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  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

A FORTY-FIFTH GARLAND OF BRITISH LIGHT MUSIC COMPOSERS

In previous Garlands we have alluded a number of times to the composers of Victorian dance music. CHARLES COOTE is worth yet another mention, as he conducted a prestigious dance band, described as Coote and Tinney's Band (Tinney himself, whose Christian name is not known to me, composed, being credited with a galop Fizz - though I have seen this given to Coote!) when it appeared at a State Ball at Buckingham Palace on 17 May 1870, when Coote's waltzes Belle of the Ball and Alexina and his Favourite Lancers Burlesque Lancers were in the programme. It is sometimes said that after Prince Albert's death (in 1861) the Court Balls were discontinued but this seems to give the lie to that statement. Other dances at that particular Ball included the State Ball Quadrille by one FREWIN (possibly written for that very occasion) and the valse Chiquita by Captain the Hon. F.A. WELLESLEY, interestingly as he is clearly from the same family as the (famous) Duke of Wellington, whose father, the Earl of Mornington, was well known for his glees either side of 1800. It would be interesting to have some of this Victorian dance music played in concert; I myself have heard LOUIS JULLIEN's British Army Quadrilles on a 1920s recording and in a live performance a year or two ago, and played by a Doncaster student orchestra, CHARLES D'ALBERT's Sutton Polka, a most attractive piece suggesting that a revival of this particular side of Victorian music might have some mileage in it.

Now to a few people who were active around the turn of the 19th Century. WILFRED BENDALL, who was secretary to Sir Arthur Sullivan from 1895 up to Sullivan's death in November 1900 and who in that capacity arranged the piano part for some of Sullivan's later published vocal scores (including the incidental music for King Arthur) and also the piano reduction for the 1897 ballet score Victoria and Merrie England. Like Sullivan he worked in the lighter musical theatre, his pieces including Lover's Knots (1880), the vaudeville "fore-piece", Quid Pro Quo (1889), the operetta, The Gypsies (1890), whose words were by Basil Hood (maybe his debut in the theatre where he acquired fame later, in collaboration with Sullivan and, notably, German), the operetta, Beef Tea (1892) and the burlesque, Little Black Sambo and Little White Barbara (1904: the score written jointly with FREDERICK ROSE). Rather more ambitious than any of these was the cantata The Lady of Shalott, for women's voices and orchestra; his other pieces for female voices included the "ballad", A Legend of Bregenz (1897) and a suite, Song Dances.

JOHN M. CAPEL is remembered today for the evergreen ballad Love Could I Only Tell Thee, often heard today sung by male voice choirs in a 1939 setting by Doris Arnold. Other ballad titles by Capel included Lorraine, Lorraine, Lorree, The Miller and His Wife, My Lady and Six Husbands: He too, dabbled in the light musical stage, writing the score for the comedietta, The Composer in 1892 and contributing numbers to the horse-racing musical comedy, Newmarket; the song "I've Nothing to Do" and the trio "Fal Lal", both by him, were among that show's most highly regarded pieces.

HERBERT BUNNING (1863-1937) was educated at Harrow and BNC, Oxford and later in France and Italy. He was Musical Director at the Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith (1892-4) and the Prince of Wales' Theatre (1895-6). His most important works for the theatre were the opera Princes Osra, produced at Covent Garden in July 1902, and the incidental music for the play Robin Hood, staged at Lyric in 1906 and from which Albert Ketelbey and Arthur Wood arranged a selection and the composer himself extracted a four movement suite. Apart from Princes Osra, his major compositions appear to be the Scenas with orchestra, Ludovico Il Moro (1892) and Sir Launcelot and Queen Guinevere, performed at the 1905 Norwich Festival. His song's (e. g. In the Maytime, Sunshine and Butterflies, Sunshine and Roses) were mostly of the ballad type and his orchestral works were mainly light : Shepherd's Call (1893, later performed at the Henry Wood Proms) Village Suite (1896) and several overtures including Mistral and Spring and Youth, which were both dated 1897.

Now for a for more lady composers. AVRIL GWENDOLEN COLERIDGE-TAYLOR, born in 1903, inherited some of her father's compositional talent and was an experienced conductor, too. Her songs, titles like April, Who Knows and The Dreaming Water Lily, were often of the ballad type and she produced orchestra and instrumental music, too. The slightly earlier MAUDE CASKE DAY is still remembered for her most popular ballad Arise O Sun often, like Capel's Love Could I Only Tell Thee, heard in a choral arrangement; other titles were Spring's A Dancer, Beyond the Stars, Bachelors of Devon, Billsticker Joe and Fairy Shoon. Next among this distaff group we may recall the miniaturist DOROTHY HOGBEN, active during the first half of the 20th Century. Of her ballads, The Shawl has been recorded in our time by Dame Felicity Lott; her piano music included The Animal Book (24 pieces in two books), a suite Our Family, another suite, Punch and Judy Show, for piano duet, and The Pirate Ship. Finally WINIFRED HOWE wrote in 1918 a shapely piece for salon orchestra entitled My Lady Charming which I heard and enjoyed on the radio not long ago - but this appears to be a "singleton" as far as I, or any of my sources, can determine.

We come up to date now with mention of two film/TV composers. The fame of these composers depends not merely on the intrinsic qualities of their music, though DEBBIE WISEMAN's melodic gifts have already earned her music widespread currency, notwithstanding her relative youth, but also on whether particular films for which they have written the music themselves achieve fame - the recent (I write in 1999) awards won by Shakespeare in Love has done STEPHEN WARBECK's reputation no harm at all. The composers of music for the two most recent BBC TV Dickens adaptations have not as yet quite aspired to such heights but the quality of the scores by ADRIAN JOHNSTONE for Our Mutual Friend (1998) and PETER SALEM for Great Expectations (1999) promise well. Lastly, a well-established film composer, usually for American films, is BRUCE BROUGHTON, born in 1945, whose scores include those for Young Sherloc Holmes (1978: the "Title Music" and "Love Theme" were published for piano solo) and, more recently, Lost in Space. Not that he has confined himself to film music - his brass band pieces include a lively little number entitles Harlequin.

© Philip L Scowcroft

 

 

 

Enquiries to Philip at

8 Rowan Mount

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Philip's book 'British Light Music Composers' (ISBN 0903413 88 4) is currently out of print.

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