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Classical Editor in Chief: Rob Barnett
A 167th GARLAND OF BRITISH LIGHT MUSIC COMPOSERS
We start with a figure who is, at the time of writing, still alive. Sydney Sager was born in 1917 and served in the army between 1931 and 1946, during which time (1936-9) he attended the Royal College of Music. His instrument was the trombone which he continued to play on leaving the service, at Covent Garden 1948-9 and with the BBC West of England Light Orchestra (1950-57), whom he occasionally conducted and for whom he made arrangements. This latter work led to composition, for the BBC (he freelanced for them in composition between 1950 and 1982), in radio documentaries and plays such as A Doctor of Auschwitz, The Sin Doctor, Scientists of the Strange, The Moonstone and Come Into the Parlour - and for HTV, where he was music director 1976 to 1992 (examples were Children of the Stones, King of the Castle, The Clifton House Mystery, Into the Labyrinth, and Succubus. Other TV series included Gaslight (1982) and The Best of Friends (1991). His festival works for narrator, childrenís choir and orchestra - Big Shawn and the Panda, Comfort of the Nile, Big Shawn and the Fairies, The Drowned Bells, The Dolphin Boy and Dragons and Dinosaurs - may also be reckoned as "light" music and Sager has also been responsible for "serious" concert music: a song cycle and the Fantasia for clarinet, strings and percussion. His work as a conductor bore especial fruit when he successfully formed and conducted the Paragon orchestra (1952-60) and the Bristol Sinfonia (1964-85) [I am indebted to Robert Gross for much of the information in this paragraph].
Our other present-day TV composer this time is Dan Jones, whose latest score is for BBC2ís documentary on the Middle Classes (2001). He should not of course be confused with Daniel Jones (1912-?), Welsh composers of symphonies, quartets etc. and indeed of lighter pieces, including many Bagatelles for piano solo and songs for Dylan Thomasís Under Milk Wood.
Now, and finally, for some further lesser-known figures from the early 20th Century English musical stage. Several of these were, once more, conductors in that field and some were "singletons". Meredith Ball, composer of The Kingís Diamond, toured in 1904, Vincent Exley, composer of The Treasure Island, toured in 1905, and Raymond Rôze (1875-1920), son of the French prima donna Marie Rôze, but himself English-born, whose one musical comedy (though he had two grand operas, Joan of Arc (1913) and Arabesque (1916) produced in London) was The Lovebirds, which managed 75 performances at the Savoy (and also publication) in 1904. He is also credited with some incidental theatre music, especially for Nell Gwyn, from which a six movement orchestral suite was extracted, plus Extase díAmour, also orchestra. Other "singletons" were Osbourne Roberts, whose The Isle of Pharos was produced by amateurs in 1904 before it was toured professionally, Alfred Sugden, whose The Isle of Champagne was toured in 1903, and Wilfred Arthur, whose All At Sea also toured the provinces that same year.
Finally, William T. Glidden, musical director, librettist and composer, wrote the scores for at least three shows, all of them toured provincially: the ambitions The Fisher Girl, "A Romance of the Flying Dutchman" (1901), Petronella (1906) and The Flower Girl, (1908).
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.
E-mail enquiries (but NOT orders) can be directed to Rob Barnett at email@example.com