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A 356 th Garland of British Light Music Composers

I concentrate here on composers of “operas”, musicals and cantatas for young performers. Several of these are possibly ‘specialists’ in providing repertoire for children, but not all of them are. Take Gordon Crosse, for instance; born in 1937, who studied with Egon Wellesz and whose influences included Anton Webern. His pieces for children included Ahmet the Woodseller (1965), The Demon of Adachigahara, for junior choir, narrator and instruments, and Rats Away! described as a ‘charm’ for young voices and instruments. Crosse has also written some incidental music for radio and one or two short instrumental items like Carol for flute and piano and Three Inventions for flute and clarinet, which perhaps come within the sphere of these Garlands. And there is also Nicolas Sackman, often a fairly uncompromising modernist, whose musical for schools, Simplicia with words by Tony Purcell, was published in 1983.

Among others for us to note are George Odam, whose school musicals include Baba Yaga, for five to eight year olds, St George and the Dragon (1969) which incorporates references to 12th Century melodies, Tutankhamun (1972, which was doubtless inspired by a popular exhibition at the British Museum in that year), The Legend of Robin Hood (1976) for voices, descant recorder, pitched percussion and piano, and Inca (also 1976), not to mention his songs, Music Time for Brownies, and Nicolas Marshall, for his Arun and the Dolphin (1972), for unison voices and instruments – he also published recorder trios and quartet, pieces for horn and a Sonata for guitar, flute, clarinet, violin and cello. Erie L Williams brought out the musicals The Horse of Wood andThe Gorgon’s Head (1979) plus Three Epitaphs for voice and percussion and Stephen Scotchmer published a version of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

Finally Sheila Macquattie who composed Bambleford Minor: A Musical Picture of a Village (1976) for piano, chorus, speakers, recorders and percussion, Christmas Music for children and - both piano solos - Sicilienne and Interrupted Scherzo. Philip Scowcroft

February 2003

A 357 th Garland of British Light Music Composers

First we have another group of composers for children and particularly of cantatas or musicals for them. Among these we can point to Frederick C. Bond for Seaspell (1989); Peter Canwell for Androcles and the Lion (1986),The First Christmas Rose and, another Yuletide offering The Star and the Animals (1988), also books of songs like The Multi-Coloured Music Bus and Ten a Term; John Robert McKenna for The Fortune Seekers (1986) based on a story by Edith Nesbit (he also published instructional tutors for brass players); John Parkes for his musical Rattrap. M. Guy Fletcher for The Boy who cried Wolf, The Goose that Laid the Golden Egg and The Hare and the Tortoise (all published in 1988); Betty Barlow for Dinosaur Valley for unison voices and piano; David Tutt forDuffy and the Devil (1989); Jane Morgan for The Witch with the Wobbly Wand (1986) andDesmond Drummond’s Disaster; Paul Smith for Sindbad and Ulysses (1985); Clive Barnwell for The Minotaur Show: a Mythical Musical; and Arnold F. Ford for The Wooden Horse Chestnut (1981) for voices, recorders and piano, and many individual songs. All these examples and many others in recent Garlands were composed and/or published during the 1980s.

Kenneth McKellar , born 1927, is well remembered as a Scottish tenor singer, both on classical platforms and in classical recordings and who once appeared in the Eurovision Song Contest. He also composed songs including Island Love, a duet for soprano and tenor, Long Ships: Battle Song of the Viking Warriors,The Twa Corbies and probably the most popular of them The Tartan which also boasted an orchestral arrangement by James Howe.

Finally a mention for Ben Wallfisch, whose scores for radio productions have included one for an adaptation (February 2003) of Agatha Christie’s supernatural story In a Glass Darkly.

Philip Scowcroft

February 2003

A 358 th Garland of British Light Music Composers

In recent Garlands we have been making something of a feature of composers who have written, and in several cases perhaps have specialised in, cantatas, musical or “operas” for children. Here are two more, though the second one would hardly regard himself as a specialist in that field.

Ian Holdstock has published many children’s songs and the musicals The Miracle Sequence (for voices, recorders and percussion) and Alexis the Circus Boy, both from 1988, The Rainbow Coloured Christmas and Death to the Minotaur (both 1987) and, two more Christmas ones, The People’s King and The Christmas Dragon.

Peter Skellern , born in 1947, singer and who at one time played organ, piano and trombone, usually in classical music. That later changed, though he has always been anxious to bring about a fusion of pop and classical idioms. Perhaps one or two of his ballads, like Love is the Sweetest Thing, once recorded with the Grimethorpe Colliery Band did bridge the gap to an extent. In 1990 he wrote lyrics and music for the children’s play Trolls.

Two more traditional ballad composers were J.P. Skelly, whose best known song was The Old Rustic Bridge by the Mill, and A. Skelton, whom we can exemplify with The Ullswater Pack.

The interests of Dave Brown (1954- ) lie mainly in traditional music; he has set many folk tunes and in 1987 published the mummers’ play In Comes I.

Philip L. Scowcroft

February 2003

A 359 th Garland of British Light Music Composers

In recent Garlands I have explored some of the late 20th Century composers for young performers in the field of cantatas and musicals. But let us now look at some other composers for young performers but this time of instrumental ensemble works for orchestra or band.Frank Bayford for example, published Elegia Atlantica for strings and The Tapestries of the Sun (1986) for brass, Philip Tate brought out Cha Cha Cha for school orchestra in 1987 and a number of arrangements. And William Himes works included March Bravura for wind band (1983) and Three Kings Swing (1989) and several arrangements for brass band.

Two lady composers connected with lightish piano music, though most of the Scotswoman Claire Liddell’s publications were vocal arrangements of Scots traditional tunes, but her one original piano work that I have discovered is the Three Pieces (1965) for piano solo whose movements were titled Minuet, Spanish Dance and Humoresque. Lynn Palmer published many arrangements, all for piano, of popular classics and of traditional tunes including the Helston Floral Dance.

A mention now for Jim Henson and Sam Pottle for their theme for TV’s The Muppet Show.

And finally Ronald Hill, a song composer around mid century, primarily of the music-hall type. Examples are Happy Ending, The Navvy, Radio Critic & Tweeny and Turn ’Erbert’s Face to the Wall.

Philip L. Scowcroft

February 2003

A 360 th Garland of British Light Music

Recent Garlands have largely concentrated on composers who have written for young performers, whether in the shape of cantatas or musicals or music for orchestra and band. Those we look at in this Garland primarily concentrated on music for student pianists and in the period after the mid-20th century. Yvonne Adair published in 1967 some Sketches From Hans Anderson; she was also responsible for many arrangements and compositions for young percussionists. Arthur Alexander’s piano solos included Two Contrasts (A Drowsy Tune,Caprice) and a Rocking Song on an Irish Air (1962), but he did not confine to piano composition; for example there was a unison song Sports Day.

Freda O’Bailey wrote many pieces for very young performers, slightly older ones were catered for by her Rooftops Ballet, Underwater Ballet (both 1976) and a Nocturne. David Buchan’s Little Brown Elf and On Hillocks Green both came out in 1958.Cyril Cork’s Full Sail in 1966. Winifred Sellar’s Lullaby in 1960 and Horace Sheppard’s The Murmuring Forest in 1962. Mary Harrison’s two suites Country Markets (1962), described as ‘six sketches’ and Fairground Suite could with profit have been orchestrated for use by school orchestras.

Finally, either side of 1960, Edwin Benbow brought out several attractive miniatures for piano, among them Bermuda Sails (1959), Dance of the Atoms (1960), Danse Humoresque (1963), Undulation (1964), Petit Marche (1964) and Romance.

Philip L Scowcroft

February 2003

 


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