A 162ND GARLAND OF BRITISH LIGHT MUSIC COMPOSERS
It is sometimes said that light music died around 1960. But, to appropriate a hackneyed quote, reports of that death have been somewhat exaggerated. Many composers still write it, whether for T.V. and feature film, for brass or military bands, for the theatre and for the orchestra. Composers, for example, like Mathew Hawkins, born in England but now resident in the USA, for his orchestral works: Vanity and The Suits On Stage, dating from around 1980 (whose movements are entitled Magician, Ballad Singer and a very jazzy Chorus Girls) and A Day In Town, written for a school orchestra in 1973 and sporting the movements: Down Town Frolic, Preamble In The Park, High Street Parade and Twilight Reminiscence.
We continue with more late Victorian composers connected, to some degree at least, with the light musical stage. Some of these were also conductors, like Henry S Parker, who is apparently a professor at the Guild Hall School, but was also the composer of ballads like At my Window, The Moorish Maid, The Golden Path and For A Love Of Spain and of the musicals Mignonette (a failure when it was put on at The Royalty in 1889) and Kathy, or The Farmer’s Daughter, toured in 1897. Alfred R Watson was musical director at Nottingham’s main theatre and as such was responsible for Count Tremolio, toured in 1887. And the American born Welshman, Joseph Haydn Parry (1864 – 1894), son of Joseph Parry (1841 – 1903), composer of cantatas and grand operas like Blodwen, also conducted. His most successful operetta was Cigarette (1892), which achieved publication and 112 performances in a run at the Lyric and Shaftsbury theatres in 1892, when its melodious qualities were praised. Others were Gwen, the melodramatic opera, Miami (1893), much less successful than Cigarette and Marigold Farm (also 1893), just one performance at the Opera Comique. Death cut off his talent before he could achieve more.
By contrast Harry C Barry was an actor, not a conductor; he wrote the scores for his burlesques Shylocks, or the Venus of Venice (1892) and Turpin a la Mode (1897), neither of which reached the West End. Julia Woolf, a women in basically a man’s world, saw her Carino, or Twelve o’ Clock manage the respectable tally of 116 performances at the Opera Comique in 1886 and many more in the provincial tour which followed – though several critics more quick to point out her inspiration owed much to Wallace and Balfe. John Storer was responsible for the music for the comic opera The Punch Bowl (1888, toured provincially) and for Gretna Green (1890), which reached the Opera Comique for 16 performances in 1890.
The Liverpool man J C Bond Andrews was, if we believe Ganzl’s monumental tome, involved with great opera and chamber music – but the compositions I have discovered (apart from the musicals Herne’s Oak, toured in 1887 and The Lass That Loved A Sailor, 1893) seem to smack more of the music hall with monologues and songs like Alice, Valcon, The Costers’ ’Oneymoon and The Nipper’s Lullaby. Percy Reeve seems to achieved modest success without quite breaking into the big time. His vaudeville operetta, A Private Wire, was played as a forepiece to Iolanthe in 1883, The Crusader and the Craven (1890) was described as a " medieval operetta" and he contributed to Cupid & Co. in 1894.
Finally a mention for Frank L Moir, a Nottingham man, best remembered for his ballad Down the Vale (and other, including Echoes, At Dawn Of Day, When Celia Sings and Teach Me To Forget) but involved before 1900 (he lived on into the 20th century) with the English musical stage, writing all the music for The Royal Watchman (1887, toured provincially) and some of it for Skipped By The Light of the Moon, produced in 1896 in the USA, Australia and Reading (England) and, in 1899, in London under the title A Good Time.
Philip L Scowcroft
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Philip's book 'British Light Music Composers' (ISBN 0903413 88 4) is currently out of print.
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