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A SEVENTY-FOURTH GARLAND OF BRITISH LIGHT MUSIC COMPOSERS

In these Garlands we have included mention of many major classical composers, from Elgar and Vaughan Williams onwards, but so far we have omitted consideration of GERALD RAPHAEL FINZI (1901-56). A composer with such a lyrical gift ought surely to furnish some examples of the light style. But his songs are more than ballads and otherwise he is best known for choral works and concertos. However he did compose incidental music for a stage production of Love's Labour's Lost (1946-7) and there are of course the delicious and long-popular Five Bagatelles for clarinet and piano, now known in a version (by Robert Ashmore) in which the piano accompaniment is winningly scored for string orchestra. This, or a movement or movements there from, would be a welcome visitor in any concert of light orchestral music.

EDWARD WILLIAMS deserves mention for the 27 original scores he wrote for the British Transport Film Unit between 1950 and 1970 and some of the titles are worth recalling if only to indicate the different forces he (and others) scored for: Ferryload (1960, full orchestra); The Elephant Will Never Forget (1953, a tribute to the by then defunct London tramcars, which used a popular music hall song Riding On Top of a Car); Wild Wings (1966, on Slimbridge, using a chamber group of strings, flute and piano); and Measured for Transport (1962: harp solo). Williams later worked for the BBC in Bristol.

Less prolific writers for the BTFU include: DAVID GOW, who contributed a score in 1978 for 125, on the High Speed Train, which music was turned into a concert overture; ALBERT ('BERT') ELMS, Carriage Cleaning (1960); DAVID HUMPHRY MICHAEL WOOLRIDGE (Groundwork for Progress, 1959; DAVID FANSHAWE (Cybernetica, 1972, about railways on the Continent, and London Ride, also 1972); DAN FRASER (Locomotion, 1975); TOM HENDERSON (Wealth of the World - Transport, 1950 and Farmer Moving South, 1952); EDWARD RUBACH (The Third Sam 1972, a solo piano score); JOHN SCOTT (Give Your Car a Holiday 1967); and JULIAN LEIGH (Four Back Rooms, 1957). This list in addition to figures like Temple Abady, Edwin Astley, Herbert Chappell, Hubert Clifford, Cedric Thorpe Davie, Marcus Dods, Ron Grainer, John Greenwood, Spike Hughes, Kenneth V. Jones, Elisabeth Lutyens, Muir Mathieson, Clifton Parker, Humphrey Searle, Eric Wetherell and Ralph Vaughan Williams all, whom we have covered in previous Garlands.

The difficulty I have found with the first group is, at least in some cases, finding out much about them, whether biographical details or compositional output. However GOW has published choral music, including some incidental to Twelve Night plus Berceuse and Rainbow Pieces for piano solo and a Romance for oboe and piano. Elms has composed military and brass band music (The Battle of Trafalgar), which has been recorded, Thundering Drums, Trumpets Sound and the marches A Blaze of Light, Parade of Champions, On Parade and Wembley Way. WOOLDRIDGE has written books on music and published instrumental and choral music, plus at least two light concert suites, Les Parapluies ("The Umbrellas") and Four Armenian Dances. DAVID FANSHAWE, born in 1942, is best known for African Sanctus and other ethnic music, two Escapades for piano solo, a Fantasy on Dover Castle for orchestra and much TV and film music (The Tarka Theme from Tarka the Otter was published in 1979) are examples of his "light" music, DAN FRASER has produced a number of arrangements. EDWARD RUBACH is remembered for his many broadcasts as a pianist - Polka Piquant, The Belle of Brazil and Sentimental Gypsy were all once popular as orchestral genre pieces. And JOHN SCOTT (1930-) is a prolific film (and TV) composer, notably for Antony and Cleopatra and Greystoke; Tarzan's Theme from the latter was published for piano solo.

One who did compose for the BTFU and whom we do know plenty about is PETER RACINE FRICKER (1920-90), who wrote a score for strings for each of a series of films An Artist Looks at Churches in 1959. Fricker studied with R.O. Morris and Matyas Seiber at the Royal College of Music and later at Morley College after which he was Director of Music at Morley College then Professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara. But apart from his documentary film music he composed little that we may term as "light"; however, at one time he orchestrated for dance bands and as samples of his light output we can offer Three Arguments for cello and bassoon and a Wedding Processional for organ.

We end with a mention for KENNETH FREEMAN, composer of the piece Red Alert, known to millions as the title music to BBC TV's Casualty.

© Philip L. Scowcroft

February 2000

 

 

 

 

Enquiries to Philip at

8 Rowan Mount

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

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