Classical MusicWeb

Music Webmaster Len Mullenger


First, three TV composers, just a bare mention for each: Neil Brand, whose work includes a score for The Crimean War (Channel 4, 1997); Michael Storey, whose best known score is that for Lifeboat (BBC1, 1994); and Warren Bennett, who received a particularly prestigious engagement when ITV asked him in 1998 to provide music for Wuthering Heights. Music for, and connected with, the Brontes would make an interesting article sometime.

Our ballad composer is Julian Jordan, from the early 20th Century, whose sentimental songs include Three Little Words (these are, of course, "I Love You"), The Song That Reached My Heart (the "song" is Home Sweet Home, which is quoted at the end of what I found, when I heard it recently, to be an effective and entertaining ballad) and, a joint venture with Michael Nolan, The Song That Broke My Heart (I do not know which that one is!)

Michael Ball, born in 1938, is quite popular as a composer for brass - for example Frontier! and Omaggio, for full band, and Eight Transports for trumpet and piano - and wind, of which we may cite the intriguingly titled Four Charms and a Curse, a solo for clarinet with piano.

The recording producer Edward Marsh has tried his hand at not too serious composition. We may cite as examples the Fanfare For a Millennium and a Toccata in B Minor for organ, on the Postman Pat theme.

Finally a few words about the Grand Old Man of British light music, Robert Farnon. He is Canadian born (in Toronto in 1917) but has been settled in the British Isles (in Guernsey since 1959) since the last war when he came here as conductor of the Canadian Band of the A.E.F. During that time he has been an influential figure in British light music. He has remained busy as a conductor and his compositional range is wide, as he is credited with two symphonies (both very early) and arrangements of popular songs and instrumental pieces, something which nowadays absorbs much of his energies. Between these extremes he has composed for over thirty films - Captain Horatio Hornblower, Spring in Park Lane, Road to Hong Kong, Maytime in Mayfair and Gentlemen Marry Brunettes are just five of them - and frequently for television, his scores including Colditz, whose march achieved much popularity, Armchair Theatre, Secret Army, Kessler and Four Freedoms.

He has contributed to the genre of the concert suite in the shape of Saxophone Triparti (1971), Canadian Impressions (ten movements, no less), Three Impressions and Three More Impressions. It is however his single movements which have earned him most fame, especially Jumping Bean, used worldwide as title music by television and radio, A La Claire Fontaine, Peanut Polka, Journey Into Melody, Portrait of a Flirt and Westminster Waltz. Other "singles" titles include the overture The Frontiersman, played in a BBC Light Music festival in 1957, Tete à Tete, Swing Hoe, Strolling Home, Sounds Familiar, Country Girl, inspired by Wordsworth., Malaga, Little Miss Molly, Playtime, the highly regarded Lake of the Woods, Melody Fair, Lazy Day, In a Cabin, Dominion Day, Pleasure Drive, Seashore, Derby Day, Promise of Spring, A Star is Born and the marches State Occasion, Grandstand, All Sports, Sports Challenge World Series and Concorde. His superb settings of Scottish and Irish traditional tunes have been reissued on CD recently. Brass bands have enjoyed Une Vie de Matelot and Morning Cloud. Nor has he eschewed the genre of the concerted piece with orchestra as the Rhapsody, for violin and orchestra, the Intermezzo (harp/orchestra) and the Prelude and Dance (harmonica/orchestra) have all received performances and are welcome in any concert. I mention only a tiny fraction of the many hundreds of Robert Farnon pieces. His brother Dennis also composes - light genre pieces, music for wind ensemble etc. - and his other brother Brian conducts.

Philip L. Scowcroft

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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