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Garland 31
A FURTHER ADDENDUM TO THE GARLANDS OF BRITISH LIGHT MUSIC

The number of British light music composers clamouring for my attention is seemingly never-ending. Here are twenty more names to add to an already enormous list.

First two more composers which we may categorise as 'classical' rather than truly 'light'. FRANZ REIZENSTEIN (1911-68) was German born and came to England in the 1930s. Among a list of compositions which was basically classical we can point to the Jolly Overture of 952, music for films from 1951 onwards, mainly horror movies, the satirical Concerto Popolare written for one of the Hoffnung extravaganzas and a number of lighter suites for piano solo like The Zodiac and Musical Box.

GRACE WILLIAMS, born in Barry, South Wales. in 1906 (she lived until 1977) was educated at the RCM and in Vienna. Welsh folksong was always an important element in her basically tuneful output and we may convincingly argue that her Fantasia on Welsh Nursery Tunes of 1940 is light music and similarly the choral suite, The Dancers; she composed an orchestral fanfare Castell Caernarfon for the present Prince of Wales' Investiture in 1969. (see David Wright's biography)

Now for a sheaf of ballad composers. FRANK LAMBERT active around 1900 composed a Barque at Midnight, Night Has a Thousand Eyes, She Is Far From The Land, Farewell Thou Outward Ship, The Song of the Mill Wheel, all of them songs, plus piano miniatures like Valse Caressante.

CHARLES WILLEBY's songs were popular during the early years of this century; they include titles like Crossing the Bar, The Fortune Hunter, Summer Rain, Autumn Days, The Sea Gipsy, Coming Home and Flower Fetters plus the cycles Bow Bells: Five London Silhouettes and the (three) Songs of the Madonna.

From roughly the same period comes ARTHUR M GOODHART who composed The Bells of Clermont Town, Give Me The Flower, Mary, Sweet Lavender and most popular, A Fairy Went A Marketing - Goodhart also contributed to a composite set of variations for piano on Tipperary when that song achieved enormous popularity in around 1914; The Irish woman ALICIA ADELAIDE NEEDHAM, whose titles included The Exile: s return, My Dark Rosaleen, The Donovans, All in the Morning Early, Four Ducks on a Pond (from a cycle for four voices a popular form at that period - of 1914 entitled A Branch of Arbutus), The Fairy's Lullaby and possibly best known of all, Husheen, the ninth of Twelve Hush Songs; and LOUIS CAMPBELL-TITON whose a Spirit Flower (1908) and The Crying of Water were published in London (he may possibly have been American). From a slightly later period (i.e. between the wars) CHATER ROBINSON produced ballads like Dream Doors, A New-Fashioned House, Peter and You and I, also orchestrated genre movements like the intermezzo In Slumbertime and the waltz Confidence.

Now let me mention two figures who were best known as arrangers. AUBREY WINTER , active between the wars, arranged folk tunes and pot-pourris of martial., maritime and African tunes. His arrangements are I understand, still played.

DORIS ARNOLD (1904-69) worked for the BBC as secretary, pianist and disc jockey (she was one of the first female DJs and her semi-classical programme 'These You Have Loved' is remembered with affection by the present writer). Although she was a pianist - she was often heard in double piano harmony with HARRY S PEPPER - her arrangements were primarily for male voice choirs. Again these are still used; they comprise pantomime and plantation medleys and settings of folksongs.

Finally here are a few more composers of light orchestral miniatures. Earliest of these is THEO BENDIX who was active during the first two decades of this century. Composer of the morceaux caracteristiques The Butterfly (particularly popular with orchestras then) and A Southern Reverie, A Hungarian Romance, A Norwegian Episode., the Mazurka de Concert: Memories of Vienna and a suite A Love Episode in Birdland whose four movements are entitled The Merry Lark (A Japanese Flight), The Broken-Hearted Sparrow (A Pathetic Appeal), The Gentle Dove (A Love Song and The Magpie) and the Parrot: Humoresque.

MAX BENDIX (1886-1945) composer of the air de ballet Pavlova may have been a relative.

BILL WORLAND born in 1921 was a pianist with experience in dance bands before during and after the Second War and later in traditional light music ensembles. He developed his arranging skills in music publishing just after the war. Most of those original compositions date from after 1960 and thus suffered from the decline in interest in light music. His titles include the orchestral suites Tres Senoritas, In the Shadow of Vesuvius and a Petite Suite and many individual genre movement: Happy Hacienda, Pepita, Sombrero and Bossa Romantica are all in Latin American style, ever a popular standby for 20th century British light music composers while Shopping Spree, Brighton Belle (named after the train of course) and It's Spring Again. All sound, from the titles, like attempts to write 'production' or 'library' music. Several of his many popular songs appeared under the name of RON GROVES.

GORDON FRANKS , who died in 1976, also wrote popular songs and light orchestral miniatures of which we may instance Sid's Tune.

ARNOLD STECK particularly active in the 1950s and 1960s is remembered mostly for his marches with titles like Piccadilly, Birdcage Walk, Path of Glory and best known of all as it was the original signature tune for Match of the Day, Drum Majorette, not to mention other 'production' music' titles for Chappells library such as Morning Canter and Important Occasion.

Roughly contemporary with Steck and Franks and a composer of songs under the pseudonym of PETER HENLEY was HAL EVANS who wrote much incidental music for BBC Radio such as A Christmas Carol. The Four Feathers and The Water Gypsies which latter score includes parts for celesta, glockenspiel and a barge siren.

W LAMBERT WILLIAMSON was another in demand at that time for music accompanying BBC radio productions (for example Laura and Bicycles) .

KENNETH PLATTS born in 1946 has composed much vocal and instrumental music in an approachable style of which we can instance: Manx Dances, Elizabethan Dances, Dance Overture, A Saturday Overture and a Sussex Overture (Malcolm Arnold also wrote an overture under this title); for string orchestra Divertimento and Little Suite; for wind band Delta Dances; and for brass another Little Suite. EDWIN THOMAS ASTLEY (1922-98) went into the world of music publication after service in the Second World War, as an arranger for Francis Day & Hunter. He composed much for TV - some of his scores like Robin Hood and The Saint - were big earners - and large screen films such a the 1962 version of The Phantom of the Opera and many documentaries. He could afford to (more or less) retire in around 1980. Still very much active is JOHN KEANE, whose large and small screen scores seem, to this writer at any rate, to have been associated with ships - most recently he has provided the background music for the Hornblower TV adaptations.

© 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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