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A SIXTY-SECOND GARLAND OF BRITISH LIGHT MUSIC COMPOSERS

Our first composer in this 62nd bouquet was one that I encountered in BBC Radio 2's excellent "Legends of Light Music" series. Morning Call, by JOHN CARMICHAEL, is a cheerful, bustling piece; another orchestral number of his, French Flirt, his parts for glockenspiel, vibraphone, guitar and harp. Carmichael appears to have been particularly active either side of 1960. His smaller-scale publications include: for clarinet and piano, Fetes Champetres (1963); and for piano, variously solo, four-hands-one-piano or four hands-two pianos, lightish genre numbers, entitled Bagatelle (1958), Puppet Show (1959), Tourbillon (1959), Bahama Rumba (1960) and Paris Left Bank (1960). It is very likely that some titles will have had orchestral variations.

Little need by said here about CHRISTOPHER MONTAGUE EDMUNDS (1899-1990), in view of Michael Jones' detailed article about him in Volume 21 of the BMS Journal (1999), but we may note that several of his compositions fairly clearly fall within out light music remit, among them the overture Festival of York, the waltz Summer Night, the Harlequinade suite and Shepherd's Song, both for strings, his works for brass band (Concert Overture and the prelude, Macbeth) and a number of his pieces for piano solo and for other instruments.

ANTHONY PAYNE, born in 1936, is a many-sided musician but few of his compositions are really classifiable as light music; even his brass band writings are "serious". We might perhaps make an exception of his suite (though not described as such), A 1940s Childhood, written for flute and guitar and later (1989) rearranged for flute and harp in which version it was recorded by Nimbus and which sounds like film music, something with which Payne has been involved.

The Gloucestershire-born HERBERT NORMAN HOWELLS (1892-1983) is another who we think of as primarily a serious composer of orchestral, chamber, church and choral music with perhaps the Hymnus Paradisi uppermost in many people's minds, also of organ and other instrumental solos (though several of the latter are amusing parodies in the style of other composers), but he had a strong lyrical impulse and this in turn makes him for us a credible composer of light music. It is, I suppose, debatable whether his two works for brass band, Pageantry, a suite used five times as a test piece in the Open (1934, 1942, 1970) and National (1937, 1950) Championships, and Three Figures, both recorded in the LP era, are classifiable as light music; but we certainly include, I think the following orchestral compositions as such - the Three Dances of 1915, for violin and orchestra, the Fanfare For Schools, the Two Pieces Opus 20 (Puck's Minuet and Merry-Eye), Lady Aubrey's Suite and another suite, Music For a Prince, which celebrated the birth of Prince Charles in 1948 and from which Corydon's Dance and Scherzo in Arden have at times been performed as separate movements. And we may also here include a number of Howell's instrumental pieces, like the Country Pageant and Two Folk Dances for piano solo and the intriguingly titled Minuet (Grace for a French Egg) for bassoon and piano.

Finally we retrace our steps to the late Victorian period and notice briefly two composers there from: a brass band man, one HOWARD, whose march Dick Whittington was quite popular in the 1890s; and T POPPLEWELL ROYLE, producer of waltzes like Toreador (especially popular, apparently) and Eldorado and a man having at least a nodding acquaintance with the light musical theatre as he is almost certainly the "P ROYAL" who contributed additional music to W Meyer Lutz's burlesque of 1889, Ruy Blas and The Blasé Roue, produced at the Gaiety Theatre.

© Philip L Scowcroft

October 1999

 

 

 

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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