Music Webmaster Len Mullenger
THE EIGHTY-FIRST GARLAND OF BRITISH LIGHT MUSIC COMPOSERS
I have the happiest memories of MICHAEL KREIN going back over fifty years, although he was well known in broadcast music long before 1950. His two major disciplines were as saxophonist and conductor. Taking the latter one first, his programmes with the so-called London Light Concert Orchestra - despite its name, a BBC ensemble - were a delightful mix of classic light music and popular classics. I cannot recall any of the programmes I heard including any of Krein's own music but this included arrangements of traditional songs, such as The Keel Row (1941), John Peel (1951), Sailor's Hornpipe and Sir Roger de Coverley and short original genre pieces like Puck, for solo violin and a small orchestra of flute, clarinet and strings and Mirage, dating from 1930, for flute, oboe, clarinet and strings. As a saxophonist, Krein formed the first saxophone quartet in this country, following Marcel Mule's quartet in Paris; this was taken over by Jack Brymer and in due course became the London Saxophone Quartet. There are of course dozens of sax quartets these days. Krein's arrangements for a type of ensemble for which there was then relatively little original music were of course legion; original saxophone compositions by Krein were Valse Caprice (1960) for quartet and a Serenade in A Flat for alto sax and piano (also 1960), both of them published by New Wind Music in that year.
LIONEL SALTER (1914-2000) was also long connected with the BBC and was a many-sided musician - however his Daily Telegraph obituary omitted all mention of him as a composer, a lacuna I will attempt to rectify here. He was a child prodigy as a pianist and he remained busy as a keyboard player in concert: piano, organ, harpsichord, celeste, you name it. He studied at the Royal College of Music either side of study with E.J. Dent and Boris Ord at Cambridge (his college was St. John's). At Cambridge he studied, besides piano, the viola, the organ (with Arnold Goldsbrough) and orchestration with Gordon Jacob. He also wrote music criticism (for Granta) and ran a gramophone society. Writing and the gramophone were to remain two passions. Back at the RCM he studied conducting with Sargent and Lambert.
His first job was in films where he worked on other composer's scores, notably those of Bliss (Things to Come) and Richard Addinsell, but in 1936 he went to work for the BBC, as staff accompanist to the new television station. During the war he worked in intelligence but still found time to further his musical career, being Chief Guest Conductor of Radio France Symphony Orchestra, in Algiers 1943-44. On returning to the BBC post-war he also conducted - as Assistant Conductor of the BBC Theatre Orchestra - but he worked more frequently as a producer (later, in 1972-76, for the EBU) and record reviewer (he reviewed records for The Gramophone from 1948 up to his death). Between 1967 and 1974 he was Assistant Controller of Music to Glock and Ponsonby. He appeared frequently in concerts, usually as a keyboard player, he worked for the Associated Board, as examiner and editor, and wrote copiously on music, his books including Going To a Concert, Going To the Opera and The Young Musician and His World.
His compositions and arrangements covered a wide field and many of them were light. There were for example the songs I'm the Oldest Juvenile in London, Corasel (1949), The Shepherdess (1947) and, derived from the play The Semi-Detached House, I Am Fast! Plus arrangements of folk tunes like The Cuckoo and Swinton May Song. There was music for radio shows like The Barnstormers, The Ditchwaters' Christmas (or The Barsley Panto), jointly with Frederick Curzon, and incidental music, arranged from late 18th Century sources, for Sheridans' play the School for Scandal. And of course he published piano solos: two sets of Seven Miniatures, a piece called Spooks and a set of Picture Postcards (from Braemar, Killarney, Hawaii, Naples and the Tyrol). The list title in particular is archetypical of British light music and indeed no work on British 20th Century light music is complete without at least a reference to him.
WILLIAM BEATON MOONIE (1883-1961), the Scottish teacher and composer trained at Edinburgh University and then at Frankfurt, has been discussed at some length in BMS News 85 (March 2000). Among his operas, songs and choral music, much of his output for piano or orchestra is light, or lightish, in character: Burns Suite, Cromer Suite, Six Scottish Dances, the dance suite Pan, the Perthshire Echoes Suite and a grand march, The Highland Division. But light or serious, his music has apparently sunk without trace.
Finally, a mention for CECILIA MCDOWALL, now generally respected for choral music and substantial orchestral works. But she does have an attractive lyrical impulse and her works for student performers are tuneful enough for us to reckon them as light music. There are, for example, the Five Images of 1987 for classical guitar. I have myself heard with pleasure the Six Pastiches (1986: Hornpipe, Romantic Song, Menuet, Comise Song, Waltz and Music Hall) for oboe, or flute, and piano and - one of several pieces for a quartet of flutes - Shuffle By the Seaside an enjoyable up temp movement incorporating delightfully the popular song suggested by the title. Miniatures these may be, but they are far from contemptible.
Philip L. Scowcroft
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