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Peter HOPE (b.1930)
Through the Crystal - A 90th Birthday Celebration
rec. 1965-80
MOZART EDITION MR120120 [72:42 + 75:19]

The British composer Peter Hope is 90 years old on 2 November 2020. Due to Coronavirus this celebration will be muted, at least as far as live events are concerned. Those of us who are fortunate to have met Peter, will know him to be a charming and delightful gentleman and much of his personality rubs off on his wide-ranging catalogue of compositions. His first major work was a concerto for trumpet and orchestra, written in 1952. He has been composing ever since and, happily, continues to do so.

Whatever style or genre is used, his music is always well-written, approachable, and thoroughly enjoyable. In recent years, he has composed several ‘concert hall’ works which are largely tonal, but considerably more serious than his most of his light music. Hope’s most famous piece is undoubtedly the beguiling Ring of Kerry Suite. This splendid example of the light music composer’s craft won the Ivor Novello award in the early 1960s. Over the years, Hope has added a considerable body of work to ‘music libraries’ - places where producers of radio and TV programmes would search for suitable soundtracks. One piece, News Tune, was famously used as the theme to the BBC TV News from 1969 to the early 1980s.

Much of Peter Hope’s achievement has been as an arranger. He has worked with many well-known singers including Jessye Norman, Stuart Burrows and Dame Kiri Te Kanawa. Many of his character pieces have appeared under the pseudonym of William Gardner. Eagle eyed readers will notice that the track-listing below indicates that some of these pieces were performed by Hope’s own orchestra, The William Gardner Orchestra.

The reader will be pleased that I am not going to give a detailed discussion of each one of these 58 tracks. Some general comments will apply. Stylistically, these pieces are all light-music. Alas, this soubriquet is often used negatively. In other words, it is often deliberately opposed to ‘serious’ or ‘art’ music. Providing a succinct definition of the genre is also quite difficult. A good rule of thumb is that given by the Light Music Society: Light Music bridges the gap between classical and popular music, although its boundaries are often blurred. It is music with an immediate appeal, music to entertain and to enjoy. It has a strong emphasis on melody…’ Many of the works on this double CD can be defined as being three or four minutes long, sometimes descriptive, and nearly always deploying an immediately engaging theme and a contrasting middle eight. Philip Scowcroft has added that: ‘Good light music should have an artistic value to it. The pieces should exhibit good constructive principles as well as being competently orchestrated.’ One final thought, and this is important. Light music should be listened to. It must not be allowed just to wash over the audience. It is not just background music, although it can be used as such. I have found that I am often moved more by a short piece of ‘light’ music than some more serious pieces of music by the famous ‘Masters’.

Peter Hope’s music ticks all the above boxes. Each piece is well-crafted, presents a single ‘thought’ which can be easily digested and employs great workmanship in instrumentation and formal design. Every number charms and delights, with one or two providing slightly deeper thoughts.

What are my favourites?  Well, that is difficult, but I guess it would include the groovy West One, the delicious Zaza, the jazz-infused Burt’s Back, the swinging One Jump Ahead and Big Time, the skittish Irish Imp, the cool Swing Easy, and the eye-catching Beach Girls - and it is good to hear the Rings of Kerry Suite again; it really is a little masterpiece.

The batting order seems to be arbitrary. If I had been assembling this CD, I would have arranged the pieces by genre or possibly chronologically. For example, I would have gathered the ‘Test Card Tracks’ or ‘Potter’s Wheel’ music, the ‘jazz’ numbers, and then those with a soft ‘rock’ or ‘pop’ beat. As there are no descriptive liner notes, each piece comes as a bit of a surprise. That said, the titles often - but not always - give a good clue. Some can suggest more than a single thought: does The Shadows-sounding Night Flight imply a plane journey or a ‘flitting’, or perhaps Rockin’ Chair could be inspired by Bill Haley? (It is not.)

All these tracks have been previously released on record between 1965 and 1980. Bearing in mind that the masters were made on 2” tape, the quality of the sound is remarkable. The booklet does not include details of when and where each track was recorded, or equally of interest, which LP or CD it was previously issued on. There is a short interview with Peter Hope as well as a brief paragraph from the Test Card Circle. A photo of the composer from back in the day with long hair makes us all feel old! The gatefold CD cover and the booklet are designed with ‘rock’ or ‘pop’ art in mind rather than some fusty classical layout.

This is an excellent compilation of some of Peter Hope’s most tuneful music; I loved just about every track but I advise listeners to take them a few at a time. As with all light music, I tend to allow the title to flash an image into my mind. This usually works and leads to considerable enjoyment and appreciation.

I understand that there are many more examples of Peter Hope’s light music ‘in the can’. It is hoped that there will be further releases from Mozart Record. Finally, it would be great if CD companies would invest in recordings of Hope’s ‘concert hall’ works as well as his vocal and chamber pieces. Let us hope we do not have to wait until Peter Hope’s 100th Birthday before being able to enjoy more of his considerable achievement.

John France 

 
Contents
CD1
1. Through the Crystal (William Gardner) William Gardner and His Music (2:27)
2. Away from it All (William Gardner) The William Gardner Orchestra (2:20)
3. Early One Morning (Trad. arr. Peter Hope) The Sound and the Voices (2:48)
4. Bavarian Ramble (William Gardner) Anthony Wood and His Orchestra (2:27)
5. Music Box Waltz (William Gardner) Hans Hatter and His Orchestra (1:36)
6. Big Time (William Gardner) The William Gardner Orchestra (2:44)
7. Burt’s Back (Peter Hope) The Brian Dee Quintet (2:40)
8. Petit Point (Peter Hope) Orchestra Raphael (3:10)
9. Small Town (William Gardner) The William Gardner Orchestra (2:14)
10. Cast a Shadow (William Gardner) William Gardner and His Music (2:45)
11. Bitter Fruit (William Gardner) The Voices of Jack Wolfe (2:15)
12. Close Crop (William Gardner) Hans Hatter and His Orchestra (2:30)
13. Feed Back (William Gardner) Raphael and His Band (2:36)
14. Gilded Cage (William Gardner) The William Gardner Orchestra (2:33)
15. Bluebells (William Gardner) The Raphael Light Orchestra (2:56)
16. Bandit (William Gardner) Perry / Gardner Orchestra (2:48)
17. Skin Deep (William Gardner) The Voices of Jack Wolfe (2:09)
18. West One (William Gardner) William Gardner and His Orchestra (3:19)
19. Hand in Hand (William Gardner) Anthony Wood and His Orchestra (2:29)
20. Smoke Signals (William Gardner) The Neil Richardson Big Band (2:14)
21. Nature Trail (Peter Hope) The William Gardner Orchestra (2:18)
22. Hot Line (William Gardner) The Voices of Jack Wolfe (2:11)
23. Sky High (Peter Hope) The William Gardner Orchestra (2:41)
24. Irish Imp (William Gardner) Anthony Wood and His Orchestra (2:00)
25. One Jump Ahead (Peter Hope) Walt Peters and His Orchestra (2:42)
26. Rodeo Express (Peter Hope) Orchestra Raphael (1:54)
27. Lavender’s Blue (Trad. arr. Peter Hope) The Sound and the Voices (2:42)
28. Zaza (William Gardner) Perry / Gardner Orchestra (2:11)
29. Love Tokens (Peter Hope) The William Gardner Orchestra (2:47)

CD2
1. Ring of Kerry 1. Jaunting Car (Peter Hope) Orchestra Raphael (2:26)
2. Ring of Kerry 2. Lough Leane (Peter Hope) Orchestra Raphael (3:41)
3. Ring of Kerry 3. Killorglin Fair (Peter Hope) Orchestra Raphael (3:12)
4. Farewell (William Gardner) Hans Hatter and His Orchestra (2:29)
5. Minor Degrees (Peter Hope) The Brian Dee Quintet (3:37)
6. Beach Girls (William Gardner) William Gardner and His Orchestra (2:40)
7. Moving On (William Gardner) Raphael and His Band (2:35)
8. Ride on the Wind (William Gardner) The Voices of Jack Wolfe (2:23)
9. Night Flight (William Gardner) Perry / Gardner Orchestra (2:26)
10. Rockin’ Strings (William Gardner) William Gardner and His Orchestra (3:01)
11. In This Time (William Gardner) William Gardner and His Music (2:35)
12. Swing Low (Trad. arr. Peter Hope) The Sound and the Voices (2:16)
13. Afterglow (Peter Hope) William Gardner and His Orchestra (2:36)
14. Public Image (Peter Hope) The William Gardner Orchestra (2:47)
15. Shuttle Service (Peter Hope) The William Gardner Orchestra (2:46)
16. Sweet Inspiration (William Gardner) Hans Hatter and His Orchestra (2:32)
17. Hurry Leanne (Peter Hope) Orchestra Raphael (1:04)
18. Breakdown (William Gardner) The Voices of Jack Wolfe (2:04)
19. Rare Breed (Peter Hope) The William Gardner Orchestra (2:19)
20. Going Your Way (William Gardner) Anthony Wood and His Orchestra (2:23)
21. Rockin’ Chair (Peter Hope) Hans Hatter and His Orchestra (2:29)
22. Serenade in Rhythm (William Gardner) Perry / Gardner Orchestra (2:26)
23. Balalaika Melody (Trad. arr. Hope) New Raphael Singers (2:31)
24. Face Lift (William Gardner) The William Gardner Orchestra (2:46)
25. Harry’s Happy Now (Peter Hope) Art Deco Orchestra (2:18)
26. Sunshine Girl (William Gardner) The William Gardner Orchestra (2:30)
27. Underpass (William Gardner) Raphael and His Band (2:35)
28. Swing Easy (William Gardner) William Gardner and His Music (2:29)
29. Irish Legend 1. The Fianna (Peter Hope) Orchestra Raphael (3:03)



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