Classical MusicWeb

Music Webmaster Len Mullenger


Hundred up! In the course of these essays we have discussed or mentioned the best part of a thousand British light music composers - and there are, I believe, hundreds more yet to be noticed. It has been a pleasure to recall so many men (and women) of genius and talent who made, and in some cases continue to make, British music such a success story.

Several of the names here are, as has often been the case, conductors. ALEXANDER FARIS, born in 1921, conducted Carl Rosa and Sadler's Wells Opera companies and the Royal Ballet. He has also composed for orchestra (Sketches of Regency England), the theatre (an operetta, R loves J, 1973), and music for both the large screen (Georgy Girl, The Quare Fellow, Rowlandson's England) and, best known of all, the small screen (Upstairs, Downstairs, Wings and The Duchess of Duke Street).

In slightly lighter vein, PAUL FENOULHET (1906-79) conducted the Skyrockets in the 1940s and after the war conducted the BBC's lighter orchestras during the fifties and sixties. He arranged prolifically and also composed, novelty "mood" pieces such as Happidrome, The Grande Corniche, Top Gear, Awakening Memories and Lullaby Moderne, even a concert suite, Suffolk Sketches, one of whose movements is entitled "Flatford Mill".

At roughly the same period, CYRIL STAPLETON (1914-74), born in Nottingham, was active as a bandleader, having played violin for Henry Hall's band and served in the RAF. He broadcast regularly up to the 1960s. His most popular compositions included Blue Star, Elephant Tango, Children's Marching Song, which was used in a film, The Happy Whistler and Forgotten Dreams. His son ROBIN STAPLETON conducts the BBC Concert Orchestra. MICHAEL SPIVAKOVSKY, violinist and conductor, broadcast regularly with his Stradivari Orchestra; his compositions included the short Memoir and, dating from 1955, Tango of Violins.

We now retrace our steps to the beginning of the century and offer the name PHILIP MICHAEL FARADAY, who was more of a manager and impresario of touring operetta companies than a composer; but he did write music for the musical comedies A Welsh Sunset (1908) and The Islander (1910), and, most successfully, the comic opera Amasis in 1906.

HARRY FARJEON (1878-1948) was born in New Jersey (USA), but of British parents and studied at the Royal Academy of Music with Frederick Corder, returning there as a Professor in 1903. He was a member of a notable theatrical and artistic family and although he composed concertos and symphonic poems, a lot of his large output is lightish and included three operettas, short orchestral pieces like the Elegy for strings, Idyll and the Hans Andersen and Caldicott suites, ballads such as An Elfin Lady and Vagrant Songs and much piano music (Canzonetta, Elégie Héroique, the five Peter Pan Sketches, Summer Suite and the (six) Pictures from Greece).

TOLCHARD EVANS, really SYDNEY EVANS (1901-78) was a pianist, originally in "silent" cinemas, and later a bandleader. He composed more than a thousand songs, his most popular titles being I'll Sing to You, Dreamy Devon, Valencia, and, most famously, Lady of Spain (1931), supposedly suggested by the rhythm of the train running along Southend Pier and recently recorded in an orchestral version. Evans wrote for orchestra, too: the waltz Somewhere Down in Brittany, Ballet Romantique, the march Democracy and the scores for Command Performance and other films.

PHILIP FEENY, born in 1954, is worth our notice here for his attractively tuneful ballet scores, Cinderella (1989), Dracula and The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Let us look forward to more of them.

Two others still alive are IAN HUGHES, born in 1958, conductor and composer notable for his sumptuous score for HTV's Poldark, and GEORGE FENTON (1949- ), really GEORGE HOWE. This very busy musician has composed music for productions at the RSC and National Theatre, plus a children's opera, Birthday, but he is perhaps best known for his scores for large screen feature films (Ever After, Memphis Belle, Shadowlands, Gandhi, The Woodlanders, Final Analysis and The Madness of King George) and TV features including the detective series Bergerac and Shoestring, Talking Heads, A Woman of No Importance and The Jewel in the Crown. Television has made a substantial contribution to light music over the past generation. Philip L Scowcroft. April 2000.

Enquiries to Philip at

8 Rowan Mount



Philip's book 'British Light Music Composers' (ISBN 0903413 88 4) is currently out of print.

E-mail enquiries (but NOT orders) can be directed to Rob Barnett at

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