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Editor-in-Chief: Rob Barnett
A 131ST GARLAND OF BRITISH LIGHT MUSIC COMPOSERS
The English concertina grew to popularity in Victorian times, when there were several virtuosos of the instrument and, towards the end of the Queen’s reign, bands sprang up to compete in the same way as brass bands did. By and large, concertina bands and brass bands shared the same music; arrangements and compositions by such figures as James Ord Hume and William Rimmer. These bands flourished until the 1930s but suffered a slow decline thereafter. One of the best of them, based in Mexborough (South Yorkshire), did not disband until 1978. In recent years there has been something of a revival for the English concertina particularly in folk or folk-based music and in this connection we may mention the name of Alistair Anderson, a virtuoso in both the English concertina and the Northumbrian pipes who has made a number of arrangements of traditional music for both his instruments. However his suite On Cheviot Hills for concertina and string quartet and the tune The Shivering Stone for Northumbrian pipes, violin and cello both use tunes of his own but in the folk style.
We conclude with a group of composers associated with the English musical comedy stage of the early 1930s. Some of them were "singletons." Jack Clarke, composer of The Love Race (1930) was then described as a newcomer to the musical theatre and this piece had no successors but it managed 237 performances at the Gaiety: a good run. G. Ruthland Clapham’s one show – he wrote some of the lyrics as well – was the detective musical comedy Eldorado which achieved just 93 performances at Daly’s. What success the music had, owed much to the orchestration of Arthur Wood. Gavin Lee was a conductor whose one musical, Mrs. Bluebeard (1933) deservedly enjoyed a good provincial run with a brief London interlude at the Garrick.
Harry S. Pepper was in his (time) a better-known figure than any of these, both in the theatre and on the radio. His theatre shows, neither very successful, were It Seems Only Yesterday and, from 1931, Paulette, which had a mere 15 performances at the Savoy, with the theatrical press remarking that its best feature was a ballet danced to Tchaikovsky’s Waltz of the Flowers! However he was quite a dab (hand) at radio signature tunes – remember Monday at Seven, Eight Step Sisters, The Stage Revolves ("Songs from the Shows") and Music Hall? – and at writing songs: After the Party, Arcady, Happy Valley, Let Me Explain, Rags, Bottles and Bones, The Shepherd Boy’s Song, Stepping Into the Sunshine, Heaven for Two, I’ve Waited So Long For Love, Mary and, much the best known, Carry Me Back to Green Pastures, which became popular in a choral arrangement by Doris Arnold. Pepper was active before the First War and long after the Second, but he is little remembered today.
And so we come to Martin Edward Fallas Shaw (1875-1958), whose theatre pieces, mostly light, were Mr. Pepys, a ballad opera (1926), Waterloo Leave (1928), At the Sign of the Star (1929), The Thorn of Avalon (1931), Philomel, which managed only 21 performances at the Ambassador in 1932, The Rock, a ‘pageant’ (1934), the masque Master Valiant (1936), The Travelling Musicians (1936) and a "children’s operetta" Cockyolly Bird, whose overture had separate performances. Shaw is remembered mainly for his religious music, but he also produced masses of choral music, large and small scale, solo songs (mainly serious ones though there were a few collections for children and one or two ballads like Cuckoo and the still popular Song of the Palanquin Bearers and a relatively small number of instrumental works. He touched many spheres of British musical activity as composer, organist, conductor, teacher and administrator. His brother Geoffrey Turton Shaw (1879-1943) mirrored his elder brother’s achievements on a smaller scale composer-wise; he also attempted to stimulate a general interest in music through broadcasting. Geoffrey’s lighter pieces included a three act ballad opera All At Sea, staged posthumously at the Royal College of Music in 1952, and a number of pictorial pieces for piano (for example Birds and Beasts, published in 1940).
Philip L. Scowcroft
September 2000Enquiries 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