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A FIRST GARLAND OF BRITISH LIGHT MUSIC COMPOSERS

by Philip L. Scowcroft

To follow my short studies of Percy Fletcher, Frederic Curzon, Haydn Wood, John Ansell, Albert Ketelbey and Montague Phillips, (* Newsletter Nos: Fletcher (39); Curzon (35); Ansell (39); Ketelbey (39), Phillips (39). Wood is yet to come) here are notes on a dozen others who may be reckoned also as light music composers; to avoid any possibility of a favoured order of merit among people so different, I present these alphabetically.

Charles Ancliffe (1880-1952) was a bandmaster's son, so it was natural for him to train at the RMSM, Kneller Hall and to become a bandmaster himself, first of the South Wales Borderers, then of the Scarborough Military Band. His creative output reflects this to a degree, with marches like Ironsides, a rousing piece which I heard recently in a brass band version, Castles in Spain and the popular The Liberators, but he is best remembered for his waltzes. Nights of Gladness, the most famous, gave its name to a BBC programme, for which it was the signature tune (he often conducted for radio), and there were many other waltzes like Alpine Echoes, April Clouds, Dream Princess, Festive Days, Irish Whispers, Shy Glances, Southern Nights, Temptation, Smiles Then Kisses, Thrills, Hesitation, Twilight Time and Unforgotten Hours. In addition he composed dozens of short genre pieces often styled "intermezzo" or "entr'acte": April's Lady, Down in Zanzibar, A Forest Wooing, Peacock's Parade, Moon Maid, Cinderella's Wedding, The Flutter of the Fay, Secrets, Valley of Roses, Penelope's Garden, Burma Intermezzo, Fragrance and the "Capricietto Italien" Mariette-Coquette, the Latin-American style serenade El Saludo and the "Dutch silhouette", Hans the Stroller. His attractively and ingeniously titled suites include Southern Impressions, from which Carnival at Nice was popular in its day, Below Bridges (1936, all London bridges, with the titles Wapping Old Stairs, Stepney Church and Poplar) and The Purple Vine, in three movements: The Vintagers, The Purple Vine and Evening at the Inn! Ancliffe's songs were very popular in character with titles like Ask Daddy, Someday in Somebody's Eyes and I Cannot Live Without You.

Hubert Bath, born in Barnstaple on 6 November 1883 died at Harefield, Middlesex on 24 April 1945, just days before VE Day. He sang in the local church choir as a boy (his father, a school teacher, was the choirmaster) and he studied piano, organ and composition when he went to the RAM at the age of 17. His musical output, as we shall see, looked in several directions, but he certainly falls within our chosen field of light music, not least because his best remembered work, the Cornish Rhapsody, for piano and orchestra written for the film Love Story, was so popular with light orchestras for so long. It was not his only film music by a long chalk; in 1929 he composed at least some of the soundtrack for the first full-length British 'talkie', Blackmail, directed by Alfred Hitchcock, and was working on the score of The Wicked Lady when he died. There were many others for the Gaumont-British and Gainsborough (and other) studios of which I remember particularly the 1935 Donat version of The Thirty-Nine Steps, Rhodes of Africa (1936) and The Passing of the Third Floor Back (1935). He conducted music for films and in the concert hall. Nor was the Cornish Rhapsody his only light orchestral piece. At his best Bath approached Eric Coates. Like Coates he produced several stirring marches, such as Atlantic Charter with its parts for three saxophones, Empire Builders, Out of the Blue (written for an RAF display at Hendon, once recorded by a brass band and for many years the signature tune of BBC Radio's Sports Report), the "nautical march" Admirals All, which added two cornets and a euphonium to the usual orchestral brass of four horns, two trumpets and three trombones and The Nelson Touch performed in Doncaster during the 1940s. His orchestral suites ranged widely in a topographical sense: Two Sea Pictures and drawing on his memories of South Africa, the African Suite - premiered at the Henry Wood Proms in 1909 and 1915 respectively - the Two Japanese Sketches and the Egyptian Suite (both the latter were published also for piano solo), The Norwegian Suite for small orchestra, the "oriental suite" Scenes from the Prophets, Pierrette by the Steam and Woodland Scenes, all three of which latter were very popular, the two Troubadour Suites, the Petite Suite Romantique and a tribute to his native county, Devonia, whose three movements are entitled Prelude, Breeze at Hartland Point; "melodie d'amour", Lorna of Exmoor; and Sea Dogs of Devon, which is another "nautical march". The overture Midshipman Easy was also of course inspired by the sea and Marryat's novel of course; the Summer Nights waltz of 1901 achieved much popularity. With G H Clutsam and Basil Hood he brought out an operetta Young England produced at Daly's Theatre in 1916, from which the song Sweethearts and Wives enjoyed great fame and an extensive selection from this appeared on gramophone records at that time. Other stage works were in general more serious. The Spanish Student, after Longfellow was written while he was still a student at the Royal Academy in 1904; Bubbole was performed in Milan in 1920 and as Bubbles by the Carl Rosa in Belfast in 1923 and at London's Scala Theatre in 1924; and there were also The Sire de Maletroit's Door, The Three Strangers after Hardy (both one-act affairs), and Trilby, after Gerald Du Maurier's novel. In his earlier days especially Bath wrote a considerable number of short or shortish cantatas which were eagerly taken up by provincial choral societies, works such as The Jackdaw of Rheims, Men on the Line for the male voices of the Great Eastern Railway, Psyche's Departure, Look at the Clock (described as a "Welsh Rhapsody") (1910), Orpheus and The Sirens, The Legend of Nerbudda (1908), The Wedding of Shon Maclean (1909, written for the Leeds Festival of 1910) and The Wake of O'Connor (1913). The latter two were put on in my home town of Doncaster by the Doncaster Musical Society in 1911 and 1920 respectively (O'Connor had originally been slated for 1915). Bath even arranged Elijah Memories, a potted version of Mendelssohn's oratorio and also produced smaller scale vocal pieces, partsongs like The Heart of the Night (1910), When You Sing (1911), recitations to music and the three songs Voices of the Air (1911), in six parts (SAATBB) and a variety of solo songs: Bedtime Ballads for children, the humorous It Was a Golfer and his Lass, the Three Indian Songs, songs for the ballad opera Polly, revived in the twenties in the wake of the success of Austin's Beggar's Opera, and several songs inspired by the sea, Evoi: A Sea Sketch, The Vikings' War Song, The Jolly Roger and Sea Memories. Bath trained as a pianist at the Royal Academy - he also studied composition there with Frederick Corder - and his works include Coquette, Italian Suite, Sonatina in F, Song of Autumn and Song of Summer for piano solo and organ pieces like Toccatina (1914) and Heroic Prelude (1928). He had a genial sense of humour; he was a conductor of both Quinlan Opera and Carl Rosa for short periods and directed the GSM's Opera Class and was for a while Music Adviser to the LCC and organised its outdoor band concerts. He adjudicated band contests and conducted the famed St Hilda's Band with which he made records. He composed a considerable amount for brass band himself, including Freedom, the test piece at the National Championships in 1922, 1947 and as recently as 1973, which is effectively a symphony for brass condensed into a mere 12 minutes, and Honour and Glory, the test piece at the same Championships in 1931. These are substantial and serious works and are still played by bands - I have myself enjoyed them. Much of Bath's work as listed appears to show a composer, like Edward German or Sullivan maybe, who was anxious to be known for this more serious side of his output, but doomed to be remembered for more popular effusions. For every thousand who know Cornish Rhapsody is there even one who knows he composed a symphonic poem The Visions of Hannele written in 1913 (revised in 1920) and based on incidental music he wrote for the play Hannele, at His Majesty's Theatre years earlier? He is credited with chamber music too, but I have not yet discovered any.

Sidney Baynes is another who was known primarily for one work, the Destiny Waltz, one of many waltzes he wrote with titles ending in 'y': Ecstasy, Entreaty, Flattery, Frivolry, Harmony, Loyalty, Modesty, Memory, Mystery, Phantasy, Victory and Witchery. He did of course write other things besides waltzes. He worked for the BBC for many years and his march Off We Go was the Radio Variety march. Other compositions included a Miniature Ballet Suite, the overture Endure to Conquer, first played at an Armistice Thanksgiving in Westminster Abbey, the genre piece The Spider Tread and another march, Here Goes! His songs include several arrangements (by others) of the ever-present Destiny; of the rest First Love and the Garden of My Love were adapted as cornet (or clarinet) solos. He also wrote much for piano solo and some church music. Baynes was even more valuable, to the BBC and to light music generally, for his arrangements than his compositions. These were countless, including Fifty Years of Song, The Gay Nineties, Tipperaryland and other Irish selections, Leslie Stuart's Songs, Molloy's Songs, Sanderson's Songs (two selections), W.H. Squire's Songs, the dances from Sheridan's 'opera' The Duenna, in Alfred Reynolds' adaptation, and so on. His fondness for saxophones emerges in his compositions and arrangements. Born in 1879, he was Organist at various London churches, then accompanist to singers like Edward Lloyd and Ben Davies. He subsequently conducted in several London theatres including Drury Lane and the Adelphi. He formed and conducted his own orchestra between 1928 and 1938 which broadcast and recorded regularly. He died on 3 March 1938 at Willesden.

Ernest Leslie Bridgewater, born in Halesowen in 1893, died as recently as 1975. Study at the Birmingham School of Music with York Bowen was followed with a period as Musical Director at the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre in Stratford-on-Avon where he composed incidental music to nineteen of Shakespeare's plays; he continued to write incidental music for plays and the songs for his later efforts like Love for Love, Vanbrugh's The Relapse (1948) and Farquhar's The Beaux Stratagem were published while the BBC possesses scores of his overture to Dodie Smith's play Dear Octopus and a six movement suite from Molière's Tartuffe. Bridgewater produced a Piano Concerto recorded on Paxton and premiered on the BBC in February 1947 and several film scores like Against the Wind (1947) and Train of Events (1949) but he was to become best remembered for his lighter music which was a legacy of his employment on the BBC's music staff for many years. Here he founded the Leslie Bridgewater Quintet (piano and strings) and conducted the BBC Salon Orchestra between 1939 and 1942. For the Quintet he arranged much music including several series of 18th century pieces (by such composers as Arne, Michael Kelly, D Scarlatti, Boccherini, Leclair, Dauvergne, Richard Jones, Veracini and Henry Eccles) and a Hindoo Lullaby, also published in a setting for violin and piano. Orchestral items, mainly for small orchestra, included Alla Toccata for strings (also for violin and piano) the "marche grotesque" Shadows, a Rustic Suite, the Ballet in Progress suite, Prunella, a caprice for violin and orchestra, and other single movements like Harlequin, Love's Awakening, Serenata Amorosa and the intermezzo Spirit of Youth.

Hubert Clifford (1904-54), Australian-born and a conductor also, is another whose orchestral music, once popular on the BBC for whom he conducted 1941-4, may be worth another look. He composed a Symphony in 1940; his piece Atomic Energy, is scored for bass (alto) flute, heckelphone, E flat clarinet and vibraphone as well as the more usual orchestral instruments. The Serenade for Strings, in four movements, is a work of substance; Five Nursery Tunes, broadcast for the first time by the BBC Symphony Orchestra in May 1941, showed that he like so many other English composers, derived inspiration from this source. He wrote for British films, like Bath, notably Bachelor of Hearts (1958), The Dark Man (1950), House of Secrets (1956), The One That Got Away (1957) and Hunted (1952). He provided attractive contributions to the light orchestral suite in the Cowes Suite and the Kentish Suite, whose five movements are Dover, Canterbury (a prelude on Orlando Gibbons hymn tune of that name), Pastoral and Folk Song, Swift Nicks of Gads Hill and Greenwich, sub-titled Pageant of the River. He penned Four Sketches from As You Like It for strings and a couple of brass fanfares, one for Australia Day, the other derived from the Cowes Suite. Clifford was a Professor at the RAM after leaving the BBC in 1944.

Information on Horace Dann is not easy to come by but I vividly remember his sparkling concert march Worcester Beacon, worthy of Coates, in the first BBC Festival of Light Music in March/April 1949, diligent research in various catalogues has come up with mentions of two other orchestral pieces the Prima Ballerina waltz and a Lullaby, and a Well-Tempered Polka (1952) for piano and the songs Whenever My May Goes By (1950) and Music When Soft Voices Die.

Montague Ewing (1890-1957) was primarily an arranger of pot pourris and also a writer of light music for piano and of popular songs. A surprising number of his piano suites were orchestrated, usually by other hands, and broadcast: Changing Skies, Fireflies, The Fragrant Year (four movements, one for each season), Guy Fawkes Night, Kaleidoscope, 'Neath Sunny Skies, Silhouettes (at least five sets), Spirit of the Dance, Variety Suite (four stage dances), The Wand of Harlequin, Humours of Nature (four movement, Gnat Dance, The Snail and the Thrush, Daddy-Long-Legs and Procession of Frogs) and Water Colours. There were also marches like Advance of the Tanks, The Swing of the Kilt, Toy Patrol, Over the Scottish Hills, The Parade of the Home Guard, 21 Guns (also arranged for band) and Wedding in the Highlands, nautical novelties like Bosun Bill and Sailormen All and intermezzi with titles like Fairies on the Moon, Purple Heather (also arranged for band), Dream Dance of a Puppet, Tumbling Clown, Fly by Night, An Irish Picnic, Pierrette by the Stream and Whirling Leaves - his musical impression Portrait of a Toy Soldier was orchestrated by Hubert Bath. For piano and not orchestrated (as far as I know) were Three Folly Dances, Cobwebs and Woodland Shadows and, for piano duet, Three Cameos and the "novelty" Dutch Marionette, for two pianos; contributions to the field of "light chamber music" included the suites In Arcady (1923), My Lady Terpsichore and Titania (1922), all for piano trio and useful for amateurs. A number of his songs were popular in their day: The Seamen of England, Tribute, Lady Rainbow, Lullaby to a Gipsy Child, Spring is Dancing Back to You, Sweet Hour that Lingers and the two part The Clock in the Hall and, most popular of all, the humorous The Policeman's Holiday set to words by other hands. Ewing also wrote songs (e.g. Butterflies in the Rain, Scarecrow and Moonlight on the Ganges) and piano pieces (some, like Fiddler in the Rain, Highland Fiddler and Wedding of the Wasps, orchestrated by other hands) under the name of Sherman Myers.

Two other composers known primarily for their popular songs were Frederick John Easthope Martin (1882-1925) and Gerald Graham Peel (1877-1937). Martin, born in Stourport, studied piano, organ, harmony and composition (with Coleridge-Taylor) at Trinity College London. His Evensong, variously arranged for piano, organ and orchestra, became very popular, but apart from An Old Time Tune which also appeared in various versions, the posthumously published Souvenirs for piano and a few other piano solos, the bolero Castanets, for violin and piano, and Two Eastern Dances for orchestra premiered by Sir Henry Wood at the Proms, his output was primarily for the voice: anthems, such as Holiest Breathe an Evening Blessing and Holy Spirit Come O Come, and songs. One or two of these were sacred, like The Holy Child, apparently the last to be published in his lifetime. Many were grouped into cycles: Four Dedications, High Days and Holidays (four songs), The Love Spell (4), Songs of the Open Country (3), Songs of Syria (4), Songs of the Hedgerow (5), The Way of a Ship (5), The Mountebanks (7), Four Pastorals, Five Poems by John Masefield, Songs of a Gipsy Trail (5) and Red Letter Days (4). The Philosopher and the Lady (1915) was a song cycle for solo SATB, the first and last of the nine songs being for the full quartet, two middle ones being duets and the rest solos, a not unusual formation at a time when ballad concerts, often featuring three or four singers on one platform, were very common. There were three sets of Songs of the Fair (1912, 1917 and 1921), from the first of which comes Come to the Fair, which is still heard today both in its original form and in duet, mixed and male choral arrangements. Of the "separate" songs Absence, The Crown of the Year, An Autumn Song, Shall I Complain?, Everywhere I Go, The Daffodils, One and Twenty, sung in a Doncaster Grammar School concert in 1919, and Who Goes a Walking? were most popular. So popular was he as a song writer that, like W H Squire, Sanderson and Molloy he had the accolade of an orchestral selection of his songs, arranged by Henry Geehl. He could always be relied on for a strong tune but, as in Timberlore, his harmonies could be weak. He died young; he was always troubled with his lungs and as a result spent part of each year latterly in Monte Carlo, though he died in Hampstead.

Graham Peel, a pupil of Ernest Walker at Oxford, was born in Pendlebury, Manchester in 1878, not 1877 as often stated, and died in Bournemouth where he was in the thirties an excellent Chairman of the Municipal Choir. He studied at Harrow and Oxford University and was a welfare worker for much of his life; he died in 1937. Even more than Martin he seems to have been almost exclusively a song composer, of which he produced about a hundred, exclusive of folk song settings, though there were a few piano solos. He studied singing with George Henschel. In Summertime on Bredon remains popular and if it is more ballad-like than the settings by Butterworth and Vaughan Williams, this simple setting has claims to be regarded as the most attractive of all the versions of those frequently set words. Peel altogether set four of the Housman poems from The Shropshire Lad, published as a cycle and of which Reveille is particularly striking; other "cycles" included the Bad Child's Songs About Beasts, and Leaves from a Child's Garden, both for children, Four Love Songs and The Country Lover (five songs). I fairly recently enjoyed making the acquaintance of the charmingly simple The Early Morning, while Go Down to Kew in Lilac Time, Requiem, Gipsies, Ferry me Across the Water, Where Go The Boats, The Ballad of Semmerwater, In Youth is Pleasure, Come Friend, The Lute Player (overshadowed by Frances Allitsen's better-known setting), The Wild Swan, Wander Thirst, The Oxen, Almond, Wild Almond and Flow Down, Cold Rivulet, to pick out a dozen or so, would be worth looking at again. Flow Down was described when it appeared on record during the Great War as a "smooth flowing melody with an exquisite rippling accompaniment". Peel's genuine lyrical gift which hovers between ballad and art-song but perhaps is more often nearer the former should not be lost to us.

Richard Maldwyn Price, born at Welshpool in 1890 (he died in 1952), gives this Garland a distinctive Welsh flavour. He studied at the University College of Wales at Aberystwyth and was the first student to be awarded the degree of D.Mus (Wales). An organist and choirmaster in Welshpool, and a schoolmaster at Redhill and Malvern, he produced sacred choral works, string quartets and some music for brass band; Owain Glyndwr and Henry V were test pieces at the Open Championships in Manchester in 1938 and 1941 respectively and he also composed a Welsh Fantasy for brass. It is his orchestral music which qualifies him for inclusion here as so much of it is light in character: suites like the Bijou Suite, the Cambrian Suite (for strings), Gwalia Suite and Recreative Suite, overtures like the Concert Overture, An English Overture, Fantasie Overture and A Little Overture and individual movements: Air de Ballet, Bolero, Concert Valse, Introduction and Scherzo, Romance and Saltarello and a Fantasy on Captain Morgan's War Song. His music is now little known and perhaps our friends in Wales can do something about this.

So many of the composers we are looking at are remembered for one work even though they produced vastly. This is true also of Frederick Rosse, born in Jersey in 1867, whose Doge's March from The Merchant of Venice music long remained popular. Rosse was educated at Harrow and abroad at Leipzig, Dresden, Brussels and Vienna. He began as a singer in the theatre, taking part in The Geisha at Daly's. He also became Chorus Master at Daly's and moved on from that to be Musical Director in various London theatres. That he was a man of the theatre is reflected in his compositions: a musical farce All Aboard, produced in 1895; and incidental music for Monsieur Beaucaire (1902: six movements were extracted as a concert suite), Almond Eye (five movements) and, as we have seen, The Merchant of Venice, for the Garrick in 1905. Not all his music was for the theatre. Some of his orchestral suites were inspired by plays, like Cyrano de Bergerac (1923) and the five movement The Three Musketeers, but others, such as Gabrielle (1916), the Petite Suite Moderne (1918) and the three Intermezzi Op 110 were apparently not; he also composed songs like In the Old Countrie and The Refractory Monk. Rosse died on 20 June 1940. Despite his prolific output and good craftsmanship Rosse seems to have sunk without trace. Even the Doge's March is not heard.

And so to the last of this varied dozen: William Henry Squire, born at Ross-on-Wye on 8 August 1871, who was at least as well known as a cellist as he was a composer. Educated at Kingsbridge Grammar School in South Devon, he became a Foundation Scholar at the RCM, in 1883 where he studied the cello with Edward Howell and composition with Parry and Stanford. His London debut was in 1890 at the St James' Hall; he played in the Covent Garden Orchestra 1894-7 and the Queen's Hall Orchestra 1897-1901, toured widely as a soloist, notably with Clara Butt. He came to Doncaster in 1908 and played his own arrangements of Chopin and Offenbach (Kennerley Rumford, Clara Butt's husband, sang in the same concert Squire's song For Me Alone). Squire returned to Doncaster in 1910 and played his Meditation in C. He taught at the RCM between 1898 and 1917 and at the Guildhall School 1911-17 and was associated with the Performing Rights Society between 1926 and 1953. His last public concert appearance was in 1941 in Exeter Cathedral - he died in London on 17 March 1963, aged 91. His recording of Elgar's Cello Concerto has been reissued in recent years. He wrote a Cello Concerto of his own and is credited with two operettas. Also putting him into our light music sphere are his orchestral pieces - the Serenade for flute, clarinet and strings, Op 15, the entr'actes Summer Dreams, Sweet Briar and Slumber Song premiered at the Proms in 1897, 1898 and 1899 respectively, the idyll, Sylvania, the marches The Jolly Sailor and The Yeomanry Patrol and the waltz, Lazy-Lane - plus his instrumental miniatures and his popular songs (his sister was a well-known soprano). The instrumental miniatures were of course usually for cello and piano (though Slumber Song appeared for violin, Sylvania was published for piano solo and the attractive Calma de Mare was written for a lady mandolinist) - most popular were Danse Orientale, Harlequinade, Consolation, Larghetto in D, Madrigal in G, L'Adieu, Bourée, Danse Rustique, Gavotte, Minuet, Old Swedish Air, the gorgeously "Palm Court" Priere, Tzig-Tzig (a czardas of much virtuosity), Tarantella and transcriptions of folk songs. There were many more and as I have heard for myself student cellists still enjoy playing them in the 1980s and 1990s. Of Squire's songs (and those were so popular as to warrant an orchestral selection of them made by Sydney Baynes and arranged for brass band by J Ord-Hume) the most popular were In an Old Fashioned Town, Mountain Lovers, Like Stars Above, A Chip of the Old Block, A Sergeant of the Line, Pals, The Corporal's Ditty, When You Come Home, If You Were Here, If I Might Only Come to You (all of them in the selection just mentioned), My Prayer, beloved of Clara Butt, Lighterman Tom, The Moonlit Road, The Watchman, The Road that Leads to You, and the duet The Singing Lesson. One or two of these like My Prayer, were arranged as choruses. ©

Philip L. Scowcroft.

 

 

 

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Philip's book 'British Light Music Composers' (ISBN 0903413 88 4) is currently out of print.

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