Thanks to the efforts of David O’Rourke, Robert Farnon’s How Beautiful Is Night was performed in a concert at New York’s Lincoln Center last November. James Beyer is planning to include the vocal version in his Edinburgh Light Orchestra’s concert on 26 May at the Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh (for more details telephone 0131 334 3140).
The following text is taken from Warren Vache’s website, and dates from around April 2005: This has been a terrible month for trumpet players. We have lost such lights as Tutti Cammerata, Robert Farnon, Benny Bailey, Kenny Schermerhorn, and Danny Moore. Alison Kerr of the Glasgow Herald asked me to say a few words for an obit on Robert Farnon she will be doing, and the process of writing re-awoke all the awe and inspiration Mr. Farnon’s writing never failed to instil in me. He had accepted a commission to write one arrangement for me and the Scottish Ensemble for our recording this July (2005), and was not able to complete it. I thought I would include my thoughts here. Robert Farnon was simply one of the most musical, creative, and intelligent arrangers and composers to have graced the world. He was and will remain the apex of that genre, and an inspiration to anyone with the drive to write for orchestral settings. The more you look into his work, the more there is to see and hear. And with all that skill and intelligence, there is always a feeling and a beauty that is absolutely gut wrenching. He was a tone painter like no other. I remember doing a concert with The New York Pops, and sitting in the soloists section in the middle of the orchestra. Now, there are few sounds in the world as exciting for me as a full orchestra, and the sound of a live orchestra is an experience that cannot be reproduced by any recording equipment. Well, they began to play a Farnon setting of Harold Arlen’s ‘What’s Good About Goodbye?" It began with an oboe solo over a lush and surprising string background, full of wonderful, and unusual voiceings, and a very creative harmonic treatment. The oboe was a lone voice in a wonderland, and I wanted to be in that wonderland. As if that weren’t enough, at the bridge, the colour changed to four horns! It was such a dramatic and startling change, as if the sound of the horns rose from under all those strings to take the beauty to a higher level. Imagine the light changing on some far off mountain. I was a puddle of tears it was so moving. It is a gift indeed to live in this veil of tears and be able to see through all the pain and dirt to the beauty Farnon envisioned. The world will not see his like again, and for me, a great source of inspiration and a window to the beautiful has been closed. Hearing a Farnon setting was like love without the heartbreak, and it doesn’t ever get better than that. We are grateful to Malcolm Frazer for discovering this for ‘Journal Into Melody’. Paul Clatworthy reviews Warren’s CD in ‘Keeping Track’.
David Mardon has written to point out that Haydn Wood’s Soliloquy played by the Queen’s Hall Light Orchestra conducted by Robert Farnon was not in the Chappell Recorded Music Library, but only on a Decca 78 (F 9265) and 10" LP (LM 4508). David also explains that the Radio Four Theme was initially recorded by the BBC Northern Symphony Orchestra under Fritz Speigel (part composer), and there was an agreement with the Musicians’ Union that it was to be re-recorded every five years. As the ‘Northern’ is now the BBC Philharmonic, the last version was under Rumon Gamba.
Tony Foster tells us that the Daily Mail (Saturday 2 December) gave away a free DVD of the film "The Slipper and the Rose". As JIM readers will know, Angela Morley was the Musical Director on this film, and she worked wonders with her arrangements of the Sherman Brothers’ songs, as well as adding her own incidental music.
One of our USA members, Jesse Knight, has written an interesting article on Light Music for a website. If you have access to the internet, you are strongly urged to visit the Aristos site atwww.aristos.org and click on to Jesse’s article which is appropriately called "The Joys of Light Music".
Peter Burt asks us to correct a mistake which crept into his "Back Tracks" article in our last issue. He says: "it must have been the Little People and not gremlins that caused me to write that Vincent Youmans was Dublin born. It was, of course, New York. So not Vincent O’Youmans after all!"
The Secretary recently provided the National Theatre in London with a recording of Robert Farnon’sOpenings and Endings – the music which introduced "Panorama" when it first appeared on BBC Television back in the 1950s. It will be used in the play "The Reporter" by Nicholas Wright which went into rehearsal in January. The National Theatre had been unable to find a recording, and contacted us through our website. Readers may remember that this music was included on the Conifer 2-CD compilation of Robert Farnon’s compositions released in 1996 and long deleted.
On Tuesday 17 October the Coda Club honoured Angela Morley with their Burt Rhodes Award for lifetime achievement in music. Unfortunately Angela was not well enough to travel from her home in the USA to London to receive the award personally, so it was accepted on her behalf by John Wilson. As readers will know, John has recorded a number of Angela’s compositions and arrangements for Vocalion in recent years, and he said that he felt honoured to receive the award on her behalf.
Martin Massini Ezcurra, from Buenos Aires, Argentina, is a great fan of the music of Stanley Black. Before spending a year studying in Britain, he got to know Stanley and his wife Edna, and met him many times in 2001 and 2002. Martin has prepared a list of Stanley Black recordings which he would be pleased to share with any fellow admirers. If you are interested,in the first instance please contact our membership secretary, Albert Killman.
Danny Robinson alerted us to the following letter which appeared in the London Times on 12 February under the heading Light Goes Out "Sir, My ears were opened to the joys of British light classical music by a series of free BBC concerts in the early 1990s. The beautiful sounds of Binge, Coates, Curzon, Torch and others came alive. In recent years, Britons have been able to hear a regular selection of these light classics, most of which are only three or four minutes long, courtesy of Brian Kay's Light Programme on BBC Radio 3, with the bonus of the playlist on the website. His one-hour programme made for a delightful interlude, well-suited to working in front of the PC or a break for afternoon tea. This week, however, Radio 3 has killed off British light music. No more dipping into an important, but little-known, strand of our national musical heritage. What a pity that the BBC cannot find time any more for these little snapshots of Britain. It makes one wonder who the controller thinks he serves. LESTER MAY, London NW1"
One of our German members, Alexander Schatte, has written to tell us about an ongoing project in honour of a leading composer. "For some years I have been working in my leisure time as archivist for the "Franz Grothe Foundation". Franz Grothe (1908-1982) was one of Germany's leading film and light music composers from the late 1920's until the mid 1960's. His musical output contains the music for 170 feature films, popular songs and also fine light concert works. Some of his hit tunes also became successful abroad like his "Midnight-Blues" in 1957. Last year I heard his famous slow waltz melody "Illusion" (also recorded by Dolf van der Linden and other international artists) on BBC via Internet-Radio. During recent months I have constructed a website for the Grothe-Foundation (presently only in the German language) which is now online at www.franzgrothe-stiftung.de The website also contains an online "orchestra catalogue" (103 titles) and in addition a second catalogue with our collection of original historic arrangements for salon orchestra (185 titles). I think these catalogues are interesting for all orchestras and small ensembles, musicians and conductors who enjoy performing traditional light and film music from this period. Every interested website visitor is most welcome to contact with me for further information."
The Scarborough Spa Orchestra is now one of very few light orchestras regularly performing light music. Their reputation has spread far beyond their native Yorkshire, and we hope that readers of this magazine who may happen to be in the north-east of England this summer will make a special effort to attend at least one of their concerts. The season starts on Sunday 3rd June and continues to Friday 21st September. The Scarborough Spa Orchestra gives six morning concerts and four evening concerts every week. Morning concerts are Sunday to Friday inclusive at 11am in the Sun Court, and evening concerts are Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday at 7.45 in the Grade II listed Grand Hall. For more details visit the orchestra’s website, which you can reach via the ‘Links’ page on our own website. RFS member Peter Luck was intrigued by one of the tracks on the Guild CD "Childhood Memories". When he listened to Time For Fun And Games he realised he’d heard it before, but where? The penny eventually dropped when he discovered that it was in "The Two Ronnies" ‘St Botolph’s Country Dance’ sketch that he had on a DVD. David Lennick has written about the Robert Farnon cutting on page 25 of our last issue – ‘The Tinder Box’. He thinks it is likely to be from January 1943, and stresses that the name of the radio series was "Magic Carpet". We were sorry to learn from James Beyer that the Edinburgh Palm Court Orchestra gave its last concert on Sunday 11 February. The orchestra’s Director, David Lyle, explained that they were having problems in finding suitable rehearsal premises, and it was difficult to find time in busy schedules for all the players and soloists to get together. There was also the recurring problem of hard-to-locate scores, and rising costs generally were a constant worry. Also their loyal audience was getting older, and ticket sales were slipping. Happily the Edinburgh Light Orchestra (under conductor James Beyer) continues to go from strength to strength, and their Saturday Concerts at the Queen’s Hall are a well-established popular feature in Edinburgh’s music scene. Their most recent concert was on 26 May, and it included works by Angela Morley, Robert Farnon, Edward White and Eric Coates. For details of their next event you can telephone 0131 334 3140. Have you ever wondered why some musicians only use their initials? Jack Docherty thinks he knows the answer. He recently discovered that H.M. Farrar’s full name is Hubert Murgatroyd Farrar!
Warmest congratulations to RFS member Vic Lewis who has recently been honoured by Queen Elizabeth II with the award of an MBE.
Back in June RFS member, and light music composer, John McLain launched a broadside against Radio Times through Radio-4’s "Feedback" programme. John was incensed at the changes on the radio pages of Radio Times which describe music as falling into just three categories: Rock, Pop and/or Classical. Unsurprisingly his tirade did not make it onto the programme. People working at the BBC these days must be getting completely immune to all the complaints from viewers and listeners. If anyone ever praised them they’d probably collapse on the spot, but there seems little likelihood of that happening!
A new work – Ronnie Smith’s "Seasons of Woman" - described by Robert Farnon as "truly beautiful music", was given its world premiere on Saturday 7 July by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Paul Bateman. The venue chosen was the Watford Colosseum (formerly Watford Town Hall) where Ronnie Smith and his Band regularly performed from 1964 to 1974, often to audiences of 1,000 or more. The highlight of the concert was Ronnie’s "Seasons of Woman", composed over a period of seven years which its creator described as a testament to his love and admiration of women. Introduced by Rick Wakeman, the concert also included the jazz ensemble Light & Shade with Tina May, performing some of Ronnie Smith’s latest jazz compositions and arrangements.
RFS member Robin Dodd was recently invited by Angel Radio to present a series of one-hour programmes based on his JIM articles about his musical voyages (the final part of his trip to the South Atlantic appears in this issue on page 28). The first programmes were broadcast in May and June, with more to follow. Angel Radio can be heard in the Havant and Portsmouth areas on 101.1 FM and it is also available world-wide via the internet at www.angelradio.co.uk.
On 1 September (3 p.m.) the National Children's Orchestra (under-13s) will give the first performance of a specially commissioned work by Matthew Curtis called 'Four Winds Suite' in the Bridgewater Hall, Manchester. On 21 October (2.30 p.m.) there will be a concert devoted entirely to Matthew’s chamber works at the Pittville Pump Room, Cheltenham, performed by Marie Vassiliou (soprano), Verity Butler (clarinet) and Gavin Sutherland (piano).
Dennis Wright recently gave a presentation of some of his own favourites to his local recorded music society. We feel sure that some other members do the same. To make your event more memorable, it is helpful if you can provide some literature for anyone who may be interested. Our Publicity Officer, Paul Clatworthy, will always be happy to supply you with a selection of back issues of our magazine for distribution on such occasions. This is the time of year when plans are being made for events during the darker evenings, so please feel welcome to take advantage of this offer. You may also help to get some new members for us.
25 years ago Fopp began as a market stall in Glasgow, and eventually developed into a major retailer selling cheap CDs, DVDs and books. One of the additional pleasures of attending RFS London meetings was the opportunity to stroll along to Tottenham Court Road and browse through the thousands of CDs at Fopp, often as cheap as only £1 each. Towards the end of June the company announced that all of its 105 stores in Britain would be closed, thus depriving customers of a wonderful source of reasonably priced products. There was speculation that the firm’s problems could have arisen when it acquired 67 stores from the Administrator of the retailer Music Zone some months earlier. However the slump in sales of CDs has been blamed for Fopp’s closure; people are now getting more and more of their music from supermarkets, rather than traditional record stores, and internet sales (and downloads) are booming. Another large UK retailer HMV had announced a big drop in profits just a few days before Fopp announced that it was closing all its stores.
Ann Adams and The Ladies’ Palm Court Orchestra performed an attractive programme of music at Kensington Gardens, London, on Sunday 22 July. Among the many famous light music composers represented were works by Haydn Wood, Henry Croudson, Archibald Joyce, Frederic Curzon, Harry Dexter, Roger Quilter and Albert Ketèlbey.
Another independent record company has been taken over by one of the majors. It was announced on 15 June that Sanctuary (who issue Living Era and other labels and also own the old Pye/Nixa catalogue) had agreed to a £104.3m takeover by Universal Music. The price includes £59m of debt and it appears that the group's difficulties had arisen through problems with the artists management side of the business, which looks after the careers of stars such as Lulu and Sir Elton John. Although Universal has stated that it wishes to build upon Sanctuary's strengths and expand the business, we still remember what happened when BMG gobbled up the Conifer label some years ago. If any readers still need to acquire White Line or Living Era CDs for their collections it might be a good idea to get them sooner rather than later. There have been rumours of a counter-bid from a Hong Kong based consortium but to date there is no firm news of this.
Bassist Chris Laurence released his first CD album "New View" earlier this year, and Brian Blain interviewed him for the May/June issue of Jazz UK. Chris said that it was a thrill to work with Sarah Vaughan and Lena Horne "but what really sticks in my mind was a session with Bob Farnon, who was a really outstanding arranger, on a track with the great trombonist J.J. Johnson. It was just JJ and me in the middle of the old CTS studio at Wembley, on a simple blues Opus de Focus. But it was the kind of magical moment that stays with you forever".
Sound copyright: there is now an on-line petition where people who wish the sound copyright term to remain at 50 years can add their name. This comes under the trial UK government scheme whereby citizens can start up petitions for various causes. If there are large numbers of signatories on any given subject the government says it will take notice. We urge all JIM readers who support this petition to add their names as soon as possible. The petition will remain open until 2 December.
Paul Lewis has been commissioned by Bristol Silents and Le Giornate del Cinema Muto (Pordenone Silent Film Festival, Italy) to compose a new score for the classic masterpiece "Pandora’s Box". On 15 September Paul will be conducting his new score with a 25 piece contingent of the Royal Ballet Sinfonia, with film projection, at the Colston Hall, Bristol, commencing at 7:30 pm. He has written a special article about his work on the score (lasting an incredible two hours and eleven minutes of music) which we will be publishing in the next issue of Journal Into Melody.
John Wilson conducted the BBC Concert Orchestra in a superb concert of music from British films as the second of this year’s series of Promenade Concerts, on Saturday 14 July. The enthusiastic audience response must surely convince the people who choose the repertoire for Promenade Concerts that this should not be an isolated event. John Wilson was introduced as one of Britain’s foremost light music conductors, so let’s hope that he is given a Prom next year where he can perform some of the finest examples from the world of light music.
Readers with access to the internet will have no problem in finding detailed tracklistings of all the Guild "Golden Age of Light Music" CDs on various sites, including www.guildmusic.com. For the benefit of those without this facility, Alan Bunting has prepared a printed list of all Guild Light Music CDs which he will be pleased to supply on request. Write to Alan at: 28 Pelstream Avenue, Stirling, FK7 0BE, UK – you are requested to enclose three first-class stamps to cover expenses.
Further to the report in our last issue, it was announced in September that Sanctuary Recordswould be closing down its UK recorded music business. The Group’s new owners, Universal, decided that they would concentrate on Sanctuary’s management arm which it stated in a press release was the more profitable side of the business. This tends to conflict with the impression previously given, where statements in recent months had suggested that expensive mistakes in promoting Sanctuary’s roster of artists (including Sir Elton John and Lulu) were the main cause of the financial difficulties. Apparently Sanctuary’s US recorded music operations are not affected, but the decision to close down the UK record business means the disappearance of popular labels such as Living Era and White Line. As we go to press we are still able to get supplies of CDs from Sanctuary’s distributors, but we have no way of knowing how much longer they will continue to be available. If there are any titles you particularly want (and in recent years there have been reviews in JIM of some interesting light music releases on both Living Era and White Line) we recommend that you should try to obtain them without delay.
RFS member Phil Stout has recently reported to us on his work as a Music Consultant with Music Choice, an American television company offering channels of various kinds of music. Of particular interest to readers will be the Easy Listening channel, which broadcasts uninterrupted music continuously for seven days a week. While the music is being played a suitable picture (usually a scenic view) is shown on-screen, together with details of the orchestra and title of the music. Sometimes there are photographs of the conductor, with extra information about their careers. From time to time items of trivia, associated with easy listening music, are scrolled across the screen. Phil tells us that it is often difficult to find decent photographs of the orchestra leaders. During a sample tape we saw Norrie Paramor, Frank Chacksfield, John Wilson, Percy Faith, Andre Kostelanetz, Franck Pourcel, Caravelli and many others; in total there are over 3,000 tracks in active rotation. Phil also provides a similar service for three other full-time channels: Singers and Standards, Big Band & Swing and Showtunes. Music Choice reaches over 30 million homes in the USA.
Readers who have spotted Paul Clatworthy’s reference to Laurie Johnson’s Rue de la Paix (in this issue’s ‘Big Band Roundup’) may be forgiven for wondering why this catchy melody has not yet been featured in the Guild ‘Golden Age of Light Music’ series of CDs. Although it was regularly being heard on BBC Radio in the early 1950s, it was not issued on a mood music 78 by KPM until 1960 so it is still in copyright.
RFS members will recall from recent issues of this magazine that Robert Farnon dedicated his Bassoon Concerto to the American virtuoso Daniel Smith. It is hoped that the UK premiere of this work (one of Bob’s last, which he based on his Saxophone Tripartite) will take place towards the end of next year. Daniel plans to be at our forthcoming London meeting, when he may have some more news about this eagerly awaited event. Meanwhile he is busily promoting his latest CD "The Swingin’ Bassoon" (Guild Zah Zah ZZCD9824) which will be launched at the Concert Jazz Club, in Thame, Oxfordshire on 28 November at 8:00pm. Daniel would be delighted to welcome some RFS members in the audience; if you would like to attend please contact Eddie Fowler on 01844 353117 for more details.
Some members may recall reading features in this magazine written by Mike Ellis. He was also a regular contributor to In Tune International, although he had been less prolific in recent years. Never one to shy away from being controversial, Mike had an encyclopaedic knowledge about quality popular music, and many of us will have learned much from his writings. Sadly he died on 3 September following a long illness, and we send our sincere condolences to his wife Marion and the family.
ERIC COATES TO BE HONOURED BY BBC RADIO 3
In recognition of the 50th Anniversary of his death, Radio 3 is to make Eric Coates ‘Composer of the Week’ 17-21 December 2007. The programmes are likely to include a number of premier recordings, and we gather that John Wilson is going to be featured as today’s leading interpreter of Coates’ music.