A 174th GARLAND OF BRITISH LIGHT MUSIC COMPOSERS
Raymond Parfrey, born in 1928 and a one-time composition student of Alan Bush, is, whether composing for voices or instruments, a miniaturist. His genre pieces with pictorial or intriguing titles make attractive listening. Those for piano solo include Autumn Song, Background of Brass, A Flute From Afar, A Highland Tale, Night Spot, November Sunlight, On a Brittany Beach, Salt Caked Smokestack, Serenade in Pastels, Toy Bandstand, Youth at the Helm, the suites Greetings and With Pedal Please, Waltz From Manywhere, Featherweight, Breeze in the Bay and Distant Prospect; piano duettists are catered for by Double Bill, A Dance From the Mountains and A Long Trail. He has produced a lot of music for wind instruments as he was told by a publisher that there was demand for it. This includes solos with piano and suites for clarinets and/or flutes – and also for brass, like a Caprice for trumpet and piano and a couple of suites for the two euphonium/two tuba combination 'Tubalate' entitled Tribute to Tunesmiths and Male Voice For Brass. His work is well in the British Light music tradition.
Two others who have also written recently for 'Tubalate' are the Canadian-born Derek Wood, (he lives over here now), whose pieces, like Tubafusion, show strong jazz influence (the "fusion" in that work for 'Tubalate' is of classical and jazz elements, though the latter dominates) and Michael Regan, born in 1947, a Guildhall School student (his teachers were Buxton Orr and Patrick Standford, both of whom have made important contributions to light, as well as serious music) and a lecturer at the London College of Music. His Quartet (1999) for euphoniums and tubas incorporates jazz and Latin American rhythms, while several earlier works are light in style, such as the Four Shanties for guitar solo, the Three Yugoslav Dances for two guitars and the Five Christmas Preludes (1986) for organ. Frank Baron was active around 1950 when he produced a number of topographical instrumental miniatures. Bishop’s Rock was orchestrated by John Gregory; two London-inspired titles Petticoat Lane and Rotten Row, were published for piano solo.
We end with another, much earlier, writer of piano music. Sydney Smith was born in Dorchester in 1839 and died in London in 1889. He studied in Leipzig and then settled in London as a piano teacher. His compositions were mostly salon miniatures for piano solo, which makes them light music for me. These include several arrangements of airs from operas and oratorios and a large number of genre pieces: Morning Dewdrops, the gallop, Sleigh Bells, Danse Napolitaine, the 'gallop de concert' The Fairy Queen, the 'valse brilliante' Gaîeté de Coeur, the mazurka, Lily of the Valley, Maypole Dance, The Spinning Wheel, The Aeolian Harp and Le Jet d’Eau, the latter two especially popular. Occasionally one can still hear Smith, with his mixture of superficial brilliance and agreeable tunefulness, even these days and the experience while not "improving" is usually acceptably entertaining.
Philip L Scowcroft
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