02 Jun

Dateline June 2003

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During the Spring Robert Farnon was busy working on new arrangements and compositions for a CD which is scheduled for recording this summer – possibly in July. Once again Jack Parnell will be conducting, with Rolph Wilson leading the orchestra. The CD is a showcase for flautist Jane Pickles, for whom Bob has been adapting some earlier scores, such as Hey There, In a Calm, When I Fall in Love and Can I Forget You. Jane also wishes to record La Casita Mia and she is keen to tackle that 1940s ‘tour de force’ Chopin’s Fantasie Impromptu which readers will recall that Camarata recorded for a Decca 78. Other titles provisionally selected are Little Miss Megan (Molly), Piccolo Flight, Flute Fantasy, Girl With The Flaxen Hair, I Dream of Jeannie and Magic Island. Another new work by Bob is called I Love Life for which he has also written the lyrics.

► As we went to press, we learned that the vocal version of "I Love Life" was due to be recorded in May by Jose Maria and the RPO at Studio Phoenix – the old CTS Studios in Wembley.

► French lyrics have been written for Robert Farnon’s "How Beautiful is Night" by Pascale Martin. This is also scheduled to be recorded by Jose Maria, but probably with only a piano backing.

► Two other projects, which have been in preparation for some while, are currently ‘on hold’ while Bob tackles other commitments, but he hopes that one day the projected ablums with Gordon Campbell and Peter Appleyard will emerge from the studios.

► Robert Farnon often receives kind messages from admirers, but it is not every day that one so perfectly sums up the feelings of many of us:

"This is a note of appreciation to a genius: Robert Farnon. I was introduced to his exquisite, imaginative arrangements through my musician sister, 40+ years ago and still cherish my mono LP’s: Melody Fair, Pictures in the Fire, Flirtation Walk, Two Cigarettes in the Dark [and the stereo LP] The Sensuous Strings of R.F. which were hers’. Since then, I have also feasted aurally on Sentimental Journey with the Singers Unlimited and Sketches of F. Sinatra & T. Bennett  with the wonderful CD sound and bonus of selections with the London Philharmonic. Please tell Mr. Farnon that year in and year out, his music has been marvellously enjoyable, even therapeutic, for me. I know of none other whose works remain fresh with every hearing.

My thanks to RFS for the sample copy of your excellent journal [Issue 153]. One question: on p.9 of that issue, Andre Previn is quoted as saying RF is ‘the greatest living writer for strings.’ In the liner notes for Sketches, Previn is said to have written ‘Very few things remain a constant in the music world; however, Robert Farnon was the world’s greatest arranger many decades ago and he holds the same position today. The very best things never change.’ I heartily agree with both quotes, but prefer the greater accolade. Dr. G.G. Phillips".

► Richard Jenkinson performed Robert Farnon’s Pictures in the Fire at a concert in Canterbury on 10 May, alongside works by Bach, Beethoven, Brahms and Debussy. Bob made this cello/piano arrangement for Richard last year, and he first played it in a recital at St. Paul’s, Covent Garden, London.

Judging by the favourable press comments, Charles Job conducted the Palm Court Orchestra in two excellent concerts of Robert Farnon’s music for Canadian audiences in British Columbia last March. The programme included Journey Into Melody, Lazy Day, Swing Hoe, Mr. Punch, The First Waltz, Dominion Day, Seashore, A Promise of Spring, Jumping Bean, Holiday Flight, Peanut Polka, Westminster Waltz and Goodwood Galop. Among other works (featuring Philip Dyson, piano) were Nino Rota’s Legend of the Glass Mountain, Charles Williams’s Dream of Olwen and two Billy Mayerl numbers – Autumn Crocus and Marigold. Next year Charles and his fine musicians will be paying tribute to Ernest Tomlinson in his 80th birthday year, and we understand that Gavin Sutherland will be a guest conductor of the Palm Court Orchestra. We look forward to giving further details of these important events nearer the time.

► Larry Paikin recently contacted us about the reference to Canadian Brass in our last issue.He wrote: "Your news item about my friend and retired Canadian Brass trumpet soloist, Fred Mills, was a joy to read. This brilliant player/arranger made his fellow Canadians so proud, as far back as his days with the Guelph (Ontario) Police Boys’ Band.  Fred is currently a professor at the University of Georgia. No need for sadness about the Canadian Brass. Any rumours about their demise are somewhat exaggerated!  They are alive and well and proudly performing Robert Farnon’s works with regularity. In late March they played RF’s  Jerome Kern Arrangements (Fred Mills commissioned this for the CB) to three sold out houses in Edmonton, Alberta, home-town of CB hornist Jeff Nelsen. They also recently performed RF’s Farrago of British Folk Songs which Fred commissioned for the CB. Fred and RF go way back!" And Fred Mills himself sent the following message: "My memories of Mr Farnon go back to when he was the trumpeter on the old radio shows of ‘Happy Gang’ which I believe was a noon hour radio show out of Toronto. Robert Farnon also wrote a Brass Quintet Songs of the Emerald Islands which is a medley of Irish Tunes. Since I have left the Canadian Brass I have played this marvellous piece on two St Patrick’s Day celebrations. I have also performed Mr Farnon’s Scherzando for Trumpet about 100 times since 1996 when I left the CB. Mr Farnon also gave me permission to make a new set of finalized parts for the original Scherzando which I believe are for rental from Chappell who is the publisher of the Scherzardo for trumpet  and strings and percussion, harp and piano/guitar. With Mr Farnon’s permission I have also rescored the Scherzando for Brass Sextet and another version for trumpet and woodwinds. The Farrago of British Folk Songs is a marvellous collection or Medley and while I was with the CB played that collection many times with many American Orchestras. I have also performed the Farrago many times since 1996 with Tim Morrison, David Ohanian, Marty Hackleman, Sam Pilafian, Dan Perantoni,  Scott Hartman and Larry Zalkind. These fine musicians are ex-CB, Empire Brass and St Louis BQ alumni. Wherever I have performed, Mr Farnon’s music and orchestrations are played and they are finely received.
► In our last issued we mentioned that Bob has recently composed a special piece for flute, which he has dedicated to his 10-year old granddaughter, Megan Walsh. She has recently taken up the flute (at her grandfather’s suggestion!), and she is the daughter of Bob’s own daughter Judith – the original ‘young lady’ to whom Bob dedicated To a Young Lady way back in the 1950s. Judith is married to a schoolmaster, and the family lives in Essex. The completed work was sent to Megan in mid-February. Bob explained that he had based it on Little Miss Molly, so the title he chose (most appropriately) was Little Miss Megan!

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About Geoff 123
Geoff Leonard was born in Bristol. He spent much of his working career in banking but became an independent record producer in the early nineties, specialising in the works of John Barry and British TV theme compilations.
He also wrote liner notes for many soundtrack albums, including those by John Barry, Roy Budd, Ron Grainer, Maurice Jarre and Johnny Harris. He co-wrote two biographies of John Barry in 1998 and 2008, and is currently working on a biography of singer, actor, producer Adam Faith.
He joined the Internet Movie Data-base (www.imdb.com) as a data-manager in 2001 and looked after biographies, composers and the music-department, amongst other tasks. He retired after nine years loyal service in order to continue writing.