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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 FORTY-SIXTH GARLAND OF BRITISH LIGHT MUSIC COMPOSERS

We begin in Victorian times, with yet another dance music purveyor of the time, called CLARKE; not, I believe, Hamilton Clarke, theatre conductor and prolific composer, known today, if at all, as the compiler of the overture to The Mikado, but I have been able to identify this other Clarke - his galops Clan Campbell and Night Bell the quadrille, The Lorne were all popular in ballrooms around 1870.

ALFRED J. CALDICOTT is one of the lesser figures on the Victorian musical stage. Active in the 1880s and 1890s, most of his shows were written for the German Reel outfit at St. George's Hall, mostly one-act comediators and sketches. A Treasure Trove, A Moss Rose Rent (1883), Old Knockles (1884), In Cupid's Court (1885), The Friar (1886), Tally Ho (1887), Wanted, An Heir and The Boson's Mate (1888), John Smith (-(1889), The Old Bureau (1891) and An Old Pair (1893). Chimper's Fortune (1885), also by him, had a provincial tour, All Aboard was used as a fore-piece at the Prince of Wales Theatre in 1890, and A Knight Errant was put on at the Lyric in 1894. The latter appears to have been his swansong, however.

Another, slightly earlier, Victorian composer was (MARY ANN) VIRGINIA GABRIEL, from an Irish military family, who was born in Banstead (Surry) on 7 February 1825 and who was 52 when she died, following a carriage accident in London on 7 August 1877. She studied piano with Pixis, Duhler, Thalberg and Molique and composition with the opera composer Saverio Mercadante, and in 1874 married George March, who had furnished the libretti for many of her stage works. Her major compositions were the three cantatas Evangeline, for the Boughton Festival (1873), Graziella and Dreamland (1870). Of her stage works most are written as German Reed entertainments: Widows Bewitched (1865), A Quiet Chateau (1867), Who's The Heir? (1868), Lost and Found (1870), Grass Widows, The Shepherd of Cournouailles, The Follies of a Night and A Rainy Day. They were modestly successful but Gabriel's opera bouffe The Lion's Mouth was not a success. She also composed for her own instrument, the piano; her songs (apart from the Shakespearean setting Orpheus With His Lute, which has been recorded recently and compares reasonably well with Sullivan's better known, roughly contemporaneous setting) were drawing-room ballads with titles like Across the Sea, Alone, O Mayest Then Dream of Me (a duet), Out in the Streets and Yet Once Again. The first of them was published in the mid 1830s; these published later included settings of Italian and French tests. Gabriel anticipated Maude Valerie White in this.

Another lady who combined composing ballads and piano music with writing for the light musical stage was ANNIE FORTESCUE HARRISON (1851-1944), otherwise Lady Arthur Hill. She married in 1877, but continued to publish songs and piano pieces. Her earliest piano pieces, written in her teens, were dance movements with little like The Elfin Waltzes and Our Favourite Galop. Her operettas included The Ferry Girl and The Lost Husband. Much the most popular of the ballads was In the Gloaming, composed in 1877, which sold 140,000 copies during the 1880s and was still being reprinted as late as the 1950s. Other titles were At Noontide, I want to Be a Soldier, In the Moonlight (a sequel to her most famous song), Yesteryear and Let Me Forget Thee.

Still another female Victorian balladeer known generally for just one song was CAROLINE (ELIZABETH SARAH) NORTON (1808-77), who was also a writer of poetry and novels and a campaigner for legal reform, following her separating from a brutal husband, who was at that time entitled to the custody of their three sons. Her songs, mainly to her own poetry, had something of a vogue and were a nice little earner. Much the most durable has been Juanita, composed in 1851 for one of her own sons to sing to guitar accompaniment. The only other title I have found is We Are the Wandering breezes.

To finish with, here are a few 20th Century brass band composers. CYRIL JENKINS (1889-1978), born in South Wales, studied composition with Stanford. He briefly became Director of Music to the LCC in 1922, but had to relinquish the post because of ill-health. His compositions included an Easter Cantata, Calvary Songs, partsongs (eg Snowflakes, The Butterfly), Orchestral music such as the Celtic Rhapsody and for strings a Welsh Fantasia and, best remembered of all, brass band works. These were substantial and quite serious pieces: Coriolanus (test piece National, 1920) Life Dance (National, 1921) Victory (National 1929) and Saga of the North (Open, 1965), Life Divine and perhaps Coriolanus can still be encountered today in brass band programmes.

AUSTEN RAYNOR who flourished in the 1950s and `1960s, was a conductor, arranger and composer in the brass band world, his original compositions including Eboracum, Wuthering Heights, The Enchanted Garden, A Woolly Tale: Variations on a Nursery Rhyme (no prizes for guessing which!), Bellissima, Busy Day and Horn Tzjare: quite a mixed bag. PHILIP CATELINET, a tuba player (he gave the premiere of the Vaughan Williams Tuba Concerto and recorded it). He has arranged much and composed music both for the Salvation Army's band and for the brass band mainstream; examples of the latter are the band suites Our American Cousins (1964) Isle of Avalon (1978) and Three Sketches, plus a Legend for tuba (or baritone or euphonium) and a Suite in Miniature, three movements for two trombones (or two baritones and two euphoniuns ). And MICHAEL HOPKINSON is well known for his air varie compositions like Mockin' Bird Hill and The Harmonious Brassmen.

© Phil 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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