A TWENTY-FOURTH GARLAND OF BRITISH LIGHT MUSIC COMPOSERS
I start this latest offering with a ballad composer active around the 1920s, H. Lyall Philips. As its accompaniment was orchestrated. for strings and organ it may be that his best known song was Sometime I Seem to Hear You (1920), but there were other titles also like A Devonshire Wedding, The String of Pearls, All Mine Alone, Good Fellows, Lass of Mine, Over the Dreamland Sea, Two of Us, Johnny My Dear and Tonight and All the Years.
Very much still alive is Tony Hatch well remembered as a panellist on TV's 'New Faces' but also a composer of memorable and very popular music, much of it written in conjunction with Jackie Trent: the signature tunes to at least three celebrated soaps: Crossroads, Emmerdale and Neighbours; a musical comedy The Card, after Arnold Bennett's entertaining novel and reasonably popular in its stage guise; and the Rock Nativity.
In the past I have included in this series representatives of the theatre organ fraternity and I make no apology for mentioning more. Several of these are also very much alive and are to be heard in the BBC Radio 2 programme 'The Organist Entertains'. Nigel Ogden presents that programme and his compositions for theatre organ include Penguin's Playtime, Art-Deco Suite (an intriguing and appropriate title as art-deco and the theatre organ were much of a period) and Scherzo for the White Rabbit. Robin Richmond is another frequently heard theatre organist and over the years has been a prolific producer of popular arrangements for the instrument which have achieved publication; his Madeira Cake-Walk was apparently inspired by a holiday in that lovely eponymous island. Ashley Rose, once resident organist at London's Queen's Ice Rink, brought out an attractive Queensway Waltz as a reference thereto; Bryan Rodwell's BHE March is based on the three note figure suggested by the title. Going further back, the late Gerald Shaw, long resident organist at the Odeon, Leicester Square, was a prolific composer whose titles included the marches Red Cross Salute and After the Movies.
The theatre organ is not, I confess, my own favourite musical instrument, but it and its repertoire are part of our social history and it was always a thrill, in an intermission between films, to a see a large cinema organ rising, it seemed from the bowels of the earth, preparatory to its being played. There are at least four flourishing societies devoted to the instrument. Its one time popularity on radio may be judged by the fact that during the week 27 March to 2 April 1949 there were no fewer than thirteen theatre organ programmes totalling five and a half hours music plus one or two other organ features in 'mixed' concerts. As a sample of this, Henri le Blanc's recital on the Saturday afternoon included Hejre Kati (Hubay), To a Lonely Star (by Jimmy Leach, whose Organolians figured elsewhere on the airwaves during the same week), Caroline Lowthian's waltz Myosotis, a hit from the 1880s, (Caroline was briefly noticed in Garland 23) and a selection from Carmen.
Finally a word about Monty Norman who flourished on the British music stage for upwards of there decades from around 1950 onwards, first as a singer, then as a composer and lyricist for musical comedies, some of then like Expresso Bongo (1958) and Make Me an Offer (1959) in collaboration with David Heneker of Half a Sixpence fame, others not. Perhaps most successful of the latter was Belle, or the Ballad of Dr Crippen, first staged in 1961; other titles were Stand and Deliver (1972), one of several musicals down the centuries which have been about highwaymen and which perhaps trace their ancestry to The Beggar's Opera of 1728, Songbook (1979) and Poppy (1982).
© 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