Music Webmaster Len Mullenger
A 93rd GARLAND OF BRITISH LIGHT MUSIC COMPOSERS
Several of our composers in this Garland made notable contributions to the English light concert suite and individual orchestral genre movement. Dorothy Atkinson, born in 1893, composed the suite Summer Sketches (whose movements were Thistledown, Wild Roses, Golden Bees and Swallows) and evocative single movements Moths Around a Candle, described as a "valse caprice", Indian Summer, Sentry Go and Dance of the May Flies. She also had success with her light-hearted songs of which we may exemplify The Harvester, The Ploughman, Winklepicker Bill, When Grannie Was a Girl, O Golden Dawn, Homage and, from the BBC radio show "Watch Your Fancy", Up With the Lark.
Frederick Bayer (1913-70), or Baycock to give him his real surname (he also used those of Guy Dessly and William Field) was an organist, BBC producer and sometime chairman of the Light Music Society. His compositions included the "pastorale", In Olden Times and a large number of orchestral movements, many of them the "mood music" or "production music" type - Elizabethan Masque, may be his most popular title, Bear in a Buggy, Inferno, Finger of Fear, Head of State, Tribute to Tomorrow, Nimble Marmoset, Farnham Town, Lady Beautiful, the concert march Royal Windsor and the concert waltz Green Chartreuse.
Herman Finck (1872-1939), whose real name was Herman van der Finck, was born in London of German extraction. He trained at the Guildhall School, then was successively musical director at the Palace Theatre 1900-20, with whose orchestra he made many recordings, the Queen's Theatre, Drury Lane and at Southport. He was a prolific composer, producing around thirty theatre shows of most types, musicals, operettas, incidental music, revues (Round the Map was especially popular) and ballets, plus songs (including Gilbert the Filbert), "mood music" for the "silent" cinema and many light orchestral pieces - suites like My Lady Dragon Fly, Vive La Danse and Marie Antoinette, marches such as Grand March, Pageant March, Guards Parade March, Splendour and Victory and the individual genre movements Dancing Daffodils, Dignity and Impudence, Land of Roses, Penguin Parade and, much the most popular, In the Shadows, whose original title was Tonight.
Peter Hope, otherwise William Gardner, born in 1930 and now living in Dorset, might reckon himself more of an arranger than a composer; many of his arrangements were made for the radio - for orchestra or band - of traditional or popular tunes from England, America, Mexico, Italy, Russia, Scotland and, especially, Ireland. Some of his works which are not overtly arrangements rely heavily on traditional melodies, especially Irish Legend and, an Ivor Novello award winner in 1969, Ring of Kerry, a three movement suite, whose first, entitled "Jaunting Car", has become especially popular. Other Hope publications include a concerto for trumpet, the "mood" movements Rodeo Express and Playful Scherzo and the songs The Watchet Sailor, Sweet William and The Unconstant Sailor (some of these also sound like arrangements of traditional material).
Nigel Hess, born in 1955, studied at Cambridge University and worked with the RSC from 1981 to 1985. His musicals Rats! and The Swan Down Gloves, "a Shakespearean gallimaufry", and much incidental music are legacies of his work in the theatre. Since then he has been known especially for his attractive music for film and TV and for his concert music, for band in particular. His TV tunes include those for Hetty Wainthrop Investigates, which has become popular with brass bands and especially cornet soloists as a concert item, Just William, with its splendid twenties feel, Anna of the Five Towns, Wycliffe, Maigret, Dangerfield, Campion, A Woman of Substance, Summer's Lease, Vanity Fair and An Ideal Husband. His wind band compositions include the quite serious Winds of Power and the descriptive East Coast Pictures and Scramble, inspired by the Battle of Britain, New York (for brass), Stephenson's Rocket, an evocative and moving piece of train music, and the pot pourris of popular tunes, Thames Journey and Global Variations. To the Stars also introduces a children's choir. He is the great-nephew of the great, much loved pianist Dame Myra Hess. Nigel's self-publishing operation is called Myra Music!
Lionel Bart (1930-99), or Lionel Beglester, to give him his real name, composer and lyricist had not the ability to write music in staff notation but he nevertheless wrote at least half a dozen tunes everyone can recognise. His best-known stage show is of course Oliver (1960), one of the most popular of English musicals. This was preceded by Fings Ain't Wot They Used to Be and Lock Up Your Daughters (both 1959) and followed by Maggie May (1964), Twang (1965), based on the Robin Hood legend and a rare Bart flop, and La Strada (1969). He also penned many separate songs. He gained (and then lost) a fortune.
Finally a mention for the Australian-born Arthur Benjamin (1893-1960), who also used the name Alan Brisbane and who is reckoned by many as a serious composer (operas, chamber and orchestral music). But this is to ignore his many contributions to light music. Best known of this part of his work is Jamaican Rumba, originally for the two-piano team of Joan and Valerie Trimble, and its companion piece Jamaican Song. Benjamin himself was a very fine pianist. These two titles by no means stood on their own. There was also the Light Music Suite, Red River Jig (1945), Caribbean Dance (1946), the Jamaicalypso, another two-piano number from 1957, Five Negro Spirituals for cello and piano and various popular songs of which we may instance Linstead Market, yet another title with a Caribbean colour, and The Piper. The Hyde Park Galop was extracted from his music for the post-war film An Ideal Husband. Stanford was Benjamin's teacher at the Royal College of Music (he also studied piano there) - but would he have been pleased with his pupil's substantial work for light music?
Philip L Scowcroft
Enquiries to Philip at
8 Rowan Mount
S YORKS DN2 5PJ
Philip's book 'British Light Music Composers' (ISBN 0903413 88 4) is currently out of print.
E-mail enquiries (but NOT orders) can be directed to Rob Barnett at email@example.com
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