A TWENTY-THIRD GARLAND OF BRITISH LIGHT OF MUSIC COMPOSERS
Several of the previous 22 of these Garlands have featured composers who doubled as Conductors on the BBC and elsewhere, or vice versa. We may begin this one with Charles Murray Winstanley Shadwell, born in Surrey just a hundred years ago (I write in January 1998) and who died in Pershore on 3 July 1979. After service in the Great War he studied at the Royal Academy of Music before beginning his professional career playing the piano for a silent cinema. From there it was but a step to becoming a theatre musical director, a job he undertook at Hippodrome theatres in Portsmouth, Brighton and Coventry successively between 1929 and 1936. The Coventry position involved him in live broadcasting and recording for Regal Zonophone. The ten years he spent as Conductor of the BBC Variety Orchestra between 1936 and 1946 brought him even greater fame in programmes like "Music Hall" - which always ended with Shadwell's own march Down With the Curtain - and "ITMA", which featured Charles both in a musical spot (usually an arrangement of a traditional or popular tune by figures like Gordon Jacob, Clive Richardson or Ronald Hanmer) and in cross-talk with the great Tommy Handley himself. The BBCVO had been formed in 1934 with Kneale Kelly as its first conductor; Rae Jenkins took over from Shadwell. When he left the Variety Orchestra, Shadwell formed his own Orchestra which played in variety halls and on the BBC and during the 1950s appeared in summer seasons at the Summer Pavilion at Paignton in South Devon where it played twice daily, mornings and evenings. He eventually retired from music to take a pub (The Green Man, or possibly The Old Green Man) at Trumpington just outside Cambridge.. He rarely pushed his own compositions but these included, besides the march already alluded to, attractive genre pieces like Will o,the Wisp, Sunset and, recorded with the BBCVO, Lulworth Cove.
It is but a step from Charles Shadwell to mention Arthur Sandford and Michael Carr. Arthur Sandford was Shadwell's pianist in the BBC Variety Orchestra and as such was responsible for one or two of the "ITMA" popular transcriptions. It may be that Early One Morning and Sur le Pont d,Avignon, which I have found in the BBC Orchestral Catalogue, came from this source. Original Sandford orchestral compositions included Calypso and Trottie True.
Michael Carr's march The Spice of Life always opened the BBC's Saturday "Music Hall" programme, which, as we have seen, invariably closed with Shadwell's Down With the Curtain. The Spice of Life was also a song, and one of many song collaborations between Carr and Jimmy Kennedy, which also included The Sunset Trail, Two Bouquets, The Handsome Territorial, Rosita and The General,s Fast Asleep, also revues such as London Rhapsody (which contained hits like the Waltz of the Gypsies, Sing a Song of London and Home Town) and Let,s Make a Night of It (including When My Heart Says Sing) and films such as O,Kay For Sound dating from 1951, the earlier (1935) She Shall Have Music and Follow Your Star. Carr collaborated however with many song writers: Raymond Wallace (in Merrily We Roll Along), Leo Towers, Eddie Pola, James Gilroy, Hamilton Kennedy, Jimmy Leach and Tommy Connor. Other Carr revues included The Little Dog Laughed, his other films Talk of a Million (1951) and Calling All Stars; other songs by him (possibly his own work) were Cowboy, Dinner for One, Orchids to My Lady, Somewhere in France and, from 1950, When You Talk About Old Ireland. Carr wrote additional music for the stage musical The Londoners (mainly composed by Lionel Bart) as late as 1972, and for Get a Load of This, which ran for 698 performances at the London Hippodrome between late 1941 and early 1943.
Jimmy Kennedy's other vocal hits, incidentally, included The Chestnut Tree, South of the Border, March of the ATS (also orchestrated, of course), Roll Along Covered Wagon, Isle of Capri, The Cafe Continental, Harbour Lights and most famously, even notoriously after the disasters which overtook the Allies in 1940, We,re Gonna Hang Out the Washing on the Siegfried Line, a 1939 hit inserted into Noel Gay's 1937 musical Me and My Girl, of Lambeth Walk fame. Jimmy Kennedy, too, wrote for revues (he contributed There,s a New World to O,Kay for Sound, already mentioned) and films (It,s a Grand Olde World). He, too, often collaborated, with Carr, Hamilton Kennedy, Tommy Connor and Hugh Williams among others.
Recently I received a letter from a Clive Hughes of Amesbury in Wiltshire, asking for information about composers of whom he has collected pieces of sheet music (he plays them too). The composers he listed as information "wants" were, in alphabetical order; Joseph Blakeley, Theo Bonheur, Felix Burns, Charles Coote, A.G. Crowe, Leonard Gauntier, Sidney Jones, Karl Kaps, W.F. Lancelott, Caroline Lowthian, John Neat, Albert Oswald, John Pridham, Ezra Read, Otto Roeder, Fabian Rose, Edward St. Quentin and William Smallwood. What did I know about these?
Sidney Jones composer of The Geisha and San Toy, popular operettas in their turn-of-the-century day, was easy enough. Charles Coote figures in Garland 19 as a dance music composer in mid and late Victorian times though I know little of his biographical details. The others, which appear to cover a wide period, from the mid-Victorian era to the late 1930s are rather elusive, yet their music was printed and presumably often played. Some have foreign names but most, perhaps all, appear to have resided in this country. Joseph Blakeley, A G Crowe, W.F. Lancelott, Albert Oswald, Ezra Read and Fabian Rose defeated my resources.
For Theo Bonheur I found reference to a march, The Gay Gordons, a polka, Les Petits Soldats and a number of songs: The Battle Eve, especially popular as its accompaniment was orchestrated, Cathedral Voices, Star of the Desert (which had a violin obbligato), Sundown Memories, The King,s Own, Sailing Homeward and the Militant-sounding A Son of Mars Am I. For Felix Burns I found only a barn dance, Meadow Flowers, for Leonard Gautier another barn dance, The Country Wedding and the intermezzo, Le Secret. Karl Kaps seemed to be known primarily for his arrangements, like Echoes of Pantomime and a version of the Eton Boating Song (see footnote). Caroline Lowthian, the only female in this particular list, was apparently responsible for the waltzes Mygsotis, Venetia and Auf Wiedersehn, the Mother Hubbard Polka, the Black and Tan Polka and the very Victorian-sounding song titles Gates of the West and Rally Round the Old Flag. John Neat came much later, flourishing during the 1930s as a stringer-together of popular selections like Pleasure Land, Wedding Bells and Can,t Stop and composer of ballad-type songs such as Come For a Sail in My Yacht, A Hundred Years to Come, Is a Sailor Ever Without a Gal?, The Pretty Little Girl From Nowhere, What Ho! She Bumps and Our Brave Soldier Lads (a 2nd World War propaganda ballad). John Pridham is surely another Victorian figure; his Battle March of Delhi had quite a vogue over a century ago, I seem to remember, and he also published a polka, The Hop Pickers and a genre piece entitled Yorkshire Bells. Edward St. Quentin appears to have been a prolific song composer, straddling the 19th and 20th Centuries as the titles include God Bless Victoria and Hail King George; others of his songs are Beyond, God Send You Back To Me, Hope, Hosanna (with violin and organ accompaniment), The Night Attack, An Old Love Dream, Only, The Pioneers, Sleeping Camp, The Spell of Love, Sympathy and Troubadour. He is also credited with a quickstep Dolly Gray, thus confirming a floreat period either side of 1900. William Smallwood was responsible for an Introduction and March and the Rosebud Waltz. The foregoing are just names, representative, no doubt, of so many tuneful popular composers working between 1870, say and 1940 and now forgotten. Any information about them will be welcome. Truly for every composer we think we knew something about there are perhaps a hundred - even a thousand? - about whom we know nothing, or practically nothing.
We conclude with two more almost totally forgotten figures, except that here I do have a few biographical details. Both were theatre or cinema musicians in Doncaster around the time of the Great War. George H. Hill was born in Leeds, a pianist who also played French horn and trombone. After giving up a career as a trainee mining surveyor he began his Doncaster cinema career as pianist at the Electra Picture Palace and moved to the Picture House (the building is still extant but is no longer a cinema) when this opened in September 1914. From the start this boasted an orchestra of about ten players, the first resident cinema orchestra in the town. Hill soon "joined up" but was quickly invalided out, though he soon joined a Cavaliers Concert Party touring soldiers' rest camps in France. He composed a considerable number of light miniatures of which I know the titles of five: a dance intermezzo, In the Moonlight, published at two shillings (10p) by West and Son in 1915 (this was, years later, orchestrated by Charles V. Taylor, Conductor at the Picture House after the Great War, and was doubtless played in the cinema); a waltz Joyful Nights; a concert valse-intermezzo, Joy, Passion and Sorrow; an oriental valse morceau Mystic Shadows, possibly influenced by the music of Ketèlbey; and an Air de Ballet. It may well be a pity that Hill's music is now seemingly lost to us.
Our second composer is Reginald Casson, born in Barnsley in 1896, Organist of Royston Wesleyan Chapel at the age of nine and pianist with the Wombwell Hippodrome Orchestra four years later. He moved round various picture houses before "joining up". He was wounded on the horrific first day (1st July 1916) of the Somme offensive. He came to Doncaster's Grand Theatre (a live theatre, not a cinema, though it did show pictures much later and the building is again still extant though under threat of demolition) in 1921 after varied theatrical experience and it was at the Grand that his waltz Carnival Time was performed in June 1922. Then described as "new", this, too, achieved publication. Two years earlier he had composed music for the pantomime Dick Whittington.
Many of these Doncaster theatre/cinema musicians were competent arrangers. Henri Foley, conductor of the Grand's Orchestra in 1914, strung together a potpourri of Allied National Anthems for a patriotic concert late that year; we have mentioned Charles Harvey's transcription of Hill's In the Moonlight; and the Doncaster Gaumont's first two organists, Hebron Morland (1934-46 - for the last four years he was Manager of the cinema as well which again still exists but is now called the Odeon) and Con Docherty (1946 to about 1951), both of them originally from the North-East, doubtless possessed similar skills as they were among the best cinema organists of their time.
Cinema composers, especially local ones, are a fascinating, if frustrating, study. No doubt most towns had such exponents. Recently (February 1998) I came across reference, in a list of a specialist bookseller, to two Scarborough music publications "(For Cinema)". These were Silver Chimes by Albert Watson and Star of the Sea by A Kennedy. Does anyone know anything about Watson or Kennedy? Or about their counterparts in other towns?
© Philip L. Scowcroft.
Feb 2009, Dear MusicWeb
ALBERT WATSON, COMPOSER AND MUSICIAN
I have recently discovered on the Internet that you are seeking information with reference to Albert Watson, composer and musician.
My name is Wendy Chapman and Albert was my Grandfather.
Albert was born on August the 22nd 1888 at Harthill, Sheffield. He initially worked in the mines but was fired at the age of 13 for falling asleep at work. He served in the 1914-18 war in France.
However to get back to his musical career:-
He was entirely self-taught and would practise five hours each day as a boy, getting up exceptionally early whilst at school and later when in the mine, to teach himself and practise before leaving home. He loved composing and became very prolific and well known. He was an exceptionally gifted pianist able to play the great classics as well as ballads, jazz etc. Being a cinema pianist he was able to improvise as you would expect. We were amused for hours when as children we sat at the side of him as he played and he told us a story to match the music at the same time.
He was also equally happy and gifted playing the accordion.
The cinema he mainly played for was The Playhouse in Gillygate, Pontefract and occasionally at the Alexandre also in Pontefract. He often played for the trade showings of new films and I believe he would travel to Leeds and Bradford for these.
He composed many ballads, his publisher as far as I know was Wharfedale Publishing Co. I think they were based in Ilkley, Yorkshire.
Among his many publications the titles I can remember are Silver Chimes, Red Carnations, The Cuckoo, I Dreamed of a New World, Whistle Please, Loves Mirror, A Venetian Night, Vesper Chimes, O'Ta Haiti, Pensee, and Araby.
The latter composition was recorded by Ambrose on a 78 vinyl, the other side was a recording of In a Persian Market.
Araby was featured at that time in Bank's Music Shop Leeds. It was their whole window featuring a desert scene. (This music is not to be confused with "The Sheik of Araby"). Some of the music is arranged for more than one instrument and also the voice.
It is sad that not much of his original publications are with the family today, I think that my Uncle collected many of them and took them when he went to live in New Zealand, he sadly died a few years ago but his widow may still have some. I will enquire, she may still have them.
As I wrote at the beginning he was entirely self taught and could read and write music like the masters, he also had a photographic memory and it is said that the local sheet music retailers often would remark "that he had called in their shop and had bought six pennyworth of music and taken ten bob's worth home in his head".
He was also an excellent private teacher of music, tutoring in theory and performance.
Albert Married Emily Lukins in 1912 and they lived in Briggs Avenue, Castleford from 1913 to 1926. They moved to St. Oswald's Avenue Pontefract from there later moving to All Saints View Pontefract in 1939. My grandfather died whilst at this address in May 1968. My grandmother Emily lived until she was 92 and was still receiving Royalties from Albert's music until her death in 1985.
Albert and Emily had eight children, Kenneth (my father and their first born), Joan, Muriel, Norman, Granville, Rex, June and Jill. Rex and Jill are still living in Pontefract as I am.
Albert was a very handsome and dignified figure, he had a full head of beautiful hair and never lost it. He always wore a morning suit and Homburg hat, his shirt was always white and he wore a soft artistes bow tie changing this on more formal occasions to a wing collar and bow tie, and finished with a flower in his buttonhole. Unfortunately in 1929 he was accidentally knocked down by a motor cyclist whilst crossing a road and suffered severe injuries to his left leg which meant he walked with the aid of a built up shoe and walking stick. However this in no way deterred him, he carried on as usual cutting a sartorial dash, with a fine straight figure for the rest of his life.
I always remember he loved to play billiards and I have been told he was a very fine player. Another of his hobbies was gardening, during the war we enjoyed his home grown vegetables, but my most vivid memory of his garden were the parades of multi-colour Gladioli he grew every year. When I married in 1960 there were dozens in beautiful arrangements filling the church.
Kenneth my father was also a gifted pianist and a boy virtuoso, broadcasting at the age of ten from the BBC Sheffield studios, his signature tune being 'The Cuckoo' previously mentioned. His photo appeared on the front of this piece of music. He entered many Musical Festivals and won almost every time even in open classes, winning Gold medals. He would travel all over Yorkshire, it is true that he was eventually banned from competing at Pontefract because it was said that no-one else stood a chance. Although my father did not compose he was a great classical pianist and shared Albert's gift of having a photographic memory. My father also enjoyed playing a diverse variety of music and in the thirties played with the Roy Fox band.
Albert's gift has been passed down the generations, one of his grandchildren having a degree in Music, also teaches music and performs, another is a private teacher of music. Two of his great grandchildren have degrees in music, they both perform and another is currently playing bassoon with The National Youth Orchestra.
My brother and Albert's grandson Edward (Ted) Watson attended The Royal College of Music, London. where he studied Clarinet and Composition. Whilst there he won The Eve Kische Memorial Prize for woodwind performance. He also like his grandfather is an accomplished and well known composer and arranger, (mainly classics). Concentrating on solo instrumental, orchestral, chamber and voice. He has only just retired as a member of The Royal Shakespeare Company, based at Stratford upon Avon, with whom he played for forty three years. In 1996 he arranged William Walton's Henry V for The Black Dyke Mills Band recording of 'A Muse of Fire'; this won the Trade and Industry award for the category that year. He has performed internationally and is still composing and arranging and his music is played internationally.
All of our family are very proud of Albert and the gift he passed on to his descendants. Some of us do not play or sing but we all enjoy music and the theatre he introduced us to. We feel sure his legacy will live on.
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 email@example.com