A TWENTY-SECOND GARLAND OF BRITISH LIGHT MUSIC COMPOSERS
These Garlands have recalled literally hundreds of names of composers of different historical periods from around 1850 onwards and of different types of what we may reckon as light music. Our Victorian representative on this occasion is W. Meyer Lutz (1829-1903), born in Bavaria but domiciled in England from the age of 19, where he made a career first as an organist, then in London theatres, (he conducted Thespis, the first G&S in 1871) becoming musical director at the Gaiety in 1869 where he composed dances and songs for shows put on at that theatre. Later in the century he also conducted a band playing at the Spa in Scarborough during the summer. Lutz even figures slightly disguised, in a novel, 'Bella', published in 1912 but set in the Scarborough of the 1890s, by Edward Booth, himself a musician as we saw in Garland 21; in the novel he is called Herr Toots! Lutz's Pas de Quatre, originally from the burlesque Faust Up To Date (1888) and in barn dance rhythm, has been recorded quite recently and appears on Ronald Corp's first Hyperion British light music CD. It is a reasonably example of post-Jullien dance music. His Forty Thieves Lancers appeared in a Doncaster ballroom in 1885. Lutz made the sphere of the burlesque very much his own. Other examples besides Faust Up To Date being Carmen Up To Date, Don Juan, Blue Beard, The Bohemian Cyurl, Ariel, Little Jack Shepherd, Cinder-Ellen Up To Date, Pretty Esmeralda, Mazeppa and Ruy Blas and the Blasé Roué. He also produced songs of the ballad type, like Thy Silv'ry Tones, Enchant Mine Ear and Sail on Silver Cloud. He was still composing at the start of the 20th century, with music for Hidenseek (1901) and a few numbers for Ivan Caryll and Cecil Cook's The Girl from Kays (1902).
For our brass band musician in this Garland I offer Frank Bryce, who has achieved considerable distinction as conductor especially of the historic Besses O'Th'Barn Band as arranger and as composer of short pieces like Trombola, Promenade, Cock O'th North and featuring a solo for the post-horn Colin's Fancy.
Another composer still alive at the time of writing is Herbert Chappell, whose bent, exercised from the 1960s onwards, is for vocal music of a light-hearted nature. This comprises inter alia Christmas carols, songs about Paddington Bear, musicals suitable for children (e.g. The Trojan Horse and Mak the Sheep Stealer) and a considerable group of shortish Biblical 'cantatas' Daniel Jazz, Christmas Jazz, Goliath Jazz, Jericho Jazz, Noah Jazz, Prodigal Son Jazz and Red Sea Jazz. The term 'Jazz' is not to be taken too literally but implies music in a light rhythmic style. Of his pieces perhaps the Daniel Jazz achieved most success but only recently, in December 1997, I heard a junior choir enjoying performing an excerpt from Christmas Jazz.
Now to ballad composers. Have we now exhausted all mention of them? Well, perhaps it is worth alluding again to Edward Cockram Purcell, who died in 1932 and whose real name was Edward Purcell Cockram and whose song Passing By achieved great fame, also arrangements in duet, choral and even instrumental versions. One is hard put to name any other songs by him. But we may offer Since First I Saw Your Face.
Moving now into the world of 'library music' of the 1950s we may mention briefly Michael North, a one-time BBC producer who composed the march theme which introduced 'ITMA', the much loved Tommy Handley show, Jack (or Jackie) Brown, broadcasting organist and composer, especially of the bustling genre movement Metropolis and Frank Cordell (1918-80) conductor, arranger and composer of scores for films (e.g. Damon, The Bargee, Ring of Bright Water) and TV (Court Martial) also pieces for saxophone quartet (Gestures and Patterns) and mood music miniatures like Production Drive. Recorded music libraries were a treasure house and many of their riches are now being unlocked and made available to us on CD.
More up to date composers for television have included: Leslie Osborne, (1905-90), whose Eastenders theme is heard as least six times a week and who was responsible also for other TV features like The Secret War and genre pieces like Lullaby for Penelope; Bryan Daly for his music for the children's TV 'Postman Pat' series; David Ferguson, who perhaps deserves a mention for his brooding, atmospheric score for BBC1's adaptation of Wilkie Collins' Gothic novel 'The Woman in White' in December 1997; Debbie Wiseman, whose TV scores include Vets in Practice and whose film music for Wilde was much praised; maybe even Stephen Warfield, whose music for the otherwise much criticised Student Prince (also December 1997) I rather enjoyed. Warfield's 1980s musical You'll Never Walk Alone was appropriately produced in Liverpool.
© Philip L. Scowcroft.
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