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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 SIXTY-FIFTH GARLAND OF BRITISH LIGHT MUSIC COMPOSERS

We start with STEPHEN HOUGH born in 1961, for many years a distinguished pianist but also a composer from his early teens; years ago I heard in Doncaster a work for four clarinets composed by him at the age of 15. Naturally enough, his more recent efforts have been for piano solo, usually short and sometimes light; Etude de Concert and Musical Jewellery Box have been recorded by him recently. It is possible that he views his compositions modestly as there is no mention of them in his entry in Who's Who in Music.

In the course of these Garlands we have listed many "mood music" composers, another is J. GEDDES MAXWELL, who was active especially in the 1950s and who produced such titles as Ebb Tide and Jack Frost.

Two composers now, who are better known in the more classical surroundings. HUMPHREY SEARLE (1915-82) often wrote in a by no means listener-friendly idiom - I recall his Piano Concerto being booed at the Sheffield City Hall in the 1950s despite a fine performance by Clive Lythgoe - but is worth a mention for his film music, especially for horror films and for his scores - at least 20, including Gulliver's Travers, Hamlet, Dr. Faustus and Antony and Cleopatra - for radio.

IAN PARROTT, born in 1916, not only composed choral music, chamber music, five symphonies and sundry concerts but was a university professor and wrote books in inter alia Elgar and Cyril Scott. But his approachable idiom suggests that he is a plausible exponent of light music. He contributed to the genre of the light, bright, bustling British concert overture, with Seithenin, Fanfare Overture for a Somerset Festival and The Coast of Ceredigion and many of his shorter instrumental pieces can reasonably by reckoned as being in the light genre, examples being the piano rhapsody of 1948, Westerham, the Arabesque and Dance for flute/piano, a Minuet of 1950 for oboe/piano, the Aquarelle (1952) for clarinet (or viola) and piano, the Fun Fugato and Awkward Waltz for bassoon and piano extracted from the 4th Symphony, Aivel Dyfi for recorder and piano, Soliloquy and Dance for harp solo and two titles for brass, Fanfare and March for quartet and Gleaming Brass for quintet.

Younger than any of those so far featured in this 65th bouquet (or for that matter younger than practically all in the previous 64) is WILL TODD, born in Durham 1970 and educated in Bristol University. It was doubtless Bristol which gave him the inspiration for his opera Isambard Kingdom Brunel, which is so full of good tunes that the five movement suite derived from it (and recorded) may certainly be regarded as light music.

Three Victorian composers before we return to the present day. The ballad composer ELLEN WRIGHT was especially popular during the last years of the Queen's reign, her titles including With My Guitar, Violets (which has a violin obbligato), Spring Again, A Song of Roses, The Queen's Shilling, The Parting Hour, In My Garden and - quite the most popular - Fidelity. From the brass band world of the 1890s we may mention the names of MILLER forename unknown, composer of inter alia the intriguingly titled The Frolicsome Oyster, and J. MITCHELL, one of whose more popular numbers was the valse, Sur La Mer . Dances were an important ingredient of later 19th Century brass band programmes, and surely a throwback to Louis Jullien, along with selections of operatic excerpts (many of them of operas which have dropped out of the repertoire), popular airs and religious melodies, marches, overtures (mainly obscure ones to us) and the occasional solo where there was a good enough individual talent in the band. Only in the second decade of the 20th Century and later were significant original compositions beginning to be written for brass band, and many of these, like Holst's Moorside Suite or the effusions of Percy Fletcher and Hubert Bath, we can now also categorise as light music.

We end, as we began, with a present day exponent, better known as a performer than as a composer. EVELYN GLENNIE, born in Aberdeen in 1965 and trained at the Royal Academy of Music, has reached the top of her profession as a player of percussion instruments despite being profoundly deaf. Many people have written compositions specifically for her, often of great complexity, but her own compositions - and she enjoys composition enormously - are often simple, tuneful and quite short ("light music", almost by definition); they include solos for percussion like the charming solo for marimba entitled Little Prayer and music for television, including advertisements.

© © Philip L Scowcroft

December 1999

November 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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