A 163rd GARLAND OF BRITISH LIGHT MUSIC COMPOSERS
We start once again with a sheaf of composers associated with the late Victorian musical stage. Three, at least, of them were conductors who composed musicals on occasion: Thomas Hunter, whose shows included Claudio (1888), The Tourist, or Here, There and Everywhere (1895), Sport, or The Queen’s Bounty (1896) and Odd Man Out (1897), all toured provincially; Henry May, who composed, sometimes with others, for Dashing Prince Hal (1892: with Clarence Corri), described as "a musical extravaganza, a wildly whimsical musical in tights", Robin Hood Esq., a burlesque toured in 1894, Skipped By the Light of the Moon, a musical farcical comedy of 1896, One of the Family, another musical farcical comedy from 1898, and Nana (1902); and Henry Vernon, whose one major effort was in 1896, entitled The President.
Ethel Harraden, daughter of a London and Calcutta agent, trained at the Royal Academy, achieved some fame as a pianist and ballad composer and had a brief career on the London stage, with His Last Chance, a fore-piece for The Gaiety (1890), an operetta, The Lady in Pink (1891) and her first and only full-length show, the "fantastie opera" The Taboo, which surfaced for seven performances at the Trafalgar Theatre in 1895. Her brother, Herbert Harraden, collaborated with her in the theatre and also composed light songs such as Bobbie’s Banjo.
Alfred James Caldicott (1842-97), Mus. Bac. Cantab and Professor at the Royal College of Music 1883-9, composed cantatas, many 'glees' (including Humpty Dumpty (1878) and How Calmly the Evening) and many ballad type songs among which we can exemplify The Holly Crowned King, Nothing at All, Two spoons, Umbrella Courtship and With Horse and Hound. But perhaps his major work was for the stage; between a dozen and a score of scores, mostly for the German Reed-entertainments at the St. George’s Hall - A Treasure Trove (1883), A Miss Rose Read (1883), Old Knockles (1884: this one, at least, achieved publication), In Cupid’s Court (1885), A United Pair (1886), Tally Ho (1881), Wanted, An Heir (1888), The Bosun’s Mate (1888), Possession (1890), The Old Bureau (1891) and An Odd Pair (1893) - but there were others, such as the "operettas" (or fore-pieces) The Girten Gurl and the Milkmaid (this too achieved publication), A Knight Errant (1894), plus contributions to Chirruper’s Fortune (1885).
Odoardo Barri (1835-1920), despite his Italian-sounding name, was English and was christened Edward Slater. He did however achieve some fame as a singing teacher and an oratorio singer in Italy, and also in Spain, before coming to the country. His works included a Mass for the King of Spain and some 1500 songs, including The Shadow of the Cross, Saved From the Storm, The Good Shepherd, The Armourer’s Gift, Birdie’s Nest and, much the most popular, [Who are the Boys of] The Old Brigade. Barri was also associated with the stage, as theatre manager and as a composer, of the operetta M.D. (1879), Our Amateur Theatricals (1894) and That Terrible Turk (1898), all of which went the rounds of the touring circuit.
Bertram Luard-Selby (1853-1918) was a rather more "serious" composer than many of those we have discussed here. He studied in Leipzig with Reinecke and Jadassohn and held down organist’s positions, most notably at Rochester Cathedral. He composed operas, chamber music and organ solos (at least three sonatas but shorter, lighter pieces, including several marches). He earns a place here on strength his lighter pieces forthe stage: contributors to The Ballet Girl (1897) and, most notably, the curtain raiser Weather or No, used to accompany The Mikado in 1896.
Finally for one composer who is still alive. Robert Ramskill lives in Coventry and works for the local education authority. Many of his compositions, particularly those for wind band, have an education purpose; his Jazz Sequence, for violin and piano, in three movements, make use of jazz-style harmonies.
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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