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Every day we post 10 new Classical CD and DVD reviews. A free weekly summary is available by e-mail. MusicWeb is not a subscription site. To keep it free please purchase discs through our links.

  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    

A 160th GARLAND OF BRITISH LIGHT MUSIC COMPOSERS

All our selected composers this time come from the late Victorian period and all of them composed the score for at least one operetta or musical for the English stage, though mostly their careers worked out differently.

Eaton Faning (1850-1927) is best remembered (though I have never heard it) for his short cantata, The Song of the Viking, popular during the latter part of the 19th Century and, viewed against the background of his oeuvre, relatively serious. He was also responsible for ballads like Heart’s Blossom and Obedient to the Call and for two light operettas, Mock Turtle (1881), a forepiece for the Savoy, being used as such for both Patience and Iolanthe, and The Head of the Poll (1882), one of the St George’s Hall entertainments.

A number of the writers of stage musicals were also conductors in the same field. Arthur W Nicholson, Musical Director at the Vaudeville Theatre in the 1870s, brought out the one-act piece Love Birds in 1872; his A Gay Cavalier was toured in 1879. Frederick Stanislaus we first hear of as succeeding Alfred Cellier as Musical Director of the Prince’s Theatre in Manchester; he conducted later at the Opera Comique and at many touring venues up and down the country. Stanislaus’s music for the stage mostly takes the form of contributions to musicals where others were also involved, such as Looks (1886) described as a "musical farcical burlesque in three acts", his co-collaborators being John Crook, W Meyer Lutz, Alfred Lee (composer of The Lying Dutchmen, 1877, the burlesque Black-Eyed Susan [Alhambra 1884] and various other contributions) and Oscar Barrett, or The Palace of Pearl, produced at the Empire, also in 1886 (Edward Jakobowski wrote much of its music), or - a single song – for Planquette’s Tom Jones (1889). Stanislaus’s one show that was "all his own work" was The Lancashire Witches, played in Manchester and Liverpool in 1879 and praised by contemporaries for its "charming" music. His published songs included a popular duet, Two Mariners Bold.

George D Fox, who was active from around 1870 until the turn of the century was also a Musical Director, but initially was more often to be seen acting on the stage itself. His musicals, all toured provincially, include The Captain of the Guard and Contrary Winds, one-acters toured together in 1882, Lovers (1886), Macave (1887), Our Babies (1889) and The Lady Cyclist (1897); he also composed cantatas and dressing room songs like The Penny Whistler.

Victor Stephens appears to have been a true all-rounder being, at one time or another, comedian, manager, director, actor, singer, author and composer. Most of the shows for which he provided the music were of the burlesque variety and some of the titles say it all: Nymph of the Danube (1882), Randolph the Reckless (1888), Bonnie Boy Blue (1892), The Saucy Sultana (1894), A Village Venus (1895) and A Merry Madcap (1896).

Thomas Anderton’s two shows were both produced in Liverpool: Gentle Gertrude (1881) and The Chiltern Hundreds (1882) and their reputation did not spread much further. Another Liverpool man, and much better known in his day was W H Jude, organist, lecturer and composer of hymns, ballad songs (like Consecration, Every Inch a Sailor, Plymouth Sound, The Landlord’s daughter, The Skipper and, much the best-known and occasionally revived even today, The Mighty Deep) and an operetta, Innocents Abroad, produced in Liverpool (where else?) in 1882.

Philip L Scowcroft

February 2001

Enquiries to Philip at

8 Rowan Mount

DONCASTER

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 rob.barnett1@btinternet.com


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