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Classical Editor: Rob Barnett
A 171st GARLAND OF BRITISH LIGHT MUSIC COMPOSERS
We begin with (Thomas) Harold (Hurst) Craxton (1885-1971), pianist, teacher and composer, who despite long associations with the Associated Board and teaching at the Royal Academy of Music for over forty years between 1919 and 1961 may in a not insignificant degree be regarded as a composer of light miniatures. Miniaturist he certainly was and tuneful with it as titles like the scherzetto Little Robin Goodfellow, Woodland Lullaby, The Plaint of Love, A Tahitian Dance, A Shepherdess in Porcelain, Timothy’s Pieces, A Quiet Time, Two Mazurkas, Bourrée Humoresque on an 18th Century Tune (he also arranged much music, mainly for piano, in the era before the baroque revival gathered momentum) and the piano suites or collections, Early Days, December and May and the Eight Preludes, which have "pictorial" titles. Many of Craxton’s miniatures were written for Associated Board examinations or generally for students to play; he may therefore be mentioned in the same breath as Thomas Dunhill, Alec Rowley, E. Markham Lee and others. When we look at his admittedly quite small song output we see that apart from an early R. L. Stevenson setting and a handful of Shakespearean songs from the 1940s, most of them are plausibly classifiable as ballads: Shepherd Love, The Snowdrop, Come You Mary, Mavis, Timothy, Beloved I Am Lonely, Oh! To See the Cabin Smoke and Hearts in Love.
Two more "singletons" among our theatre composers, now, focusing on the post-1918 period, Charles Stuart, and Oh! Patsy, toured in 1926; and Mabel Buchanan, who composed the score of The Land of the Christmas Stocking, put on for a seasonal season at the Duke of York in 1945.
Garland 170 included a paragraph of light music composers bearing the surname Smith. What of Brown, James and Robinson in a similar condition? There are not too many English Browns, apart from the mood music miniaturist Jackie Brown with his Metropolis, the organist-composer Reginald Porter-Brown and Kenneth Brown, a Doncaster schoolmaster of sixty odd years ago who composed a march, a Miniature Suite and, for chorus and orchestra, British Ports, all three of whom we have noted in earlier Garlands. A new one to us is Hubert Brown, a ballad composer from the earlier part of the 20th Century, with titles such as Water Lilies, Sorrow, Love’s Appeal, All Among the Rushes, At Parting, Dreaming Waters, Ha’nacker Mill, Reflections, Why?, A Song at Dawn and Noonday Haze, plus a few settings of nursery rhymes in the style of Handel, once a popular pastime. Another is David Brown, conductor and composer of the two musicals Fearless Frank (1979) and Wonderland (1981); still another in Mark Brown, whose one stage musical (1975) bears the curious title of Yobbo Nowt.
Jones does better than Brown with the stage composers Sidney (1861-1946), Guy (1874-1959), Edward, Julian and Leslie Julian (only the first two were related), the present day composer for TV, Dan, and ever the serious Welshman Daniel, all previously mentioned. Not yet covered in this series are Raymond Jones, composer of Hay-Day for light orchestra, Kenneth Jones, composer of such popular songs as You’ll Never Know a Love Like Mine and They Say, Kenneth Victor Jones, born in 1924, South African-born writer for films and TV, Gus Jones, responsible for the Football Rag March arranged for brass by Edrich Siebert in 1962, Isham Jones whose numbers for Joseph Tunbridge’s Turned Up, a musical farce of 1926, were the best in the show, and Douglas Jones, a specialist in music for young amateurs with such pieces as Ayton Airs (1963) for piano trio, Three Pieces (1977) for viola and piano and The Village, eight movements for violin and piano (1961). But there are not too many Robinsons, apart from the brothers Eric and Stanford and the ballad and light orchestral composer Charter Robinson, all previously dealt with, though Joseph Robinson (1816-98) is worth a mention here for his once popular ballad The Snowy Breasted Pearl, Brian Robinson contributed songs to Viva Viva, a musical farce of 1968, and a very obscure W Robinson composed in 1882 a short musical piece My Luck, performed by the D’Oyly Carte company whilst on tour.
Philip L Scowcroft
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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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