charles Williams, a member of the Gaumont–British Pictures composing team in the 1930s, and as such he often contributed music to British films anonymously. Born in Clapham in south London, he studied piano and composition at The Royal Academy of Music. He did much work for the BBC and between 1932 and 1947 composed music to some forty films including The Thirty-Nine Steps (1935) and The Case of the Frightened Lady (1940). For this last he provided what was considered the first ‘tabloid piano concerto’, anticipating later examples such as Richard Addinsell’s Warsaw Concerto. Beaver’s later contributions to the recorded music libraries included his Waltonesque grand march Cavalcade of Youth (1950), which achieved wide exposure when used as signature tune for the BBC radio series The Barlows of Beddington.
Fredric Bayco (1913–1970) was born in London and educated at the Brighton School of Music, The Royal Academy of Music and The Royal College of Organists, of which he became a Fellow. After war service in the RAF he became organist and director of music at Holy Trinity Church, Paddington, as well as teaching organ and musical appreciation at St Gabriel’s College, London. His best known composition is this Elizabethan Masque (1957), which early in the second Elizabethan era sought to recapture the ceremony and etiquette of the first.
Ray Martin (1918–1988) was born in Vienna where he studied violin and composition at the Academy of Music and Fine Arts before moving to England in 1937. After performing in variety as a solo violin act, he enlisted in the British Army when war broke out. Being fluent in French, German and English, he was recruited for Army intelligence, and later he became a composer, arranger and musical director with the British Forces Network in Hamburg. This led to recording contracts, for which he continued to compose under a variety of names. It was as ‘Marshall Ross’ that he composed Marching Strings (1952), a piece that became widely familiar when adopted as signature tune for the hugely popular BBC radio and television programme Top of the Form. Later Martin retired to South Africa.
Trevor Duncan (1924–2005) has already been represented in this series with the ‘March’ from his Little Suite (volume 2) and The Girl from Corsica (volume 3). He was born Leonard Charles Trebilcock in Camberwell, London, and attended Trinity College of Music for a year as an external student, but was largely self-taught. At eighteen he joined the BBC, working on sound effects, and after four years’ service in the RAF he rejoined the BBC as a sound and balance engineer. This involved working with various light orchestras, which led him to try his hand at composition. For this his BBC employment necessitated him adopting a pseudonym, and ‘Trevor Duncan’ was born. It was Ray Martin who in 1949 encouraged Duncan to offer his first two compositions to Boosey & Hawkes for their light music library. The second was High Heels, which proved his first hit number. The piece is a slightly jazzy string piece, with brass added to sound like a faint sustained organ and woodwind likewise providing colour.
Peter Hope was born in Stockport in 1930 and graduated in music at Manchester University in 1952. His reputation rests largely on his work as an orchestral arranger; but he has also composed a wide range of original music. During the 1960s this included music for libraries of ‘mood music’, among which was his Ring of Kerry suite (1965), depicting various aspects of that scenic tourist route in southern Ireland. The suite won an Ivor Novello Award in 1969 and became familiar through its use to accompany the BBC2 television test card, in the days when television transmission was a good deal less than a 24-hours-a-day business. The first movement, Jaunting Car, became especially popular.
Andrew Lamb © 2002