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Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

A THIRTY-FOURTH GARLAND OF BRITISH LIGHT MUSIC COMPOSERS

This Garland, like most of the preceding thirty-three, includes a wide variety of figures. The first three, however, all have an association with the light musical theatre. The first of them is a curiosity and, as far as I know, a singleton in his list of work(s). ERIC HOPE was really the Earl of Yarmouth; in 1910 he presented first in Cardiff, then on short tour and finally in London the Musical The Pigeon House, for which he wrote the book, the lyrics and much of the music, then took the leading role and directed, one suspects he also supplied much of the finance to mount it. The show made little impact but one should salute such Pooh-Bah like industry.

ORLANDO MORGAN, born in 1865, was Welsh, a conductor and a composer, who in that some year of 1910 brought to the stage Two Merry Monarchs, very much influenced in its plot and, one suspects, its music by the Savoy operettas. The music, incidentally, was praised at the time for its dash and spirit, but apparently memorability was not its strong suit. This appears to have been Morgan's main, perhaps only, foray into the theatre but his works were numerous, his opus numbers stretching into the fifties and his published items continuing until at least 1945. Many of his pieces were songs; the two cycles, In Fairy Land Opus 33 - nine songs issued in and choral versions - and A Song Garland, Opus 32 and a single songs like At Christmastide, Before the Dawn, A Chinese Night, Clorinda, Fair Rosalind, My Gentle White Dove (1945), Supplication, When Snowflakes Dance (1931),Where the Lotus Blooms, The Vale of Monitor-Marie and I Shall Pass Through the World But Once.

Then there is the case of GUY JONES (1874-1959), brother of Sidney Jones (composer of San Foy and The Geisha) and a conductor in the light musical theatre, especially for touring companies. He composed in that same area; there was the farce Bilberry of Tilbury (1898) contributions to The American Heiress the following year and, most notably of all The Gay Gordon which achieved 229 performances in its London run in 1907 plus more in the provinces (it reached Doncaster during 1909). He did not confine himself to the theatre. His ballad songs included I leave These Things to Reggie, Mountaineer's Song, Singing Together and - a duet, of course - Contradicting; Evensong and Humoreska, which included a bassoon solo, were orchestral miniatures.

Another with a famous brother was LEO STANLEY, born in 1884, whose real name was RANDOLPH RICKETTS. The brother, Frederick Joseph Ricketts, was better known under his pseudonym, Kenneth J. Alford. Stanley's best known composition, the march Contemptibles is similar to, and certainly noteworthy of, those of his brother. It has a parallel in Alford's output as both this and Alford's Great Little Army march were inspired by the original British Expeditionary Force of 1914, described by the Kaiser as "a contemptible little army".

MAURICE JACOBSON (1896-1976) is remembered primarily as a composer of church music but he produced a number of compositions which we may reckon as light music; a Berceuse for viola and piano, the male chorus number The Bear's Song, the songs The Roman Road and Boys Classifiable as ballads, various folksong arrangements and music for BBC radio productions.

One of the earlier ballad composeresses was LOUISE CAMPBELL-TIPTON, who composed around 1910 titles like A Spirit Flower and The Crying of Water. Of present day film and TV composers MURRAY GOLD is worth a mention for his lively, almost jazzy, score for the 1998 BBC TV adaptation of Thackeray's Vanity Fair. Finally welcome to HENRY BIDGOOD (1898-1957), who began in the 1920s as a pianist in hotel orchestras (including the Piccadilly Grill Orchestra) and later dance bands but who is best remembered - by me, at least - for his work under pseudonyms like Rossini, Don Porte and, most famously, Prima Scala, as the leader of accordion bands, a type of ensemble which became popular in the 1930s and, with Primo Scala's band keeping the flag flying, along with other figures like George Scott-Wood, already in these Garlands, well into the 1950s.

© Philip L Scowcroft

 

 

 

Enquiries to Philip at

8 Rowan Mount

DONCASTER

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 rob.barnett1@btinternet.com


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