Last October BBC Four screened a series of programmes with a railway theme, and from subsequent feedback we know that many RFS members in Britain found them most enjoyable. Prompted by the 40th anniversary of the fateful ‘Beeching Report’ which forced the closure of around one-third on the railway network, the programmes were rich in nostalgia – especially to steam enthusiasts. British Transport Films were featured on 23 October (with later repeats) and members who regularly attend our London meetings will have spotted Alan Willmott towards the end of the programme. Alan was with BTF for over 30 years, and he has presented selections of their vast film library (over 700 titles) at RFS meetings. Much of their appeal to us lies in the orchestral scores that were commissioned from leading composers. Sadly the programme did not mention this important aspect, but maybe this was due to only 40 minutes being allocated to what is a vast subject. Alan tells us that his part of the programme was filmed at the National Railway Museum last July, and it would be nice to think that – one day – another producer will give us a more satisfying study (perhaps lasting around two hours) of the work of the BTF. But as a taster Alan’s programme was most welcome and enjoyable, and several BTF films were screened in their original form while the ‘railway season’ was running.
As we mentioned briefly in our last issue, Brian Reynolds has been providing a lot of interesting information about broadcasting orchestras for the Whirligig internet site – www.whirligig-tv.co.uk.. This started as long ago as 1999 by Terry Guntripp, who tells us that he had virtually stopped adding new information to his site because the supply of fresh material had virtually dried up – until Brian Reynolds took an interest! Details of vintage themes available on Guild ‘Golden Age of Light Music’ CDs have also been featured on a new page in the radio section – click on ‘Radio Days’ in the left hand column, and then ‘Audio Sources’ in the strip at the top of the new page. Because he has so much new material to add about broadcasting orchestras, Brian Reynolds has now been given his own website ‘Masters of Melody’: www.mastersofmelody.co.uk.
The following report dated 13 October 2008 comes from The Canadian Press, Toronto: Tony Bennett says it was the genius of the late Toronto-born composer Robert Farnon that led to his long break from producing Christmas albums. Bennett's new record "A Swingin' Christmas", being released this week, is just his second holiday album. The first was 1968's "Snowfall: The Tony Bennett Christmas Album", and the iconic crooner says the 40-year gap is a result of Farnon's superb orchestrations on that disc. 'When I did ("Snowfall") it was such a work of art, as far as I was concerned, that when Columbia/Sony ... would say to me every year, 'You've got to do a Christmas album because that's our season to really sell an album,' I said, 'No, no ... that's the album,' you know, it was very complete,' Bennett, 82, said in a recent interview. He explained that Farnon was widely revered in music circles and nicknamed 'The Governor' by Frank Sinatra. Bennett changed his mind about doing a second festive album earlier this year after his son/manager, Danny, proposed doing one that 'isn't as serious or religious as the first "Snowfall" album.' 'He said, 'Just a swingin' album, let's do one for parties ... it's such a festive time of the year. Just do an album that just has a good beat to it,'' Bennett said in his raspy New York accent, dressed to the nines in a slick, navy-blue pinstripe suit. "A Swingin' Christmas", recorded onstage at the Bergen Performing Arts Center in New Jersey, comprises old favourites including Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, I'll Be Home for Christmasand Winter Wonderland. The album reunites Bennett with the Count Basie Orchestra, with whom he performed in the 1950s. Some of the orchestra members are the same ones Bennett recorded with back in the day, he said. 'I was the first white singer that ever sang (with them), when it was shocking to have a white artist with a black band,' said the balladeer, who has won 15 Grammy Awards. 'It was great, it worked right away, there wasn't any problem at all but the corporations always questioned it because the black music never really sold down south in bigoted areas of the States and they would discourage it. They wouldn't promote it because of sales.'
On 29 October 2008 BBC Radio-3’s "Performance on 3" featured a concert of light music from the Colosseum in Watford. The BBC Concert Orchestra was conducted by Gavin Sutherland and they were certainly on top form. The varied programme included both modern and ‘classic’ pieces of light music, confirming that today’s composers are still attracted to the genre. Highlight for many people will have been the inclusion of Haydn Wood’s Violin Concerto brilliantly performed by Tasmin Little. The concert featured the following works: Joie de Vivre (David Lyon), Lakeside Idyll (Ernest Tomlinson), Violin Concerto (Haydn Wood), London Salute (Philip Lane), Kaleidoscope (Peter Hope),Summer Afternoon (Eric Coates), In The Moonlight (Albert Ketèlbey), The Night Has Eyes (Charles Williams), Jubilee Dances (Paul Patterson) – plus an encore Knightsbridge (Eric Coates). It was good to hear Gavin Sutherland interviewed during the concert and, although this was a radio concert, you were able to view it afterwards, on the BBC iPlayer for seven days via your computer … let’s hope the idea catches on! Unfortunately we were not advised of the concert until after our September magazine had gone to press, but we did include details in the Latest News section of our website, so we hope that some RFS members will have been alerted.
Filmharmonic 2009 takes place at London’s Royal Albert Hall on Friday 8 May commencing at 7:30pm. The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra will be conducted by Paul Bateman, and the concert includes music from Pirates of the Caribbean, Lord of the Rings, Gladiator, Star Wars, Harry Potter, Superman and Jurassic Park. There will also be a special tribute to great TV Themes Dallas, Dynasty, Cagney and Lacey and L.A. Law. Tickets £50 - £10. Telephone bookings on 020 7589 8212; online bookings: www.royalalberthall.com.
ROBERT FARNON BASSOON CONCERTO
World premiere Sept. 13, 2009
Legendary arranger/composer Robert Farnon dedicated his final composition of a jazz-oriented bassoon concerto to Daniel Smith.
Titled ‘Romancing the Phoenix’, this ground-breaking concerto, with improvisation included throughout the three movements, calls for enlarged wind sections as well as a jazz rhythm section on stage alongside the orchestra.
The World premiere will take place Sept. 13, 2009 at the Forum Theatre in Malvern, England, with the Chandos Symphony Orchestra, Michael Lloyd conducing. Warner Chappell has published the score and parts with Robert Farnon’s dedication to Daniel Smith on the title page.
The note in our last issue (page 74) about the last time Tony Bennett and Robert Farnon were together in the recording studios prompted calls from Fred Wadsworth and Mark Fox. Christmas in Herald Square was included as a final ‘hidden’ track on the Bennett CD "The Playground" – US Columbia CK69380. Sixteen tracks (mainly to appeal to children) were listed on the album, but when you continued playing the CD at the end a seventeenth track appeared. This was a gimmick used on a number of CDs released around this time – the late 1990s. Maybe readers are aware of other examples?
There are now many internet sites which could be of interest to readers, and one recently brought to our attention is that operated by the British music magazine Gramophone. It now contains a massive amount of information, including reviews going back decades, and those of you with access to the internet should take a look at: www.gramophone.net One word of warning: once you start surfing this site you won’t want to stop!
The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra have taken over the management of the BBC Big Band. The connection here is that the RPO's MD, Ian Maclay, was formerly General Manager of the BBC Concert Orchestra and the Big Band. Hopefully this will do nothing but good in ensuring the survival of the Big Band, which currently only gets 25 minutes a week on Radio 2 plus the odd Radio 3 broadcast. It should get more outside concerts for a start.
Anne Shelton’s niece, Kelly Richards, is promoting a special concert on the 15th year (to the day) of her death on Friday 31 July. It is in aid of Anne’s favourite charity, the Not Forgotten Association, and will take place at The Winter Garden Theatre, Eastbourne, commencing at 7:30pm. Tickets cost £15 - £17; box office telephone 01323 412000. The New Squadronaires will be performing many wartime favourites, and they will be accompanying many singers who are adding their support.
The newly-formed Eric Coates Society (appropriately launched in the composer’s birthplace) is now up and running, and we wish it every success. Many people regard Coates as the finest English composer of Light Music during the first half of the last century, and this tribute to his memory is long overdue. In the Robert Farnon Society we will continue to keep our members aware of his great achievements, and all new recordings of his music will be publicised. Many of our loyal members also belong to other music societies, and we are sure that some of you will also want to be associated with the efforts being made to keep the music of Eric Coates alive in the 21st century. The person to contact is the Secretary, Peter Butler, 47 Farleys Lane, Hucknall, Nottingham, NG15 6DT, England. The subscription is £10 and cheques should be payable to ‘The Eric Coates Society’.
RETROSPECTIVE RISES FROM THE ASHES OF LIVING ERA
When Sanctuary Group was taken over by Universal in 2007 the Living Era label was a casualty. Under Ray Crick’s guidance it had become one of the UK’s leading nostalgia catalogues, and by carefully choosing the repertoire it had also achieved success in the USA. Some of the artists were little known in Europe, but their popularity in the USA ensured healthy sales. Ray also commissioned several collections of light music, including Robert Farnon, David Rose, Sidney Torch, George Melachrino, Peter Yorke, Percy Faith and Louis Levy.
After various new projects failed to materialise, Ray Crick launched the Retrospective label last October. Some of the best Living Era collections have been reprogrammed and subjected to fresh digital restoration by Alan Bunting, and the result is an exciting series that is quickly gaining a reputation for quality. Peter Dempsey (who compiled many collections and wrote numerous sleeve notes for Living Era) is also on board, and the initial releases included 2 CD sets by George Formby, Fred Astaire, Humphrey Lyttelton, Nat King Cole, Paul Robeson and Tony Martin, and single discs by Alma Cogan, André Previn, Eartha Kitt, Louis Armstrong, Perez Prado and Sammy Davis Jr. From January plans are for the label to release ten discs per month covering both Nostalgia and Vintage Jazz.
Ray Crick says: "I am delighted to be involved with RETROSPECTIVE because it gives me the chance to create CD programmes that will bring alive the finest recordings by those wonderful vintage entertainers of yesteryear, both popular and jazz, for people to enjoy here and now. The first 25 sets out our stall, with music stretching from the music hall to jugbands to rock ‘n’ roll! We anticipate that the entire project will total more than 400 releases, each with a smart series design, making for a highly collectable range."
RETROSPECTIVE is a joint venture between Wyastone Estate Limited and Retrospective Recordings Limited. All sets will be manufactured in the UK and the USA using the Nimbus disc and print 'on demand' production services and distributed world-wide by Wyastone Estate Limited. The in-house production facility ensures that titles are never overstocked or out of stock and that they can respond immediately to market demand. Website: www.retrospective-records.co.uk
Our very special member Rosemary Squires, MBE, received another unexpected honour recently. The packed audience at the at the prestigious Concorde Club Eastleigh on Wednesday 4 March was delighted when the proprietor, Cole Matheson, jumped on stage during the second half of her gala celebration of ‘Sixty Years of Song’ to award an equally surprised Rosemary Squires with ‘The Freedom of the Concorde’! Congratulating Rosemary on her "diamond jubilee of making music" Cole thanked her for "her singing, her smile, and for her ‘royal presence’ so often lighting up the stage which has given so much pleasure worldwide over so many years". Cole explained that in addition to having her photograph displayed in a place of honour in the Club, the award entitled Rosemary to drive her sheep through the Moldy Fig bar, to sleep overnight in the car park, to paddle in the brook and to have her first drink on the house whenever she calls!" For once lost for words, Rosemary said "This is an emotional moment - I suppose I’ve got to go out and buy a flock a sheep now!" For this gala evening Rosemary called on world famous musicians from her past, Brian Dee piano, Colin Green guitar, Bobby Worth drums, Jim Richardson bass, Alan Barnes saxes/clarinet, and Ronnie Hughes trumpet; the concert closed appropriately with a lively ‘I’ve got Rhythm’, which they certainly had! The perfect ending to what was acclaimed by members of the audience as "a memorable occasion".
Joan Osborne-Walker recently sent us a cutting from the Daily Telegraph headed "Why joyful music is good for the heart". It seems that scientists have discovered that stressful or disturbing music has the effect of narrowing the arteries, and may be harmful to the heart. On the other hand a cheerful favourite tune has a beneficial effect on blood vessels, widening them and protecting against heart disease. After listening to joyful music, volunteers’ arteries opened 26 per cent wider on average than they did when no music was played. So if you want to keep fit, healthy and happy – put on your favourite CD … of light music, of course!
Rod Rizzo also sent us a cutting – this time from the New York Daily News. It mentions that 29 years after the death of Andre Kostelanetz his personal chronicle of his long and distinguished career has been donated to the Library of Congress. It comprises 73 cartons of personal papers, recordings, photographs, transcriptions and correspondence. It had all been stored in a warehouse because his brother, Boris, felt emotionally unable to deal with it after his death. When Boris died, their nephew Bob Frank arranged for the donation. Included are transcriptions of the live radio programmes Kostelanetz hosted on CBS radio from 1932 to 1946. They are widely considered to have played a major role in making classical music accessible to pop music fans.
Gene Lees recently completed his new biography on the career of Artie Shaw. We will let you know as soon as we are advised of its publication.
The Australian composer Grant Foster has been very busy just recently. In a special message toJournal Into Melody he told us that he had been in Dubai on 13 March for discussions regarding the performance of "The Pearl of Dubai". He then left for Nice, France where his Piano Sonata was premiered on 21 March by Mira Yevtich along with his Ballad for Two Pianos also performed by Mira and a very fine Russian pianist. Grant is currently working on an Opera which he describes as an exciting work, one that he feels could be well received.
"You’re-Never-Too-Old-To-Learn" department: Dave Bernard in Cambridge (USA) recently told us that the Alec Wilder composition In The Blue Of The Evening is predominantly known as Footnote To A Summer Love and it was thus titled when Wilder himself recorded it with his Octet on Vox in 1947. It appears on the Robert Farnon Decca LP "Presenting Robert Farnon", and there is another Wilder piece on the other side of the album which also has two titles: on the UK release (LK 4067) it is "Dawn to Dusk" but on the same LP issued in the USA (London LL 812) it is called "Rhapsody for Piano and Orchestra". Alec Wilder seems to have been greatly admired by musicians. Even Frank Sinatra is reported to have used his own money to conduct and record some of his music back in his Tommy Dorsey days.
Paul Clatworthy has drawn our attention to a recent CD issued by El Records featuring the LP "Sounds In The Night" by Russ Garcia (ACMEM 160 CD). To fill the rest of the CD they have included the "Mother Magoo Suite" by Dennis Farnon (featuring Marni Nixon on some tracks) which was on one side of an RCA LP in the 1950s. The booklet notes for the new CD by Christopher Evans are particularly interesting. He tells us that Dennis Farnon "made a good living through composing and arranging for the movies (including Captain Hornblower RN and Spring In Park Lane) and as a jazz bandleader, Farnon also aspired to be a classical composer and even had the first of his two symphonies composed before the war premiered by the great conductor Eugene Ormandy etc…" Does anyone know who Christopher Evans is? He needs to be told a thing or two about Dennis and Robert!
David S. Brookes is running an Eric Coates ‘Come and Play Day’ at Polesworth Abbey on Saturday 3 October 2009 and he and his team are looking for instrumentalists who would be interested in taking part. For more information contact David S Brookes 54 Kiln Way, Polesworth, Tamworth B78 1JE. Tel. 01827 704410; Email:
BBC-2 screened a 90-minute documentary devoted to Tony Bennett on a Saturday evening last February. It was produced and compered by Clint Eastwood, and showed that Tony can still hold an audience in the palm of his hand. The one ‘wrong note’ was the omission of any reference to his work with Robert Farnon. We know that such shows suffer at the hands of editors when they are being put together after filming, but considering that Bob and Tony were responsible for some landmark LPs – as well as memorable concerts at Carnegie Hall, The Royal Albert Hall and the Royal Festival Hall, as well as a Thames TV series – how could all that be ignored? Show business ‘documentaries’ like this can be entertaining, but it seems they should never be relied upon as an accurate representation of the subject’s real achievements.
Ann Adams and The Ladies’ Palm Court Orchestra will be playing again in a London Park this summer, but the venue has changed to St James’s Park from 2:00 to 4:15pm on Sunday 26 July. Her regular fans are bound to turn out in force … just pray for a warm, sunny day!
Richard Cochrane is a jazz player, based in The Netherlands, but his reason for contacting us recently is that he is the nephew of the composer Joyce Cochrane. Richard had noted that several of her pieces have been reissued on Guild CDs, and David Ades explained to him that it is very difficult to discover much about her career. He has promised to pass on what he knows, although he admits that he regrets not having asked her more about her work during a period towards the end of her life when she was living with him. However Richard believes that a mistake has been made in crediting "Call Of The Casbah" (on "Going Places" Guild GLCD 5151) to Joyce Cochrane. The label of the original disc (HMV 45-POP 404) states simply ‘Cochrane’, but this work is not listed on any of the papers in Richard’s possession. He wonders if it may be written by Peggy Cochrane, since he has found a reference to her working on the TV series "Destination Downing Street" (where the music was used) although Peggy is not listed specifically as the composer. It seems highly likely that Richard is right; this is another example of the annoying habit of record companies often only crediting composers by their surnames (there are even examples where no composers are mentioned at all). It also illustrates that even the best educated guesses are not always correct!
On Easter Monday Colin Berry introduced a 2 hour programme of Light Music – "A Little Light Music" - on BBC Three Counties Radio. We included details in the ‘Latest News’ section of our website, so we hope that many RFS members around the world will have heard Colin via the BBC Website. Colin presented a similar programme last Christmas, and the success of the Easter show prompted a further two hours of Light Music on the May Day Bank Holiday. Let’s hope that this becomes a regular feature for Colin.
Leslie Julian Jones is known to light music enthusiasts as the composer of Postman’s Knock, but he created a body of music which has been unfairly neglected. Former BBC Producer Anthony Wills is working hard to make his music better known, and he recently provided us with an update on the restoration of Jones’ ‘lost’ musical "Queen For Sunday". Anthony reports: After many setbacks and delays we are finally ready to go into the studio and record a demo of Leslie Julian Jones’ Lost Musical for circulation to music publishers, musical theatre academies and operatic societies. The vocal score (running to 220 pages!) is finished and has been checked and re-checked. We are particularly thrilled to have secured the services of Richard Suart to play the role of Hi-Tee. Richard has just finished touring with Opera North in their productions of George Gershwin’s "Of Thee I Sing" and "Let ‘Em Eat Cake". He has a wealth of experience in Gilbert & Sullivan and other character roles. His latest CD, which he has recorded with soprano Catherine Bott and the New London Orchestra & Chorus under Ronald Corp, features the songs of neglected British composer Lionel Monckton (of "The Arcadians" fame) and is available on Hyperion Records. The 16-piece chorus is being drawn from the ranks of Capital Voices — Annie Skates’ first-class vocal ensemble, whose skills have been featured in such diverse settings as the Royal Variety Performance, The X Factor and Britain‘s Got Talent on TV, Radio 2 concerts with Andrew Lloyd Webber and Jerry Herman, recordings with Michael Ball and Elaine Paige, and Christmas concerts for Raymond Gubbay in the Royal Albert Hall. Other roles are being taken by Matt and Annie Lower and members of the English Concert Singers, who have just celebrated their 20th anniversary with a gala concert of works by Brahms and Vaughan Williams in the newly restored Birmingham Town Hall. The pianist is Alexander Wells who is the official accompanist to the London Chorus and the Highgate Choral Society. The Musical Director is the former Principal Conductor of the BBC Radio Orchestra and City of Glasgow Philharmonic lain Sutherland, who has conducted West End shows as well as a series of classic Broadway shows recorded for BBC Radio 2. Recording will take place in Resident Studios London NW2 later this month (April 2009). The engineer is Mark Tucker who has worked in studios such as Lansdowne and CTS and is now freelance. Mark’s experience encompasses film soundtracks, jazz, West End cast and pop recordings. Even though the recording is with piano accompaniment rather than orchestra the costs are working out at approximately £32,000 so we have had to seek donations from sponsors.
In 1967-1968 more than 300 of Britain’s biggest names in the entertainment world were interviewed by Bernard Braden for a proposed television series that never came to fruition. At the time Braden (one of our Society’s original Vice-Presidents) was a leading popular television presenter, and we have not (yet) been able to discover why the project was dropped. The good news is that the British Film Institute has been able to acquire this valuable resource, which is being made available for educational use – subject to the necessary rights clearances being obtained. Robert Farnon was one of the people interviewed, and thanks to David Farnon we now have a copy (unedited, and in pristine colour) in the RFS Archives.
On 11 May BBC-2 screened a concert from the Royal Albert Hall featuring the comedian Bill Bailey with the BBC Concert Orchestra conducted by Anne Dudley – "Bill Bailey’s Remarkable Guide To The Orchestra". The event actually took place last October, and somewhat surprisingly it has been announced that a DVD will be released on 23 November later this year. This will feature the entire concert, not just the excerpts screened by the BBC, although TV viewers did see (and hear) the BBC Concert Orchestra playing David Rose’s Holiday For Strings and John Malcolm’s Non Stop. Unfortunately the music was punctuated by Bailey’s ‘witticisms’, but some people may have been sufficiently attracted to want to explore further. Thanks to Roger Mellor for this report.
Thanks to the enthusiasm of his daughter Michele, there are many releases on CD and DVD featuring Matt Monro, and a recent package from Odeon Entertainment called "The Ultimate Performer" includes an extract from Tony Bennett’s Thames TV show on 18 October 1972 from London’s Talk Of The Town featuring Robert Farnon and his Orchestra. This was a series featuring many top singers with Tony Bennett (all featuring the Robert Farnon Orchestra) and as far as we know this is the first time that anything from this source has appeared on DVD (if you know differently, please tell us!)
Spotted for sale on the Amazon website in July - copies of the following deleted Robert Farnon CDs: Living Era "Portrait of Farnon" on offer at over £110; Vocalion "Two Cigarettes In The Dark" £100; "Out Of My Dreams" £145.73; "Hoagy Carmichael/Victor Schertzinger Suites" a staggering £214.50!
On 24 June the London Daily Telegraph featured an interview with RFS member John Wilson. In the newspaper it was headed: "Conductor who saw the light". On the Telegraph’s website the same article appeared as: "John Wilson’s plight for ‘light music’". The sub-heading was more explicit: "John Wilson is on a crusade to bring light music and classic film scores back to our concert halls". It seems that the interviewer Ivan Hewett was slightly confused in suggesting that "Workers’ Playtime" was once a home of light music on the radio (no doubt he meant "Music While You Work") but at least the article will have alerted some readers to the fact that light music is still alive and kicking, and all the indications are that it is gradually making a comeback. In a resumé of John’s impressive career to date, Hewett reported: At 16 he founded the Newcastle Symphony Orchestra; at 18 he went to the Royal College, where, as he puts it, "I could form a different orchestra every week." By the age of 22 he was out in the world arranging music for Radio 2’s ‘Friday Night Is Music Night’, and scouring libraries and archives for music for his newly formed John Wilson Orchestra. "I was determined to get that wonderful Fifties sound you hear on those great MGM musicals, so I booked the best players. It’s the same now. You wouldn’t believe how many section principals and orchestral leaders I’ve got in the string section!" he says proudly. "And we did top-quality repertoire – Gershwin, Cole Porter, all in fabulous arrangements." By 2002, the orchestra had its first Queen Elizabeth Hall concert, and in 2004 Wilson conducted his first MGM Live concert. Talking about this brings a crusading gleam to his eye. "I realised that an awful lot of this music had disappeared. It turned out that MGM threw out all the scores for their great musicals like ‘Singin’ in the Rain’ and ‘Seven Brides for Seven Brothers’. They were used as landfill for a car park. So I had to track down the short scores and parts. It’s been a 10-year project." Getting the style right involved studying a man who, for Wilson, is a neglected master of 20th-century music. "Conrad Salinger was a house orchestrator for MGM, and he was really in the Ravel class. André Previn reckons he’s the greatest who ever lived. I’ve learned lots of tricks from him." Would he describe himself as a perfectionist? "Oh, it’s got to be right. I once spent a whole Sunday morning on just four bars from ‘The Wizard of Oz’." We’ve been talking about American film composers, but it’s only when I ask Wilson about future plans that the truth finally comes out. "People think I’m a film music nerd, but my real passion is English music. What I’d really like to do is conduct all the Vaughan Williams symphonies." What makes English music special for him? "Oh, I can’t explain it. It’s that wistfulness and longing and melancholy. Elgar’s symphonies I think are in the Beethoven class. I have fights with people in the pub about that." The idea of Wilson getting in a fight is wonderfully improbable; but then so is his charmed life-story, which is the stuff of a good musical itself.
The Summer edition of The Light Music Society Newsletter includes Ernest Tomlinson’s last Chairman’s Letter at the helm. He explains that health considerations have forced him to come to terms with the fact that the time is right to hand over to a younger person. This year the LMS Annual Concert and AGM has moved from Ernest’s home at Lancaster Farm, and is taking place in Cheltenham with Gavin Sutherland waving the baton. The date is Sunday 30th August, and a new Chairman will be elected. As we go to press nominations are being received, and we will announce the name of the new chairman in our December issue. Ernest has been a splendid ambassador for light music. His involvement with the Light Music Society goes back to the mid-1950s when it was supported by the BBC; Ernest became Chairman in 1966. Soon afterwards the BBC’s interest in light music faded, and for many years the LMS became a dormant non-membership organisation. The Library of Light Orchestral Music was established in the 1980s when Ernest became aware of the large amounts of manuscripts that were being destroyed. The LMS was re-launched, and it became fully operational once again in 1996 when the Newsletters were reintroduced. Ernest’s successor will have a hard act to follow, but ET promises to remain active in the background to give advice when needed!
Several members have written to tell us that it is now possible to view a rare film containing music by Robert Farnon on the internet. The title is "This Is London" and it was made to encourage foreign visitors to London during the 1950s. Rex Harrison narrated, and Robert Farnon contributed the score. It is all new music – not a rehash of existing compositions. Courtesy of Alan Willmott we have screen this film at our London meetings many years ago, but if you have internet access we strongly recommend that you spend an enjoyable 20 minutes or so viewing it. You need to input:www.britishpathe.com/record.php?id=78588 While on the site take time to look at some other shorts from the same period – you’ll recognise a lot of the music!
On Sunday 8 November Debbie Wiseman will be conducting the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at London’s Cadogan Hall in a Concert of music, poetry and song in aid of the Breast Cancer Campaign. The programme includes Debbie’s own scores for My Uncle Silas, Wilde and Tom & Viv, plus works by Bach, Borodin, Britten, Tchaikovsky and Holst. Telephone bookings: 020 7730 4500. Online bookings: www.cadoganhall.com
2009 is the centenary of the birth of Mansel Thomas (1909-1986), one of the foremost Welsh composers of the last century. He was a well-known conductor, and became Head of Music at the BBC in Wales. His vocal and instrumental music is performed worldwide by choirs and artists, including Bryn Terfel and the BBC National Chorus and Orchestra of Wales, and is featured regularly on radio and television. Awarded the OBE, he composed Rhapsody For A Prince for the Investiture of The Prince of Wales in 1969, and this is one of his many works currently available in print. For more information please contact the Mansel Thomas Trust at: Ty Cerbyd, Station Road, Ponthir, Newport, Wales, NP18 1GQ – website: www.manselthomas.org.uk
Another notable centenary this year is De Wolfe Music, which was founded in 1909 by Meyer De Wolfe at premises in 20 Noel Street, Great Marlborough Street, London, W1. In a special centenary publication called "Nitrate/Bit-Rate" the company makes the proud boast that it has the longest running, and most important film and television music library resource in the world. Originally the music was provided in the form of sheet music, but as each new advance in sound recording has come along it has been fully embraced. Some readers of this magazine will have De Wolfe 78s, LPs and CDs; but even these are now being consigned to history, with computer technology now the norm. Happily the business is still controlled by the family: James de Wolfe is Chairman, and his son Warren de Wolfe is Managing Director. The Robert Farnon Society has enjoyed a very friendly relationship with De Wolfe for over fifty years, and we are delighted to send our very best wishes to them in celebrating this milestone. For a fuller report on this enterprising music publisher (which also owns the famous Angel Recording Studios) please refer to the article in Journal Into Melody issue 140, September 1999.
Malcolm Powell is well-known to RFS members through our London meetings and his splendid photos which have regularly appeared in our magazines for more years than we care to admit! But he is also a familiar voice to listeners of Meridian FM where he presents a regular programme "Looking For Yesterday". Why not join him by visiting www.meridianfm.com
A Canadian note from Pip Wedge
BOSS BRASS BOWS OUT
Seven months after Rob McConnell’s famed Boss Brass had made a welcome return to the Toronto music scene with three sold-out concerts at Toronto’s Old Mill in December 2008, Rob and the group made what was announced as positively the band’s final appearance on Canada Day, July 1st, with a lunchtime performance at the Toronto Jazz Festival’s Mainstage in Toronto’s Nathan Phillips Square.
Apart from Rob himself, the only Boss Brass veterans who appeared on the final gig were Don Thompson (vibes, piano), Steve Wallace (bass) and Bob McDougall (trombone). Yet so strong is the pool of musicians available to draw on in Toronto, that Rob’s distinctive award –winning charts sounded every bit as crisp and exciting as when we first heard them, from the Strike Up the Band opener to the All The Things You Are closer, with Rob’s unique version of Oh Canada appropriately bringing the set to a close - and ensuring a standing ovation!
Bob made some comments about having a bonfire of all his charts, but no-one took him seriously. There are many universities around the city – and the country – that would be delighted to house them.
In JIM 169 in September 2006, reporting on Rob’s appearance with his Tentet at this same Toronto festival, I noted that Rob had been having health problems, and expressed the hope that his choice for their final number, For All We Know (We May Never Meet Again) was in no way prophetic. What a difference three years have made, thank goodness!
Our last issue was just closing for press when we learned that our good friend Malcolm Laycock had decided to quit his Sunday evening show on BBC Radio-2. The news was mentioned briefly in our Stop Press feature, ‘And Finally’ (JIM181, page 97). Little did we imagine at the time that Malcolm’s departure would cause such a furore. The BBC attempted to pretend that his decision was a big shock and they had tried to persuade him to stay. But journalists on several national papers ensured that the real reasons would be disclosed, and the resultant publicity certainly made many people wonder exactly what goes on at the BBC. Some other music magazines have been quite vitriolic in their condemnation of the Corporation, reinforcing the widely held belief among many of the older generation that the BBC is no longer interested in providing them with the kind of entertainment they would really like to enjoy on radio. Sooner or later this anti-BBC feeling will have to result in changes being made to their music policy, otherwise a groundswell of public opinion could well result in far more serious consequences. How many more times do we have to remind the BBC that we all pay a licence fee in the expectation that they will provide a service for all the population, not just under 40s and vociferous minorities? They are removed from the pressures of advertisers wanting large audiences, and can concentrate on quality, rather than dumbing-down to try to compete with the competition. But to return to Malcolm Laycock: it is now clear to many of us that the BBC had been making life intolerable for him, in many subtle and underhand ways, because they no longer wanted his show on Radio-2. It didn’t fit in with the soft-rock image fostered in recent years, even though similar fare is already available from countless other radio stations. David Jacobs, Desmond Carrington and Russell Davies should be very worried. As technology progresses there will be an increasing number of ways in which to listen to one’s favourite music – if you need further proof read Brian Stringer’s feature on page 46 of this issue. If the BBC doesn’t do the decent thing, and bring Malcolm back without any strings as to what music he can play, surely another enterprising broadcaster will be glad of the services of a friendly and experienced broadcaster with a large, loyal following. Sadly this report had already been printed, and the December 2009 issue of ‘Journal Into Melody’ was being distributed, when the news of Malcolm Laycock’s sudden death on Sunday 8 November shocked all his many friends and admirers.
However it is only fair that praise should be given when it is due, and the BBC deserves a massive pat on the back for the John Wilson MGM Prom. We won’t repeat what is in our report on page 50, but if you missed it please keep a watch on radio and TV listings during the coming weeks because we understand that it is likely to be repeated over the festive season.
It is always a particular pleasure to pass on news of RFS members’ music making, and we are glad to learn that Greg Francis (Musical Director of the National Concert Orchestra of Great Britain) continues to wave the baton for light music. In a recent letter he reports: "I thought I might send an update on a couple of Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra popular music concerts I’ve conducted recently. Last year, we managed to get a commission from the Liverpool Culture Company to find as many good local singers as possible, the idea being that they perform live on stage with the RLPO. The concert went ahead last November (2008); it played to a full house and the local press reported that the bar had taken more money than ever before in the history of the Philharmonic Hall. This was interesting to learn, because it perhaps indicates that there is a wide market out there of people who will attend an orchestral concert of light and popular music, but who might never perhaps consider going to sit through a classical performance. So successful was the venture, that Liverpool Council asked us to present the same concert again, which features 18 singers (of the widest styles imaginable) plus the superb Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and a small group of my own players to add a popular feel. And so, the latest concert was duly performed on July 31st in a spectacular marquee along the new pier head at Liverpool dock. The concert was attended by about 8,000 people, which speaks volumes for the popularity of both the orchestra and the musical content! Fortunately, having written the 36 new scores for the concerts, I was also invited to conduct the orchestra on both occasions, and I have to say that the RLPO orchestra musicians are an outstanding example of the versatility and professionalism of British musicians. It is now being discussed that we might perhaps take the orchestra, the singers and the concert to New York next year as a cultural exchange project. There are of course strong links between Liverpool and New York. So, all in all, we seem to have proven that there is a very wide market for light and popular music played by a professional orchestra of the high calibre of the RLPO. Wouldn’t it be nice if other regional orchestras would consider widening their repertoire a little? I really believe it is essential that we keep the barriers down between classical and light popular music. Other good news is, that the ‘Bat – the Symphony’ tours I conducted this year, with the National Concert Orchestra of Great Britain, were a resounding success. The Orchestra has been re-booked for a 20 date tour of the UK again next year, plus a 12 date tour of Scandinavia. Although this definitely doesn’t fall into the ‘popular light music’ category, the orchestra was the main attraction for a lot of people. Not only did it elicit many requests for recordings by the orchestra, but it gave me the opportunity to debut live some of the music written by my 26 year old son (Paul E. Francis) for Sky TV movies, and also those he wrote last year which were recorded by the City of Prague Orchestra. Anyone who wished to hear some of his music, can visit his website at www.PauleFrancis.com"
Like many RFS members, Kevin Stapylton from Lithgow, NSW, Australia, is involved with community radio and he tells us that during the week of Robert Farnon’s birthday, 24 July, he presented a daily feature where in each case the orchestra backing each vocalist was under Bob's direction. He had no listener response but – as he says: "at least I had the personal satisfaction of paying tribute to a great friend and one of the world's finest composers of all time."
One of our Australian members, Graham Miles, has sent the following information which will be of interest to brass band fans. Those of you who appreciate brass band music may like to know there is a website radio station streaming non-stop brass music. To be found at www.allbrassradio.com , it is the brainchild of Dr. Jim Fox who set it up several years ago. He says content of nearly 400 CDs, with more being added all the time, play randomly 24 hours a day. Although based in the USA, All Brass Radio plays many British recordings including those by The Corey Band, Foden's, Black Dyke and many others. Worth a listen if this genre appeals. Dr. Fox also welcomes comments and suggestions by email to ."
It has been almost eighteen months since the Edinburgh Light Orchestra performed a programme of Light Music in Scotland's beautiful capital city. The reason for the absence has been the illness of its conductor James Beyer, for many years a member of the RFS. The good news is that James is now recovering well, and he was back on the podium at the Queen's Hall, Edinburgh, on Saturday 7 November. As well as the usual varied selection of top composers (Robert Farnon, Richard Rodgers, John Williams, Eric Coates, Haydn Wood and Ivor Novello - to name just a few) there was a special Tribute to Angela Morley, who died last January. The news of the concert came too late for inclusion in our September magazine, but we hope that many members will have discovered the details well in advance in the Latest News section of our website.
"Nostalgic Journey" (for small orchestra), the piece written by David Barton for the 50th anniversary of the Robert Farnon Society is now ‘in print’ and available to order from the publisher’s website at http://stores.imaginemusicpublishing.com/ and costs $40.00 (approximately £24.00) for the score and set of parts. It was recently included in a preview of new works at the Texas Orchestra Directors Association (TODA) Convention in San Antonio.
Paul Clatworthy mentioned the Robert Farnon Society in a letter published in the October issue of Jazz Journal. He explained that he reviews jazz CDs for JIM, and went on to praise the Metropole Orchestra. It is always helpful when our society gets a mention anywhere, because it tells those interested that we are still alive and kicking!
ROBERT FARNON’S SECOND SYMPHONY
Judging by the messages received by the Secretary, many RFS members spotted in Radio Times that BBC Radio 3 included Bob’s Symphony No. 2 in their ‘Afternoon on 3’ programme on Friday 25 September. A few days before the broadcast producer Neil Varley invited David Ades to say a few words about the symphony, and a telephone interview took place on the Thursday. This was edited to a little over two minutes and was placed immediately before the music was heard. The recording was taken from the Dutton Epoch CD (CDLX 7173) with John Wilson conducting the BBC Concert Orchestra. Happily there was time at the end of the programme for a short encore, so listeners were also treated to Seventh Heaven from the same album.