Meeting of the Robert Farnon Society
at the Park Inn, London on the 5th April 2009
reported by BRIAN REYNOLDS
It was a beautiful, sunny Spring day in London - too good to be sitting indoors listening to music - but that is what a hundred or so people chose to do. After all, this was the Robert Farnon Society meeting, an all too infrequent opportunity in this day and age to hear some quality music in the lighter vein!
We took our seats to the accompaniment of some Robert Farnon pieces; then,at 2.00pm. David Ades welcomed the congregation and played I feel a song coming on - sung by Edmund Hockridge accompanied by the BBC Radio Orchestra conducted by Robert Farnon. This served as a tribute to Edmund, a vice-president of the RFS from its inception, who died on March 15th, aged 89.
We then heard the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Bob, playing his own composition A Promise of Spring.
It is the intention of the Society to do a full tribute to the late Angela Morley, who died in January, during our November meeting but in the meantime it was felt appropriate to do a short tribute to someone who, like Edmund Hockridge, had been a vice-president of the RFS. The tribute commenced with Noel Coward's famous London Pride from the Wally Stott Orchestra. This was followed by Leonard Bernstein's LonelyTown, arranged by Angela Morley and played by the John Wilson Orchestra. As members are aware, Angela's original fame was as Wally Stott and it was under this identity that our next recording was made - Cole Porter's I’ve got you under my skin - featuring the golden voice of another friend of the Society, Rosemary Squires. We concluded this short tribute to Angela Morley with her own composition Reverie played by Gavin Sutherland and the Royal Ballet Sinfonia - a private recording.
Tony Osborne (1922-2009) was the subject of our next tribute and we listened to one of his many catchy compositions Lights of Lisbon featuring Tony Osborne and his Dancing Strings. It does seem that we have lost rather too many of our favourite artists in recent months and we had one more tribute to include - bandleader Vic Lewis (1919-2009) who died on 9th February. For this we featured Vic Lewis conducting the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in Robert Farnon's composition Mauve (originally entitled Irina).
In our meetings we always make a point of remembering anniversaries, and Clive Richardson (1909-1998) was born one hundred years ago on 23rd June 2009. Clive, who was a member of the RFS for many years and who came to our meetings, was known as one of the finest composers of light music in the twentieth century as well as being an accomplished pianist - remember 'Four Hands In Harmony' with Tony Lowry? We listened to an excerpt from his London Fantasia in which Clive is featured at the piano with Charles Williams and his Concert Orchestra (from a Guild CD "Hall Of Fame Volume 1" GLCD5120).
George Melachrino (1909-1965) was born one hundred years ago on 1st.May 1909. He was a wartime colleague of Bob and they sometimes arranged each other’s compositions. In return for arrangingWinter Sunshine, George arranged Bob's My Song of Spring, otherwise known as The Sophistication Waltz to which we then listened, in a performance by the Melachrino Orchestra on HMV.
At this point, David introduced our special guests for the afternoon, Marjorie Cullerne (great-niece of Haydn Wood) and Gilles Gouset who had both come over from Canada to present the Haydn Wood extravaganza that was to occupy the second and third sections of our meeting. Giving us a taste of what was to come, David then played Haydn Wood's Soliloquy in a recording by the Queen's Hall Light Orchestra conducted by Robert Farnon (from the Guild CD of Haydn Wood's music GLCD5121)
Next we heard Sleepy Time Girl from Singers Unlimited accompanied by Robert Farnon and featuring the trumpet of Kenny Baker. This was followed by some 'parish notices' in which attention was drawn to forthcoming concerts by the Aspidistra Drawing Room Orchestra, The Ladies' Palm Court Orchestra and the Light Music Society's annual concert, held this year in Cheltenham on the August Bank Holiday.
2009 marks the fiftieth anniversary of the death of Billy Mayerl, one of the finest light music pianists of the twentieth century, and whose radio performances gave me much pleasure in my youth. So it was appropriate that we should play one of his compositions. Reno Runaway was the chosen item in a recording by the New Century Orchestra conducted by Eric Borshel - and which is included on a new Guild CD 'Light and Lively' (GLCD 5160). This was followed by Laurie Johnson conducting hisMasquerade from The Four Musketeers.
Drawing attention to the many CDs which could be purchased, David then played Could it be You?from another new Guild CD - 'Melodies for Romantics' (GLCD5155). This featured the orchestra of Robert Farnon - curiously credited as 'Jack Saunders' on the LP label!
David then gave us the good news that, following many adverse comments, the proposed extension to the sound copyright period had been 'put on a back-burner'. I wonder if that will still be the case when you read this report!
We were now approaching the end of part one, and we concluded with an Eric Coates composition from 1941 entitled Rhythm from his Four Centuries Suite. This was from a CD of Eric Coates's music compiled by Peter Dempsey for 'Bygone Days'. Albert Killman commented that this was probably the nearest Coates had ever come to writing jazz!
This concluded the first part of the afternoon's entertainment. What was to follow, after the interval, was to be very different from a normal RFS meeting, and quite ground-breaking for the Society!
Suitably refreshed, we took our seats for the next part of the afternoon's entertainment. The seating had been arranged in a different way on this occasion in order to accommodate the larger than usual congregation and also to incorporate a large platform which would be necessary for the live music in part three.
David then welcomed us to what had now become 'The Haydn Wood Society'. Discussions had taken place for some time with our special guests Marjorie Cullerne (Haydn Wood's great-niece) and Gilles Gouset as to the best way that we could mark the 50th Anniversary of Haydn Wood’s death, and make this an occasion to remember; it was decided that Gilles would give us an account of Haydn Wood's life, illustrated with pictures and musical extracts. We were shown some pictures of the sheet music and covers of some Haydn Wood pieces and photographs of several of his residences. At one such residence, we were told, a neighbour became so fed up with Wood's constant playing that she complained - however, she ended up marrying him!
The audio aspect of the presentation included the following pieces:
- The middle movement of Phantasy Concerto (1905)
- Serenade by Pierne (violin solo accompanied by Haydn Wood at the piano)
- First ever recording of Roses of Picardy
- A Brown Bird Singing sung by Ada Alsop with the Robert Farnon Orchestra
- A 1934 recording of Heather Bells (1923) - Reginald King Orchestra
- Excerpt from The Manx Rhapsody (1931) - Charles Williams with the Queen's Hall Light Orchestra
- A 1934 recording of Thorpe Bates singing The Sea Road
- Haydn Wood conducting The Doctor, this being the 2nd movement from his suite Three Famous Pictures
- The Little Ships (1941) - to reflect Haydn Wood's patriotic nature during the second world war
- Some archival film of Haydn Wood walking in a garden - accompanied by Bird of Love Divine
Gilles concluded his presentation with part of an interview (Haydn Wood with Peggy Cochrane) from 1954, during which she played part of Wood's piano concerto.
After a short break, we returned to our seats for a live concert. Whilst we have had live music for the occasional dinner, this was to be the first occasion for a long time that a live orchestra played during one of our meetings. At the request of Marjorie Cullerne, the Aspidistra Drawing Room Orchestra were invited to play for us, and we are grateful to Dr. Adam Bakker for providing their services. Quite a few members of the Society are familiar with this ensemble through their recordings as well as their concert appearances. Although technically an amateur group, 'Aspidistra's' standard of performance is comparable with a professional ensemble.
They began with Haydn Wood's Dreaming (1924) and were then joined by soprano, Camilla Cutts for a waltz entitled Love Me (1926) and then the orchestra played Thistledown (also from 1926). To conclude their first set, they were joined by Camilla for a song from 1919, I love your eyes of grey.We then welcomed the well-known David Snell to the platform to play the piano in a piece entitled A Bell for Andano (1945). He followed this with Humoreske from 'Three Cinema Stars' - this particular item being dedicated to Charles Chaplin. The orchestra's flautist, Roy Bell then took the stage for a flute solo Barcarolle (1912) in which he was accompanied by David Snell. Our special guest, Marjorie Cullerne was the composer of the next item, Casey the Fiddler, a song featuring Camilla Cutts with David Snell at the piano and Marjorie (violin obligato). This was followed by Haydn Wood's The Stars look down (1943) featuring Camilla and David.
The next four items featured the violin of Marjorie Cullerne, accompanied by David Snell. They werePrelude (1934) and Caprice (1917), followed by Melodie Plaintive (1918) and Elfin Dance (1911).
It was now time for the second and final set from the Aspidistra Drawing Room Orchestra and they played firstly a 1913 composition, Pleading after which they were joined by Camilla Cutts forPretending (1921). To conclude the programme, everybody took the stage for what is probably Haydn Wood's most famous composition Roses of Picardy, written in 1916.
We had overrun by at least a half hour but I didn't hear anybody complain. It only remained for David Ades to thank Marjorie and Gilles, Adam Bakker and the Aspidistra Drawing Room Orchestra, Camilla Cutts and David Snell, not forgetting Tony Clayden, who had introduced the items in the concert, and spent much of the day 'twiddling the knobs' to ensure that we had the best possible sound in this our tribute to Haydn Wood.
REMEMBERING THE MUSIC OF ANGELA MORLEY
The Robert Farnon Society London Meeting Sunday 29th November 2009
by Brian Reynolds
Once again the months had rolled by and it was time for our 'Autumnfest' featuring the best in light and popular music, with the emphasis this time being on the music of Angela Morley (Wally Stott) who had passed away early in the year.
As there was a lot of music to get in, we started a few minutes early and the audience took their seats to the accompaniment of the BBC Radio Orchestra conducted by Iain Sutherland, playing a selection of Irving Berlin melodies arranged by Robert Farnon.
It was then time for Albert Killman to welcome everyone to the meeting. One thing that was immediately noticeable was the absence of David Ades, who was in bed with the lurgi (not that it any of our business who he goes to bed with!) To be serious though, David had a chest infection and had been ordered by his doctor not to travel. I am sure that he was most disappointed to miss his first meeting in 45 years - some record! Let's hope that he is now fully recovered and will be his usual sparkling self at the next meeting.
We were then treated to a DVD of the opening overture from John Wilson's magnificent and highly successful Promenade Concert featuring the MGM musicals. After this Robert Farnon (in a Canadian interview) introduced 'Scherzando for Trumpet and Orchestra' played by the CBC Winnipeg Orchestra, conducted by Eric Wilde.
It was now time for my regular Radio Recollections spot. I had been asked to play something by Steve Race, by way of a tribute to this artist who had died earlier in the year. I chose 'Nicola' which Steve had written in honour of his newly-born daughter and which was probably his best known composition. It was played by Michael Freedman and his orchestra and featured the two pianos of Edward Rubach and Robert Docker. To continue, I played a very exciting paso doble by pianist Albert Marland entitled ‘Bandarilla’, performed by Harold C.Gee and his Maritza Players. Harold C. Gee is largely forgotten today but he had a thirty year career of regular broadcasting and was part of the fabric of the old Light Programme. He died in 1973. Next I played two consecutive pieces from a 'Music While You Work' by Ralph Elman and his Bohemian Players - Ralph was the nephew of the well-known classical violinist Misha Elman. The two pieces were 'Miss Melanie' by Ronald Binge and 'Silly Billy' by Norrie Paramor who, in his last years, conducted the BBC Midland Radio Orchestra. To conclude my section of the programme I played an exciting piece by Yvoire entitled ‘Cresta Run’featuring the BBC West of England Light Orchestra under their conductor Frank Cantell.
We then heard a piece called 'Estate', pronounced 'Eshtaty' - meaning 'Summer' - arranged by Robert Farnon and played by the BBC Concert Orchestra, with featured trombonist Gordon Campbell. At this point, Daniel Smith, featured soloist in Bob's Concerto for Bassoon, talked to us and played a recording of his performance of Break out Blues by George Shearing.
A Farnon original was next – ‘Manhattan Playboy’ played with great panache by Rawicz and Landauer with orchestral accompaniment under the direction of the composer.
Paul Barrett was then invited to the stage to talk about his third Mantovani Concert Spectacular, which will take place in the Spring.
To conclude the first part of the programme, and perhaps give us a taste of what was to come in the second part of the show, Albert played us a Wally Stott arrangement of ‘Oranges and Lemons’ played by the Wally Stott orchestra.
Suitably refreshed, we returned to our seats to the strains of ‘Angel Cake’ by Wally Stott. The tribute to Wally/Angela began with Albert reading out an appreciative letter from Angela's partner, Christine. This was followed (on DVD,) by an excerpt from John Wilson's televised 'Friday Night is Music Night' of a few years back, in which he played 'A Canadian in Mayfair' - written by Angela Morley as a tribute to Robert Farnon. It was, of course, performed by the BBC Concert Orchestra with an introduction from Roy Hudd.
Phil Farlow then took the stage to talk about the early career of Wally Stott and played excerpts from 'Tip Top Tunes' with Geraldo and his orchestra, featuring Dick James, The Geraldtones and Carole Carr, who sang ‘All Alone’. Wally Stott was, in fact, a member of Geraldo's orchestra, which then played the Stott arrangement of 'Adios'. We then saw (on DVD) some archival film of Angela Morley speaking at our past meetings and this was followed by excerpts from the films 'The Slipper and the Rose’ and 'Watership Down' featuring Angela's score for these films. We continued with the themes from 'Hancock's Half Hour' and 'The Goon Show'.
It was now the turn of harpist/pianist/conductor David Snell to take the stage and tell us of his association with Angela Morley. He then played us the end titles from ‘Captain Nemo and the Underwater City’, in which he had participated, but not underwater!
Albert then introduced ‘County Fair' featuring Mel Torme with the Wally Stott orchestra.
It is always a pleasure to welcome the ever-youthful Rosemary Squires to our meetings. She presented some recordings which she had made with Wally/Angela. First we heard ‘Junior and Julie’which was followed by ‘Thou Swell’ and an Angela Morley arrangement of ‘All Too Soon’ which featured Kenny Baker (flugelhorn) and Keith Bird (saxophone). Rosemary then played us Angela'sReverie for piano and violin and concluded with a selection of Christmas Waltzes (arranged Morley).
It was now time for the second interval, and we went to our refreshments to the accompaniment of the John Wilson Orchestra playing Wally Stott's ‘Snow Ride’.
We returned to our seats to the accompaniment of Robert Farnon playing ‘Get me to the Church on Time’.
It was then back to the big screen to watch a DVD of an interview with Bob Farnon - the interviewer being Bernard Braden.
This turned out to be very illuminating as Bob pulled no punches when it came to expressing his opinion as to what he thought of modern pop and its perpetrators! This was followed by a recording of Alan Dell talking to George Shearing and Angela Christian, who then performed Bob's ‘How Beautiful is Night’.
André Leon then came to the stage to report on the latest situation with UK Light Radio, which has been off the air for some months. André is, however, hopeful that further test transmissions will start early in the new year, and outlined the proposed format. We then heard a part of the ‘Miss Marple Theme’ (which will be the background theme to various trailers) and Leroy Anderson's ‘Sleigh Ride’which will be the conclusion to a presentation by David Ades, scheduled to be broadcast in 2010.
Albert Killman then gave a tribute to Malcolm Laycock, an old friend of the Society, who had recently passed away. It will be recalled that, upon Alan Dell's death, Malcolm took over his dance band programme and had been presenting it since1995. There was quite an outcry a year ago when the BBC in its infinite wisdom (or lack of it) decreed that the vintage British dance bands should no longer be featured in the programme. This, together with other differences with the BBC led to Malcolm's resignation in July 2009. To conclude his tribute to this respected broadcaster, Albert played the final part of one of his shows, which ended with ‘Just One of those Things’.
At the request of Norman Grant, Albert played ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas’ featuring Tony Bennett with the Robert Farnon Orchestra after which he thanked everybody who had contributed to the show. It goes without saying that Albert did a first rate job of presenting the afternoon's programme, but I know that a few people felt that it wasn't quite the same without David, whose presence we look forward to on the 28th March, when our special guest will be pianist and organist Iain Kerr.
WALLY STOTT – THE "TIP-TOP TUNES" YEARS
BY Philip Farlow
When it was decided to dedicate part of the November 2009 Robert Farnon Society meeting to the work of Angela Morley, I swiftly communicated a wish of mine that the very important formative years playing and arranging for Geraldo’s orchestra should be included in a special ‘cameo’ presentation. The vehicle for this early work was a BBC programme called Tip-Top Tunes and the idea here would be to illustrate briefly all the main elements of a typical programme with a particular focus on the early arranging skills of Wally Stott, later Angela Morley.
Back in May 2009 David Ades had fully supported the idea which was duly accepted by the London Meeting Committee allowing me to set to work on a presentation that I’d suggested to do at least minimum justice to the subject would be no less than ten but not more than fifteen minutes long.
Such often necessary constrictions certainly focuses one on what you really want to say and play and so on and off, over the next few months, I set to with a small but rare selection of broadcast material working out just how the dickens I was going to fit everything into my allotted slot.
Over the years my various presentation experiences with such projects has hopefully taught me the important patterns of how to start, how to finish and how to create and maintain narrated and musical contrast and interest in between.
More recently I discussed with David Ades the fact that perhaps many including worldwide members not able to attend last November’s meeting may be interested in a more detailed description of the final result. So here are my ‘almost verbatim’ notes interspersed with detail of music used and its source.
I started by explaining that as ... (P.F.): "Walter or Wally Stott was the name by which Angela Morley was known until the early 1970’s – and as certainly during the mid 1940’s period I’m dealing withhere, to keep things chronologically correct I’d like to refer to that name during my presentation.
"Bandleader Geraldo’s BBC Radio series ‘Tip-Top Tunes’ started in 1946 and quickly caught on, not only as a ‘must listen’ for the general public, but its very high standard of musicianship ensured a good audience by the dance band and light music profession as well.
"It’s interesting to note that ‘Tip-Top Tunes’ filled the spot previously occupied by Bob Farnon’s Canadian Army Radio orchestra’s series ‘Soldier Serenade’. There were certain similarities in the two programmes’ style as well, which were juggled, modified and added to, to become this new cocktail of the best in the widest sense of popular music entertainment of the period, as presented by this bigconcert sized orchestra of Geraldo’s.
"The ‘Tip-Top Tunes’ signature tune was written by Wally Stott. How it developed to be used is unclear – but what is very evident is that Wally delivered just exactly what was required.
"To set the mood, here’s an example of a programme opening sequence from 1947".
Cue Insert: BBC Light programme identification ‘Oranges and Lemons’ (Charles Smart – Novachord & Celeste) into continuity announcement (Jean Metcalfe) into ‘Tip-Top Tunes’ theme and part voiced over announcement by Peter King.
I then went on to explain (P.F.): "And now some brief examples of the kind of things heard in a typical ‘Tip-Top Tunes’ programme. "There were ballads by solo singers, a vocal group, there was small group swing, the big band with and without strings and of course the tour-de-force of the whole large concert orchestra. This is the musical climate in which Wally Stott was working at the time, (Cue music under) and it was in fact as far as I can see, his first foray into string writing. "Amongst the singers handling the ballads in the early ‘Tip-Top Tunes’ series were Archie Lewis, Sally Douglas, Denny Vaughan (recently Bob’s of course) – and here in a ‘Songs with Strings’ spot, Carole Carr.Fade up music: ‘Blue Bayou’ – Carole Carr and strings
This was the start of a five minute carefully constructed, timed and edited music sequence which I voiced over explaining all the various elements of the ‘Tip-Top Tunes’ programme that I had chosen. Carole Carr was followed by (P.F.): "... and another singer with the whole orchestra here, Dick James" Fade up music: ‘Along the Navajo Trail’. Then (P.F.): "there was always a vocal spot by Gerry’s resident vocal group, the Geraldtones" Fade up music: ‘Little Jack Frost get lost’followed by (P.F.): "and how about this for a lineup during a little quite boppish jazz spot" Faded up Peter King announcement & music: ‘Get Happy’ played by ‘The Tip Toppers’ (King’s announcement, ‘..swing arranged for small combination..’) demonstrating the very high standard of personnel within only a part of Geraldo’s Tip-Top Tunes orchestra namely Freddy Clayton – trumpet, Dougie Robinson – clarinet, Keith Bird – tenor sax, Laddie Busby – trombone, Jack Collier – double bass, Denny Vaughan – piano, Ivor Mairants – guitar and Eric Delaney – drums. Finally during this sequence I explained that (P.F.): "... a spot called ‘Swingtime’ presented the big band, sometimes without strings – and sometimes like here – with" Fade up music: ‘Cherokee’. (Ending the five minute voiced over sequence).
(P.F): "The backbone to this wonderful musical aggregation was of course some very talentedarranging skills – and in the early days of Geraldo’s ‘Tip-Top Tunes’ programme Bob Farnon was amongst these – together with a young man – still in his early twenties also occupying a place in Geraldo’s sax section – and that was Wally Stott. And like Bob Farnon, and listening to Bob’s arranging skills at work, Wally was developing a very quick ear as to exactly what to deliver in both big band – and now in string writing – because there’s no doubt about it that Wally’s arranging work within Geraldo’s ‘Tip-Top Tunes’ series shone like a very bright beacon – and particularly within those many exotic production type arrangements of which one was included in nearly every programme. Things like ‘Cherry Ripe’, ‘Oranges and lemons’, ‘April in Paris’, ‘The Kerry Dance’, ‘The March of the Toys’ and in this archive broadcast piece, Wally’s work reached perhaps an all-time high" Cue faded up Peter King announcement & music: ‘Adios’ arranged by Wally Stott for the full orchestra and vocal group, the Geraldtones, followed by (an only example from an earlier programme), a ‘Tip-Top Tunes’ programme close sequence part voiced over by the programme’s original producer and presenter David Miller.
So ended my presentation at last November’s R.F.S. special Angela Morley meeting. In the course of researching for it I noted, though didn’t mention the fact that apart from Wally Stott and Bob Farnon, over the years a whole host of arrangers were used throughout the ‘Tip-Top Tunes’ series including Alyn Ainsworth, Eric Jupp, Roland Shaw and Bob Sharples. ‘Tip-Top Tunes’ ran into the 1950s but became shorter and more infrequent as the decade wore on.
Further notes: Having had access to some of the surviving original radio excerpts of the ‘Tip-Top Tunes’ series (see below) it was interesting to note how a typical programme included carefully ‘written in’ linking modulations by (say) harp, celeste, or even the whole or parts of the orchestra to accompany equally carefully timed announcements for changes of programme tempo, mood and key. Hearing some of these often intricate and quite beautiful ‘compositions in miniature’ certainly indicates the presence of both Wally’s and Bob’s additional work on certainly the parts of the series heard.
On a technical note the sources used for the archive links were either directly or indirectly from a combination of Geraldo’s own circa 1946 to 1948 original off-air acetates some of which had been poorly used in the mid 1970’s Pickwick 2-LP set ‘Hits of the naughty Forties’. In the course of carrying out later work for Manja Geraldo-Leigh’s Family I was, with permission, able to retain some elements of that which I had worked on. Although the company that ‘cut’ these for Geraldo (Gui de Buire, New Bond Street, London) was capable of producing excellent ‘balanced landline’ quality, a combination of speed variations between sides or sets of sides and other non ideal local conditions meant that the received sound often needed tidying up in various ways. I carried out some minimal work on the versions used at the November meeting and felt it paid off producing an overall smooth technical end result. Geraldo archive: It is thought that Geraldo’s unique collection of surviving radio reference recordings is held by the Royal College of Music. An equally unique collection of original music scores and band parts are certainly known to be deposited at the R.C.M. and have been actively drawn on by John Wilson for specialised broadcast, recording and other performance occasions.
Editor: some of Wally Stott’s arrangements for Geraldo’s "Tip Top Tunes" Orchestra were recorded by Parlophone, and the following have been reissued on Guild Light Music CDs:
The Kerry Dance GLCD5162 Of The Toys GLCD5124