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  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

A THIRTY-NINTH GARLAND OF BRITISH LIGHT MUSIC COMPOSERS

Our "light music theatre" candidates this time are, first, JAMES PHILIP, whose active career, so far as it is known to me , seems to have been of the shortest. He provided some additional music for the musical All Abroad (1895: music mainly by Frederick Rosse) and then, the following year or soon afterwards - and this is the principal reason for remembering him at all - he composed the song "Jewel of Asia" for interpolation into Sidney Jones' The Geisha (1896) for Marie Tempest to sing. Its charm is apparent in the 1998 Hyperion complete recording of The Geisha, in which it is sung by Lillian Watson.

After that he produced, apparently, nothing; WILLIAM PHILIP, roughly contemporary and perhaps James' brother, sang tenor on the London light music stage. Secondly WILLIAM NEALE, also a theatre conductor, brought out five musical comedies between 1902 and 1920: The Scilly Girl (1902: seemingly every other musical at that period was "The ------- Girl"), Little Miss Ragtime (1913), The Maid of the East (1919), and The Slave of Love (1920). Few, if any, of these made it to the London, stage, though; their reputation, such as they were, were provincial ones.

Our first ballad composer in this essay is the Scotsman LADY JOHN DOUGLAS SCOTT (1810-1900), whose baptismal name was ALICIA A. SPOTTISWOODE. Choirs still sing her ballad Think on Me in one of its various arrangements and she is credited with Annie Laurie as well. Her other titles included My Prince, When We First Rode Down Ettrick, Shine on Ye Gallants and Katherine Logie. Another Scots Lady Ballad writer was LADY ARTHUR HILL, nee ANNIE FORTESCUE HARRISON, composer of In the Gloaming and many other titles.

Coming more up to date and moving to instrumental music, we can mention the name of PETER LAMB, born in 1925, who appears to specialise in music for the flute. This includes an attractive Sonata, in three movements, but also several tuneful miniatures of which we may instance the English Air (accompanied) and Reflections (unaccompanied).

One composer who combined ballads and light musical theatre at the turn of the 19th Century was FLORIN PASCAL (1847-1923), whose real name was JOSEPH BENJAMIN WILLIAMS son of the founder of the once-thriving Williams music publishing firm, now absorbed with Stainer & Bell. Pascal may not have scaled the heights as a composer (though his music was apparently always attractive and serviceable) but at least he was never at a loss to have it published. His career in the theatre seems to have begun in around 1875 when a German Reed show with words by W.S. Gilbert, no less, entitled Eyes and No Eyes, had a very short stage run before being withdrawn. Reed apparently composed the music but when the show was published it had a new score - by Pascal! His next shows, both modest successes, were opera Cymbia (1883) and a burlesque The Vicar of Wide-a-Wakefield (1885), which had 121 performances at the Gaiety; then, after contributing numbers to the musical farcical comedy Chirrupers Fortune (1885), he brought out Gypsy Gabriel (1887), which was toured through the provinces. Tra-la-la Tosca(1890) (predating Puccini's opera, incidentally), a F.C. Burnard burlesque, was staged at the Royalty but achieved a mere 45 performances. This was not the end of the Pascal stage story as it was followed by: Lady Laura's Land(1895), a comic opera, The Black Squire, or Where There's a Will There's a Way (1896), which again had only a provincial reputation, The Jewel Maiden, a Japanese operetta (1898), Sally, or the Boatswain's Mate (1903) and In Wonderland, a children's fairy operetta (1908). In addition, Pascal wrote over 200 songs (the BBC Catalogue lists 74 solo efforts), many of them grouped into related sequences - Six Dialect Songs, Six Baby Songs, In a English Village (eight songs), Six Songs From Shakespeare, Six Nocturnes and the seven duets, From England, of 1904. Other solo titles included Drake's Drum, set more memorably by others, and The Fighting Temeraire. Nor did he ignore instrumental music. For example, he published The Faithful Shepherdess for piano solo, while the Four Rhapsodies Espagnoles (Sur La Plaza, Le Contrabandier, An Clair de la Lune and Conte Mauresque) were done for orchestra. Pascal was clearly a useful journeyman composer, if not a genius.

Although they did not have Pascal's stage dimension - so far as I know - two other ballad writers, roughly contemporary with him, are worthy of brief mention. WILLIAM MONK GOULD's best known song was The Curfew (1898), he continued composing after that, as The Misty Isle is dated 1908, - other song titles included Offerings and even a Shakespearean setting, Who is Sylvia? He published 56 items between 1883 and 1920. HERBERT NELSON's only song that I have heard of (indeed I have actually heard it) was The Windmill, of 1897, but this was popular and its accompaniment was, according to the BBC Catalogue, orchestrated several times.

This 39th collection of blossoms has been largely of older composers, though as an envoi we may include above mention of one or two figures presently working in the worlds of the large and/or small screens: Trevor Jones, who provided the (original) music for the successful feature film Brassed Off; and JOE CAMPBELL and PAUL HART who are jointly responsible for the very varied music for the TV serial drama feature Harbour Lights.

© 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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