A TWENTY-EIGHTH GARLAND OF BRITISH LIGHT MUSIC COMPOSERS
The tendency of people in a particular field to have the same surname can of course be confusing. We noticed this a few Garlands ago in the case of Wood. Here, to begin our 28th offering, are two pairs of similarly named but otherwise unrelated musicians who have made significant contributions to the heritage of British light music. John Barry Prendergast, was born in York in 1933 and was indeed once a pupil of Francis Jackson, then Organist and Master of the Music in the Minister. He needs little introduction as his scores for over 120 films include many memorable James Bond titles, plus The Ipcress File, anther classic spy thriller, A Dolls' House, Love Among the Ruins and Mary Queen of Scots. Barry has also written for TV (eg The Persuaders) and the light musical stage (eg the musical comedy Billy) and has set songs from Alice in Wonderland. Darol Barry, Salford -born, is a brass band man, prolific as an arranger, whose light genre pieces for band include Go For Gold, Naturity, Inter-City (one of many railway pieces for brass by various composers), Portrait of a City, Turkish Delight, Cassations, Meridian and Lullaby For Lisa.
John Crook (1852-1922) was prominent in two fields, those of Cockney Song, in which he made many arrangements and light music theatre. In this latter field he contributed to King Kodak, The House of Lords, Claude Duval and the gorgeously tuneful Peter Pan, his most notable composition, in 1905. Sidney Crooke, with a final "e", came along rather later and remained active until at least 1960. He was a pianist with the J.H. Squire Celeste Octet and other ensembles and regularly directed the Ertr'acte Player, another group which broadcast frequently around 1950. His popular orchestral genre pieces included Turning Wheels, Solo Flight, Babette, Happy-Go-Lucky, A Woodland Idyll and a Scherzo for bassoon (or clarinet) and orchestra.
Crookes' music, as I have said, was heard on the BBC and the following group all owed much of their exposure to radio. Frederick George Charrosin, who died in 1976, enjoyed the Waltz popularity "in the air" in the post-1945 period especially. His colourful arrangements were much in demand; his "originals" included the movements Fireside Gypsies, Keep Moving, the intermezzo Playbox, a caprice Trickery, the pasodoble Don Carlos and - both included a solo for piano (or xylophone or piccolo) - Snowflakes and the waltz Zita. Peter Hope (1930- ) is another musician known and highly respected for his arrangements of traditional material, whether English, American, Mexican (the famous Hat Dance is brilliantly scored), Italian, Russian, Scottish, and, especially so Irish. Many Hope works which are not overtly arrangements rely on traditional tunes, like Irish Legend and, the winner of an Ivor Novello Award in 1969, the three movement suite The Ring of Kerry, the opening movement of which is called "Jaunting Car". Hope's other works include a Trumpet Concerto, Playful Scherzo, Rodeo Express and lightish songs with titles like The Watchet Sailor, The Unconstant Sailor and Sweet William. He Lives in Dorset.
Mark Lister died in 1988 having enjoyed considerable fame directing light music ensembles on and off the air. His compositions, apart from the piano solo Valse Melancholique, were mostly orchestral Mediterranean Suite, Harlem Suite, Two Southern Impressions (Bolero and Rumba), a Serenade or Jota and Rhumba, Irish Jig, Cossack Dance and, for piano and orchestra, the Scherzo Transcendent. Alan Langford is no relation of Gordon. In fact the former's real name is Alan Owen and Gordon's real surname is not Langford either; I understand there is sometimes confusion regarding their respective cheques from the Performing Rights Society! Alan is much respected for his light orchestral miniatures like Three Amusements, the little French Suite. Trio: Three Dance Contrasts, Petite Promenade, Dance for a Square, Chanson Populaire, Chanson du Cafe Triste and for strings only, Waltz Romanesca and the Four Movements, the first of these recently re-issued on a CD,
Annunzio Paolo Mantovani (1905-80), usually called Mantovani, was born in Venice but was a London resident from 1921. A violinist (his father played under Toscanini at La Scala), conductor and composer, he led the Hotel Metropole Orchestra from 1925, but later entered broadcasting and recording in a big way. He is associated with the "cascading strings" motif, though this was invented by Ronald Binge. His most famous compositions date from the post-1945 era: Red Sails in the Sunset, Serenade in the Night, Poem to the Moon, September Nocturne, Bullfrog, Moulin Rouge (1953, a chartbuster of the years) and surely most famous of all Charmaine. These compositions were primarily in orchestral versions, though Such Lovely Things are Thine achieved popularity as a vocal. Douglas Gamley (1924 - is known most of all as a prolific and often rather lush orchestrator; his own works include a version of The Beggar's Opera, which was published and recorded, music for The Admirable Crichton, Gideon (of Scotland Yard) and other films and orchestral movements like Souvenir de Granada.
We will end with two one-time exponents of the light musical theatre. Arthur A. Penn, whose floreat period appears to have been the second decade of this century, brought out a number of comic operas at that time - The Lass of Limerick Town (1917), Captain Crossbones (1918) and Mam'zelle Taps (1919) - and these had modest success. He is best known, however, for a ballad Smilin' Through, though even this derived from a similarly titled stage show of 1919 and it extended its popularity through being incorporated into two Hollywood talkies, again similarly named. A still further extension of its popularity came recently when it appeared on one of Lesley Garrett's enormously popular CDs, "Soprano in Hollywood". Other Penn ballad titles included Gingham Green and The Honeysuckle and the Bee. Finally George Posford, whose real name was Benjamin George Ashwell (1906-76) was born in Folkestone and at least four of his stage musicals achieved popularity. Good Night Vienna, arguably the most popular of all, Balalaika, The Gay Hussar (1933) and Magyar Melody. These suggest he was an English imitator of Lehar, but without the latter's magic, it must be admitted. He also composed for radio and films and published orchestral miniatures like Transatlantic Rhapsody, Sundown Serenade, Broadcasting House and Song of the Clyde.
© 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 email@example.com