The Merrymakers – British Light Classics

Eric COATES Overture: The Merrymakers [4:28]
Trevor DUNCAN The Girl from Corsica [3:48]
Ernest TOMLINSON Little Serenade [3:03]
Eric COATES Dance in the Twilight (from Springtime Suite) [4:55]
Hamish MCCUNN arr Iain SUTHERLAND Sutherland’s Law Theme [3:31]
Arthur BLISS March: Things to Come [3:58]
Ronald BINGE The Watermill [3:03]
Peter HOPE Playful Scherzo [3:45]
Cecil Armstrong GIBBS Dusk (from Fancy Dress Suite) [3:13]
Ralph VAUGHAN WILLIAMS Seventeen Come Sunday [3:19]
Charlie CHAPLIN arr Reg TILSLEY Theme from Limelight [3:46]
Lionel MONCKTON arr Arthur WOOD Overture: The Arcadians [5:15]
Charles WILLIAMS The Dream of Olwen [3:19]
Malcolm ARNOLD English Dance No.6 [1:29]
TRAD arr Gordon Langford My Love Is Like a Red Red Rose [3:57]
TRAD arr Peter Hope Mexican Hat Dance [4:16]
TRAD arr Adrian Staines Suo Gan [3:11]
Ernest TOMLINSON Dick’s Maggot (from Suite of English Folk Dances) [2:38]
Albert W KETÈLBEY Bells Across the Meadow [4:28]
Malcolm ARNOLD Overture: Tam o’ Shanter [8:21]
Concert Orchestra/Iain Sutherland
rec. 1983/8. DDD
ALTO ALC 1192 [78:29]
Iain Sutherland served a long and benign apprenticeship with the BBC. His metier is light music, a genre he practised with various BBC orchestras including the ‘regionals’. These included, pre-eminently, the BBC Concert Orchestra, adaptable as ever and still going strong. With that orchestra he took on the mantle of Ashley Lawrence who in turn had taken over the baton from Stanford Robinson - himself a doughty champion of more momentous British music (glorious studio recordings of Bax Symphony 5 and Boughton Queen of Cornwall).
Sutherland's craft and inspiration irradiates this exuberant and poetic collection. Things start with the Coates romp that is The Merrymakers. This crashes along with pinpoint euphoric accuracy. Much the same applies to his Dance in the Twilight. Duncan's Corsican Maid is a Mediterranean sultry if ever there was one. Long high string lines mix it up with castanets, tambourines and the bluest of blue marine horizons. Add to this a faint dash of Berber exoticism. Ernest Tomlinson's Little Serenade is an innocent little Delian play-some thing. The same composer’s Dick's Maggot is a bowing and courtseying dance. Iain Sutherland's arrangement of the cantabile section of Macunn's Land of the mountain and the flood gives us the theme from the Scottish 1960s procurator-fiscal TV series ‘Sutherland's Law’. Grip and raw bite, especially from the brass, provide cordite and pepper. It's crackingly done. After Bliss's mordant and despotic march we hear the Binge miniature, The Watermill with its prominent and unsleepy role for the cor anglais. Playful scherzo by Peter Hope, has a slightly jazzy-bluesy overlay. It flaunts its way into Armstrong Gibbs' classic Dusk. Again the cobwebs are dashed away with pin-point rhythmic intricacy in RVW’s Seventeen Come Sunday. Chaplin's super-sentimental Limelight is set amid a hush and tension conjured by Reg Tilsley.
The merry Arcadians overture precedes the sumptuous but empty Dream of Olwen. Arnold's gleamy-fresh and rumbustious English Dance No 6 is belted out with the spirited dial turned up to max. The French horns are just resplendent at 1:05. My love is like a red red rose, arranged by Gordon Langford, has prominent solo voices for harp and viola. Peter Hope returns for the cheeky Mexican Hat Dance. The traditional Welsh Suo Gan, as arranged by Adrian Staines, is straight and soulful. Ketèlbey's Bells across the meadow adds distanced contentment – shame that the bells sound more iron than devotional. Lastly we hear Tam O’Shanter’s boozy Caledonianisms from Arnold. The performance is exceptional with that sense of unfocused alcoholically swimming eyes and supernatural danger fully in gear. Sutherland, himself a Scot, ensures that the whinnying and braying brass have never sounded as raucously nor staggered as bibulously.
The liner note is by Sutherland himself. He knows his stuff though Alto’s proofing let through Ketèlbey’s name as ‘Ketelby’. Minor stuff!
This is a really splendid collection – the epitome of British light music standing out in a crowded market. I wish there had been more from Sutherland. Are there other tapes for a second collection? I hope so and so will you if you seek this one out.
Rob Barnett
This is a really splendid collection – the epitome of British light music standing out in a crowded market.