A 159th GARLAND OF BRITISH LIGHT MUSIC COMPOSERS
We begin with another selection of mid to late Victorian operetta composers. Many of these wrote for the German Read entertainments at the St George’s Hall and while much, though not all, of the music for these was ephemeral, the series as a whole, which lasted for the better part of three decades, was an important contribution to popular entertainment in London.
One of the more prolific composers of these shows – usually single act affairs – was King Hall (possibly a pseudonym), whose list included A Happy Bungalow (1877), Doubleday’s Will (1878), A Tremendous Mystery (1878), Grinstone Grange (1879), A Christmas Stocking (1880), A Strange Host (1882), The Naturalist (1887), The Verger (1889) and Missing (1894).
R Corney-Grain, who co-managed the shows either side of 1880, even turned his hand to composing some, among them £100 Reward (1879), A Flying Visit (1880) and All at Sea (1881). Other St George’s composers were Vivian Bligh (Once in a Century, 1877, and A Pirate’s Home, 1879), Lionel Benson (A Turquoise Ring, 1880, revived in 1882, Many Happy Returns, 1881 and A Mountain Heiress, 1883) and Walter Austin (Answer Paid, 1878).
Other operetta composers of the same period were primarily conductors who composed the scores for one or two shows with greater, or usually less, success and individuality. Among these were William L Frost, whose one-acter Blue and Buff, or The Great Muddleborough Election was toured in 1881 and then managed five outings at the Theatre Royal, Haymarket; P W Halton, a musical director for the d’Oyly Carte company, whose Six and Six was produced at Hull in 1880, and William Meadows, who was active as a conductor into the 20th Century and whose theatre compositions included The Grand Mogul (1887, just one performance at the Royalty Theatre) and The Fairy Ball, or The Q.C., or Nubbs Q.C. toured in 1889.
We end with one who is still very much alive and to be heard on Radio 2 every Sunday at 4.30pm. Cliff Adams, born in Southwark, was a chorister at St Mary le Bow, Cheapside where he studied piano and organ. After service in the RAF during the Second War, he toured as pianist/arranger with various dance bands. Among the bands he arranged for were Ted Heath’s, Cyril Stapleton and Ambrose’s. The Star Gazers, a vocal group, was his own foundation and was much in demand for prestigious occasions. In the 1950s he formed The Cliff Adams Singers and it is this group which, since 1959, have had their own programme, "Sing Something Simple". Cliff has of course arranged for them, but he is also worth a mention for his mini-compositions for TV commercials from 1955 onwards – these include The Lonely Man theme, Fry’s Turkish Delight, Cadbury’s Milk Tray and Cadbury’s Smash ("For Mash Get Smash") and hundreds of others. Adams became known as "The King of the Jingles". To compose jingles is perhaps as humble as a classical composer writing psalm chants for the Anglican service – but each fulfils a purpose.
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.
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