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Richard Rodney Bennett C.B.E. (1936 - ) is a multi-talented, multi-faceted musical personality, jazz pianist and composer and also a composer of quite avant-garde classical music. But in between those extremes he has made many contributions to traditional light music. Film music, for example, like that for Blind Date (1955, a jazz influenced score), Far From the Madding Crowd (1967, by contrast in a classical Hollywood idiom), Nicholas and Alexandra (1971), Lady Caroline Lamb (1973), Murder on the Orient Express (1973: its memorable waltz has become a favourite in the concert hall) and, more recently, Four Weddings and a Funeral in 1994. His lighter orchestral music includes a Serenade for Small Orchestra, the Farnham Festival Overture (1964, in the tradition of the light British concert overture), the Little Suite he arranged from the unison songs suitable for children entitled The Aviary and The Insect World; his lighter instrumental work embraces Summer Music, for flute, and the Four Piece Suite for two pianos.

Lord Berners, or to give him his full name, Gerald Hugh Tyrwhitt-Wilson (1883-1950) was a mainly self-taught composer, painter, author, diplomat and eccentric. His music is light in touch for the most part: five ballets, including Luna Park, A Wedding Bouquet (1936), The Triumph of Neptune (1926), the latter making perhaps the most impact; orchestral music like the suite Cupid and Psyche, Fantasie Espagnole, The Man With the Moustache and Caprice P¾ ruvien; piano solos and duets - Le Poisson d'Or, La Dispute, Valses Bourgeoises, Trois Morceaux, Petites Marches FunÀ bres and Fragments Psychologiques; and many songs, mostly comic. He wrote for films, too: Halfway House and Nicholas Nickleby (1947), the latter in particular an attractive score.

Maurice Besly (1888-1945), who also went under the name Rex Allington, was Yorkshire-born and conducted sundry major British orchestras from 1922 onwards, including the LSO and the Royal Albert Hall and Scottish Orchestras. His best known composition, by far, was the song The Second Minuet, one of many popular ballads. His orchestral works included incidental music to The Merchant of Venice, Arioso, Jenny's New Hat, Lullaby For a Modern Infant, Valse Romanesque, Portrait of a Dancer in Red, the impression Mist in the Valley and the suites Chelsea China and Suite Romantique. His varied c.v. included schoolmastering at Tonbridge, practice as a solicitor and notary public and serving as Director of the Performing Rights Society.

Stanley Black, O.B.E., born in 1913, was a pianist and after the Second War conducted the BBC Dance Orchestra (1944-53). A prolific arranger, he also composed widely, partly - though not entirely - in a jazzy idiom. His original titles included scores for around 200 films (Wonderful Life, Hindle Wakes, It Always Rains on Sunday and Summer Holiday are just a few, plus the Path¾ News fanfare), piano pieces (but they may have been orchestrated) like Busy Boy, In a Gracious Mood and Puppet on a String and orchestral movements like the Overture to a Costume Comedy (1955), Fanfare For a Royal Film Performance, Swinging Chimp, Nostalgia and Golden Mile. He was in demand as a conductor for Decca in classical works as well as other.

Thomas Bidgood, who died in 1925, is still remembered as a march composer of titles such as Virny Ridge, Sons of the Brave (these are his most popular titles and can still be heard), The Allies' Parade, The Elite, Rubinstein, British Legion and On To Victory. From their titles, many of these date from the last decade of his life. In his day he was even better known as an arranger; his orchestral novelties included the amusing A Motor Ride, which had some popularity in the "heroic", pre-1914, motoring age.

William Blezard, born in 1917, studied piano and composition at the Royal College of Music. He later wrote music for documentary films and arranged Noel Coward's music for the film The Astonished Heart. His orchestral works include titles like Caramba, The River, Battersea Park Suite and Three European Dances; but he was also responsible for much instrumental work - Preludes, three Sonatinas, a suite The Circle of Time, on the seasons, October Dance, Fast Forward, Central Park West, Jonathan's Scherzo and the jazz-influenced Jeux d'Esprits, all for piano - and songs for Joyce Grenfell (whom he accompanied) for children's TV.

Henry Balfour Gardiner (1877-1950), trained in Germany as a member of the "Frankfurt School" (along with Grainger, Quilter and Norman O'Neill), composed relatively little and was perhaps better known for using his own money to promote performances of compositions by his friends, notably Holst, but he made memorable contributions in the fields of orchestral, chamber and piano music, song and church music. The Shepherd Fennel's Dance, inspired by Hardy, was once very popular with light orchestras. To this we may add the Overture to a Comedy (1906), Humoresque and In Maytime (1914) and, for piano solo, Shenandoah (a nautical suite) and Five Pieces.

Philip L Scowcroft

Enquiries to Philip at

8 Rowan Mount



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

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