We begin with our by now fairly customary reference
to the purveyors of Victorian dance music. One HOBSON (no Christian
name known yet) had his Sun Flower Schottische appear in an 1873
Doncaster ballroom programme, sharing the bill with more famous practitioners
like Coote, Godfrey and Jullien, all featured in these Garlands, It
is worth remembering that dance music at that period, and of course
since, could readily become music, even when its composer/arranger was
British; we take for granted this happening with foreigners like Johann
Strauss and perhaps others like Waldteufel, Gung'l and Lumbye.
Moving on a generation or so we come to the figure
of AMY ELISE HORROCKS, of Anglo-Brazilian descent, the peak of whose
career may well come with the premiere of an orchestral ballade, The
Romaunt of the Page at the Henry Wood Proms in 1899. It is not quite
clear how "light" a composition this was and Horrocks is also credited
with Eight Variations on an Original Theme for piano quartet;
but undoubtedly in the "light" category were her ballads The Bird
and the Rose, Forget me Not, An Idle Poet, The Nightingale To
Althea From Prison ands, possibly a piano piece originally, but,
published in arrangements for viola and piano and cello and piano, Twilight
RICHARD D'OYLY CARTE (1844-1901) is remembered, indeed
famed, as agent, manager and impresario, primarily for the Gilbert &
Sullivan operettas, though his activities extended beyond G & S.
But it is a much less well-known fact that he was also a composer. His
father ran a musical instrument business (Rudall, Carte & Co) in
London's Charing Cross Road and Richard, who was educated at University
College, London was originally intended for a musical career. He was
responsible for a number of songs and at least three one-act stage works.
The first was Dr. Ambrose, His Secret, given a private staging
with piano accompaniment at St. George's Opera House on 8 August 1868.
Three years later the operetta Marie received five performances
(and a panning from the critics) at the Opera Comique. Finally and most
successfully (though "success" is a relative term) there was the "musical
pastoral" Happy Hampstead of 1876, by which time d'Oyly Carte
was beginning to make his mark as an impresario which may account for
his employing (as composer) the pseudonym MARK LYNNE. It was produced
by the d'Oyly Carte Opera Company on 3 July 1876, toured a repertoire
and had its first London performance in 1877 at the Royalty Theatre
but was dropped after about a month.
FRANK MUSGRAVE is an interesting figure, even if none
of his music has survived into the present day, with his contributions
to the Victorian musical theatre and to its sheet music industry. He
was Musical Director at the Royal Strand Theatre in 1865, and up to
then had produced mostly dance music (quadrilles, valses and polkas,
of which more in a moment), arrangements and "nigger songs", when, in
collaboration with F.C. Burnard (who was soon to collaborate with Arthur
Sullivan) he brought out Windsor Castle, "in new and original
historical opera burlesque", probably the first English opera bouffe.
Burnard said of his collaborator that he had "no musical (or other)
education and he could turn out a catchy popular tune, could score it
for a small orchestra, had a keen sense of humour and was a first class
stage manager. "The music - comprising solos, ensembles, concert pieces
and dance sequences - was praised, but the show ran for only 43 performances.
It was quickly followed, still in 1865, by another Burnard/Musgrave
burlesque, L'Africaine, or The Queen of the Cannibal Islands
(the musical burlesqued things as diverse as the Christy Minstrels and
grand opera, a drinking song and the Indian War Song going down especially
well). This did rather better than Windsor Castle, achieving
88 performances, also at the Royal Strand Theatre.
By 1873 Musgrave was the lessee of the Theatre Royal
Nottingham and in that year he produced a comic opera Lothair
and this managed 36 performances at the Theatre Royal Liverpool. By
1878 he was touring French operetta with his own company (this visited
Doncaster in 1879) when his operetta Prisoners at the Bar, set
in a railway refreshment bar and jocularly described as an "opera buffet"
appeared, but it was not a great success. Musgrave's sheet music numbers
included Excursion Train Galop whose cover shows the excursionists
packed like sardines into open trucks of the South Eastern Railway with
the wind blowing the engine smoke around them and plucking off one passenger's
hat, and the Cooke's Excursion Galop, whose cover has the excursionists
enthusiastically climbing Mount Vesuvius, heedless of the volcanoes
erupting just above.
We come now to MAUDE CASKE DAY, born in Cambridge
in 1876 and publishing songs at least as late as 1940. A teacher of
piano singing, she produced ballads in profusion. The best known of
them was Arise O Sun (1921) which is generally to be heard to
day in choral versions, for SATB by PURCELL J. MANSFIELD and for male
voices by DORIS ARNOLD Tell Me Gypsy (1924) recently, is a livelier
number. Fairies figure considerably in her output; one thinks if The
Fairy Shoon, Fairy Shopping, Fiddler Fairies and Pixies Picnic.
Other titles included Springs a Dancer, The Bachelors of Devon, Be
Thou My Light, Beyond the Stars, The Fountain, The Glory of the Dawn,
The Love-Pipes of June, The Music of the Treats, Mariette, Ring Bells
Ring, Spring Tapped at My Window, Old Sweetheart, The Mighty Builder
and Heart of Mine.
Finally the briefest of mentions for two contemporary
writers of screen music on account of their very recent (1999) scores
for TV productions: MICHAEL GIBBS for Plastic Man (ITV); and
JIM MEACOCK for The Planets (BBC).
© Philip L. Scowcroft
Philip's book 'British Light Music Composers' (ISBN 0903413 88 4) is
currently out of print.