|Founder: Len Mullenger|
A NINETEENTH GARLAND OF BRITISH LIGHT MUSIC COMPOSERS
We may start this latest collection of musical blossoms by reading what can be reckoned as a few British-born successors to Louis Jullien in their production of dance music for ballroom, concert hall and bandstand. We have previously noticed (Garland 6) in this category the two Godfreys, Charles (II) and Dan (I), father of the Bournemouth Godfrey and also alluded in passing to Procida Bucalossi who made quite a profitable thing out of turning tunes from the Savoy Operas and other stage pieces into waltzes, polkas and the like. So let us now recall three other similar figures: Charles Coote and C.H.R. Marriott, both of whom were roughly contemporary with the two Godfreys just mentioned and all four of whom carried on more or less from where Jullien left off, flourishing from the 1850s onwards, and the slightly earlier Charles d'Albert (1809-86). Coote at least was still active in the late 1880s as his Burlesque Lancers and the polka Hanky Panky are both dated 1887-8. Earlier dances by him include the valses Royal Bridesmaids, Golden Beauty, Yours Sincerely, Perichole (after Offenbach), Moths, Daisy Queen, My Queen, Claribel and Dancing Girl, the polkas Bric-a-Brac, Great Eastern, le Premier Pas and Off We Go the galops Prince Imperial, Cherry Pie, Soldier, Snowdrift, Just Out, No Thoroughfare, Mail Train, Mugby Junction, Eclipse, Trumpeters Galop, Hunt Club, Encore and Wet, Wet, Wet (!), the lancers The Curl, Extravaganza, Masquerade, Guard of Honour, Carnival Lancers, Blue Beard Lancers, Princess Ida Lancers, Les Cloches de Corneville and Favourite Lancers and the quadrilles Faust (after Gounod), Overture Quadrille (presumably based on tunes from favourite overtures of the day), Christmas Echoes, London Life Quadrille, Pretty Kitty and Tyrolese Quadrille. Several of these dances, as is the case with dance music throughout the centuries and whatever the country, reflect in their tittles personalities or newsworthy features of the time. Great Eastern was Brunel's huge ship which in the 1860s had laid the Atlantic Cable, Claribel was a noted woman singer and composer, Mugby Junction was a story by Charles Dickens. Coote's son, Charles, junior, wrote popular songs at the end of the 19th Century, among their titles being Modern Times and Never Desert a Friend, though the once-popular ballad Wrap Me Up in Your Tarpaulin Jacket appears to be a composition by the elder Coote.
Marriott did not quite achieve the popularity of Coote with his dance compositions, but nevertheless they were popular in the ballroom of his time. Examples are his New Lancers, the quadrilles Chilperic, Dolly Varden (another Dickensian allusion), Winter's Night and Sailor's Quadrille (on popular tunes) and the polka Jolly Dogs.
Charles d'Albert (or, to give him his full name Charles Louis Napoleon d'Albert: he was of French émigré stock but worked in England most of his life and fathered Eugene, composer of the opera Tiefland and much else?) was astonishingly prolific. At one time he had some 300 works in print, for piano or piano duet. From a publisher's catalogue of around 1860 we note that piano solo copies were available of 81 quadrilles, 76 waltzes, 64 polkas and 48 galops and miscellaneous dances, A large proportion of each category also had piano duet versions and of them respectively 44, 32, 23 and 13 were available in full orchestral arrangements and a few were also scored for military band. D'Albert's quadrilles included Bomarsund, Sebastopol and many based on operatic melodies from e.g. Robin Hood (by Macfarren) Marta (Flotow) and seemingly almost every Verdi opera produced up to that time. His waltzes included Rifle Corps, Chant d'Amour Robin Hood (again!), Nymph of the Wave, Rosalinda, Distant Shore and Star of the Night with again many operatic arrangements. From his polka titles we may mention Rifle Corps, Great Eastern, Sultan (I heard this recently in a modern arrangement and quite a catchy number it is, too), Coquette, Delhi, Invitation, Ladies' Polka, Linnet Polka, Camp Polka, Drink Puppy Drink and Prince Albert's Polka; galops were danced to tunes entitled Overland Mail, Pélissier, Submarine, Garibaldi, Mount Etna and The Rink; and miscellaneous dance music included various schottisches, The Olivette, Rip Van Winkle, and Pirates of Penzance lancers, a piece intriguingly entitled La Tempête and a French country dance, La Carillon de Dunkerque. The topicality of some of the above titles need not be explained, but Bomarsund and Sebastopol were Russian Crimean War fortresses, the Rifle Corps dances celebrated the revival of the rifle volunteer movement in 1859-60, Delhi was besieged during the Indian Mutiny (1857) and Pélissier was a French C-in-C in the Crimea.
Gilbert and Sullivan operettas were also plundered for dance music by both d'Albert and Coote (Trial by Jury, The Sorcerer, Pirates of Penzance and Iolanthe) while d'Albert's Sweethearts waltz was perhaps based on Sullivan's song of that title. Practically all these dance music titles are taken from programmes of balls held in Doncaster during the 19th century. We have not, of course, exhausted the Victorian dance composers with Coote, Marriott and d'Albert. They were the most prolific. Other names included W.H. Montgomery, composer of the galops Rifle Corps and Our Boys, Warwick Williams, who like the elder Bucalossi, Montgomery, d'Albert and Coote, drew on the Savoy operettas, and one or two provincial figures: Doncaster's Douglas Lister, who brought out the Scarborough Belle galop in about 1870, named, I believe, after an East Coast pleasure steamer. W.H. Capon of Newark, composer of the Dream Waltzes and Midnight Waltz in around 1867 and Charles Harvey, who ran a quadrille band in Sheffield in the 1860s and 1870s whose galop Mulligan Guards and the Prince Leopold Polka he introduced into his own band's programmes.
In this series of Garlands we have alluded to many organists, some of them better known on the theatre organ , others - like Lemare and Hollins - remembered for popularising the pipe organ. Another in the latter group is Frederic H. Wood, Organist at Blackpool Parish Church for some 45 years, who in addition to composing church music and organ pieces based on hymn tunes, brought out during the 1920s a series of topographical suites for organ very much in the style of Coates and other's contemporary orchestral music and perhaps ranging further than Coates in a geographical sense. First (1924) was Scenes in Kent (four movements, Aylesford Bridge, Allington Lock, Orchard Blossoms and Rochester). This was followed in 1925 by Scenes in Northumberland (North Tynedale, Cilurnium, Allendale, Boreovica), in 1926 by Scenes on the Wye (Rhyader, Monmouth, Tintern, Symonds Yat) and in 1929 by Scenes on the Downs (Sunrise on Stonehenge, A Downs Morris, Evening on the Downs (Nocturne), Morning on the Downs). The first and last of these suites have been recorded recently; surprisingly they do not appear ever to have been orchestrated. If they were they might have achieved greater popularity.
Sir Hamilton Harty (1879-1941) achieved high distinction, as we all know, as pianist, conductor and composer. One is amazed to realise how much of his compositional output is "light" music: many of his Irish song settings, of which My Lagan Love has probably proved to be the most enduring; several of his 'non-traditional' songs, notably Sea Wrack, Bonfires, Lane o'the Thrushes and Cradle Song, which are effectively ballads, his orchestral arrangements of Handel, and especially of his Irish precursor, John Field, which were eagerly taken up by light orchestras; the Comedy Overture, which is a contribution to the British light, bright, comedy overture genre, of which we can (and have) quoted dozens of examples In Ireland, known in orchestral and "chamber" (e.g. for flute and piano) versions; and the Fantasy Scenes (from an Eastern Romance) of 1920, which might almost have been inspired by Ketèlbey, who was then just beginning to produce his exotic genre pieces, or at least have tapped the same desire for the exotic among the lovers of entertainment music. Finally I recall the scherzo, subtitled "The Fair Day", from Harty's Irish Symphony and based on lively traditional melodies, being included in one of the programmes of the BBC's Light Music Festival in March 1949.
There were many bandmaster/composers in late Victorian early 20th Century Britain. Sometimes these came in dynasties. Examples are the Godfreys, not least those members we mentioned earlier in the Garland, and the Winterbottoms, mainly Marine Bandmasters. Another R.M. Bandmaster was Lieutenant Jacob A. Kappey (1827-1908, German-born but domiciled in England from his early 20s) whose slow march The Review was popular in 1871 (it was in that year, and subsequently, performed, for example, by a brass band in Doncaster). His overture A Martial Fete was done in Bournemouth in 1908. Kappey was to arrange Elgar's Sursum Corda and Carillon for military band, but as Carillon was not composed until 1914, this suggests that Kappey who is also credited with many other selections or arrangements sired at least one generation of a military band dynasty. The whole questions of military (and brass) band composer/arrangers is something to which I would like to return, maybe in the 20th Garland; maybe later.
© 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