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The Golden Age of Light Music: Light Music While You Work Volume 2
see end of review for details
rec. 1940-1946

The radio show “Music while you work” ran for 27 years from 1940, and for two shorter periods in the 1980s and 1990s. The formula was simple – half an hour of uninterrupted music suitable to be played in factories to relieve the workers’ boredom. As half an hour a day was not always sufficient for this, the Decca company issued a series of records similar in type but which could be played between broadcasts. The orchestras chosen were not necessarily those who took part in the broadcasts but their style and choice of music was very similar.
This is the second of Guild’s selection of these recordings. It starts and ends with a brief extract from the signature tune to the broadcast: Eric Coates’ “Calling All Workers” March, conducted with characteristic dash by the composer himself. The 24 pieces forming the programme embrace a mixture of styles, from somewhat stiff and even eccentric performances or arrangements of popular classics such as the Waltz from Tchaikovsky’s “Sleeping Beauty” and the “Emperor” Waltz, to more up to date pieces such as “Toy Trumpet” and “Fashionette”. There are selections from films and shows, including “The Dancing Years”, “Girl Crazy” and “Lady in the Dark”, and novelty numbers such as Harry Davidson’s version of “Turkey in the straw”. What they all have in common is a brightness and very forward projection of the music. This is both very evocative of the period and very wearing to listen to in more than small quantities. Certainly even now it does help to take the mind off such tasks as ironing or washing up - I have tried it with both - but its main interest musically is essentially historical. The sound of the orchestras of the period now seems to be beyond recall, both in terms of the individual instruments, especially the oboes, and of the clipped crisp articulation generally favoured at that time. Such a change, over such a relatively short period is as good an indication as I have found of the difficulties facing those aiming more widely at Historically Informed Performance.
Clearly this disc will appeal to fans of the music of that period, or of the various artists featured here whose recordings are otherwise hard to come by, but I am doubtful of its wider interest. Taken a few tracks at a time, however, it does have an appeal all of its own for the curious and the nostalgic.
John Sheppard

1. Eric COATES “Calling all workers” March (excerpts) [0:27 + 0:56]
2. Louis GANNE March Lorraine [3:10]
3. Ivor NOVELLO Selection from “The Dancing Years” (1939) [3:10]
4. Katy MOSS “The Floral Dance” [3:02]
5. Pyotr Ilych TCHAIKOVSKY Waltz from “The Sleeping Beauty” [3:18]
6. Montague EWING “Pierrot comes to town” [2:53]; “Butterflies in the rain” [2:36]
7. Franz LEHÁR Lehar in the Ballroom [3:13]
8. Raymond SCOTT Toy Trumpet [2:43]
9. George GERSHWIN Selection from “Girl Crazy” [2:55]
10. Johann STRAUSS Waltz from “Die Fledermaus” (arr. Ronnie Munro) [3:07]; Emperor Waltz (arr. Ronnie Munro) [2:43]
11. Jack STRACHEY “Theatreland” March [2:59]
12. Franz von BLON Sizilietta [3:07]
13. Charles ANCLIFFE “Castles in Spain” [3:04]
14. Georges BOULANGER Selection from the film “One Exciting Night” (1944) [5:34]
15. Jack GLOGAN & Robert KING Fashionette [3:07]
16. Franz SCHUBERT Moment Musical No. 3 [3:17]
17. Lloyd THOMAS Scarlet and Gold [3:52]
18. Paul LINCKE Softly unawares [2:56]
19. Harry WARREN & Leo ROBIN “Journey to a star” & “ No love no nothing” [2:43]
20. Percy FLETCHER “Bal Masque” (from Two Parisian Sketches) [3:20]
21. Lance STARKE “With sword and lance” [2:44]
22. Trad arr. Harry DAVIDSON “Turkey in the straw” [3:01]
23. Kurt WEILL Selection from “Lady in the dark” (1941) [5:28]
Eric Coates & Symphony Orchestra (1)
London Coliseum Orchestra/Reginald Burston (2, 13, 17, 21)
Harry Fryer and his orchestra (3, 11)
Harry Davidson and his orchestra (4, 17, 22)
Richard Crean and his orchestra (5, 16, 20)
Harold Collins and his orchestra (6, 15)
Wynford Reynolds and his orchestra (7)
Reginald Pursglove and his orchestra (8)
Studio Orchestra/Phil Green (9, 19)
Ronnie Munro and his Scottish Variety Orchestra (10)
David Java and his orchestra (12)
Phil Green and his Theatreland Orchestra (14, 23)


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July 2022

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