£16 post free World-wide

 


555 sonatas 9Cds mp3 files
Only £22


 


Benjamin: Written on Skin £16

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Some items
to consider


Shostakovich 14 Petrenko


Rachmaninov #3
Prokofiev #2

 


Dunedin Consort

Peter Grimes

Hymn of Jesus: Sea Drift

Complete Mozart Edition
Mozart complete edition

Vaughan Williams Symphonies 5 & 8 £11

Weiner, Klepper, Bloch, Schulhoff £12 post free


Available again

GARLANDS


Gerard Hoffnung CDs

Advertising on
Musicweb


Donate and get a free CD

New Releases

Naxos Classical

Hyperion

Musicweb sells the following labels
Acte Préalable
Alto
Arcodiva
CDAccord
Centaur
Hallé
Hortus
Lyrita
Nimbus
Northern Flowers
Redcliffe
Sheva
Talent
Toccata Classics


Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly newsletter

A TENTH GARLAND OF BRITISH LIGHT MUSIC COMPOSERS

Anyone is capable of writing "light" music, even composers one thinks of as "classical" or "serious". Elgar with compositions like Wand of Youth, Severn Suite, Nursery Suite, Chanson de Matin, Salut d'Amour and much else, was particularly prolific in this regard. One may also point to Holst, with his suites for military and brass bands, Vaughan Williams with Greensleeves, The Wasps, the English Folk Song Suite and various film scores, Delius with La Calinda, Britten with Matinées (and Soirées) Musicales and his cabaret songs, Walton with Façade (orchestral version) and much film music and Ireland with his Downland Suite, ballads like Sea Fever and, yet again, film music. There are others - Bliss, Bax, Alwyn, Malcolm Arnold, the list is seemingly endless. Even composers one once thought of as avant-gardists have produced music which one can only categorise as "light": Sir Peter Maxwell Davies (b. 1934), with Orkney Wedding and Sunrise and that attractive piano solo Farewell to Stromness, and Dominic Muldowney (b. 1952), with his ballets Carmen, Macbeth and The Brontës and several scores for the theatre and for TV, most recent, at the time of writing, being that for Jane Austen's Emma (ITV: November 1996); it is interesting to compare this with Carl Davis's music for Austen's Pride and Prejudice (BBC, 1995) - Davis had, one fancies, greater scope in view of the greater length of the adaptation, but both men showed taste in the selection of popular music from around 1800 for the protagonists to dance to or even sing. Another Muldowney TV score is that for Sharpe, set at roughly the same period.

Frank Bridge (1879-1941) is worth a paragraph to himself in this connection, although his contribution to light music can easily be ignored as he did not write light orchestral suites in the manner of Eric Coates and Haydn Wood and so many observers recall him as the composer of the later chamber music which can be tough listening. But much of his "chamber" output includes pieces which are undoubtedly light music: for example, the three sets (nine movements in all) of gorgeously tuneful Miniatures for piano trio, (a light music ensemble if ever there was one: remember all those café trios of yesteryear?), the Three Pieces for string quartet - the finale Allegro Marcato, has a deliciously seaside feel to it - and settings of Cherry Ripe, Sally in Our Alley, Sir Roger de Coverley and Londonderry Air, also for string quartet, though some of these titles also appeared for string orchestra. Bridge, a string player himself, also produced a large number of short, tuneful solos with piano for violin, viola or cello (Amaryllis, Norse Legend, Scherzetto, Con Moto, Pensiero, Gondoliera, Elegie (1911), Berceuse (1911), Souvenir, Allegro Appassionata, Souvenir, Moto Perpetuo, Cradle Song, Heartsease, Serenade (1906), Mélodie and Morning Song) some of these done for more than one of these instruments. Pianists from Edwardian times onwards have enjoyed similar genre pieces for solo piano: Three Pieces (Columbine, Minuet, Romance: 1913), Four Characteristic Pieces (1917), Fairy Tale Suite, Fireflies, The Hour Glass (1920), In Autumn (1925), Three Lyrics (1925) and the Three Sketches of 1915 of which April and Rosemary became particularly popular, particularly in orchestral versions. Many of Bridge's most popular song titles, among them Go Not Happy Day, Love Went A'Riding and E'en as a Lovely Flower are classifiable as ballads.

Now for a few brass band composers. Raymond (or Ray) Steadman-Allen, born in London in 1922, is particularly associated with the Salvation Army in which he has attained high rank. He has produced hundreds of excellently crafted arrangements and original compositions for S.A. bands and songster brigades, many of them based on song tunes long popular in Army citadels. Some of his band compositions are serious and substantial in character, like his Fantasias for piano and band and his "tone poem" The Holy War; others, like the trombone quartet Sparkling Slides, are more light-hearted. A few of his band compositions have the historical or topographical feel familiar from the light orchestral suites of the great era of light music: the "Victorian snap-shot" On Ratcliff Highway and Seascapes are examples. But he is less known outside the Salvation Army than he should be.

Roughly of an age with Steadman-Allen is William Bramwell (or Bram) Wiggins, born in London in 1921. Educated at Trinity College, London and the Royal Academy of Music and a trumpet player in the LSO (1946-57) and the Philharmonia (1960-5), he was music master at Stowe School for some years. His works include tutors for the trumpet, various brass band arrangements and, also for band, the lightish suites Mediterranean Holiday and Mardi Gras and a Celebration Overture.

Going back a generation, George Henry Willcocks (1899-1962) had over thirty years in military bands, latterly as Director of Music to the Irish Guards, before his retirement in 1949; he then turned to the brass band movement as a band trainer and conductor, making recordings with the Black Dyke Mills Band. His compositions were principally marches, primarily for military rather than brass band - Sarafand, Consul, The Palace Forecourt, Fordson Major and Guards Armoured Division - but the novelty number Will O'The Wisp was recorded by Black Dyke.

Clarence Collingwood Corri (1863-1918) was perhaps the most celebrated member of an extensive musical family of Italian origin active in the British Isles from the 18th century onwards. He composed dance music, songs and various operettas and musicals: In Gay Piccadilly (1901), Lady Lavender (c.1911) and, comfortably the most popular, The Dandy Fifth: an "English Military Comic Opera" (1898), which received many performances up and down the country, not least in Doncaster, during the first decade of the present century.

Now for a few varied ballad composers. John Michael Diack (1869-1947) was well known in his day for his arrangements, many ballad-like songs and, most notably, the nursery rhymes (e.g., Sing a Song of Sixpence and Little Jack Horner) set in the style of Handel. Frederick Drummond, for whom I have no dates but who flourished during the first three decades of the 20th century, is best remembered for the very popular ballad The Gay Highway (no one would dare to give a composition that title these days!) beloved of Peter Dawson, but he also produced Songs From Golden Hours, Songs of Blue Skies, Songs of Soho, Sunshine Songs, Homeland, Rosebud, and - to bring us full circle - The Call of the Road.

T.C. Sterndale Bennett, who died in 1944, was the grandson of the Victorian composer and conductor William Sterndale Bennett and earned a reputation for his mainly humorous ballads: three sets of What-Nots, Slow Coach, The Carol Singers and, best known of all, Leanin'. Other songs by him were interpolated into stage shows as diverse as the revue Back to Blighty and Shakespeare's Measure for Measure.

Some light composers are "specialists" in the sense that they write for one particular instrument. An example is Brian Bonsor, who is very much in the debt of recorder ensembles for the many arrangements he makes for them and the catchy dance movements he has composed, things like Beguine, Rumba, Tango, Hoe-Down and Fiesta. Bonsor, born in 1926, lives in Scotland. Another is Vernon Elliott who died in October 1996, Born in 1912, he was a bassoonist, trained at the RCM and was subsequently principal bassoon in a variety of ensembles: the Bournemouth Municipal Orchestra, Sadler's Wells Opera Orchestra, sundry dance bands, the Band of the Irish Guards, the (New) Philharmonia, Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden and the English Opera Group and ensembles to do with film and television. His career as a TV composer began when ATV was looking for someone to write a bassoon tune for a children's cartoon about an anthropomorphic railway engine. This was, of course, Ivor the Engine, and the tunes Elliott composed became so popular that they have been done successfully as concert pieces (I have heard them twice as such). He went on to write tunes for other children's television programmes: Noggin the Nog, The Pingwings, The Clangers, and Pogle's Wood. Some of these were for larger ensembles and not all were particularly bassoon-based. And perhaps another such specialist is Brian Bennett, a guitarist who has recorded his award-winning music for the Wexford TV adaptations of Ruth Rendell's detective novels, although he has also produced instructional music for other instruments besides the guitar.

Music written for film and TV, where this is not pop or electronic, is probably the major form of present day light music, so it is appropriate to list a few more of the more important practitioners of it. People, for example, like the composer-conductor, Ian Hughes (born 1958), who provided the sumptuous score for HTV's comparatively recent Poldark adaptation, or the Essex-born Denis King (1939) whose scores included Black Beauty, Hannay and Lovejoy. King was heard as a pianist and composer in the Maureen Lipman recreations of Joyce Grenfell heard on Radio 3 in March 1998. Richard Hartley, born in Holmfirth (Yorks) in 1944 has written for large and small screens. An example of the former is the remake of The Lady Vanishes; his TV music includes Tumbledown and the admirable pastiche to accompany George Eliot's Adam Bede. Simon May (b. 1944) was educated at Cambridge University and taught for some years at Kingston Grammar School. One of his earlier works was a musical, Smike, after Dickens' "Nicholas Nickleby", which used jazz, even pop, idioms. He is credited with a large amount of TV music including the titles for Eastenders, Trainer and Howard's Way. Colin Towns is also respected for his scores for films (Full Circle) and TV (Ivanhoe, Brother Cadfael, The Buccaneers, Pie in the Sky Noah's Ark, The Pale Horse, An Unsuitable Job for a Woman and the most attractive, if relatively brief, Beatrix Potter adaptations). Barrie Guard, educated at the Guildhall School, made his name with the charming music he penned for The Darling Buds of May.

Composers for the screen come in all shapes and sizes. Some of them, as we have seen, had an academic training. Others began by playing pop music. Johnny Pearson, for example, whose delightful title tune for the TV version All Creatures Great and Small is familiar to millions. This was of course for the very popular and long-running TV series. The feature film of the same title had a score by Wilfred Josephs and its sequel in the cinema It Shouldn't Happen to a Vet had music by Laurie Johnson. Pearson's Sleepy Shore (from Owen M.D.) is nearly as celebrated. Large screen scores included Our Love Story and The Jokers. Alan Parker born in 1944 was a session guitarist for many years, but he was also educated at the Royal Academy of Music. His works include a Mass and music for 20 large-screen films (e.g. Jaws-3D) and 75 TV features including Minder, Angels and, most recently, the 1996 BBC spectacular Rhodes. But one of the most attractive composers of recent times was Paul Reade (1943-97), whose TV scores include Jane Eyre from which a suite was published, Great Expectations, Great Railway Journeys, The Victorian Kitchen Garden, and A Tale of Two Cities, and the title music for Antiques Road Show. Reade's ballet music has been much praised, not least for its tunefulness. Examples are Cinderella, Hobson's Choice, The Matchgirl and, premiered in 1996, Byron. He is also responsible for much instructional music, a few instrumental miniatures like Aspects of a Landscape (for oboe), a Waltz for strings and a Saxophone Quartet. As a lady representative among screen composers let us nominate Rachel Portman (b.1961), an Oxford graduate, for her Marvin's Room, Sirens, Pinocchio and Precious Bane and most notably the award winning Emma (Jane Austen) among many other things. Her husband, incidentally, is a film director. She enjoys writing for films because as she says "at least my music is heard."

One of the big names in the early history of British film music is Louis Levy (1893-1957), active in films from 1916 and with Gaumont and Gainsborough between 1928 and 1947 as supervisor to the musical side of all their productions. As such he was credited with the music for many, perhaps the majority, of their films; but it is difficult to determine exactly what music he actually composed. That for The Citadel (1938) is almost certainly his, as apparently was the well-remembered, march-like signature music for the Gaumont-British newsreel, also an orchestral number, Maltese Entr'Acte which has no film connection that I know of. His compositional talent was not highly regarded in his day but he had a gift for spotting talent in others.

We now go still further back and consider the case of Louis Jullien (1812-1860), who was, of course, French but was based in England between 1838 and 1859 and effectively created the promenade concert in England. Jullien's concert programmes mingled classical fare - overtures and movements from symphonies, at times entire symphonies - with operatic selections, instrumental solos and dances, quadrilles, galops and waltzes. Jullien composed, compiled or arranged many of the popular items himself. Examples were the British Navy Quadrilles (1845), the British Army Quadrilles (1846), Allied Armies Quadrille (dating presumably from the Crimean War), Hungarian Quadrille, Real Scotch Quadrilles (danced with spirit, perhaps?), the polkas Katy Did, Sleigh Polka (possibly the same one time very popular piece described as Sleigh Ride) and Fourth Polka and the valses La Prima Donna and Le Rossignol. A great showman, especially in his dress and accessories (for example the jewelled baton with which he conducted Beethoven), Jullien was an authoritative conductor who attracted some of London's best players into his orchestra, which gave its promenade concerts in London theatres, the Surrey Gardens and in many provincial centres, including Doncaster which heard it at least four times in all between 1844 and 1858 (on the first occasion, in the Mansion House, one gentleman complained he had had his pocket picked in the crowded promenade!). The Jullien dance pieces heard on these Doncaster occasions were the Fern Leaves, Kiss, Drum, Original and Dog Tray Polkas, the Jetty Treffz, Irish and Caledonian Quadrilles, the waltzes Rosita and Pearl of England, the galop The Derby (why not St Leger?) and Jullien's arrangement of God Save the Queen (one wonders how florid that was!). Miscalculations and bad luck led Jullien to bankruptcy, several times, and ultimately to mental instability, but his mix of lighter music with the classics, coupled with his lower admission charges, particular for the "promenaders", did help bring orchestral music to a wider audience. No longer was this the preserve of the very wealthy. So the Frenchman's music remained popular for at least a generation. Indeed one or two items including the British Army Quadrilles and Sleigh Ride were recorded in 78 rpm days.

If my home town of Doncaster is anything to go by, Jullien had many imitators, both in the introduction of dance music into "serious" programmes and in the lower admission charges levied on those prepared to stand. I would like to end this selection of blossoms as I have done the last two - self-indulgently maybe - by recalling two composers who worked in South Yorkshire. George F. Birkinshaw senior (GFB junior was subsequently a notable principal cornet with Black Dyke Mills and earned the accolade of a march in his memory Viva Birkinshaw, by William Rimmer) I could have included earlier with my other brass band composers but Birkinshaw's programmes in Doncaster around 1860 show, in their juxtaposition of operatic selections with dance music, something of the influence of Jullien. Birkinshaw, Barnsley born, first became associated with the Doncaster area in around 1853 as bandmaster to the locally-based 3rd West Yorkshire Militia with which regiment he went to Ireland during the Crimean War and for whom he composed the schottische Third West York. Later in the 1850s he took over the Great Northern Railway Plant Works Band (shortly afterwards styled Doncaster Volunteer Band when the Works organised its own Rifle Volunteer Company in 1859) and won several prizes with them in contests during the period 1859-61, two of them held in Doncaster itself. Birkinshaw introduced his own brass band compositions in concerts given out of doors in the town: Festive Polka, Rouse Polka, the galop Spring Flowers, Pas Redouble, at least one march, a cornet trio and an arrangement for three cornets of "Lift Thine Eyes" from Elijah. In one 1859 Doncaster concert Birkinshaw conducted Jullien's Mary Ann Polka and French Quadrille. In around 1864 he left Doncaster probably for the Bradford area, though only a few years ago one of his descendants was living in the Doncaster area and I was pleased to share the fruit of my research with him.

Samuel Suckley's first recorded appearance in Doncaster was in 1863 as a pianist in a concert put on by the 1st West York Yeomanry Cavalry (later called Yorkshire Dragoons). By 1880, if not earlier, he had succeeded to the position of Bandmaster to the Dragoons which he was to hold with the rank of Lieutenant, into the next century. Suckley was also an organist in Sheffield; I have found a reference to his resignation from the post at St Paul's Church, in 1891 (He also composed: a polka, Marguerite, a "Novelty Allegro" The Jolly Blacksmiths, the concert waltz Yorkshire Dragoons (1889), the Sandringham Valse (1891: published by Forsyth), the waltz Elsie (1893, dedicated, "by permission", to the Prince and Princess of Wales), the intermezzo Dora and the Jubilee Rocket Allegro, presumably dating from 1897. He too programmed Jullien's music, the Sleigh Ride appearing in concerts conducted by him in 1880 and 1896.

It would be good to hear some of the music of Suckley and Birkinshaw some time - after all, some of the former's works, at least, were published. But it is a sad fact that much more music has been lost to view, probably forever, than has survived. Will the television tunes of the 1990s survive any better?

© Philip L. Scowcroft.

 

 

 

Enquiries to Philip at

8 Rowan Mount

DONCASTER

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 rob.barnett1@btinternet.com


Return to:   index page
                              Classical Music on the Web



Error processing SSI file