A 175th GARLAND OF BRITISH LIGHT MUSIC COMPOSERS
In this latest bouquet we seem to concentrate largely on composers who wrote light piano pieces. Some of them specialised in writing educational music for young performers: Henry Duke, active in the 1960s and 1970s, a prolific arranger whose publications among original pieces included the Promenade Suite, A Country Holiday, Five Impressions, Fresh Air Fancies and Out and About; and Leonard Woodroffe Robinson, composer of Holiday Tunes and Playdays. A number of nominees were active during the 1940s, like John Bass, composer of Scherzo Piquant, opus 8 and the Viennese Sketches, Opus 12 (of those the 'waltz intermezzo' Viennese Porcelain, was orchestrated), John Callis Brydson, who produced a lot of arrangements and the two solo piano suites In the Realm of Fantasy (Frolic, Fairy Bells, Elfin Horns, Will o’ the Wisp, Revelry) and Four Pieces (Early Morning, Marching Along, Song of Merryheart, Told at Sunset), Harold Clayton, composer of A Walking Tune (1948) and Mantle Childe, himself a capable concert pianist, whose publications included Child’s Play Appropriately named, it would seem, but actually intended for young performers), Lazy Sheep, derived from an old French air, and a setting of the Welsh tune Suo Gan, all for the piano.
Going further back in time we notice the name of Herbert Dennison, active in the twenties and thirties, and composer of the piano solos, Chanson Joyeuse, Feu Follet, Grasshoppers’ Dance (less well known than Ernest Bucalossi’s similarly titled orchestral example), the three interludes Harbour Lights, a Petite Valse de Concert and A Sea Idyll.
A mention now for the Victorian composer Charles D Blake, born in 1849, who wrote orchestral miniatures (like the marches Waves of the Ocean and Grand March and the gallop Viccolo) and for revues.
A light music composer still very much alive is Johnny McLain (whose real name is John A Lain) who describes himself as a 'Light Music Composer and Song writer' and whose compositions, vocal and instrumental, range from settings of Our Father and Psalm 23 (he has no religious beliefs, however, so he tells me) through Dream Awhile to The Poop Scoop Song.
Finally we remember Edric Cundell (1893-1961), a student, and later a teacher, at Trinity College London and Principal of the Guildhall School, conductor and composer. Many of his compositions were "serious", but on the lighter side they did include the piano miniatures April Song and The Water Babies and Two Pieces for brass quartet from 1957 while a number of his songs could be taken for ballads. He arranged The Londonderry Air (for piano), thereby joining a sizeable club. And his Blackfriars was a test piece for the National Brass Band Championship in 1955, albeit in an arrangement by Frank Wright.
Philip L Scowcroft
Enquiries to Philip at
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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