Music Webmaster Len Mullenger
A 106TH GARLAND OF BRITISH LIGHT MUSIC COMPOSERS
We start with two ballad composers, both called Temple but they were not related. Graham Temple was a popular figure in Edwardian times and surely Irish-born or at least Irish-connected, with titles like The Old Green Isle, Sweet Vale of Avoca and In Sweet Killarney, though his best-known song, from 1907, was Trooper Johnny Ludlow. Hope Temple's real name was Dotie Davies (1859-1938) and she was Irish-born, though of English parents, and later married André Messager, the French operetta composer (though she did not live with him for long). Her intended career as a pianist was ruined by a riding accident, but she had composed sentimental ballads form the age of 14 and continued to do so; titles include An Old Garden, My Lady's Bower, Fond Heart Farewell, Memories, Thoughts and Tears, In Sweet September, 'Tis All That I Can Say and God's Lily.
In the previous Garlands and other writings I have mentioned many military band directors and here are two more to mention briefly. George Miller (1877-1960) conducted various military bands, but most notably the Grenadier Guards between 1922 and 1942. Of his compositions the best regarded in its day was the grand march Galatea. More recently, especially in the 1960s and 1970s, Trevor L. Sharpe, who again conducted several different bands, also delighted many with his compositions Ceremonial Occasion, Fanfare and Soliloquy and Prelude to a Festival, all for military band.
Fanfare and Soliloquy was (and is) quite frequently to be heard in an arrangement for brass band. A brass band figure worth recalling is Edrich Siebert (real name Stanley Smith Masters, 1903-84), largely self-taught and whose experience was until 1946 with military bands. Later he became a prolific composer and arranger, many of his publications being suited to young amateurs and most being for brass band though he wrote for orchestra and military band also: novelty pieces (Bees-a-Buzzin', Delaware Waltz and the galop Over The Sticks, adopted as a signature tune for BBC radio's "Midday Music Hall"), marches (Follow The Band, The Queen's Guard, The Rover's Return, The Queen's Trumpeters, Vermont and Portsmouth Chimes), suite (Brass Band Sketches) and much else.
Stanley Myers (1930-93), English composer, arranger and musical director, especially for films and TV, is best remembered for Cavatina, popular in both vocal and solo guitar versions and originally from the film The Deerhunter. Other film scores included Castaway, The Lightship, Kaleidoscope, The Honorary Consul, Cold Heaven and Lady Chatterley's Lover. He also supplied some of the songs for the stage musical A Girl Called Jo, after Louisa May Alcott's "Little Women" (1955), and was a musical director for Grab Me a Gondola.
Alberto Fernando Riccardo Semprini, OBE (1908-90) was born in Bath of Anglo-Italian parentage and was a popular figure in concert (I have happy memories of his playing in the opening concert of the Doncaster Arts Festival in 1966) and on radio. He produced many arrangements for piano or piano and orchestra; his compositions included Variations on a Boogie for piano solo, songs and the Mediterranean Concerto, celebrated as the signature tune for his long-running (from 1957) radio programme, "Semprini Serenade".
Barrington Pheloung, conductor and composer, born in 1954 in Australia but a student of the Royal College of Music where he now lectures, is perhaps best known for the title and other music for Inspector Morse; his many other TV scores include Nostradamus and Days of Majesty, his large screen scores include the recent Hilary and Jackie, about the cellist Jacqueline du Pré which, like Inspector Morse, incorporates much music by others. His approachable, attractive idiom has also been exercised in concertos for guitar and cello and Dreamtime, composed for guitarist Carlos Bonell.
Mischa Spoliansky (1898-1984) was another - from an earlier generation - particularly associated with music for the screen, in the 1930s and 1940s, examples being Sanders of the River, The Happiest Days of Your Life and King Solomon's Mines. He wrote for the stage, too - the musical Who's Taking Liberty (1939) - and for the recorded music libraries, one example being Barcaroleta for KPM. Russian-born, he settled in England in 1934.
Christopher Whelen (1927-93), composed, from the 1950s onwards, much tuneful music for films and stage plays, including the musical comedies School (1957) and Whither London (1962), and for radio features, including plays and even opera.
Another familiar figure on radio was Ken Warner, whose real name was Onslow Boyden Waldo Warner (1902-88), son of the violist and composer H. Waldo Warner. Educated at the Guildhall School, he played in dance bands, including Peter Yorke's, before joining the BBC in 1940. For them he performed in or "fixed" various light orchestras and composed or arranged much mood music, most popular of his titles including Paraguayan Pizzicato, Shopping Days and Scrub, Brother Scrub, which refers to a violinist drawing the bow back and forth over a string.
Penelope Mary Thwaites, born in 1944 and brought up in Australia though now domiciled in England for many years, is a fine pianist and a keen advocate for Australian music, notably Percy Grainger. She has also composed many light hearted songs and piano pieces, like the Dancing Pieces, also a musical Ride! Ride! dating from 1976.
Peter Tranchell (1922-93) was associated with Cambridge University as a student then as a don (of Gonville & Caius College). His serious compositions included the opera The Mayor of Casterbridge (1951), anthems and a cantata; but he qualifies as a light music composer on account of his vocal "entertainments", some instrumental miniatures and the musical comedy Zuleika (after Max Beerbohm) produced in Cambridge in 1954 and revived in 1957.
Let us end with Percy Whitlock (1903-46), known most of all to organists; he made his living mainly as an organist, successively as Sub-Organist at Rochester Cathedral, Organist at St Stephen's Parish Church Bournemouth and, between 1932 and 1946, Bournemouth Pavilion. Much of his organ music is short and light in character (even the middle movements of his lengthy Organ Sonata would not have sounded out of place played on the Pavilion organ); his songs include attractive folk arrangements, and his orchestral music, mostly written for the Bournemouth Municipal Orchestra, some of it under the pseudonym Kenneth Lark, is certainly on the light side - Wessex Suite (Waltz, Revels in Hogsnorton, The Blue Poole and March, Rustic Cavalry), Holiday Suite (Waltz, In the Ballroom, Spade and Bucket Polka (!), Civic March), Music for Orchestra, the concert overture The Feast of St. Benedict, Ballroom Ballet, Ballet of the Wood Creatures and the marches Dignity and Impudence and The Phoebe, named after a Royal Navy cruiser of the Second World War. Also from that war was a Fanfare (1940) for brass and percussion, composed for Montague Birch's Bournemouth Home Guard Band. Whitlock's early death was a sad loss to British music, serious and light.
Philip L Scowcroft
Enquiries to Philip at
8 Rowan Mount
S YORKS DN2 5PJ
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 email@example.com
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