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A SIXTH GARLAND OF BRITISH MUSIC

Reginald Claude McMahon King, born at Hampstead on 5 October 1904, was another, like so many of the British light music composers of the inter-war period, who was "made" by the emergence of "the wireless" - which for him came indeed just at the right time, when he was in his late teens. His first broadcast - of over 1,400 - was not however until 9 March 1929 (the last was in 1964). Two years before the former date King had formed an orchestra to play regularly at Swan & Edgar's Restaurant in the West End which it did until 1939. After 1945 a new Reginald King orchestra played, first at the Spa Whitby, then at Bridlington's Floral Hall. His gramophone records for HMV, Regal Zonophone, Filmophone, Columbia and Sterno were legion. He was a fine pianist, appearing with Sir Henry Wood at the Proms. soon after his time at the Royal Academy where he studied with Harry Farjeon, and many of his pieces were published for that instrument: genre pieces like Beside the Lake, Evening Music, Passing Clouds, A Prayer at Eventide (1938), Polka Piquante (1949), Song of Paradise, Serenade for My Lady, Where Water-Lilies Dream (1948), the intermezzo Windflowers (1938), Pilgrim's Way, Rainbow Caprice, Al Fresco, Amourette and the "romantic serenade" Julia (1943), or more "absolute" movements like the early Sonata, the Four Preludes, Op. 5, (1923), the Five Preludes, Op. 7 and the Fantasy for two pianos. Several of the former were known in orchestral versions. His orchestral music, while not rivalling that of Eric Coates in individuality, had a pleasing tunefulness. The titles of some of his orchestral suites could almost be Coates': Country Life, Dreams in Exile, In the Chilterns (1938: the individual movements were Penn Woods in Spring, June Night on Marlow Reach and Hunting Days), Rural Characters (in four movements, depicting milkmaids, a shepherd, a harvester and a tinker) and Youthful Days. His overture The Immortals and the march Lime Grove - the very title has BBC connotations - were popular in their day; the caprice Winter Skies included a violin solo. Other single movement genre pieces included the intermezzi Daybreak, Take Me To Your Heart and Melody at Dusk, the latter composed in 1938, and Ketèlbey-like descriptive morsels with evocative titles: Dream Garden, Fair Star of Evening, Green Valleys, In the Shade of the Palms, Rising Tide, Sunset in Segovia (this includes a part for a guitar!), Tropical Moonlight, Lilacs in the Rain (1942), Spring Meadows, Summer Breezes (1936), Sunny Serenade, The Lingering Melody, Dresden Dream, Gavotte Grotesque, Whispering Violin, Carmena, If You But Knew, A Garden in Spain, and the "waltz serenade" Pierrette on the Balcony. Meditation and A Song of Paradise were arranged and published for violin (or cello) and piano, the latter, plus A Prayer at Eventide and Love Take Me To Your Heart, also as songs. His music is no longer fashionable but it was good to see him still composing right up to the time of his death in 1991 and that a few of his late pieces were published: Bardic Edition brought out an Elegy in 1989 and a Meditation (composed in 1990), for clarinet and piano, or piano solo, a little later. His last work was the quite extended Reverie for piano solo. Alan Cuckston has recorded these late pieces and others on cassette.

One or two other exponents of the light orchestral genre piece and active in the years after the last war merit brief mention. Edward White is remembered especially for his Runaway Rocking Horse of 1946 but similar pieces like Cabana, Caprice for Strings (which also had parts for wind instruments). The Clockwork Clown, Fairy on the Fiddles, Idle Jack (1953), Paris Interlude, Tour de France, White Wedding, Roundabout, Majestic Scene, Yodelling Strings and Puffin' Billy (1956), were popular in their time. The latter once popular as signature tune for 'Uncle Mac's Children's Favourites' has been recorded recently. David Brownsmith's most popular number was the lullaby, Softly Sleeping, published in vocal and orchestral versions in 1952, the latter for single woodwind, harp and strings. Other orchestral numbers by him were Frills and Furbelows and Happy Birthday Party - another song title was A Bit, A Saddle and a Horse. Cyril Watters produced many arrangements for various instruments and a considerable amount for brass, like the concert march By Royal Command, A Cotswold Lullaby and the Pastoral Theme for two cornets, E Flat horn and euphonium. Most popular of his orchestral genre pieces (though such pieces appeared for other instrumental forces) was the Willow Waltz (1958); others were Piccadilly Spree (1954), Bargain Basement, Valse Coquette, Polka Piquante, Amorette, (two numbers duplicated in their titles by Reg King), Plain Sailing and Rio Rhythm.

W.H. Myddleton was a name well known to orchestras and bands earlier in the century, primarily for classical arrangements and his potpourris, of Welsh melodies, entitled The Leek (1920), or English melodies The Rose, or American melodies By the Swanee River and, in cake-walk rhythm, Down South. All these were published in piano, orchestral and band versions, Down South even for mixed voice chorus. He was more than just an arranger, as his output included several original pieces for piano like Eventide ("Le declin du jour") Opus 7 and songs, of which Lorna Doone achieved some popularity.

Myddleton's arrangements were very popular; so, over many decades, effectively up to the present time and especially for military and brass bands, were those of the Godfrey family, a musical dynasty stretching over four generations. Best known among them was Sir Dan Godfrey, founder of the Bournemouth Municipal Orchestra, initially a military band, of course, and its conductor from 1893 to 1934 and the encourager of dozens of British composers, for all of which he was knighted in 1922 and given a Honorary Fellowship of the RCM the next year. The "founder" of this dynasty was Charles ("the first") (1790-1863), who began the family's association with military music by playing bassoon in the Coldstream Guards Band in 1813. He became Bandmaster in 1825, retaining that position until his death, although he retired from the Army in 1834. In 1831 he had become a Musician in Ordinary to the King and from 1847 he edited Jullien's 'Military Journal', one of the earliest of military band publications.

Charles Godfrey I had five sons, three of whom became military bandmasters. Eldest of these was Daniel Godfrey I (1831-1903), father of the Bournemouth Godfrey, who, after study at the Royal Academy of Music, became Bandmaster of the Grenadier Guards in 1856, holding that position for forty years and taking the Band to Boston in 1872 where it did much for Anglo-American relations, not at their most cordial at the time in the aftermath of the Civil War. The Band played several times at Windsor for the Queen. In 1887 be became the first Army bandmaster to achieve commissioned rank. After retiring from the Army he formed his own band and again visited the United States. He founded a music instrument business, Dan Godfrey Sons, in the Strand. He was responsible for many arrangements and a number of original compositions - marches, quadrilles and waltzes. His first composition for the Grenadier Guards was the march, The Return of the Guards, which marked their reappearance in England after service in the Crimean War. The waltzes The Guards, Hilda and Mabel achieved huge popularity as military band novelties, as piano solos and even as songs. Dance bands played them almost to death; their tunes were on the lips of errand boys. Examples of Dan I's dance music extracted from Doncaster dance programmes of the 1860s, 1870s and 1880s are the waltzes Helen, Golden Beauty, Belgravia, Blush Rose, Little Nell, Christine and Dream of the Ball, the galops Daybreak, Orpheus and Bon Jour, the lancers Knight of St Patrick, Christies, Polo (then a new game) the polkas Garden Party, Holly Bush and Merry Tunes and the quadrilles Christmas Echoes, Belgian Quadrille and Young Friends, Old Friends. Does any of this music survive?

Both Charles II and Dan I composed prolifically for the ballroom. In 1872-3 Doncaster ballrooms heard the valse Christine, the quadrilles Christmas Echoes and Young Friends and the lancers Knight of St Patrick (all by Dan I) and the valses Princess Louise, Love's Dream and Royal Bridesmaid and the lancers Irresistible by Charles II.

The Bournemouth Godfrey, Dan II (1868-1939) trained at the RCM and, unable to obtain an Army position as he had not been to Kneller Hall, conducted the band of the Corps of Commissionaires (1887-9) and the (civilian) London Military Band (1889-91) before going to conduct opera in Johannesburg in 1891-3 prior to giving the rest of his energies to Bournemouth. His arrangements were many and, as I can personally testify, they are still played. He composed dance music, marches and songs, although the song In the Starlight may be by his son Dan Godfrey III (1893-1935) - both Dan II and Dan III were known, confusingly at varying times, as "Dan Godfrey Junr." The latter studied at the RAM, like his grandfather, and played in the Coldstream Guards Band like his great grandfather, although he was never its Bandmaster. Instead he directed resort orchestras at Harrogate, Blackpool and Hastings and worked for the BBC in its early years, both at Manchester and Savoy Hill, often conducting the Wireless Orchestra. In 1928 he, like his father before him, sailed for South Africa where he was, until his sadly early death, Musical Director to Durban Corporation, thus, like his father, spreading the gospel of municipal music.

We return to the second bandmaster son of Charles Godfrey I: Adolphus Frederick Godfrey, known as "Fred" (1837-82). Like his brothers he studied at the Royal Academy and he took over from his father as Bandmaster of the Coldstream Guards in 1863, holding the appointment until 1880. Of his many arrangements, arguably the most popular was the Marguerite Waltz, on themes from Gounod's Faust. His Recollections of Meyerbeer was in Dan Godfrey II's first programme at Bournemouth while his variations for bassoon and (orchestra), Lucy Long, was for many years a favourite at the early Henry Wood Promenade Concerts. (Fred's selection, Recollections of England also appeared at the Proms in their early years).

Fred's brother Charles Godfrey II (1839-1919) studied at the RAM with George MacFarren and Lazarus and played the clarinet in Jullien's orchestra. At the age of twenty he became Bandmaster of the Scots Fusiliers, moving in 1868 to be Bandmaster of the Royal Horse Guards, where he remained until 1904, from 1899 as a commissioned officer. At various times he was Professor of Military Music at the RCM and the Guildhall School. He adjudicated at the British Open Brass Band Championships in Manchester for many years prior to the Great War (his brass band arrangements of Coleridge-Taylor's Hiawatha and Gems of Mendelssohn were the respective test pieces at the 1902 and 1904 National Championships). He edited the Army Military Band Journal and founded the Orpheus Band Journal. His selections were widely used. They included Chevalier's Coster Songs, Quadrilles on H.M.S. Pinafore, the "descriptive Imperial Fantasia", Our Empire and a potpourri, Recollections of London, of waltzes and polkas but, curiously, mainly by foreign composers. Original compositions included songs like The Golden Wedding and Oh What a Happy Land is England and a Song without Words (1886), for small orchestra.

Charles Godfrey II's two sons both contributed much to light music in this country, though in widely differing ambiences. Charles George Godfrey, or Charles Godfrey III (1866-1935), went to the RAM, like his father but did not enter the Army, becoming Bandmaster of the Corps of Commissionaires in 1887, shortly before his cousin Dan II took it over, and then, from 1887-97, of the Crystal Palace Military Band. Later he was Musical Director of the orchestra at Buxton Spa (1897-8) and at the Spa, Scarborough (1899-1909, the years immediately before Alick Maclean's brilliant reign there). Arthur Eugene Godfrey (1868-1939) was educated at St. Paul's Choir School and the RAM, later working as an accompanist, as adviser to publishing firms and as Musical Director in various theatres, notably of the Alhambra Theatre in Glasgow (1921-9). His compositions were varied and included a String Quartet, ballads like A Fairy Fantasy, The Happy Isle, Lord of the Sea and Stand United, the barn dance, Happy Darkies, which was programmed by his cousin Dan II during his first Bournemouth season and a reasonably successful comedy, Little Miss Nobody, produced in 1898 at the Lyric Theatre, which ran for 200 performances and also had a brief American run. Landon Ronald wrote some of the music, but Godfrey was responsible for most of it.

Arthur Eugene's death and that of the Bournemouth Godfrey within months of each other in 1939 effectively ended the musical contributions of this remarkable family, contributions which had endured for more that a century and had touched every aspect of the light forms of music-making - military and brass bands, the resort orchestras, dance music and the theatre - whether in performance or the compiling of arrangements and original compositions. British music's debt to them (and not just to Dan II, whose abilities were rightly recognised in his lifetime and whose life is well known from his own memoirs, written in 1922, and from the works of others) is a considerable one and should not be forgotten.

Dynasties were not uncommon in British military music. We have noted elsewhere the O'Donnells; and there were the Winterbottoms, active from the mid 19th Century - four brothers: Thomas, Henry, William and John and best known, Frank (d. 1930), son of Thomas and (like some of the elder Winterbottoms) a prolific arranger for band of the classical repertoire. Some of his transcriptions are still played. Frank produced original compositions too of which we may instance the ballets Jorinda and Phantasm and the suite Seven Ages, after Shakespeare.

Clive Richardson, whose music was popular with light orchestras and especially on the BBC in the decade or so after the Second World War, is particularly remembered for his short genre piece Beachcomber (1949) and the London Fantasia, a musical picture of the Battle of Britain, for piano and orchestra. He compiled a substantial number of orchestra compositions, many of them arrangements of folk and popular melodies, others light genre pieces, perhaps written originally for piano (he was a pianist) and orchestrated by himself or by others. Titles included Billowing Sails, Chiming Strings, Holiday Spirit, Society Wedding, Continental Galop, Mannequin Melody, the popular Beachcomber, Road to Rio, Romantic Interlude, Running off the Rails, White Cliffs, Sleepy Melody, Valse Bijou, the waltz Elixir of Love and the "perpetuum mobile" Getting Together. Some of his pieces, like Melody on the Move and Tom Marches On (the ITMA March) became radio signature tunes. His most ambitious choral work was the "hymn of praise" Salute to Industry, for mixed voices and orchestra, dated 1946; he published a number of solo songs including A Little Madonna of Sainte-Marie and (from the revue Please) Sweet One-and-Twenty. An unpublished instrumental item which might be worth exhuming is the Three Flemish Folk Tunes, for the unusual trio of two harps and oboe - surely for the Goossens family! Shadow Waltz was written under the pseudonym Paul Dubois.

Ronald Hanmer, born in Reigate in 1917 and who died in 1996, merits a few lines in this Garland and I am only surprised we haven't covered him previously. He has been known for perhaps half a century as a highly regarded composer and arranger for light orchestra, his output in this area alone totalling well over 500 items, including some forty of the well-remembered (by me at least) arrangements for the ITMA programme. Hanmer studied at Blackheath Conservatory and was a theatre organist between 1935 and 1948. Since then he has found plenty of work as a freelance orchestrator and conductor. Music has been provided by him, for films, theatre (including adaptations for amateurs of musical shows - Viva Mexico!and The Merry Widow are examples) and radio. His orchestral tally has included potpourris, with titles like Bouquet de Paris, Capstan and Windlass, The Heather and the Thistle, Heritage of England, The Holly and the Mistletoe, The Oak and the Rose and Memories of Hungary, and original genre pieces in orchestral or piano versions such as On a Windy Day, Limelight Lady, Dot and Carry One, Pastorale, Mosquito, City Desk, The PC 49 Theme and Fashion Parade. Wind players have had particular cause to be grateful to him as many publications, useful both as instructional pieces and as concert items, have come from his pen: clarinet quartets and trios, flute trios, a Cuckoo Quartet (for two flutes and two clarinets), Two Contrasts for oboe and piano, trumpet trios, a Suite for French horn and piano, direct in its appeal, and Three Sketches for trumpet and piano. I heard the Suite for Seven (i.e. two flutes, oboe, three clarinets and bassoon) twice in Doncaster recently and was taken with its good writing and melodic and rhythmic interest; there is a Serenade for Seven also. Hanmer is well respected as a composer in the brass band world, where his output ranges from light genre pieces (Latin Americana, Brass Spectacular, March With a Beat, Waltz with a Beat, Mexican Fiesta and the march, Over Hill Over Dale) through solos (Praeludium and Allegro) for trombone, Cavatina and Allegro for E flat horn, Arioso and Caprice for horn and Flight of Fancy, for cornet and euphonium) to more substantial works: the fantasy Alice in Wonderland, The Four Corners of the World, Down Under (he emigrated to Australia) and Episodes for Brass. Nor have smaller brass groups been forgotten by him, as he published Prelude and Rondo and Seven Up for septet, Prelude, Romance and Finale for brass quartet and the cornet quartet Foursome Fantasy.

Now for some other composers associated particularly though not by any means entirely, with music for films. Kennedy Russell was a writer of popular songs, with ones like As You Pass By, At Santa Barbara, The Barber of Turin, Gypsy River, Poor Man's Garden, Vale, Young Tom o'Devon, The Church Bells of England (clearly a song enjoyed by Doris Arnold as she arranged it for male voices) and Gypsy Dan. Some of Russell's songs were incorporated into films such as Sunshine Ahead, Judgment Deferred (notable for its "Strangers" theme) and We'll Smile Again. Still other songs appeared in stage works like the operettas Wild Rose (1930) and By Appointment (1934) and The Nightingale (1947) and the revue Cheer-i-o. Not that he ignored instrumental music, because he produced for orchestra the genre pieces Tinkabelle, Dance of the Icicles, Patrol of the King's Jesters and Old Romance; pianists enjoyed his The Little Clockwork Fairy and the suite The Wooing of the Snowflakes. Russell died in 1954.

Charles Williams (1893-1978), is remembered especially for The Dream of Olwen, a tune which redeemed the indifferent film While I Live (1948), but his music for other films also bought him fame and prestige: Flesh and Blood (1951), Kipps (1941), The Young Mr. Pitt (1942) and The Apartment, from which the Jealous Lover theme became famous. But he was more than a hack composer for films. He was a violinist and conductor, who studied composition with Norman O'Neill and who played as a freelance violinist in theatre, cinema and symphony orchestra. In 1933 he went to Gaumont British Films as composer and stayed there in that position until 1939, though he did not then stop writing for the large screen and was to write for some 100 films in total. As conductor of the Queen's Hall Light Orchestra from 1940 and of other orchestras like that of the Davis Theatre Croydon and his own concert orchestra, he produced large number of light orchestral genre pieces. Some of titles suggest a preoccupation with mechanical objects - The Nursery Clock, Trolley Bus, Rhythm on Rails, The Bells of St Clement's, The Old Clockmaker (signature tune of 'Jennings at School'), Sleepy Marionette and Model Railway - while others such as Starlings, Voice o'London (the QHLO's signature tune), The Falcons, A Quiet Stroll, High Adventure, Sidewalk, Sally Tries the Ballet, A Quiet Stroll and the Blue Devils and Kensington marches, do not. Some were written or adapted as signature tunes: Majestic Fanfare, for Australian TV, the march Girls in Grey for BBC TV's newsreel and, most famous of all, the Devil's Galop, as the title music for the radio thriller serial 'Dick Barton, Special Agent', popular in the 1940s. Of all these, however The Dream of Olwen, arranged for a variety of musical formations, is the title which keeps Williams' name alive.

Clifton Parker, born on 5th February 1905, was largely self-educated. His films included a number associated especially with the sea - HMS Defiant (1962), Mystery Submarine (1962) and, most famously, Sink the Bismarck (1960) whose stirring march was separately published. But there were many other films of which we may instance The Wooden Horse (1950), a famous early P.O.W. film, The Blue Lagoon, The Man Within (1947), Diamond City (1949), The Gift Horse (1952), The Feminine Touch (1956), The Hellfire Club (1960), Circle of Deception (1960) and The Informers (1963). But his output, too, was varied. He wrote a considerable amount for the theatre: incidental music to Othello, a couple of (unison) songs for As You Like It, the dramatic "fairy tales" The Glass Slipper, delicately scored for single woodwind, two horns, violin, cello and percussion, and The Silver Curlew and the "lyric drama" Aucassin and Nicolette. Orchestral works included a light suite The Land of Nod and a Phantasy Suite, Alla Cabana and a Rumba (for piano and orchestra), both in Latin American mood, the popular seascape Western Approaches and music for a radio feature Crab Village. There were songs, both sacred (If Thou Prepare thy Heart, composed in 1934) and secular (My Father's Close, An Old Song Ended and De Sheepfol'), piano pieces (e.g. the Polka of 1936) and violin pieces (e.g. Iquique). But it is perhaps one piece and that a film piece - the Bismarck March, of course - for which we remember him most. He died in 1989.

© Philip L. Scowcroft.

 

 

 

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