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A 436 th Garland of British Light Music Composers

First, another sample of Victorian compositions for the ballroom and brass band, by obscure composers, known to me in most cases, by just their surnames and chosen at random from Doncaster programmes from the year 1888: Polka, Our Totties (Craven), Triplet Polka (Reynolds), Hesper Galop (Clements), Anna Quadrille (attributed to a Mr Spray) and the Sadow March by “Miller”, probably George Miller of the celebrated military fraternity.

Coming more up to date, Roy Thackray composed the musical for children The Heavenly Arch and published this in 1976; his unison songs for children included the carol Pleasure It Is (1972).

Finally we come to the guitar duo Robin Hill (1953 -) and Peter Wiltschinsky (1955 -), though Hill in particular does much work as a solo and ensemble guitarist. This Doncaster-based duo is arguably the first of its type anywhere in the world and has been in existence for thirty years (I write in 2003). Like so many instrumental virtuosi of the past (though many fewer that their present day counterparts) they compose as well as arrange.

Wiltschinsky 's compositions are all for guitar duo and are frequently inspired by Spanish or Latin-American moods: Three Pieces (Danza,Notturno, Jota), Anya, Mexico, Siesta de Cordoba, Road to Jerez, Bodega Jive,Gitanes (Gypsies), Papillon, Ryan's Jig, Travelling, Danza de Fuego, Morning Sun,Journey, La Rêve, Seville and Song of the Stars. Particularly popular in recent years has been a Prelude and Jota.

Hill 's works are more extensive and for a wider range of instrumental forces. Perhaps his three guitar concertos, respectively sub-titled Primavera, Celtic and Latino likewise the Triptycho for two guitars and orchestra are long and substantial enough (they are always entertaining) to fall outside the “light music” bracket but other, shorter Hill compositions include for two guitars Tre Esercizi ( Tarantella, Canzona - popular in recitals at the moment – and Giga), Eternal Dance (available in other instrumentations), Suite Classica, Toccata and, pop-inspired like some other Hill, Junkfunk; for solo guitarFiesta di Xabia, 24 Caprices, Luna Blanca, Brasilia, Breeze from Rio, La Ritrata,Fiesta del Toros, Malaga, Danza del Puerte, Aubade, Anne's Waltz, Sunflowers andMother's Jig; a number of jazz pieces for guitar and other instruments, Three Pieces for Piano (his worklist includes Three Van Gogh Portraits for piano and orchestra), Chor del Plaza for flute and guitar, and an instructional book for solo guitar entitled The Guitar Gymnasium. Again the Spanish/Latin-American influence can be discerned in the very titles of these pieces. Both Hill and Wiltschinsky have in addition made many arrangements of traditionally popular classical tunes, many of them for the two guitar format.

Philip L Scowcroft

September 2003

A 437 th Garland of British Light Music Composers

First of all for a few song composers who set lyrics by W.S. Gilbert. We know of course about Arthur Sullivan and Edward German in this regard mostly, though not exclusively, in works for the stage; but there are less well-known figures – Walter Maynard for Let Me Stay, Percy Bowey for Far From Sin, Far From Sorrow and Amy Cochran for Shall I?

A more recent song composer was Leslie T Cochran (no relation I presume of Amy) whose titles included Facility (1947) and Christmas.

Now for a few more helots of the British music stage. All have sunk without trace and they enjoyed no particular fame even in their day (in this case the 1880s and 1890s) but we should perhaps recall them briefly. Isidore di Solla composed the music for at least three “operettas”, short affairs used and ‘forepieces’ or ‘afterpieces’ to the evening's main entertainment: School of (He)arts (1880), Five Hundred Francs (1885) and Mina, or The Fall From The Cliffs (1886). The latter was performed at the Crystal Palace, Five Hundred Francs at the Vaudeville. Another “operetta” of 1885, The Golden Wedding whose music was by J. Parry Cole briefly saw the light of day at the Avenue Theatre.

Moving to the 1890s we note that a musical comedy, The Barber toured in 1892.had music by C.W. Cottingham and Arthur Trevalyan. The latter may have been related to Claude Trevalyan who composed the score for The Twentieth Century Girl, toured, not too successfully, in 1895.

Philip L. Scowcroft

September 2003

A 438 th Garland of British Light Music Composers

Our first two figures were writers for young amateurs and their publications of music – admittedly arrangements rather than original compositions – were mostly though not entirely – joint affairs. Benjamin William Appleby (1910-73) was a schoolteacher, choral conductor, broadcaster (forSinging Together in the BBC Schools Programme 1948-1970) and from 1948 -1973, Music Organiser for Doncaster County Borough.Frederick Fowler was also a schoolteacher (though he was retired when I knew him and he died in 1985). Together they published Christmas Fantasia for strings, Christmas Rondo for recorders and other instruments ad lib, String Along for violin(s) and piano and a large number of arrangements for voices or for recorder. On his own Appleby published Two 18th Century Gavottes for piano solo, on his own Fowler brought out, with Edmund Priestley of the West Riding Education Authority, a School Recorder Book for descant instruments, one of the earliest such publications. It would be difficult to overestimate Appleby and Fowler's contribution to student music-making in the half century after, say, 1940.

Our remaining bloom was also associated with music making for young performers. Eleanor Franklin Pike, who trained at the Tobias Matthay School, was known as an adjudicator and choral conductor. Her works primarily involved the piano, though she published books of carols, dances, hymns, national airs and spirituals for juniors. For piano duet there were the Early Days Suite (1963), Four Piano Duets (1958 including the “graceful waltz” The Spinning Wheel), Five Piano Duets (1962) and a Country Dance (also 1962). Piano solo contributions included Danse Ancienne (1957), A Little Dance Suite and, rather more serious and ambitious perhaps, the Rhapsodie Romance in C Minor. Other Pike works we may note are A Sea Song for violin and piano, Valse Mazurka for two pianos, and Reverie for piano trio. Perhaps some of these would be worth dusting down some time.

Philip L. Scowcroft

September 2003

A 439 th Garland of British Light Music Composers

To start with, here are two ballad composers similarly named but not related and their floreat periods separated by some sixty years;S. Claude Ridley whose best known song, popular in the 1880s, was The Wrecker; and Walter Ridley whose Christmas Love was published in 1948.

More recently than either of these Philip Hawthorne and John Hawkes both penned light miniatures for young recorder players, the formers Recorder Tunes being published in 1989 and the latter's Suite for three recorders appearing in 1990.

Out TV composer is Orlando Gough whose most recent score is for the Channel 4 documentary The First World War (2003).

The Sussex resident William Wood-Higgs produced a number of compositions for band or orchestra including the march, Sussex By The Sea.

While we are concerned with bands, here are mentions for Stanley Woods for, inter alia, Cornet Cosmology (1978) for brass band and his tenor horn solo (with band) Little Blue Boy (1979) and T. Worthington for his Miniature Suite for brass quartet published in 1967. And finally to Kerry Russell Woodward, born in 1939, an inventive arranger and compiler of medleys rather than a composer.

Philip L. Scowcroft

September 2003

A 440 th Garland of British Light Music Composers

First, for yet another group of hangers-on - perhaps just by their finger tips – on the British musical stage around the turn of the 20th century. J. Capel Woodruffe's The Joking Girl was toured in 1899, A. Leopold and A. Sheldrake jointly composed the musical comedy in three acts, Jack's Sweetheart, which was toured in 1903.

Ernest Allen , conducted pit orchestras and also contributed part of the score of Brother Pelican or Falka's Baby, a burlesque (Falka was a popular operetta of the period by the French composer Chassaigne) toured in 1894. One of Allen's co-contributors to Brother Pelican was W.C. Levey, whose Jack-In-The-Box had gone the rounds of the provinces in 1885.

Finally, for a mixed bag of composers. Frederick Marshall wrote incidental music for the BBC in the 1960s (his scores includedThe Pretender 1964 and Home For Christmas (1965)). David White merits mention for his xylophone solo Xylonesticks. David Woods wrote a number of genre pieces for band: Nine Busy Fingers (1957) for wind band and the trombone trio Bending The Elbow. And Ivor Martin, active in the 1960s (but possibly American since these were first published over there) composed many unison and two-part songs for schools – Another Spring, Autumn Song, Autumn Wind, Footsteps, Market Day, One-Legged Sam, The Road To Town, The Vagabond and The Steam Train.

Philip L. Scowcroft

October 2003

 


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