Classical Editor: Rob
ENGLISH COMPOSERS FOR AMATEURS No 6: CHARLES WOODHOUSE by Philip L Scowcroft
The third, fourth and fifth in this series featured pianists. By contrast Charles J Woodhouse was a violinist and a capable, very experienced one. Born in London in 1879, he was only sixty when he died at Beare Green, Surrey on 2 May 1939, having been in poor health for some time. Although the violin was his principal study he learnt the piano also. During his career he played in various orchestras including the Royal Philharmonic, the London Symphony and that at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden but he was particularly associated with the Henry J Wood Promenade Concerts. taking over as leader of the Queens Hall Orchestra for the 1920 summer Prom season. He was to remain as Wood's leader for fourteen years through two changes of orchestra title. One was purely for copyright reasons, to the New Queen's Hall Orchestra in 1927; the other was when the BBCSO was formed in 1930, mostly from the members of the New Queen's Hall and London Wireless Orchestras. Arthur Catterall was to be the first Leader of the BBC Orchestra but Woodhouse - who had led the BBC Orchestra during the winter 1929-30 and was subsequently to be sub-Leader under Catterall - led it for the Proms until ill health compelled him to resign in 1934. The 1930 season indeed was played by an advance guard of the BBCSO (90 players) before the official debut of the 114 strong orchestra in October 1930.
Not only did Woodhouse, for the respectable period of fifteen years, lead for the Proms. It was Sir Henry Wood's practice to hand him the baton at rehearsals so that Wood could move around the Queen's Hall judging balance and performance generally ringing a bell, which the players learned to hate, when he wished to stop the orchestra for any reason. Woodhouse also conducted occasionally at these concerts; in the 1927 season he directed Lord Berners Fantasie Espagnole - Havergal Brian, present as a critic for Musical Opinion, said that he did so "quite brilliantly too with a complete grasp of the composer's score, though somewhat shy and reserved" an assessment which reads as something of a contradiction in terms.
For many years Woodhouse conducted the basically amateur Civil Service Orchestra. He was a Musician-in-Ordinary to the King (George V) and he fitted lecturing and examining for the Associated Board into his busy life. He also played in several string quartets, the Saunders, Grimson, Reed and finally Charles Woodhouse Quartets.
He also produced a large quantity of music for amateurs, particularly young amateurs, to play. Some of this took the form of easy arrangements of, for example, Gluck's Che Faro, the Spinning Chorus and Sailor's Chorus from Wagner's The Flying Dutchman, Land of Hope and Glory and Melodies from Faust - Gounod's Faust of course - all of which I have heard in recent years and they still sound well. The BBC's Music Library has only a few of his pieces. Even though Woodhouse was associated with the Corporation for so many years, the BBC's orchestras, being professional would not normally play arrangements for young students. However the Library's Catalogue does include Three English Melodies for an orchestra which includes two saxophones, Wait for the Wagon which has a euphonium part, plus arrangements of W H Squire's Lazy-Lane, Ancliffe's Unforgotten Hours waltz, Schubert's Third Moment Musical, Schumann's Schlummerlied, Sinding's Rustle of Spring, Frederick Rosse's Cyrano de Bergerac suite and Allan Macbeth's Romantic Melody, arranged for either full orchestra or string orchestra and all credited to him. Another Woodhouse arrangement, Foulds' Keltic Lament has parts for two each of saxophones and cornets. In the BBC's Chamber Music Catalogue there appear Three Welsh Melodies, the miniature overture Spring-Tide and Rosemary in settings for two violins and piano which adapt easily for amateur string orchestras and indeed in recent years I have heard Rosemary played in this manner, together with other simple yet graceful original compositions such as Fairy Fingers, largely an exercise in Pizzicato, a Stately Measure, Valiant Knight, Peasant Dance, Rustic Dance, Minuet and Valse, Rural Suite, Clown's Dance, Rosebud, Slow Gavotte and Valse, the march Unity, Scherzo, Rondoletto, Frolic, Eastern Dance, Morning Song, Processional March and a most attractive Berceuse. I feel sure that Woodhouse would be pleased to see these and other little pieces - modest, I suppose, and written for a modest though far from unimportant, purpose - still giving pleasure and service in the teaching role well over fifty years after his death. They could be good for another fifty.
© Philip L Scowcroft
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