Classical MusicWeb

Music Webmaster Len Mullenger


We begin with mentions for three conductor/composer/arrangers from that vintage period just after the war of 1939-45 in which British music enjoyed such marvellous exposure on the BBC: Reg Pursglove, who often broadcast under the style of "Reg Pursglove and his Music Makers"; David Wolfsthal, director of the Pavilion Players, who published Recuerdos ("Memories") for violin and piano in 1958; and Marcel Gardner whose Serenade Orchestra was often to be heard and whose publications included Our Norman Heritage: Songs and Dances of the Channel Islands (1958) and Un Voyage en France.

Ian McKenzie is one of those many composers active in the present age who compose light, tuneful and attractive music for youth orchestras. Two of his suites in that direction are Package Holiday (its first movement is entitled "It's All Greek To Me!") and Tudor Tunes.

Now for a sheaf of ballad composers, mostly known for just one song. For Daisy McGeoch it was Two Eyes of Grey, though she also composed Fleurette, Babette, The Call of the Wild and a number of brief songs suitable for children, like Noah's Ark and the Miniature Songs. Charles Ridgewell's If Those Lips Could Only Speak is literally the only song by him that I know of and even that was a joint venture, with Will Godwin. J.P.Skelly's titles included He Isn't A Marrying Man, A Boy's Best Friend is His Mother and perhaps his best known of all, The Old Rustic Bridge. Later than any of these was the Irishwoman Delia Murphy, active either side of 1950 with such popular songs as Come With Me Over the Mountain, If You Will Marry Me, Connemara Cradle Song and, most celebrated, If I Were a Blackbird.

British Music Society members may be surprised to see the name of Jerome David Kern (1885-1945) here but this famous American composer of songs and musicals was deeply interested in the Edwardian musical comedy and visited London on several occasions between 1905 and 1910 during which time he acquired an English-born wife and contributed many songs to English musicals, mostly while these were being staged in America, but in a few cases (eg for Herbert Haines' The Beauty of Bath and Lionel Monckton and Ivan Caryll's The Spring Chicken) for their London runs. The composers Kern knew and collaborated with at that period have mostly been covered in these Garlands - Monckton, Caryll, Paul Rubens, Howard Talbot, Sidney and Guy Jones and Augustus Barrett - but there are two others to notice briefly. Herbert Dearnley (1871-1947), whose real name was Herbert McCarthy, was a comedian, dramatist and writer of lyrics rather than a composer, but he did compose music hall sketches for Dan Leno (like The Beefeater and The Tower of London) and, also associated with Leno, the score for the musical Mr Wix of Wickham (1904), for whose American run Jerome Kern contributed the songs. Constance Tippett was American by origin but resident in England when she composed the score for the revue Venus 1906, produced in that year at London's Empire Theatre and for which Kern also made a contribution.

Finally let us say a word for a much more modern composer, Clive A. Sansom, who is perhaps best known for his up-tempo vocal music - the pop cantata Oh! Noah and other pieces suitable for children, and jazzy choral songs (Tick Tock Song, Cantate Rag and Jubilate Jazz) - though of his light works for brass band, Mellow Mood (1970) and Sentimental Mood (1976) achieved publication.


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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