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
Philip's book 'British Light Music Composers' (ISBN 0903413 88 4) is
currently out of print.