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  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    


CAREY BLYTON Short Stories £12.50

FAND MUSIC PRESS, The Barony, 16 Sandringham Rd, Petersfield, Hampshire GU32 2AA

Amazon UK

Those readers who also know Blyton’s music, either through the CDs which have been coming out for the last ten years or through his educational music, or indeed through ‘Bananas in Pyjamas’ or even the incidental music he composed many years ago for the BBC’s Dr.Who, may well be surprised, one hopes pleasantly, by this lovely and entertaining collection of his short stories written over a period of thirty years.

As far as his music is concerned mostly, one can say, what you hear is what you get, there is no double meaning, no sting in the tale, nothing particularly sinister.

I know of course that he has been attracted to horror. The so-called ‘Unholy Trinity’ of the three ‘kiddies cantatas’ Sweeney Todd Op. 79, Dracula Op. 87 and Frankenstein Op. 94 which I was privileged to give a performance of, are each children’s equivalents of Hammer horrors. However they are also amusing as the narration makes clear for both adults and children and the music is simply fun. So if the subject matter does not keep you awake at night with fear and trembling then the music will keep you awake with its foot-tapping tunefulness.

Obviously though, Carey Blyton loves a ‘bit of gore’.

His other music may mimic or pastiche styles and composers, but it has no ‘side’ to it. It is not too profound although there are works which are very thoughtful and sensitive; for instance the ‘Pensive Songs’ Op. 10 and the guitar piece ‘For the delight of Shiva’ Op. 94 and others. These short stories however demonstrate another aspect of the versatile art of Carey Blyton. Many appear at first to be highly amusing and almost straightforward. For example the village competition to give a prize to the biggest marrow, a regular event in rural areas, which is regularly won in this unnamed village (did he have West Lydford in mind where he had spent a month as an evacuee?) by a spinster whose compost is the decaying remains of her long deceased older brother (perhaps the most contrived of the endings). More successful in my view is the story set in Blyton’s favourite Sri Lanka where he had lived for three months in the 80s and concerning one Professor Anderson who is attending the somewhat prosaic 31st Conference of Toxicology. The lovely tale of Sulochana in ‘Beggar your neighbour’ is also set in Sri Lanka. Poignantly Blyton can write particularly affectionately about this disabled teenage boy as he himself has been disabled since his late teens.

Thinking of Sri Lanka reminds me that several of Blyton’s personal interests are revealed in these stories. The three fishing stories reminded me of his compositions ‘The Bream’ Op 51 some sections of ‘Songs from the Ark’ Op 48 and ‘A Shoal of fishes’ Op 88 for solo harp. ‘Touchdown’ brought to my mind the guitar pieces’ The Oceans of the Moon’ Op 75. Also one should remember that the composer had studied Zoology seriously before he caught the musical bug (as it were). There are no musical stories, which is rather wise.

Most touching of all is the brief autobiographical sketch in 13 short chapters, ‘Summer in the Country’. This traces his wartime evacuation experiences as a 12 year old. These come from an anthology printed in 1990 of evacuee stories. It was published originally by Sawd Publications. This publication also took on some other of these stories. I feel that it may be slightly misleading to describe this as an autobiography on the cover of the book, because the story takes place only over one summer (1944) and is in effect a series of short stories. Incidentally the reminiscences open with a line often used by Alan Bennet mimics "It was on a warm July evening in 19…"

The book at this point is adorned with four pictures, which illustrate the idyll of Somerset in the 40s. I would have enjoyed slightly less about the fishing and more about the characters he knew but never mind.

There were times when I thought seriously to myself that Carey Blyton may well be a better writer than composer, but then I thought again, and decided that although these stories had afforded me and my family much pleasure and discussion I shall always enjoy and admire the music more.

Gary Higginson

These short stories demonstrate another aspect of the versatile art of Carey Blyton. … see Full Review

Philip Scowcroft has also read this book

Carey Blyton is known to us as a composer but his interests range widely over the arts generally. As his aunt was one of the most popular children’s authors of all time, we should not be surprised to hail his skills as a writer.

This slim hardback volume contains 15 short stories, none previously published in book form and three not at all. They were mostly written between 1970 and 1987. Some are whimsical, some ironic, a few sentimental and one or two autobiographical - parallels to his compositions perhaps. All are readable and pleasantly written (none, incidentally, is about music). Most notable for me is the fragment of autobiography covering two months in 1944 (Blyton was 12) when a V1 bought about his evacuation to Somerset, an experience which saw the beginnings of his love of nature and his interest in music. Four black and white illustrations enjoyably underline the recollections.

Philip Scowcroft

 

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