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  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

A SIXTY-SIXTH GARLAND OF BRITISH LIGHT MUSIC COMPOSERS

We begin, as so often before, with obscure Victorian composers, three this time: one MASON, composer of a gallop, Let Go, and other music popular with the late Victorian brass bands; the ballad composer WALTER WADHAM, active during the Queen's last years with songs such as By the River, The Voice I Loved, and, especially popular, Come To Me; and DR. GEORGE HAVELOCK.

Havelock's doctorate was conferred by Toronto University, who may still have his doctoral exercise, Psalm 145, and he was for a time Organist of Valetta Cathedral, in Malta, but gave up the job because, it was said, the heat did not suit him. He came to Doncaster, taking up the position of Organist of Christ Church (not the town's main parish church) in 1888. He was there for eight years and then fell out with the Vicar. Nothing strange about that; but it was fairly unusual for Havelock and the Reverend to argue their differences, week after week and with increasing bitterness, in the columns of the local newspaper. Havelock resigned, no doubt as an alternative to dismissal, and moved to St. James', Doncaster. Soon after that he acquired five other local organist-ships which he held in plurality with St. James', rehearsing the six choirs on different nights during the week, then sending his wife and four of his pupils to officiate on Sundays while he concentrated on St. James' and of course raked in six stipends.

Havelock earns a place in this Garland because of the work he undertook with the Ladies' Orchestra of his pupils: a curious ensemble of violins, cellos, guitars, mandolins and percussion which was in demand for concerts within a considerable radius of the town. It is not clear how much; if any of this orchestra's music was composed by Havelock but he would certainly arrange it for his bizarre ensemble. A concert on 15 November 1894 included the polka Charmante, the Polka Brillant, Flora, the scherzo Papillonette (a "Butterfly Dance"), the valse Vita Palermitana and an arrangement of Santa Lucia, plus various solos, vocal and instrumental. Other pieces played by the Ladies' Orchestra at various times included Ye Banks and Braes (in arrangement), the valse, Parillon Blue and Vita Gaia, a mazurka Les Patireuses, a "descriptive piece", La Chasse" and even a set of Maltese Dances. Havelock died in Doncaster in 1915, still Organist at St. James.

We move now to the present century. First of all, our near-statutory mention of a contemporary film/TV composer: CHRISTOPHER DEDRICK, who has music for several TV documentaries to his credit, including most recently, Channel 4's Secrets of the Deep.

The name JOAN TRIMBLE may surprise many who remember her just as one of the two piano duo with her sister Valerie from 1938 up till around 1970. She produced many arrangements for the duo which was particularly famed for lightish music (Arthur Benjamin wrote Jamaican Rumba for them), including a few Irish folk song transcriptions (The Cows are a-Milking, Garton Mother's Lullaby and The Heather Glen), whose exuberance recalls Percy Grainger. Buttermilk Point (a reel), The Baird of Lisgoole and The Humours of Carick (described as a "hop-jig") are not arrangements of actual tunes but, like, for example, Grainger's Mock Morris, are well in keeping and are brilliant light music. On the edge of the light music repertoire are the delightfully pictorial tone poems Puck Fair and The Green Bough, also for two pianos. The rest of Trimble's output an opera for TV, a Wind Quintet, a Sonatina for two pianos, a Phantasy Trio and a number of Irish-flavoured songs - is to a degree "serious", rather than "light", though all are wonderfully fresh and very approachable. Trimble, born in Eniskillen in 1915, studied first at the Royal Irish Academy, then at the RCM, where she came under the influence of Arthur Benjamin, Vaughan Williams and Herbert Howells.

A recent CD of Welsh Classical Favourites in Marco Polo's British Light Music series yields us a few further names. Grace Williams, Henry Walford Davies, Gareth Walters, William Mathias and Ian Parrott, represented thereon, have previously been featured this series, but two others have not. TREVOR ROBERTS, born in 1940 at Llanharon, South Wales, studied at the Welsh College of Music and Drama and although much of his music is serious the orchestral Pastoral is charming, evoking much of the beauty of the Pembrokeshire countryside. He also published a set of (Choral) Welsh Folk Songs. And MERVYN BURTCH (1929-), born in the Rhymney Valley in Glamorgan, spent many years teaching and produced much music for young amateurs. His overture Aladdin (1996) captures the excitement to the long-established genre of the British light concert overture; Burtch has also published a Nocturne for tenor horn and brass band, many choral songs, a substantial number light in idiom and suitable for children, also children's operas.

© Philip L. Scowcroft

December 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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