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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-SEVENTH GARLAND OF BRITISH LIGHT MUSIC COMPOSERS

Our first composer is the pianist, accordionist and inveterate broadcaster (especially in the one-time twice daily "Music While You Work" programme) in light music ensembles, GERALD CROSMAN, born in 1920 and sometime a student of Trinity College London. Many of his performers took place on cruise liners and this experience may have supplied the idea for his suite, for accordion or organ, Holiday Cruise (whose movements are Southampton, Vigo, Haifa, Athens and Lisbon). His output includes film music, of which we may instance that for, the adaptation of the A.E.W. Mason detective story The House of Arrow, and a host of individual genre pieces, most of them probably originally conceived for accordion, though some were published as for accordion or piano and many were orchestrated. A trawl of them throws up the titles Gavottina, El Pico, Michelle, A Night in Montmartre, Boulevards de Paris, La Vida Latina the Fortitude march, Nochecita, Out of the Wood, The Happy Bachelor, Typical Teenager, March Espagnole and All Hands For'ard.

WALTER R. COLLINS flourished around mid-century as a composer of light orchestral miniatures with intriguing titles. Apart from the Four Cornish Dances, which pre-date those by Malcolm Arnold and which finish, unsurprisingly, with a setting of the Helston Floral Dance, those Collins works I have discovered are single movements: the country sketch, Cumberland Green, Rat-a-Tat Polka, Strings in the Wood, Vabe Capricietto. Holiday Parade, The Persistent Serenade, In the Cloisters and the marches Olympia, Devil May Care and - a patrol - Paper Hats and Wood Swords.

From much the same period is ANTHONY SPURGIN, born in 1907 and well respected as a composer and arranger in several fields. His arrangements include Ready the Band, songs and marches of the British Army, made in 1957 for the BBC. His orchestral compositions included Chinstrap and, a characteristic piece of "train music", West Country Special; several of Spurgin's pieces for brass ensembles have been published - Foursome, Bread for Horns, a fantasia, Lions and Martlets, the Russian dance, Vodka, and the marches Duke of York's Patrol and The Ever Readies.

Collins and Spurgin may be ranked among the "production music" composers of the 1950s and 1960s, which, like light music composers generally, have been making something of a comeback on CD recently. We have mentioned a few in previous Garlands and here are a few more names: BRUCE CAMPBELL, exemplified by Skippy, adopted as the music for "seeing sport", Green Hills and Cloudland, Dudley Glass, whose Will o'the Wisp was used as interlude music in "In Town Tonight"; GEORGE CRUIKSHANK (e.g. Banbury Cake); CHARLES KENBURY (eg Channel Ferry); and DONALD THORNE, composer of Rippling Waters, adopted for a BBC TV programme. Thorne was also concerned jointly with TONY LOWRY in a suite Lights o'London, whose individual movements are entitled: Dawn, Kew Gardens; Noon, Oxford Street and Hyde Park; Dusk, Limehouse; and Midnight, Piccadilly. They were doubtless inspired by the earlier light suites on London penned by Eric Coates and Haydn Wood. Lowry appears to have collaborated, actively or passively, with several other British light music "greats". The Russian march, Samovar, was a joint production with Clive Richardson, who died late in 1998. The piece for piano and orchestra, Running Commentary, was arranged by Arthur Sandford. Seascape was adopted as the title music for the BBC programme "The Windjammers" in an arrangement by Robert Farnon; Landscape, by contract, also The Last of the Dandies, was arranged by Ronald Hanmer. Other Lowry titles include Hippodrome Memories and Willow Pattern. He did a fair bit of arranging on his own account and Hippodrome Memories certainly sounds like a potpourri.

A somewhat earlier figure then any so far dealt with in this 37th bouquet is the Scot COLIN MCLEOD CAMPBELL (1890-1953), whose light orchestral suites included the Five Dances, the Fantasy Suite, The "suite de ballet" Princess Gioia and Thais and Talmae; his individual light geve pieces may be exemplified by Nocturne and Romance Charmeuse.

Finally I return to the dance music of the Victorian era. Among the dances heard in Doncaster's ballrooms in 1862 (the programmes at that time were still largely dominated by the names Charles Coote and Charles D'Albert, already noticed in these Garlands), we may surmise that JOHN WYMER's Simla Quadrille and the Simla-Annandale Polka recall for us the importance of the hill-station Simla to the British Raj. I have also came across mention of a waltz, Mamma's Little Pet ands one or two other titles by "FARMER". But which Farmer is meant? JOHN FARMER (1836-1901), from Nottingham, composed the popular oratorio Christ and His Soldiers and some other cantatas, plus church music, chamber music and many school songs, especially for Harrow where he was for many years music master (Forty Years On retained its popularity) and cricketing ditties like Willow the King. He is a possibility; his father, also JOHN, was a Nottingham lacemaker and a useful cellist, but I think the dance music composer could have been John senior's brother HENRY FARMER (1819-91) who also composed and was the proprietor of a music warehouse in Nottingham. (HENRY GEORGE FARMER, 1882-1965, author of books on music, some of them on military bands in Scotland and so far as I am aware was not related to the Nottingham Farmers). A CD recording of some of the best post-Jullien British dance music would be welcome.

© 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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