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  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

 

A 366 TH GARLAND OF BRITISH LIGHT MUSIC COMPOSERS

I begin with another group of less known figures of the British light music stage. William Russo contributed songs to The Perils of Scobie Prilt, produced in 1963; in that same year Murray Graham had his What Goes Up … aired on 42 times at the Theatre Royal, Stratford East. Going back to the pre-war era there was Charles Prentice, better known throughout the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s as a conductor, notably for the Ivor Novello musicals of the 1930s. As a composer he figured more occasionally, but he did contribute some of the music for the successful That’s a Good Girl put on at the Hippodrome in 1928-9 and a much greater proportion of that for Lucky Girl, staged at the Shaftesbury and Pavilion Theatres – a composite run of 150 performances – at almost exactly the same time.

Lawrence Inns , active around the 1940s, is worth a mention for his xylophone solos Robbin’ Harry and Teasin’ Harry, both orchestrated byFrederick Charrosin, previously covered in these Garlands, as is Tommy Hinsky for Summer Rain, orchestrated by Marcel Gardner, conductor, broadcaster and composer in the post-war period. Raymond Hubbell (1879-1954) was a ballad composer best known for Poor Butterfly.

Finally back to the 1870s. John Baptiste Calkin (1827-1905) and his brother George (1829-1911) – their father and uncle were also musicians – are best remembered as organists and composers for the organ (George also played the cello and J.B. composed glees and piano music and was a professor at the Guildhall School). It was with some surprise that I came across in a Doncaster dance programme of 1873 aGalop Tyrolese by “Calkin” ( I suspect that J.B. may be the Calkin here). From another Doncaster ball of 1873 we encounter the name of “ Hobson” (Christian name not specified), composer of a Schottische Sun Flower. It is a source of wonder and irritation to me that while light orchestras and dance orchestras played, and still play, the dance music not only of the Strauss family and lesser lights like Gung’l, Ziehrer and so forth, several of whom appear on Doncaster dance programmes of the 1860s and 1870s, but over the last century and more have constantly ignored that of their British contemporaries. Surely the latter could not have been so much worse.

Philip L. Scowcroft

March 2003

A 367 TH GARLAND OF BRITISH LIGHT MUSIC COMPOSERS

To begin with, here is a group of orchestral composers, or at least composers known to me at least, for their orchestral pieces, sometimes just a single one. T. Waugh Wright, active in the 1930s, composed Three Scottish Symphonic Dances (The Cobbler, Keltic Ballade, The Devil’s Elbow), Frances Williams (1950s) had A Christmas Miniature, for piano and strings, published by Boosey; Bernard Barnes had his Dainty Doll, arranged by Eric Arden, published by KPM (Arden himself composed as well as arranged, his Minstrel’s Song being arranged in turn by Ernest Tomlinson; and Richard Bell, also active in the 1950s, composed Pennants in the Breeze.

Two more composers may be briefly noted: Peter Anderson for Step Lightly; and Victor Bartlett for Liberation.

Finally for composers best known for writing songs and choral pieces. Henry W. Armstrong is remembered for just one song but his Nellie Dean (1906), composed originally for a revue, is famous indeed (perhaps infamous!). Paul Andrew’s ballads included especially Winding Road, Claude Arundales’s The Rain-Fairy. Stephen Wilkinson, best remembered as a trainer of choirs, made many choral arrangements of traditional and popular tunes, also publishing in 1958 Variations of “Go From My Window” for strings. And Lawrence Ager, born in 1904, produced many arrangements and small choral compositions, some for unison voices ( The Big Brown Owl, London Sparrow and Life is a Chase are examples, some not, plus ballads like Sing Your Cares Away and short, simple, piano pieces including Sempre Semplice (1966) and Book of Birthdays (1972).

Philip L Scowcroft

March 2003

A 368 TH GARLAND OF BRITISH LIGHT MUSIC COMPOSERS

We begin with two present-day figures who both play in orchestras which perform, at any rate to a degree, light or lightish music. Michael Gryspeerdt is by profession a registered medical practitioner, specialising in child psychiatry. He has however played in the Gloucestershire Symphony Orchestra and this experience is enshrined in his light overture, now available on CD, entitled The Lamphrey, which is called after a public house near Gloucester Cathedral frequented by some of the Orchestra.

William (Bill) Holdsworth has composed and arranged quite widely and does get his works performed (he plays in the Paddock Orchestra, Huddersfield). This includes compilations of Scottish, Irish, English and Welsh melodies, and original march, Gala Day, and sundry Tangos.

Next for two ballad or song composers with an example of the output of each. Fred Earle, active around the time of the Great War, composed Seaweed amongst other ballads; and Ann Garbutt, from a generation afterwards, had the accompaniment of her Willow Song arranged by George Stacey.

I have come across a reference to a polka, Besses o’th’ Barn, by one Joseph Clement. Clement was, I imagine, yet another of the large cohort of purveyors of Victorian dance music, but I do not yet know whether, or how, the title of his polka relates to one of the oldest of our brass bands.

Philip L.Scowcroft

March 2003

A 369 TH GARLAND OF BRITISH LIGHT MUSIC COMPOSERS

First, two orchestral composers from around the time of the Second World War may be noted: C.G. Dawes, whose Melody, arranged by Sydney Baynes, was published by Boosey; and Cecil Dixon, whose Tango was orchestrated by the celebrated conductor/composer/arranger Stanford Robinson. From earlier periods we may point to Henry Gadsby (1842-1907) for his orchestral Forest of Arden, in two movements – Intermezzo (An Autumn Morning) and Tantarra (The Hunt is Up) – and the Irishman H.C. Finucane for his Two Irish Dances (May Day and Jig).

A word now for recently deceased multi-talented Fritz Spiegl (1926-2003), flautist (with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra between 1948 and 1963 and with other ensembles), broadcaster and writer (and not just on music). Austrian-born, he came to England in 1939 and during the 1940s became an adopted Liverpudlian. He is best remembered for writing, with his first wife, Bridget Fry, the signature tune for the BBC TV police series Z Cars, just one of many, often humorous, arrangements from his pen.

Now a mention for Mike Sykes whose activities include writing incidental music for radio productions, most recently for the Radio 4 play The Secret Summer of Daniel Lyons (March 2003).

Finally Mary Harrison wrote a number of piano suites for young performers, among them The Fairground: Carnival Suite (1961) and the six sketches Country Markets (1962).

Philip L. Scowcroft

March 2003

A 370 TH GARLAND OF BRITISH LIGHT MUSIC COMPOSERS

I open with two figures active around the start of the 20th century. Arthur Hervey (1855-1922) was Irish, a music critic and a composer. Two of his orchestral compositions surely qualify for inclusion in this survey – Two Tone Pictures (On the Heights and On the March) and the overture Youth, perhaps an early example of the bright English concert overture. Edwin F. James (1861-1921) was arguably the most notable English bassoonist of the pre-Archie Camden era. Elgar composed his Romance (1910) for him and James also composed, his humoresque for bassoon and orchestra, based on Comin’ thro’ the Rye, appearing in 1904.

Next for one or two brief mentions for more recent composers. Donald Heywood (1934-?) for his songs, including Home Beyond the River, Winifred Hunter for her orchestral movement Shore Leave; and Helen Hopekirk, whose Hogmanay Night (1965) was arranged for harp and strings by the previously discussed Max Saunders.

John F. Larchet (1885-1967) was presumably Irish and was quite well known for his arrangements for strings of Irish Airs; his Two Characteristic Pieces (1932) for xylophone and strings entitled Carlow Tune and Tinker’s Wedding, were also of Irish provenance.

Finally Yascha Krein, who died in 1946 was a violinist who was latterly resident in England and whose orchestral compositions or arrangements included Caucasian Drinking Song and, both posthumously published, Gypsy Carnival (1948) and Roumanian Songs and Dances (1950).

Philip L Scowcroft

April 2003

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