Music Webmaster Len Mullenger
A 120th GARLAND OF BRITISH LIGHT MUSIC COMPOSERS
We begin this time with two ballad composers, or at least light song composers, active in the early part of the 20th Century. Henry E Pether's many and varied song publications included a large number of arrangements of British traditional melodies, shanties, and so on, plus a four-song cycle, Gretna Green, and the single songs, Awake, The Caretaker, Cupid, The Harbour of Slumber Town, Is Life Worth Living?, The Land of I-Dunno-Where, Mistaken My Vocation, Poor John, The Rose of My Heart, The Seaside Posters Round the Home, Waiting at the Church ("My Wife Won't Let Me"), Rainbow, The Tuppenny Tube (1900 - now the Central Line) and Jolly Old Borneo. Several of these titles sound like items from stage revues or variety shows, and Pether is credited with orchestral arrangements from several of these, such as The Ragtime Revue (1912), 5064 Gerrard (1915), The Co-optimists (1921-23), The Punch Bowl (1924), Love Lies (1929) and Darling I Love You (1930), together with more general orchestral medleys: Tommies Tunes, Veterans of Variety, Joy-Time Jingles and Pantomime Plums. How many songs he contributed to these, or other, revues, is not clear (he is not credited with any of the songs for Darling I Love You, for example); but Rainbow did come from a stage show, The Catch of the Season. Pether's own musical, Sailor Lad (which included contributions from Fred Murray, Harry Gifford and Arthur Godfrey, of the famous Godfrey dynasty, whom we have discussed in an early Garland) achieved just one performance at the Theatre Royal, Worthing, on 28 April 1919. Clifford King's ballad, Happy Memories, was published in 1922, and there were doubtless others. Two ballad composers of the 1880s were Harry Ball, one example being Friends of My Youthful Days, and Harriet Kendall (Richmond Park). From roughly the same period came William Francis, composer of, inter alia, Tears are Blessings and Over the Ferry to Mary. From the turn of the century, I do not know if Felix Dumas composed ballads, but his Motor Car Polka achieved popularity. Now for a few more composers who have made a speciality of music for young amateurs. Colin Evans, born in 1942, arranges popular tunes; his compositions include several for wind instruments - Recorder Rendezvous, Clarinet Capers, Tangorine and Quaverin'. Chris Wilson-Smith's up-tempo compositions include a comet solo, Agadou. Brunon Baron, for many years a guitar teacher with the one-time West Riding County Council, composed many miniatures for that instrument, in the singular or the plural, Sevillana, Polonaise and Mazurka being just three titles out of perhaps hundreds. Hugo Cole, born in 1917, studied cello and composition (with Herbert Howells) at the Royal College of Music, after which he combined composition with writing about music, both books and criticism for 'Cthe Guardian". His compositions ranged widely: many children's cantatas or operas (Flax Into Gold: The Story of Rumpelstiltskin, The Fair Traders, Asses' Ears and Jonah among them), the Black Lion Dances, which I found very attractive when I heard them played by a student orchestra, two Miniature Quartets for strings, a Serenade For Nine Winds, Capriccio for flute, and Two Romantic Pieces for his own instrument, the cello. Richard McNicol, a flautist, is mostly credited with arrangements for winds, but his Three Dances for woodwind quartet are attractive listening. Arthur Duckworth is principally remembered for his contribution, called Theme, to a 1959 co-operative work in aid of the Light Music Society; the other two composers involved were Robert Docker (Jig) and Billy Mayerl (Finale, his last composition). Other Duckworth compositions included several vocal items, and three movements for flute and piano, En Passant, Thistledown and Frolic. Three other composers with connections with Mayerl were: first, Austen Croom-Johnson (1909-64), who studied at the Royal College of Music, who had enthusiasms for jazz and Delius, and who supplied themes for Mayerl's Green Tulips and Bats in the Belfry, then went to the United States and pursued there a career in commercial music; second, Reginald Foresythe, a pianist/composer in Mayerl's style, who also lived much in America, though he was born here, of a British father and a West Indian mother - Mayerl admired him7 though he was not his equal. His titles, often whimsical, were In a Bathchair (Etude Valetudienne), Serenade for a Wealthy Widow, Dodging a Divorce, The Revolt of the Yes-Men, Through the Trees and Lullaby, and the Scotsman, Clarence Falkener, a great admirer of Mayerl in his latter years, a pianist, arranger and composer. Next, two more Doncaster-bom composers. Robert Hinchliffe, born in 1945, an oboist with experience of playing in orchestras as far apart as Cyprus and Iceland (not to mention Doncaster) is worth a mention for his light and attractive Dance Suite, written for an instrumental quartet, called Collage, with whom he played. Adrian Skelton (1965-), a viola player, has been composing, most acceptably, since he was at school, more recent effusions, both orchestral, include a Serenade and, redolent of salon orchestras, a Concert Waltz. Finally, among seventeen composers discussed this time, a mention for Percy Heywood, a Welsh schoolteacher, for his 1957 "musical" The Batsman's Bride, whose book was by another Welsh teacher, Donald Hughes: the first full-length stage work dealing with cricket, although several have included one cricketing song or episode.
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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