A TWENTY-NINTH GARLAND OF BRITISH LIGHT MUSIC COMPOSERS
For so many people "light music" equals light orchestral music, so we begin with a group of people who are or were connected primarily with orchestral miniatures. Frank Tapp (1883-1953) is now almost forgotten, though he was popular enough in his day. He directed the Bath Pump Room Orchestra between 1910 and 1919 but many of his best titles date from after that period: Waltz Idyll (a la Viennoise) , originally for piano solo, A Wayside Melody, Woodland Echoes, Waltz Suite, The overture Beachy Head and the English Landmarks Suite, which visits Ascot (a waltz), Tintern Abbey and Whitehall (a march). Wynford Herbert Reynolds (1899-1958), who also composed under the pseudonym Hugh Raeburn, directed the Felixstowe Spa Orchestra in the 1930s and broadcast with it and the Raeburn Orchestra. He composed his own signature tune Spa Song, otherwise called Cocktail of Happiness, the waltz Morning Glory and the novelty numbers Twinkletoes and Stringing Along. Philip Lane, born in 1950 has been involved as a music advisor with some of Marco Polo's light music CDs and is also an orchestral composer with a particular interest in restoring some of the film scores of yesteryear whether for recordings or the concert hall (he is an expert on the music of Addinsell). His orchestral compositions include Celebration Overture, A Spa Overture, Wassail Dances and Cotswold Folk Dances (he lives in Cheltenham). However Philip by no means confines himself to the orchestra as he has also produced many short choral pieces, Shakepearean songs and brass band items like Praeludium, Yodelling Brass, Little Habanera, A Spring Overture, Spa Suite and celebrating the first preserved standard gauge railway in England, Bluebell Line.
Thomas Bidgood, who died in 1925, was another who combined work for orchestra and band. He put together many popular selections and composed many marches (Vimy Ridge and Sons of the Brave are still played), while his orchestral novelty A Motor Ride enjoyed some popularity when cars, too, were novelties. Tolchard Evans (1901-78) had a different background, starting off as a cinema pianist but eventually composing over 1000 songs, most famous of which were Lady of Spain, Dreamy Devon and Valencia, although he did write instrumentally as well, including the waltz Down in Old Brittany. Now for two figures who may reasonably be described as multi-faceted. Carey Blyton (1932- ) was the nephew of children's author Enid Blyton. Educated at London University, he has been music editor, lecturer and composer of numerous light hearted pieces whether for orchestra (Cinque Port, On Holiday),choirs (Father's Nursery Songs and other titles appropriate for children or amateurs), piano solo (Patterns), cello (Pantomime) clarinet (Scherzo) or guitar (The Ocean of the Moon). Dracula and Sweeney Todd are 'Victorian melodramas' by him and he has also written much for film and TV.
Joseph Horowitz (1926-) was born in Austria but came to England when he was only 12. Later he studied at the Royal College of Music, with Gordon Jacob, and in Paris. He then conducted at the Bristol Old Vic and the Ballet Russe, among other places, and in 1961 he returned to the RCM as a Professor of Composition. His own compositions are witty and elegant and use jazz and popular music idioms; they include operas, ballets (including Les Femmes d'Alger and Alice in Wonderland), orchestral music (Four Dances, plus sundry concerts including a Harpsichord Jazz Concerto), music for TV including a 1920s style theme introducing the Lord Peter Wimsey adaptations of the 1980s and music for brass: a Sinfonietta for brass band, a Concerto for euphonium and band and the popular Music Hall Suite which has found favour with brass quintets.
Finally a miscellaneous paragraph. David Wynne (1900-83) was Welsh-born who included three symphonies, chamber and choral music in his output but also some attractive lighter music such as A Welsh Suite (1961) and two Cymric Rhapsodies of 1962. John Belton, active in the 1940s and 1950s, composed marches (titles include Down the Mall, The Maginot Line, All Set and Time Marches On) and novelty numbers like The Merry Blacksmith. Another band composer, John Carr (1904-81), gave pleasure with his Four Little Maids, suite for brass, depicting his granddaughters. One of his sons, Denis, became a well-respected conductor in the brass band world. Theodore Samuel Holland (1878-1947), a Professor of Harmony and Composition at the Royal Academy, did include some light music of charm and individuality among his mainly serious compositions, for orchestra (the Santa Claus Suite, Gavotte Pastorale and Evening on a Lake), piano solo, voice (a considerable number of ballads) and a children's operetta, King Goldeman. Ashworth Hope, not to be confused with Peter Hope (Garland 28), earns mention here for his national orchestral miniature Barnacle Bill, known to generations of children as the title music for "Blue Peter". Finally, a mention for arguably the best-remembered ballad composer of all, Stephen Adams (1844-1913) whose real name was Michael Maybreak. A Liverpool-born baritone singer, he soon began composing songs of his own and The Star of Bethlehem, The Holy City, Thora and Nirvana among many other titles achieved enormous popularity. They can even be heard today. Songs need words, of course, and "Adams" established a profitable partnership with barrister Fred Weatherly (1848-1929) who wrote possibly 3000 song lyrics for many composers besides Adams, Eric Coates, Henry Trotter and Wilfrid Sanderson among them.
© Philip L. Scowcroft.
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Philip's book 'British Light Music Composers' (ISBN 0903413 88 4) is currently out of print.
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