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Every day we post 10 new Classical CD and DVD reviews. A free weekly summary is available by e-mail. MusicWeb is not a subscription site. To keep it free please purchase discs through our links.

  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    

A THIRTY-SIXTH GARLAND OF BRITISH LIGHT MUSIC COMPOSERS

Our 36th offering in this series ranges as widely as any of its thirty-five predecessors, from people who are normally reckoned as "classical" musicians to avowedly "popular music" exponents. One of the latter is JIMMY SHAND, born in 1907 and knighted in the 1999 New Year Honours, who has been in music primarily Scottish music, as accordionist, pianist or bandleader for upwards of seventy years. Shard's works include many arrangements, of which can instance the Heath and Heather collections for piano solo, plus songs, like There Was a Lass from Glasgow Town, and dances such as Francis Wright Waltz for accordion (and second accordion ad lib).

Two conductors now: HAROLD MALCOLM WATTS SARGENT, better known as SIR MALCOLM SARGENT (1895-1967), the noted conductor of choral and other music, certainly earns a mention here, for his orchestral "poem", Impression on a Windy Day (1921), which helped make his reputation as a composer before he realised aspirations to become a major conductor, may be reckoned as light music for both its tunefulness and colour. And then there are his many carol ,settings, such as the Cowboy Carol, Little David Play On Yo' Harp and Carol of Beauty, which have achieved much popularity over the past couple of generations or so. MALCOLM NABARRO, conductor of the East of England Orchestra, which has made a number of acclaimed CDs of British light music recently, began as a trumpet player and a composer. His orchestral miniature Lincoln Green has been recorded. Incidentally the EOEO has appointed as its Composer in Residence ADAM SAUNDERS; it is unusual for one specialising in light music to receive such an appointment, but the writer can only applaud such a move.

At one time instrumental performers quite often composed short, lightish pieces for use in their recitals, perhaps as encores, or perhaps as teaching material. This seems to happen less frequently now than it did, although it still does occur, as was the case with JANET BERRETT alluded to in the fifth Garland. JULIAN LLOYD WEBBER, the cellist, could be pardoned for thinking that with father W.S. and brother Andrew already in the family as composers that enough was enough but he has produced two short tuneful pieces, both featuring the cello, of course - his only two compositions, by his own account - entitled Lullaby for his small son, and Jackie's Song to the memory of the distinguished fellow cellist Jacqueline du Pré.

CHARLES HERBERT HASTINGS PARRY (1848-1918) and CHARLES VILLIERS STANFORD (1852-1924) are perhaps rather unlikely figures to encounter in a Garland of light music composers. Both occupied academic chairs at major English universities; Parry composed choral works symphonies, concertos and chamber music, Stanford likewise, plus operas and cathedral music. But Parry also produced incidental music for sundry plays, especially for Aristophanic and other Great dramas on various occasions between 1883 and 1914; the March from The Birds of Aristophanes became a popular light concert item and was recorded in the LP era by Sir Adrian Boult. Furthermore, Parry's Lady Radnor's Suite and English Suite may be seen as counterparts of Elgar's Serenade for Strings which in my estimation is certainly light music. By and large Parry's songs are art songs rather than ballads; but a greater proportion of Stanford's songs fall within the latter classification - Drake's Drum, from the Songs of the Sea for example, and many of the Irish songs.

MICHAEL HURD, born in 1928, author and composer, discussed in BMS NEWS 80, may well prefer to be remembered for his church music but the popularity of his pop cantatas Swinging Samson, Hip Hip Horatio and, most of all, Jonah Man Jazz, ensure him a mention in these Garlands.

And so we come to ERIC GILDER, born in 1911: pianist, conductor, writer, broadcaster and Principal of his own school of music, whose musical studies were at the Royal College of Music. A substantial proportion of his output may be ranked as serious music but his lighter compositions include the Processional Overture, Nursery Suite and A Sea Suite, plus many arrangements, music for the theatre and popular songs, of which we can instance Awakened, Isabelle and Contadina.

Our one ballad composer is WILL GORDON, producer of such titles as If, those Lips Could Only Speak, which Peter Dawson recorded (and which is credited jointly to C. RIDGEWELL), The Miner's Dream of Home (with L. DOYLE), Glorious Beer, Jolly Company and Ev'ry Saturday Afternoon.

Finally, a handful of brass band composers. FRED MORTIMER (1880-1953) was Yorkshire-born and a pupil of William Rimmer. A cornettist and conductor, first of the Luton Band, then in its great inter-war years, Fodens, he sired three sons, Alex, Harry and Rex, who all played in Fodens under their father and in their turn became conductors and adjudicators. All arranged music widely for band; Fred in particular composed, too, his novelty piece Mac and Mort becoming popular. SAMUEL BRAITHWAITE WOOD (or SAM B. WOOD as he was usually called) - yet another "Wood" for us - was also born in Yorkshire and conducted military and brass bands. He works for brass band include the marches Yorkshire Imperial Metals and Hail Sousa! and a suite, The Yorkshire Ridings (1958), in three movements of course, the finale - "West Riding" - a march incorporating Ilka Moor. HAROLD MOSS was a legendary cornettist and teacher; as conductor he led Wingates Temperance Band to the National Championships title in 1931 and as composer he produced, among other things, the novels Royal Tiger (a motor bus produced by Leyland) and Cresswell Crags.

© Phil 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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