Music Webmaster Len Mullenger
A SEVENTY-EIGHTH GARLAND OF BRITISH LIGHT MUSIC COMPOSERS
We begin in turn-of-the-century Doncaster with HARRY MCKENZIE (1858-1915), Organist of Oxford Place Methodist Church, Headmaster of Oxford Place School and from 1894 to 1900, Conductor of Doncaster Musical Society, whose compositions, often suited to children, included hymns, songs and light instrumental pieces; Cavatina and Cradle Song, both for violin (McKenzie was also a violinist) and both of which have been revived in concert in Doncaster in the past generation); Berceuse and Gavotte in D, for organ. The Gavotte was orchestrated and other light orchestral pieces included Festival March in D for a children's festival in 1890, Britannia March, for the Coronation of 1911, a "polka march", Le Tambour, used in 1908 as entr'acte music for a play, and at least one other polka.
An earlier Doncaster organist, of (the Anglican) Christ Church, between 1880 and 1888, was WALTER SPINNAY (1852-94), who came from a family of church musicians (his father was Organist of Salisbury Cathedral). Apart from a quantity of church music he composed some lighter pieces: three marches and Nocturne and Daybreak for organ, the amusing Swiss Clock, Tuning Key Waltz, The Murmuring Winds, The Festal Day and The Primrose for piano, the occasional ballad and a full-length operetta, The Whack'em Academy, performed in Doncaster in 1882. Like so many of our Victorian musicians he died before his time.
Also from the Doncaster area was WILLIAM WILLIAMS (1885-1937), a cousin of Tom Williams (later Lord Williams) the Labour politician and conductor of the Barnborough Main Orchestra (yes, orchestra not band), who was credited with the music for a documentary about coal-mining, Black Diamonds and the light orchestral pieces Happy Memories and Imps and Play.
The present day Doncaster peripatetic tutor James Belbin Wood, whose principal instrument is double bass, has also conducted various orchestras and two of his lightish orchestral pieces are worthy of our notice: a Prelude, reminiscent of film music of the 1940s, and a potpourri of music hall tunes entitled An Edwardian Overture.
Newby Mexborough's Prince of Wales Theatre had a long history; one of its Directors of Music, around 1900, W.C. Pike, composed doubtless for its orchestra, a waltz, Marroneta and Le Sylph.
We conclude with two bandmasters better known as performers but who showed much ability as arrangers/composers. ALEXANDER OWEN (1851-1920), a Lancaster man by birth, trained as a military bandsman but he was involved with brass bands from the age of sixteen, later conducting Black Dyke (and other bands) with success in the Open Championships and other competitions. His most famous arrangement was Reminiscences of Rossini, a party piece kept for competitions, his march Around the World achieved popularity.
J. MACKENZIE ROGAN, M.V.O. was similarly the highest profile military band conductor of his era. He conducted the Band of H.M. Coldstream Guards between 1896 and 1920 and made many gramophone records with them. Few of these were his own compositions but his march The Bond of Friendship was often played, as were his novelty selections Festival of Empire and Church Parade.
Phil Scowcroft 2000
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