The Golden Years of Light Music - Grandstand: Production Music of the 1940s
All tracks Mono - see end for listing
Dates refer to recording, not composition.
GUILD LIGHT MUSIC GLCD5220 [72:37]
I was interested to understand what the subtitle ‘Production Music of the 1940s’ of this new CD in the Guild Light Music series meant. The liner-notes state that it was music ‘provided by publishers for use by professionals mainly in the entertainment business.’ Very often this music was specifically composed for the purpose and may have lasted only for a few seconds. I once discovered a CD of music for this purpose containing a number of very brief pieces by Edward White (of ‘Runaway Rocking Horse’ fame) and Trevor Duncan. These included ‘City to Suburb’ (00:20) ‘Bright Lights’ (00:34) and ‘Bound for the Country/Coast’ (38:00). I guess that none of these would be viable for general listening, but I imagine that they would be of great use to someone making a documentary film or newsreel. Some of these ‘production’ pieces have become popular over the years and fortunately are usually slightly longer.
The present CD explores a wide variety of this ‘mood music’ from some of the very best of light music composers. It gets off to a great start with Robert Farnon’s ‘Grandstand’ which was sometimes also listed as ‘Holiday Party Time’. It is an enervating piece that certainly gives a good impression of a day at the races. Jack Beaver’s ‘Radio Theatre’ is a little bit more romantic in its mood, suggesting a quiet night-in listening to the wireless. Edward White provides a bouncy little ‘Caprice for strings’ that is neat, tight and written with pure craftsmanship. I am not sure what ‘Horse Feathers’ are, unless it refers to the Marx Brother’s film, but Philip Green’s tune of that name is a lugubrious little canter down a country lane. I wonder who ‘Tricksy’ was. Frederick George Charrosin is not specific about the source of his melody. Yet this is a happy-go-lucky person who is accompanied on his/her peregrinations by some lively music and clever orchestration. ‘Eunice’ by the well-regarded Charles Williams is an attractive little waltz that is full of summer sunshine.
I have long admired the music of Montague Ewing and have a fair number of his piano works on my shelves. However the ‘Phantom Piper’ is one of the few orchestral works from his pen that I have heard. It would appear to have begun life as a ‘novelty’ piano solo. I guess the ghostlike bells make this into a kind of spooky piece. Somehow I do not think this piper is too scary. We all enjoy visiting Sunny Spain: Robert Busby has given a delightful impression called ‘A Refrain from Spain’. Whether he had been there or not is immaterial: it is a kind of romantic picture of the Iberian peninsula seen through the eyes of an Englishman. Jack Strachey presents a naturally bubbly account of ‘Pink Champagne’ which after a ‘big’ introduction launches into a vivacious waltz. I had to check out who ‘Shock Headed Peter’ was. Seemingly, it derives from a German children’s book published in the 1840s. These morality tales included a character who was rather like Edward Scissorhands with spiky ‘electrified’ hair. Ronald Hanmer gives a good musical picture of this character, with wayward music. Just occasionally a little waltz tries to establish itself. However, Peter never really gets the girl. It is one of the cleverest and most subtle pieces on this disc.
Jack Beaver has given us a fine impression of a ‘Mannequin’. In this case I think it is a beautiful lady displaying a new dress rather than the more prosaic three-dimensional display dummy in Dickins and Jones.
It is almost certain that the plans for the first British motorways were being developed in the late 1940s. However, Frank Tapp’s music probably refers to something a little less ambitious. The Germans had their autobahns: the first opened between Cologne and Bonn in 1932. More likely it was the Great West Road in London which was opened by King George V in 1925 as Britain’s very first dual-carriageway that inspired Tapp. Frederic Curzon presents a good ‘Capricante’ which has an oriental feel to it. ‘News Reel’ by Len Stevens seems to suggest good news as opposed to something nasty. This ‘news’ is something positive, possibly describing a sporting event or a royal walkabout. The ‘trio’ is a really good tune that deserves to be heard more often. Philip Green has gone to Africa or the West Indies for his ‘Voodoo’ inspired piece. Alas, it sounds more like a day-trip to Casablanca than something more mysterious.
‘Holiday Parade’ by Walter Collins is my favourite piece. It takes me back to the annual trip to Morecambe. All the delights of the seaside are presented to the mind’s eye. There is walk on the beach, a stroll along the pier, Punch and Judy and the high diving board at the lido. The journey was made behind a British Railways express locomotive.
The next piece calls to mind pantomimes at Christmas. ‘Tinkerbell’ from J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan was basically a good, if occasionally naughty, fairy. The audience is always happy to help Peter bring her back to life. King Palmer’s music squares the circle of her wayward character. Yet it is a piece of music that I seem to know from somewhere, but where?
I have not consciously heard anything by Geoffrey Henman. His ‘Charmeuse’ has a delightfully romantic French mood to it. This is a late night waltz with a very special lady. Equally romantic is Tony Lowry’s ‘Valse d’Amour’.
I am not sure if Michael North’s ‘Coliseum March’ refers to the ancient monument in Rome or to the Theatre in London. Certainly, it seems to suggest a night out at the shows rather than succumbing to the violence of the gladiators or the lions’ teeth. I cannot fathom what mood music Eric Winstone is creating with his ‘Chinchilla’. My dictionary defines the title as a ‘crepuscular rat’ so there must be some symbolism here that I do not understand. However, he does sound as if he is a romantic little fella at heart. Alfred Nieman’s ‘Parade of the Chessmen’ is a shrewd little piece. This is a military parade with a little bit of syncopation and not too much in the way of preparation for battle.
Clive Richardson is one of the better known writers of light music with famous numbers including ‘Beachcomber’ and the wartime hit, ‘London Fantasia’. His ‘The Theme for Romance’ could also be set in London, however this time it is more likely to be in the ballroom of the Dorchester Hotel or the Savoy Grill with the one you love, rather than an ‘ack-ack’ position on Hampstead Heath. The Spanish mood is recreated by Mark Lubbock’s ‘Fiesta’. This is a rip-roaring piece that is full of sunshine and castanets. The final work on this CD is another of my favourites – ‘Golden Arrow’ by Jack Beaver. I could elaborate on the image behind the title for many pages, however it fair to say that this is a railway piece ‘par excellence’. The Golden Arrow was the luxury boat-train initiated by the Southern Railway in 1929 between London Victoria and Dover, where passengers transferred to the cross-channel ferries bound for Calais and then onward to Paris. It ceased in 1972. Beaver creates all the excitement that this journey would have generated.
Once again Guild Light Music have presented listeners with a potpourri of musical material with something to appeal to everyone. The liner-notes by David Ades are excellent and include a detailed analysis of the genre of ‘production music’. All the tracks have been beautifully restored, bearing in mind that they are between 65 and 75 years old. Something tells me that there will be more volumes of this particular genre of light music waiting in the wings. I look forward to reviewing them when they are released. An album likely to appeal strongly to all enthusiasts of light music.
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Robert FARNON (1917-2005) ‘Grandstand’ Queen’s Hall Light Orchestra conducted by Robert Farnon (1948) [2:18]
Jack BEAVER (1900-1963) ‘Radio Theatre’ New Century Orchestra conducted by Sidney Torch (1947) [2:59]
Edward WHITE (1910-1994) ‘Caprice for Strings’ London Promenade Orchestra conducted by Walter Collins (1947) [2:54]
Philip GREEN (1911-1982) ‘Horse Feathers’ Queen’s Hall Light Orchestra conducted by Sidney Torch (1947) [2:37]
Frederick George CHARROSIN (1910-1976) ‘Tricksy’ West End Celebrity Orchestra (1942) [3:01]
Charles WILLIAMS (1893-1978) ‘Eunice’ Queen’s Hall Light Orchestra conducted by Charles Williams (1946) [2:24]
Montague EWING (1890-1957) ‘Phantom Piper’ Louis Voss Grand Orchestra (1944) [2:52]
Robert BUSBY (1901-1952) ‘A Refrain from Spain’ Queen’s Hall Light Orchestra conducted by Robert Farnon (1947) [2:41]
Jack STRACHEY (1894-1972) ‘Pink Champagne’ West End Celebrity Orchestra (1947) [2:53]
Ronald HANMER (1917-1994) ‘Shock-Headed Peter’ Harmonic Orchestra conducted by Hans May (1949) [3:03]
Jack BEAVER ‘Mannequin’ New Century Orchestra conducted by Sidney Torch (1947) [2:59]
Graeme STUART real name Frank TAPP (1893-1953) ‘New Highway’ Regent Classic Orchestra (1947) [3:06]
Frederic CURZON (1899-1973) ‘Capricante’ New Concert Orchestra conducted by Jack Leon (1948) [3:28]
Len STEVENS (?-1989) ‘News Reel’ New Century Orchestra conducted by Sidney Torch (1947) [2:36]
Philip GREEN ‘Voodoo’ Louis Voss and His Orchestra (1947) [3:11]
Walter COLLINS (1892-1956) Holiday Parade’ London Promenade Orchestra conducted by Walter Collins (1946) [2:41]
Cedric KING PALMER (1913-1999) ‘Tinkerbell’ London Promenade Orchestra conducted by Walter Collins (1946) [2:44]
Geoffrey HENMAN (b.1896-?) ‘Charmeuse’ Queen’s Hall Light Orchestra conducted by Charles Williams (1946) [2:33]
Michael NORTH (1902-1960) ‘Coliseum March’ Queen’s Hall Light Orchestra conducted by Charles Williams (1946) [2:14]
Tony LOWRY (1888-1976) ‘Valse D’amour’ Queen’s Hall Light Orchestra conducted by Philip Green (1946) [3:17]
Eric WINSTONE (1915-1974) ‘Chinchilla’ New Century Orchestra conducted by Sidney Torch (1947) [3:08]
Alfred MERLIN, real name Alfred NIEMAN (1914-1997) ‘Parade of the Chessmen’ London Promenade Orchestra conducted by Walter Collins (1947) [3:08]
Clive RICHARDSON (1909-1998) arr. Adrian FOLEY ‘Theme for Romance’ Queen’s Hall Light Orchestra conducted by Robert Farnon (1947) [3:09]
Mark LUBBOCK (1898-1986) ‘Fiesta’ Queen’s Hall Light Orchestra conducted by Robert Farnon (1947) [2:37]
Jack BEAVER ‘Golden Arrow’ New Century Orchestra conducted by Sidney Torch (1948) [2:43]