AN EIGHTEENTH GARLAND OF BRITISH LIGHT MUSIC COMPOSERS
Composers of ballads were legion in Edwardian and Victorian days and there are still many whom we have not so far touched on. People like for example J.W Metcalf, whose big hit was Absent, although there were other songs from him including The Night Has a Thousand Eyes and At Nightfall. Lilian Ray especially active in the first three decades of the present century, was known especially for The Sunshine of Your Smile, but her fame was also broadcast by ballads such as Land of the Long Ago, In All My Dreams, Because of You and 'God Keep You', is My Prayer and a group of Little Darkie Songs. Another lady Daisy McGeoch brought out one 'hit', Two Eyes of Grey plus some other ballads (Babette, The Call of the Wild and Fleurette) and seems to have specialised in producing groups of children's songs: Noah's Ark (4 songs), Kiddies (4), More Kiddies (5) and Five Miniature Songs. Dermot MacMurrough is best remembered for Macushla but The Shepherdess and Life's Crossing also achieved popularity.
A. Ernest Adams, who died in 1938, was not related to Stephen Adans, whose real name anyway was Michael Maybrick, and he operated perhaps a generation later, but he was responsible for some very popular song titles: The Belles of St Mary's, God Send You Back to Me and Life's Roadway. Others included A Cartload of Hay, Life's Great Sunset, The Mill By the Sea, A Song of Long Ago and The Sundial in My Garden. He also contributed to a number of revues including Five O'Clock Follies (1924) and Bubbly. Ernest R. Ball (1878-1927) appears to have been Irish, judging by the large number of his songs which relate to that county, examples of which are When Irish Eyes are Smiling, Rose of Killarney and Mother Machree. Other Ball titles included Will You Love Me in December, A Little Bit of Heaven, Let the Rest of the World Go By, I Never Knew, Love me and the World is Mine and Till the Sands of the Desert Grow Cold. And we must not forget Edward C. Purcell (no relation of Henry of course) who died in 1932 for his enormously popular Passing By and (less popular) Since First I saw Your Face.
Before we leave ballad composers let us recall Hermann Frederic Löhr (1872-1944), English despite his German-sounding name. He was highly prolific in that direction; the BBC catalogue lists 116 songs and there were doubtless many more, some of them grouped into sets e.g. Russian Love Songs (6), Songs of Roumania (3), Songs of Italy (4), Songs of Exile (5), Romany Songs (4), The Little Sunbonnet (9), Indian Songs (4) and Three Little Spanish Songs. Best known of the singletons was Little Grey Home in the West and Where My Caravan Has Rested. Other popular titles were Margrita, Only One Word, Roadways, Rose of My Heart, To Elaine, The Road of Looking Forward, Little Corner of Your Heart and Messmates. Löhr wrote a musical play, Our Little Cinderella, which yielded a waltz and a suite of four other dances. He also contributed largely to the corpus of light orchestral suites and genre movements. The suites included Fleeting Fancies, Musical Travelogue, The Open Road, Sign-Posts, West Countree, West Country Dances, Stars of the East and Ship Ahoy, the separate movements, the minuet Jackanapes, an interlude, Lady Mine, the 'novelette' Merry Thoughts, a waltz-intermezzo, Leonore, the waltz Moonshine and an intermezzo, Amber Eyes.
Passing on to mainly 'instrumental' composers Ray Martin was an orchestra leader post-1945 noted at that time for his 'Melody-in-the Sky' broadcasts on BBC Radio but also deserves to be remembered for his compositions. He wrote for films like My Wife's Family (1956), and The Hoax (1972) and a number of genre pieces, primarily for his orchestra: Parlour Game (1951), Muriella (1951), Waltzing Bugle Boy (1953) and Ballet of the Bells (1954).
Allan Street, trumpet player and conductor, broadcast regularly with his octet before RAF service during World War II. After the war he went into teaching music, retiring from that in 1977, and eventually into brass bands as conductor (Ransome & Marles, Markham Main, Dalmellington, etc) and composer, though he also conducted orchestras, notably the Derby Light Orchestra, and worked successively for Chappells and Boosey & Hawkes. Although we can instance a Rondino for trumpet and piano and the orchestral miniature Pocketful O' Jingle, most of his compositions, not to mention countless arrangements, were for brass bands: in the suites Doon Valley, Three Sketches, Song and Dances, Embassy and Nottingham Town, the Rococo Variations (on a theme by Tchaikovsky), Gemini, another set of variations, for two trombones and band, and the individual movements Hobgoblins, Student Days, Showbiz, Skirl (Scottish Carnival) and Just Jane.
Peter Haysom, whose real name was Peter Craddy, was a music producer for the BBC in the Midlands between 1956 and 1974. Again not all his compositions are for brass - Laughing Bambino was for orchestra, the Three North Country Songs are of course vocal and Spanish Harlequin was a wind ensemble piece - but most of them are, for instance the Variations on The Lark in the Clear Air, Tenderfoot Trail, Broad Highway and most popular, at least as far as my own listening goes, Whispering Brass.
One TV tune writer we have not so far mentioned is Anthony Isaac for his rousing theme music for Warship and Squadron. And we can finish our 18th bouquet with John C. Holliday, notable both for his piano suites, marches and dances, usually orchestrated by others (the children's suite Cap and Bells, the Greeze Dance, Keltic Dance, Mayday at Helston, the 'Danse Fantastique' Punchinello, the morris dances Zennor and Skipton Rig and the marches Tom Tiddler and The Frontiere) and for songs in lighter style like Chumleigh Fair, The Bells of Home, A Morning Prayer, The Town Crier and the song sequences Oddments and Sea-Lights.
© 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 firstname.lastname@example.org