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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-EIGHTH GARLAND OF BRITISH LIGHT MUSIC COMPOSERS

Fur the 38th time we have another varied collation of these light music tunesmiths. We start with one of those many figures who worked in the light musical theatre, CUTHBERT CLARKE, particularly active during the first two decades of this century, conducted in London theatres and composed the music for The Happy Family in 1917. His two suites Round the World and, dating from 1909, A Day in Paris were derived from ballets, but there were a number of individual Clarke genre movements specifically for light orchestra, of which we may instance the march, The Light Brigade, the waltz Midnight Revels, an idyll, Water Lilies, the caprice de concert, Cupidon, the "danse feerique", In Pixie-land, the Intermezzos In the Twilight and Cathedral Memories, the serenade Mon Parades, a dance souvenir, Dancing Moonbeams, the "serenade passionelle", Une Affaire d'Amour and, Cashing in on the British musical public's love of the Far East at the period (and other periods) the Japanese scene, In Fair Tokyo.

Another composer of short orchestral genre pieces, and from roughly the same period as Clarke, was CHARLES HAY whose output included the suite, Scenes of Childhood and the "singles" Twilight Serenaders and the "morceau rococo", The Old Spirit - pastiche "old music" is a frequent standby of light music practitioners. From a rather later period we may briefly mention GRAEME STUART for his polka Eccentric Canter, and the suite Thomas Castles (i.e. the Tower, a "processional", Hampton Court, a minuet, and Windsor Castle, a march). And not only Haydn Wood celebrated the Isle of Man in music as one GEORGE TOOTELL brought out a suite Manx Scenes. Michael Stanton, active in the 1950s, is worth mentioning for his "library" title Sale Time (orchestrated by Harry Dexter). And our present day TV writer, HOWARD DAVIDSON merits brief mention for his atmospheric score for the Channel 4 documentary Station X.

These Garlands have included reference to a number of talented instrumentalists who composed as something of a sideline to their playing. Our representative this time is ALFRED BARKER, born in 1895 (his date of death is unknown to me) and leader of the BBC Theatre Orchestra either side of the Second World War, indeed up to its transformation in 1949 into the BBC Open Orchestra, whose compositions included a Hungarian Rhapsody for orchestra.

Many composers of music for young amateurs are reckonable also as light music composers because young people often appreciate something straightforward and tuneful. Again these Garlands are littered with such people from figures like W.H. Reed and Charles Woodhouse onwards. A more recent example is ALAN BOUSTED, born in 1931, whose titles which are reckonable as "light music" include A Little Suite for piano and the orchestral rondo, Bucks Round.

Our next two composers whenever they are mentioned, suggest the church rather than classic light music locations like the seaside concert hall or hotel lounge. But we have included several composers of organ music in these Garlands, so it is reasonable to add GEORGE THALBEN-BALL (1896-?), Australian-born and for so long associated with the music at the Temple Church for his two Elegies, the Tune in E (in the style of John Stanley) and other organ miniatures. Sir HENRY WALFORD DAVIES (1869-1941), Master of the King's Musick 1934-41, musical educator, especially on the "wireless" and oratorio and service composer, surely earns a mention for two titles, the Soleman Melody for cello solo, organ and orchestra of 1908 (though this has become more "solemn" than it was before by its regular use at Armistice Day/Remembrance Sunday services from the end of the Great War onwards) and the Royal Air Force March Past, a swaggering tune written for the infant RAF, formed on 1 April 1918, by its first Director of Music. The broad central tune is not, however, by Davies, but by his successor at the RAF, GEORGE DYSON (1883-1964). Dyson's work, like that of Davies, was basically serious and his experience was very largely in musical education but he was a writer of good tunes and his At the Tabard Inn (1943), a pendant to his earlier cantata The Canterbury Pilgrims is in the tradition of the busy English comedy overture.

Next, two figures from the mid Victorian-era. ALFRED MELLOR (1820-67) is better remembers as a conductor and he produced ballads like I never Can Forget and dance music, including the Patti Polka, after a great singer of the Victorian period. STEPHEN GLOVER (1813-70) was primarily a ballad composer. Best known of his titles are I Do Like To Be Beside the Seaside and What Are the Wild Waves Singing (others were Faith, Hope and Charity - separate songs, apparently - The Blind Girl to Her Harp, The Gypsy Countess The Elfin Call, Friendship, I Heard a Voice and The Sea is England's Glory. But he, too, composed dance music; the Davenport Quadrilles and the Two Friends Quadrille were both published by Cocks & Co in 1864.

Traditionally it is "ladies first" but here I make it ladies last. During the 1940s or thereabouts, IRIS TAYLOR produced light miniatures such as Dreamy Afternoon, Starry Night and Japanese Gown , the first and last being orchestrated by Joseph Engleman, the middle one by Ronald Hanmer. EVELYN SHARPE, not to be confused with Cecil Sharp's sister also Evelyn, had a long career. Some of her ballads, like When the World Was a Garden of Love and Where the Milestones End, from around 1920, even before (other titles included When the Great Red Dawn is Shining and South Wind), while piano pieces such as The Hum of the Bees and Apple Harvest are post 1945. In between came several orchestral titles, individual movements like In Old Quebec and The Wayside Cross, a suite, Tales From Toyland and three topographical suites relating to individual English counties, Devon, Hampshire and Essex. Devon's movements are: Barnstaple, Fairings, Brixham, The Witches' Cave Exeter, Twilight in the Cloisters; Cockington, Harvester's Dance. Hampshire's movements relate to Boscombe, Portsmouth, Beaulieu and Aldershot, Essex's to the rather less well known Mark's Gate, Waltham Abbey, Alphanstone and Little Dunnow.

© 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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