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A 246th GARLAND OF BRITISH LIGHT MUSIC COMPOSERS

For this Garland I return once again to the British musical stage around 1900 and recall one or two of the lesser-known names which were associated therewith. A number of these were multi-talented. For example Victor Stevens was manager, actor, writer and director besides, composer. In the latter capacity (and, concurrently, some of the others) he brought out Nymphs of the Danube (1882), Randolph the Reckless (1888), Bonnie Boy Blue (1892), The Saucy Sultana (1894), A Village Venus (1895), A Merry Madcap (1896), Forty Thieves (n.d.) and The Girl From Corsica (1904), of which Randolph and Bonnie Boy Blue did best in their provincial way. Stevens published several of his songs as "separates": I’ll Never Go Home Any More (from Forty Thieves), Over Goes the Show and Six Months’ Hard. The Saucy Sultana’s music was written in collaboration with J.C. Shepherd, a musical director for several provincial shows.

Harry Starr was theatre manager, actor and composer, again on the provincial circuit. The shows that he composed music for (all of which suited his own acting talents) included Carl the Clockmaker (1894), Otto the Outcast (1898) and Schwerk the Dreamer (1900). Starr’s published songs included one intriguingly titled The Pro’s Political Palaver.

Harry C. Barry, primarily an actor, composed the scores for the burlesques Shylock, or The Venus of Venice, toured in 1892, and Turpin à la Mode, toured in 1897. A.H. Behrend, grandson of Michael Balfe, composer of The Bohemian Girl and much else, was a theatre manager-cum-composer who composed the score for Iduna (1889), and contributed songs to a show called Skipped By the Light of the Moon, produced in the United Sates and Australia before it came to this country in 1896. Later it was revived in London as A Good Time. Behrend’s published ballads were quite considerable in number, including Auntie, Daddy, Clear and Cool, Crossing the Bar (a very popular lyric in Victorian times!), Down Beside the River, My Friend, My Fairest Child and The Old Barge.

Two who made their careers as provincial theatre musical directors were Thomas Hunter, whose shows, all with only a provincial reputation were Claudio (1889), The Tourist, or Here and Everywhere (1895), Sport, or the Queen’s Bounty (1896) and, with Sidney Shaw, Odd Man Out (1897). C.E. Howell’s The Golden Plume was toured in 1886. His show The Caliph, premiered in Bristol in 1892 had a more complicated history, being revised and revived as The Black Cat at Walsall in 1893 and, after further treatment, as Eastward Ho in 1894 in which guise it reached the Opera Comique though for only six performances. And finally we have mention for Merton Clark whose The Water Babes was toured in 1894 and for C W. Cottingham and Arthur Trevelyan who combined for the score of The Barber which surfaced briefly in Folkstone in 1892.

Philip L Scowcroft

January 2002


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

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