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Music Webmaster Len Mullenger


AN EIGHTY-FIFTH GARLAND OF BRITISH LIGHT MUSIC COMPOSERS

We begin this time with Halifax (Yorks) - born HERBERT FRANCIS SHARPE (1861-1925), who trained as a pianist at the National Training School and was later Professor of Piano at its successor institution, the Royal College of Music. He was a concert pianist and also composed widely, his works included one opera and, on the lighter side, songs like The Mahogany Three, a Suite for flute and piano, and short solos, for piano (such as Courtly Dance and Joyous Bells) and for cello: Serenade-Waltz and At Eventide both published in 1916, and several arrangements of folk melodies.

In recent Garlands we have focused on particular periods of the British light musical theatre. This time we look at the period of the Great War, 1914-18. For many of the musicals of that era the music was provided by stalwarts of the pre-1914 period, Talbot, Monckton and Rubens prominent among them. Others were however beginning to make their mark, like the Darewskis, Herman and Max, Haydn Wood, even Ivor Novello, who collaborated with Jerome Kern, who was associated for so many years with the London musical stage that we might almost count him as British. Furthermore, Frederic Norton, with Chu Chu Chow, and Harold Fraser-Simson, with The Maid of the Mountains, had the longest runs of the period.

There were however several figures whose influence was relatively slight, even non-existent, and it is these that I now recall briefly. KENNETH MORRISON worked as a conductor in the theatre until at least 1925 but his only theatre composition, so far as I know, was the intriguingly titled Miss Sauce of Worcester, a "musical earthquake in four shakes". It surfaced, in 1915, only briefly and then just in the provinces. Morrison made scarcely a ripple in British music's pond.

Much the same might be said of T. POPE ARKELL and his comic opera The Idol of Karo, produced at the Theatre Royal, Bath in 1915 and then toured provincially; also of RICHARD CLEVELAND, whose Pomponette (1917) was staged at the Theatre Royal Birmingham and then toured (its "French farce" atmosphere did not find favour) while his later Trouville, sometimes called Guy Touville, a musical comedy in two acts, toured in 1919, fared no better; and finally of GEOFFREY BLACKMORE, whose The Maid of the Midnight Sun (1917-18) sounds from its title to be inspired by The Maid of the Mountains, although the likenesses between them were not, in fact, great. Blackmore's Maid, though it did not make the West End, was toured very widely indeed, at least 70 different venues being favoured with it. It was refurbished as The Maid of Norway in 1920. Blackmore also published separate songs, among them The Banks of Clyde

NAPOLEON LAMBELET (1864-1932), Corfiot by birth but British by adoption was for many years musical director, theatre manager and composer. Like the others we have just mentioned he had just one musical produced in 1914-18, the "romantic comedy opera" Valentine (1918) which achieved 87 West End performances. It had nice tunes, apparently, but was regarded as a little old-fashioned. Lambelet himself was by that time rather old-fashioned as his previous stage works went back for up to twenty years: The Yashmak, an operetta (1897), The Transit of Venus, musical comedy (1898), Pot-Pourri, another musical (1899) and Fenella, an opera of 1906, the same year as he contributed to Yellow Fog Island, which was apparently a disaster of a show. Lambelet published separate songs (some of his musicals achieved publication, too), examples being Grammatical Grievances and The Wonderful Island.

"Napoleon Lambelet's daughter, VIVEN(NE) (ADA MAURICE) LAMBELET was primarily a singer, but she was active either side of the Second War as a composer of piano miniatures like Spanish Intermezzo and light ballad-type songs. Ah Do Not Be So Sweet, Cavalier, Derry-Down, Faint Heart, In a Green London Square, The Lovely House, Oh For My True Love, Ribbons and Yesterday's Roses, not to mention settings of Six Nursery Rhymes and co-authoring The Wayfarer's Song from the 1949 film The Glass Mountain which made less impact than Nino Rota's orchestral Legend from the same film.

Finally let us briefly pay tribute to LAURIE HOLLOWAY, born in 1938, well respected particularly in the areas of popular music and jazz, although this many-sided musician would be the first to deny that he operates in such watertight compartments. His skills include those of pianist (particularly as accompanist), arranger and composer, of TV and film music, two books of easy "Pop Preludes for piano, published and respectively in 1979 and 1982, a piece for brass band called The Shoot (1983) and a musical.

This was entitled Instant Marriage, and, much revised from a previous version Don't Ask Me - Ask Dad, it achieved 366 performances at the Piccadilly Theatre in 1964-5. Its story-line involved four Yorkshire men (Holloway and Lancaster by birth!) loose in the Sleazier parts of London for the day.

Philip L. Scowcroft

March 2000

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