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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 SEVENTY-THIRD GARLAND OF BRITISH LIGHT MUSIC COMPOSERS

This Garland will to a large extent be concerned with composers for the piano but let us begin by mentioning TIM RICE (1954-), best known, of course, for the lyrics he has written for the light music stage and most famously of course for works by Andrew Lloyd Webber; but latterly, as in Chess, he has had responsibility for the musical score as well.

YORK BOWEN (1884-1961), trained at the Royal Academy of Music and proficient on piano, horn and viola, was a prolific composer, his works including chamber music, symphonies, concertos, including four for piano. But much of his piano music, to go no further, is in light, tuneful vein, titles including a march Air Patrol (which appeared in versions for band and orchestra), a suite At the Play (Overture, Entr'acte and Finale), another suite, Fragments From Hans Andersen, a Somerset Suite, Song of the Stream and Ripples. His output for piano duet - one piano, four hands - is similarly light-hearted, two Suites dated 1918 and 1923 and effectively a third suite, if anything even lighter and more approachable in idiom and entitled Four Pieces (1930): Prelude, Humoresque, a charming, waltz-like Serenade and a vigorous Dance Tune. Bowen merits revival and we would surely benefit from such an exercise; I suppose the sheer size of his output is a forbidding factor.

ALAN RICHARDSON (1904-78) was a pianist who studied at the Royal Academy; his output comprised mainly chamber music and piano solos and duets. His lighter piano pieces included Two Country Pictures, The Dreaming Spires, Sussex Lullaby, Jack in the Green, The Wayfarer and Scallywag, a mixture of the topographical and the rhythmic novelty item. For two pianos On Heather Hill is also topographical (and delicious with it) and the winsome Debutante, Marionette and Grandmother's Waltz, which harks back to Victorian times are all delightful; Improvisation on a Nursery Tune (Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush) is an infectious essay calling to mind the effusions of his namesake Clive (no relation). Alan was married to the oboist Janet Craxton and the pieces he wrote for her, which include French Suite, A Reverie and Roundely, all for oboe and piano and all popular in their day, are similarly light in character. He also wrote a few tuneful pieces for viola and piano but it seems to me that his music has declined in popularity since his death, which is a pity.

KAY CAVENDISH (1910-2000), whose real name was KATHLEEN DOROTHY CAVENDISH MURRAY, was, in addition to being a talented sportswoman, a pianist classically trained (she won a gold medal at the Royal Academy) who fulfilled classical engagements at, among other places, the Wigmore Hall and Queen's Hall. But, around 1930, she became part of a close harmony trio The Cavendish Three, which toured Britain and broadcast, notably on ITMA, shortly after the war began. Kay entertained for ENSA and appeared on a variety of BBC variety programmes; but she is best remembered for "Kay on the Keys", a programme of piano and vocal solos, mixing (light) classical, jazz and popular music which ran to over 400 weekly broadcasts. Kay was a brilliant improviser and her signature tune, Kitten on the Keys, derived from a student exercise of hers. Her Midnight Mood was published for piano solo in 1958. If only the have some of her recorded programmes there may be more light music gems awaiting rediscovery.

We conclude with two figures from the London musical stage at the turn of the 19th Century. EDWARD JONES (no relation of Sidney and Guy), was a theatre musical director and composer, his first musical being Fay o'Fire (1885). Much more successful than that was his one-acter, A Pantomime Rehearsal (1891, 438 performances); later shows included A Near Shave (1895, also 1 act), contributions to Playing the Game (1896), then The Prince of Borneo (1899), the "musical extravaganza" The Thirty Thieves (1901), contributes to The Girl From Kays (1902) and finally the "musical fantasy" Where Children Rise (1909). Another musical Miss Blossom of Brittany (1908) was projected but apparently did not reach the stage. Jones published songs, ballads of their period, included The Candid Man, The Cockney Tragedian and The Waxwork Show. His collaborator in Playing the Game was FRED EPLETT, also a London theatre conductor, whose only other work for the stage was his contribution (and he had seven co-contributors) to Pat (1892). His published songs appear from their titles to be mainly Cockney music-hall numbers: The Bore of Bef'nal Green, 'E Dunno Where'e Are, Never Share Your Lodgings With a Pal, What Do They Mean By' Ta-ra-ra-Boom? Our Society and The Recruiting Sergeant.

© Philip L. Scowcroft

February 2000

 

 

 

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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