Classical MusicWeb

Music Webmaster Len Mullenger


In a recent Garland I promised to return to the musicals of the Second World War. One example, dating from April 1944, Six Pairs of Shoes, had no fewer than five composers contributing to the music but the show still managed only 23 London performances. "Too many cooks spoil the broth", maybe? The composers were a varied lot: MARK LUBBOCK (1898-1986), conductor of light music on the BBC with his own orchestra and in the musical theatre and composer of popular songs and light orchestral miniatures. ERIC SPEAR is known primarily as the writer of the title music for Coronation Street, but was involved in 1959 with an Australian flavoured musical Kookaburra. BILLY MAYERL, as we have seen, had quite a career in the theatre as well as on the piano. Z. KARASINSKI, our fourth name, I have no information about except that he also composed the Francois Valse, Karasinski could be a pseudonym. Finally HARRY ROY, whose real name was Harry Lipman (1900-71) was a dance band leader from 1919 onwards and was widely travelled (he appeared with his band in a 1936 film and worked in ENSA 1939-45), and also a song writer. He composed Two Lovely People jointly with STANLEY BLACK and BILL CURIE, the drummer in his band. Roy contributed to another musical, It's Time to Dance in 1943 which was much more successful than Six Pairs of Shoes and his band Leicester Square Rag acquired great popularity when it appeared in 1949. Bugle Call Rag was his signature tune.

ERNEST STAFFAN had been involved with the English musical stage since at least 1915 when he contributed music to Betty, a show whose music was mostly by Paul Rubens. Staffan's Song I Am Wax Within Your Hands came from a play, Nina, but his one compete musical was I Call It Love, toured provincially in 1944 and not really successful, despite its cast including the Savoyard Derek Oldham and the operatic soprano (and wife of the conductor Stanford Robinson) Lorely Dyer.

Our final Second War Musical is Gay Go Up, described as "a joyous adventure with music" when it was toured provincially in 1944. Despite that puff it was a modest affair, with accompaniment on just two pianos. Its music was by HENRY REED, a BBC producer whose other compositions included the march The Band Plays, the valse brilliant Coryphie, the song Hush-a-Bye, Sleep Well (1948) and the music for the radio features Sorrell and Son (1950) and The Talking Bird (1958)

We turn back the clock some forty years and to another war, the Boer War. The song Mafeking Night was given its concert premiere at the Henry Wood Prom in 1900, the year Mafeking was relieved to such unbridled enthusiasm. Its composer was one ALFRED H. WEST, who was not the usual type of Proms composer even in the earlier, lighter days. West normally produced music hall songs with titles like The Racecourse Sharper, My Country Cousin, Dolly's Advice and My Sunday Out or monologues such as The Workhouse Man, The Village Constable and An Old Bachelor. The one orchestral number by him, which I have discovered, is Promenade Militaire, which sounds as if it ought to be played by a military band.

Two other composers encouraged by Henry Wood's Proms may wind up this 90th bouquet. T. HARRISON FREWIN (1865-1938) was a first violin in Wood's Queens' Hall Orchestra. He produced an orchestral novelty for each of the first four seasons of the Proms: The Battle of the Flowers (1895), the "ballad" Mazeppa (1896), a sketch, The Seven Ages of Man (1897) and an overture, Bellona (1898). His suites Cyrano de Bergerac and A Roman Festival were aired at Bournemouth. And FELIX HAROLD WHITE (1884-1945), a professional pianist and prolific composer, produced much serious music for piano solo and chamber ensembles, but a sizeable proportion of his orchestral output is on the lighter side: Two English Dances, The Mermaid Tavern, described as "a revel for orchestra", Polonaise in B Minor, Indoor, Outdoor, for small orchestra, La Charmante for piano and small orchestra, the Shylock overture, premiered at the Proms in 1907, and, all for strings, Arietta, the serenade To Miranda and four suites.

Philip L. Scowcroft

April 2000

E-mail enquiries (but NOT orders) can be directed to Rob Barnett at

Return to:   index page
                              Classical Music on the Web