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Classical Editor in Chief: Rob Barnett
A 161ST GARLAND OF BRITISH LIGHT COMPOSERS
Continuing the "Victorian stage musical" theme of several recent Garlands, we begin with the colourful figure of the conductor/composer W. Luscombe Searelle, whose real name was Isaac Israel and who was a New Zealander. His first show, a parody, The Wreck of The Pinafore (1882), which had previously been staged in the Antipodes and the USA, created a riot when it was put on at the Opera Comique, which of course had seen the premiere of the "real" H.M.S. Pinafore a few years previously. The following year there came from there his pen, Estrella, which had an even more chequered career. It was first produced in Manchester, then it had one matinee performance at The Gravity and an unconvincing 36 outings at the Folies Dramatiques. His American run closed after a mere three performances when the theatre burned down. However, it still had the stamina to be toured in Britain, Canada, the USA, Australia and New Zealand. Searelle, or Israel if you prefer, went to Australia where he formed an opera company; then he made his fortune in gold in South Africa and bought up a chain of theatres, there with the proceeds. Later he returned to London with his show The Black River (1890), which had been first produced in Melbourne in 1885 under a different title. Another operetta originally produced in Australia, Boabdil, had first one English, suburban, performance. He died in 1987.
Another conductor/composer of the period was C.E. Howells, whose two operettas were The Golden Plume (1886) and Eastward Ho (1894); the reputation of both was only provincial, though the latter managed six performances at the Opera Comique. John Gregoryís two musicals both dated from 1886 and were both toured through the provinces. One was the Innocence All Abroad, the other was called The Grand Duke; this was 10 years before G.&S. wrote their Grand Duke. Ernest Trowbridge appears to have been a "singleton" with just one farcical musical comedy to his credit, entitled Our Agency (also 1886).
William M. Hutchinson was best known for his ballad-type songs: Distant Lands, Ehren On the Rhine, He Is Coming, Little Drummer Bill, Pierrot, Under The Stars and, much the best known, Dream Fancies. He wrote much other light music under his own name and that of Julian Mount, but the only stage piece that I know of was the operetta Glamour, toured in 1886.
And so, finally to Frederick Corder (1852-1932), student at the Royal Academy of Music and later Professor of Composition when best known as a composer of cantatas, orchestral music and at least one grand opera but his output included ballads (e.g. O Son That Wakenest from 1880) and at least three operettas from the time when he was conductor at the Brighton Aquarium: A Storm In A Teacup (1882), The Nabobís Pickle (1883) and The Noble Savage (1885). Of these the first and the last were premiered at Brighton (A Storm even made the stage of the Gaiety Theatre); the middle one was first heard at Yarmouth.
Philip L Scowcroft
Enquiries to Philip at
8 Rowan Mount
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Philip's book 'British Light Music Composers' (ISBN 0903413 88 4) is currently out of print.
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