Arranged by Russ Case
Analysed by Robert Walton
Back in the days of 78 records some of the best numbers would have slipped through the net if it hadn’t been for the phenomenon of B sides. Many of them were so beautiful they often musically outshone the hit itself. Hence the practice of meticulously checking both sides. So I was assigned to the “Case!”
One of the first such discs that caught my attention was the unforgettable Haunted Heart from the Broadway musical revue “Inside USA” on the reverse of Bing Crosby’s A Bluebird Singing In My Heart on Australian Decca. I really fell in love with that song - a song as strong as Schwartz & Dietz’s better-known Dancing In the Dark. And of course it helped the way Bing crooned it. But what I couldn’t get my head around was the fact it was so under-recorded, especially instrumentally. However over the years the song gradually became so renowned that everyone wanted to get in on the Haunted Heart act. These include Vic Damone, Bill Evans, Guy Lombardo, Jane Monheit and Renée Fleming but I’ve got news for the vocalists. It had all been done before and much better. Bing Crosby of course and Perry Como accompanied by no less than the star of this article, Russ Case.
However the real hero of this song had no competition whatsoever - Jo Stafford - pop singer extraordinaire who absolutely out-sang everyone, even opera singers who dared to have a go at this virtual “aria”. I would love to hear Stafford tackle a few real arias by Puccini or Verdi.
So let’s hear Russell D Case’s gorgeous arrangement of Haunted Heart played by his orchestra. It contains all the nuances and subtleties of a most distinguished song, nothing clever but just a simple, straightforward orchestration of a tune that asks for nothing more. I think tenderness is the word that covers it perfectly. A marvelous blend of oboe, horn and strings start the track leading into this evocative melody, with rubato playing a vital role in the first section. After a deliberate stop the piece goes into a Latin American tempo. With perfect restraint the brass adds a certain piquancy to the finished product followed by a close and personal bassoon. The whole thing might take just over two minutes but what pure pleasure a single light orchestral number can bring.
100 Greatest American Light Orchestras - 3
Guild Light Music GLCD 5253
by Alexander Gleason
The classic Robert Farnon discography is one of the great triumphs of musical research from the pre-computer days, when collating information about a composer's life & works was nothing short of damned hard labour (many's the hour I've spent laboriously trawling through catalogues and periodicals at the old National Sound Archive in South Ken)
Thanks to the combined efforts of David Ades, Don Furnell, Michael Maine and Alan Bunting, a definitive listing of Farnon's musical works was achieved (and, happily, it's viewable on this site). Likewise, the filmography which was part of that publication (also viewable here) is a fair work of research too, dealing with 25 feature films and the three documentaries ..... AHA! However, there's the problem – not so hot on the docs, I'm afraid. In the boys’ defence, information about documentary films was not readily available in the 1970s, and unlike the discography, the filmog has never really been updated, so I'm pleased to say, I think I can now clarify some (if not all) of the missing info on the short films (not in chronological order)
Firstly there is "This is London" (released in 1956 not 53) made by Associated British Pathe (i.e. Pathe News) for the British Travel Association – a good sturdy London travelogue designed for the American tourist market. Narrated by Rex Harrison – at that time probably America's best known Englishman (My Fair Lady) -- it's a 17 minute lightening tour around the sights of the capital. The score is a big orchestral tour-de-force played by the Symphonia orchestra – with nice title music including the Big Ben motif and a very pleasing bustling shopping theme. Many Farnon enthusiasts will already know this film; it's Bob on fine 50s form. It's been viewable on YouTube for several years now – 'London' and 'Rex Harrison' should be enough for the search box.
That one was pretty straightforward – the next one took me many years to solve. The filmography lists 'Time and Space' produced for Time-Life/Longines date unknown, and I spent far too much time scouring the databases and film library catalogues for that title, to absolutely no avail. Finally, the answer came – again thanks to YouTube.
Just about all the details above turned out to be wrong.
"Travelling through Time" is a 1965 largely animated documentary made for Rolex and PanAm Airlines (odd combination) – it deals with the concept of timekeeping, its history and how it will be adapted for the forthcoming space-age. It looks and sounds American, until you see it's researched and written by E.V.H. Emmett (the voice of Gaumont British News for some thirty-odd years). The score is minimal, but there are a few nice hints of the Farnon jazzy big-band sound, which I'm sure will please many.
'Rolex' 'Pan American' will be quite suitable key-words for a YouTube search
(It is incidentally a sequel to a 50s colour documentary – The Story of Time with a brilliant score by Guy Warrack – also worth viewing if you're interested in watches!)
Finally, 'Red Cross Documentary' (c.1946) remains a work in progress.
For perhaps three decades I have grappled with this one, and I think I have almost got it. I believe it to be a charity appeal short; more like1948 called "Just in Case" with a Farnon orchestral score conducted by Muir Mathieson. The British Red Cross have an archive, but very few films – they do however have this one and with their help, I hope to view it shortly, and will make a further report.
With any luck, after all these years, we will soon have all the Farnon documentary scores sorted out and included in a properly revised and definitive filmography.
Analysed by Robert Walton
The sounds of nature, and particularly those of birds have always appealed to serious composers. It was Messiaen who religiously notated the songs of all French birds classifying them by region. In his “Pastoral Symphony” Beethoven gives us the nightingale, the quail and the cuckoo. The latter has it all to itself in “On Hearing The First Cuckoo In Spring” by Delius. However perhaps the best known and much loved work in the classical field is Vaughan Williams’ The Lark Ascending.
But I believe the most subtle and effective bird compositions are to be found in British Light Music especially around the middle of the 20th century. If you’re familiar with the genre, you’ll know the finest of these were produced by the Chappell Recorded Music Library.
At first hearing, the casual listener might easily dismiss Up With The Lark as an innocuous piece of background music. Certainly in the Queen’s Hall Light Orchestra’s repertoire it’s one of the lesser-known titles simply because it hasn’t got a memorable melody. That may be, but what’s lacking tune-wise is more than made up for in the atmospheric department. It was definitely not an “in-your-face” piece of mood music, so could easily pass you by.
This early 1947 classic offered plenty of clues as to its creator and origins. Above all, Up With The Lark demonstrated Robert Busby’s meticulous attention to detail and total command of orchestration, as well as contributing in no small part to that unique sound for which the Queen’s Hall Light Orchestra is famous. Together with household names like Robert Farnon and Sidney Torch, backroom boy Busby brought his own brand of freshness to the genre. Up With The Lark describes a typical early morning scene when most of us are still sleeping. It’s an understated portrait of “rise and shine”
Something stirred as gentle strings start the proceedings of this very British sounding sunrise, followed by the trumpets that quietly herald a new day with a soft “fanfare” decorated by some industrious woodwind. The strings then come into their own with, what for me, is the defining moment of the whole piece - an all too brief magical moment, free from the confines of conventional form. It’s perhaps depicting the skylark’s downward dive to her nest on the ground, but at the same time trying not to give away its flight path. Now a bouncy little melody featuring the strings ends in two excitable flurries leading back to the opening played by the woodwind. You need to concentrate though because everything happens so quickly. The strings stay with the action with some delightful decoration. The brass returns for a further “fanfare”, while the lark provides another spectacular display of descending precision aeronautics.
Suddenly Up With The Lark undergoes a complete change of mood and direction as brass and strings crescendo up to a higher key. Gradually it dawns on me that the composition, with echoes of Eric Coates is in fact a march....and has a melody! The mood may seem a million miles from this rural/urban scene but on second thoughts it’s probably the ideal rhythm to get up and go. As we near the end of this section, notice how Busby squeezes every ounce of emotion out of the beautifully climaxed tune. But you can’t keep the “fanfare” away for long, because back it comes with flutes, harp, strings and oboe. And proving there’s never a dull moment, the oboe’s solo is cut short making way for a flute trill, followed by an even more dramatic one with string support (similar to the signature tune of Edgar Lustgarten’s “Scotland Yard” series). But it’s straight back to the top for a rerun of that delightful opening dawn chorus.
In the coda instead of a final “fanfare”, we get a sustained brass chord, over which the lark floats back down to earth. This is met by a busy bassoon and the rest of the woodwind. After a string chord provides the first part of a perfect ending, we hear the instrument Clive Richardson was fond of, the haunting vibraphone pipped at the post by the harp.
Up With The Lark played a vital role of an exciting new chapter in the history of descriptive music. Robert Busby’s seemingly effortless brushstrokes show him to be a true pioneer of musical canvasses. It’s so compelling you almost forget the music and become lost in this gorgeous idyll.
Inevitably it’s bound to draw comparisons with Vaughan Williams’ The Lark Ascending, a fifteen minute Romance for violin and orchestra. Conversely Up With The Lark is a two and a half minute hands-on reality check of nature. Perhaps Busby’s piece should be renamed The LarkDescending !
The original recording of Up With The Lark, played by the Queen’s Hall Light Orchestra conducted by Sidney Torch, is available on the Guild CD “String Fever” (GLCD 5150)
Robert Farnon’s arrangement
Analysed by Robert Walton
These days we’re constantly bombarded with attractive specials from supermarkets and shops like “buy one and get one free”. In a Robert Farnon arrangement you get “three for the price of one”. The song comes first (often from the “Great American Songbook”) followed by the actual arrangement and then to top it all it’s full of elements of his own compositions both serious and light. There is no musician on earth who has the ability to mix and match with a sound that is completely unique. He re-invented the word taste. Wherever you happen to land on any of his recordings, even briefly, it’s unmistakably Robert Farnon and often all under 3 minutes. To hear Farnon is to hear an open-minded composer who has absorbed such an enormous amount of music, put it all together and created his own universe. In fact every time I listen to a Robert Farnon arrangement I can’t help feeling Hollywood lost out to his talents (similar to those of MGM’s Conrad Salinger). It’s understandable though because Farnon fell on his feet in so many ways when he came to England and stayed. Of course he was a remainer!
It’s unusual for a songwriter to praise a specific arrangement, but Arthur Schwartz did just that when he personally corresponded with Farnon, singling out Louisiana Hayride from the album “Something To Remember You By” as one of the finest orchestrations and performances he’d ever heard.
Starting straight but soon let loose into swing mode, the first thing I noticed about this brassy piece of big band/light orchestral music is that Farnon keeps the whole thing under control. It could have so easily descended into chaos under another conductor. Also there’s always a temptation with this kind of material to show off. The fact that he kept his cool and made it simple was the very reason that made it attractive.
After a chorus, things begin to warm up with a little Bach-ish like polyphony between the brass and saxes and snatches of the sort of tricky woodwind one might hear in a light orchestral Farnon score. And keeping things moving, a touch of the Ted Heath sound from the saxes. The strings enter for the last time before the drummer (remember Farnon in his youth was one?) keeps the orchestra under strict order with his sticks. There are some echoes of Pete Rugolo in this final section.
Robert Farnon has always been associated with strings but let’s not forget his brilliance with brass and wizardry with woodwind. In fact the whole orchestra is his world.
NORTH BY NORTHWEST
Main Title analysed by Robert Walton
One of the most memorable tension-ridden moments in cinema history has got to be the nail-biting sequence in Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest when Cary Grant was chased by a crop-dusting aeroplane on prairie wasteland. There was no music during this segment and apart from sudden spurts of sound from the aeroplane, silence reigned. If you’ve never seen the film I urge you to.
However it’s the opening of the film I’d like to concentrate on. Although originally Spanish (there is a school of thought that says it’s of South American origin), the “fandango” became one of the main dances of Portugal in alternating 3/4 and 6/8 time, danced to the accompaniment of singing, castanets and guitar. Originating in the 18th century, it’s similar in rhythm to the bolero but different in style as it is designed to be danced. Basically it’s an exuberant courtship dance of Moorish origin and survives to this day as a folk dance in Spain, Portugal, southern France and Latin America. The fandango was first used by Gluck in his ballet Don Juan (1761), then by Mozart in The Marriage of Figaro (1786) and Rimsky-Korsakov in his Caprice Espagnol (1887).
In my view, the fandango was never used to such great effect as in the opening of the 1959 film North by Northwest. The main title music is a ‘kaleidoscopic orchestral fandango designed to kick-start the exciting routine’. Saul Bass’ opening design intersecting horizontal and oblique lines, melts into a Washington cityscape with a ‘crazy dance about to take place between Cary Grant and the world’. Bernard Herrmann employs it for no other reason, than its propulsive rhythm, reminding one of Fred Astaire. The movie is sometimes called a comedy-thriller with reference perhaps to the springy rhythm and harsh brilliance of the orchestral sonority.
The dance is a recurrent musical symbol continuing behind Grant’s crazy-drunk drive along the cliff edge and ending up in a three-car pile-up. Then we hear a crestfallen, grotesquely scored version of the dance, especially at the time of Townsend’s assassination.
The most elaborately choreographed scene is the pursuit and the fight to the death on top of the National Monument on Mount Rushmore, South Dakota. At this point the dance assumes an appropriately black-veiled character in the scoring, but as the pace quickens it energizes the ending in its brazen and glittering main title guise. When Grant is first shown Eva Marie Saint’s table in the train’s restaurant car, “lift” music in piped form is being played. Gradually though it reverts to Herrmann’s background score with a telling clarinet solo. But we mustn’t forget another burst of dance, which completes the picture as the train carrying Grant and Saint disappears into the tunnel.
The fandango will never be quite the same again!
Original Motion Picture Scores
Brandenburgische Philharmonie Potsdam
Capriccio 10 469
Percy Faith arrangement analysed
by Robert Walton
Back in 1963 somewhere in the Bay of Biscay, I was the pianist on the Greek liner Lakonia with a quartet consisting of Norman Coker (leader and drummer), David Williams (double bass) and Mike Elliott (tenor saxophone). He was constantly extolling the virtues of the great jazz tenor saxophonist Coleman Hawkins (which he pronounced “Coil-marn Harkins”).
Norman came from West Africa, David from Trinidad and Mike from Jamaica. Four years later Mike was a member of the million selling rhythm-and-blues octet The Foundations. One of the pieces we played on the cruise was Ciao, Ciao Bambina (Piove) that I immediately took to. It was Domenico Modugno’s follow-up to his first big hit Volare. To this day I love it. Somehow it had passed me by when first released. Years later I discovered the Percy Faith version, so hence this analysis.
There’s no doubt Percy Faith is a master of the simple arrangement, which a brief 4 bar intro shows all too clearly. A series of hushed triplets lead smoothly into this relaxed Italian-type foxtrot and continues under the melody. A glockenspiel adds its colours to the now warm close-harmony strings, by which time you’re completely caught up in the dream-like atmosphere. This is then repeated.
Then the strings strike skywards building up to, or to be exact leading down to the next section, which is not the bridge. Why? Because there isn’t one! The violins now in their element sing out with the lower strings supporting from beneath. They continue (minus lower strings) with piano decorations. After an obvious pause, the lower strings take over the tune. The violins supported by the rest of the orchestra, then bring this delightful ditty via some pretty chords and harp help to a positive end with an unexpectedly gentle detached bump.
This is one of the simplest arrangements I know but craftsman Faith handles it as no one else could, giving the song the ultimate treatment. He always does full justice to the tune he’s working on. Whatever it requires he gives it just the right amount - nothing more and nothing less. He never employed effects just for the sake of them. Percy Faith is a restrained decorator and before he even puts pencil to paper he knows exactly how it will sound, always with the listener in mind. As ever he is conducting the very best musicians.
In the 1950s Percy Faith had a special affinity with Latin American rhythms which proved very popular, but when I was announcing on Radio 390, his 1960s albums of some of the finest standards were also given a great deal of airplay.
“Ciao, Ciao Bambina” Percy Faith
Golden Age of Light Music Guild (GLCD 5218)
Analysed by Robert Walton
It’s hard to believe that a film tune as original as On Green Dolphin Street would remain virtually unknown for over ten years. It was written for the 1947 Lana Turner movie “Green Dolphin Street” but if it hadn’t been for American trumpeter Miles Davis’s 1958 recording it might never have surfaced to first become a jazz standard and then a fully paid up member of the Great American Songbook. In the 1960’s I ordered a copy of the sheet music from a well-known shop in Fulham, London, but was told there was no such title as On Green Dolphin Street. I begged to differ of course insisting to go ahead with the order. The following week I was presented with the said song copy and a somewhat embarrassing apology.
One of the best arrangements of On Green Dolphin Street was by Englishman Brian Fahey for Cyril Ornadel’s Starlight Symphony. It was given the full treatment and how! Ornadel’s orchestral policy was to dress-up good tunes symphonically. For openers we find ourselves in the Finale of Sibelius’s 2nd Symphony before the orchestra builds up to a terrific climax getting every ounce of feeling out of this magnificent melody as it soars. Already you may well be saying “I know this tune but not from this source”. Well, you are absolutely right. It bears an astonishing similarity to Lionel Bart’s Food, Glorious Food from “Oliver” but from my observation, it was probably Bart who pinched the idea from Miles Davis.
Anyway since Bronislau Kaper was the first to compose this majestic tune it is only right and proper that this is the one we should be analysing and indeed praising. The beautifully quiet answering phrase with oboe singing its heart out (Sibelius again) is the perfect contrast to the opening. Even in an up-tempo setting it works well - it’s easy to imagine Oscar Peterson’s percussive fingers flying over the piano. The whole chorus reveals itself as a gorgeous song at a time when such compositions were a rarity (Ned Washington wrote the words). No wonder it entered the world of great standards.
Then going into a Latin beat the tune still holds up well revealing its ability to be played in any tempo. Even more in the final moments the answering phrase through to the end is simply gorgeous capturing the imagination. It all adds quality to Kaper’s creation.
To think the seeds of On Green Dolphin Street once lay dormant in the soundtrack of an MGM film about a Channel Islander who emigrated to New Zealand and sent home for the wrong bride. It might have been a weak romance but at least there was a convincing earthquake!
Heard on “Contrasts” Guild (GLCD 5218)
Queen’s Hall Light Orchestra
Analysed by Robert Walton
It may not have occurred to you, but Sidney Torch and Nelson Riddle have something in common. They both had a special “feel’’ for music and when the opportunity arose they couldn’t resist the temptation of maximizing the rhythm with a staccato effect, especially in three quarter time. The phrasing of the opening tune of My Waltz for You has two beautiful silences indicating the wonderfully appropriate cut-off points on the second beat of bars 2 and 6. These are both excellent examples of the Torch touch probably first captured by Johann Strauss Junior.
Nelson Riddle in his string arrangement of Vilia (Guild GLCD 5120) played as a waltz, gets every ounce of feeling out of the melody he could possibly find - living every natural nuance. He allows the notes to do the talking. It’s very similar to the Torch approach and gives the tune a whole new boost. They may be modern masters of music but it’s decidedly an “old fashioned” dance feel. In spite of their varied backgrounds, trombonist Riddle from the world of swing and organist Torch from popular music, both seem quite at ease with the same sort of phrasing. In no way is anything ever corny.
So let’s follow My Waltz for You in detail to find out what drives it. Johann Strauss Junior may have been the “Waltz King”, but Sidney Torch was perhaps the “Schmaltz King”, if that tiny intro with a violin solo is anything to go by. Listen to the satisfying way Torch writes for flutes. The first thing you’ll notice is what an exquisite but slightly sad melody it is, caused entirely by the strings arranged in close harmony like a jazz musician might score it. At the same time you couldn’t get a more relaxed waltz if you tried. It’s almost asleep! The first haunting 16 bars include all those staccato breaks, which build up quite logically to a song-like climax.
And so we arrive at the middle section with the tempo just a little faster. The lower strings are followed by flutes, clarinet and violins that shortly take a sudden dramatic dive. An oboe supported by the same flutes, hands back to the strings that ascend to produce a lovely Torch-like symphonic crescendo. Assorted solo brass and harp bring us gently back to the top, with the orchestra providing a positive finish. The tiny intro we heard earlier becomes the coda. The only grumble is that we aren’t treated to any orchestral “improvising” which we get in Torch’s faster pieces. However My Waltz for You is classic Torch with just the right amount of rubato and is given a perfect performance.
“The Queen’s Hall Light Orchestra”
Vocalion CDEA 6094
(Felix Barnard and Johnny S Black (music)
Ben Selvin and his Novelty Orchestra
Analysed by Robert Walton
Over the years I have regularly mentioned one of the most significant moments of popular instrumental history in the 20th century, that of David Rose’s million selling Holiday for Strings of 1944. Its influence on light music is still being felt right up to the present day.
But let’s go back nearly a quarter of a century to another important date, 1920, and see what was happening then in the music industry. It was the year of the first known ‘pop’ disc to sell a million - Dardanella - a fictitious Italian or Spanish girl’s Christian name illustrated on a 1919 sheet music cover and inspired by the narrow strait in northwest Turkey. It would eventually sell a staggering 6,500,000 records. Ben Selvin (1898-1980), violinist, bandleader and recording manager, made more band discs than anybody else in the business - 9,000. Dardanella was written by Felix Bernard and Johnny S Black (music) and Fred Fisher (words). Its popularity was due to its continuous pattern in the bass, and is probably the first example of ‘boogie woogie’ in American music. There’s also an obvious touch of ‘shuffle’ tempo about it.
If you happened to have inherited any old 78rpm records, this sound will immediately take you back to those scratchy pre-electric days now of course cleaned up. After a quote from the end of the tune acting as the intro, it goes straight into a four bar rhythmic notation sounding like the first bar of Yankee Doodle. Also there’s a clear reminder of Poldini’s Dancing Doll and plenty of cutting syncopation from the world of ragtime.
Apart from its popularity another claim to Dardanella’s fame comes from a lawsuit in which Fisher sued Jerome Kern for plagiarism, insisting that the boogie-woogie-like recurring bass theme Kern used in his song Ka-lu-a was a steal from a similar device in Dardanella.
It took a good deal of arrogance for Fisher to sue Kern, since Dardanella had itself actually been stolen involving Fisher in a lawsuit of his own. It started out as Turkish Tom Tom a piano rag by Johnny S Black. Fisher wrote words for it and became its publisher, now using the new title of Dardanella. After its initial success, Felix Bernard, a vaudevillian came forward with a claim that it was he and not Black who had composed the main melody and renounced his prior rights to it for a cash settlement of 100 dollars. Bernard went to court to claim some of the royalties, insisting Fisher had defrauded him. Bernard’s case was dismissed but all later sheet music carried Fisher’s name as lyricist, while Black and Bernard are named as composers.
To hear Dardanella try Google.
Charles Shadwell and his Orchestra
Analysed by Robert Walton
As well as developing and refining light orchestral music, Robert Farnon brought the genre to a whole new level. However we mustn’t forget it was actually David Rose who pioneered a totally original form of light music that even now in the 21st century remains unchanged and relevant. (It’s a similar situation to the standardization of the big band style in the 1950s that is still part of our culture).
The fast pizzicato opening and the slow sweeping arco middle section of Holiday for Strings stimulated a whole generation of post-WW2 composers and arrangers. And lovers of light music weren’t disappointed either. To prove it, a million of us purchased a copy of the 1944 hit record. But more than that, there’s plenty of evidence suggesting that even writers with an old-fashioned style couldn’t help but being influenced by the unique Rose format. In fact it’s no exaggeration to say that all light music written after that time was affected in some way. Here’s a good example.
Starting with the sound of rustling in the woodwind and pizzicato strings, immediately after two soft cymbal strokes (quite common in the early days of 78s), a solo flute emerges to play a bright exotic tune with a persistent rhythm over the tonic chord, like a muted Sabre Dance. But as well as that, there is a definite touch of the chords of the Latin-American tune The Breeze and I. Woodwind and strings are brought together to repeat the melody. A flute provides some decoration before the next section.
And taking a leaf out of Rose, we slip into the bridge for a little string lushness supported by the ever-faithful woodwind. As the brass enters, the Latin beat becomes evermore marked. In a way the influence of Bolero is heard. It’s strange but until I studied it more closely, Dancer at the Fair of 1947 had always sounded quite dated.
A distinct break then occurs after which we head ominously to the underworld, courtesy the cellos. The next sound could almost be the start of the 5th theme of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue but we’re soon back in the land of Rose. We’re in the final stretch now as the brass booms in, heralding a repeat of the first chorus ending with one soft cymbal stroke.
Charles Shadwell and his Orchestra made several 78s for HMV including Dancer at the Fair that was a very popular novelty number in the early years of the BBC Light Programme and has truly earned its place in the annals of light music. “Memories of the Light Programme” EMI 8 27260 2