Super User

ROBERT FARNON – CURRENT NEWS

We are very pleased to announce that there finally seems to be some positive news regarding the premiere performance of Robert Farnon's Symphony No. 3, which he has dedicated to the City of Edinburgh. Ever since Robert Farnon completed this major work early in 2004, it has been his wish that the first performance should take place in Edinburgh, and it now seems that this will finally be happening this May. Subject to any last-minute changes, we understand that the premiere of this important work will be heard on Saturday 14 May 2005 at the Usher Hall, Edinburgh, with the National Symphony Orchestra of Scotland conducted by Iain Sutherland. Unfortunately as this issue went to press we were not able to obtain any precise information about what else will be included in the concert, or how to book tickets and their prices.

James Beyer, conductor of the Edinburgh Light Orchestra, has very kindly offered to pass on up-to-date information in response to enquiries from members who might be wishing to attend the premiere. You can write to James at: 4 St John’s Gardens, Edinburgh, EH12 6NT, Scotland (please remember to enclose a stamped self-addressed envelope for your reply). James’ telephone number is 0131 334 3140. If you are on the internet, it would be preferable if you could send an e-mail to James at: (be sure to include ‘Robert Farnon Symphony’ in your message title). We will also give any new information we receive in the ‘Latest News’ section of the ‘RFS Information’ page on our website: www.rfsoc.org.uk so please look at it regularly.

Writing in the Edinburgh Evening News on 28 December 2004, Jason Cumming stated that the 17-year-old Scots violinist Nicola Benedetti, the BBC Young Musician of the Year for 2004, was being lined up as guest soloist at the event, although our latest available information is that she will not, after all, be playing. The concert is to be sponsored by the Royal Bank of Canada, and it is being hailed as one of the biggest artistic and social events in Edinburgh’s calendar of 2005.

¦ Another performance of Robert Farnon’s Edinburgh Symphony is scheduled to take place appropriately in Bob’s homeland, Canada. William Eddins will conduct the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra on Sunday 20 November 2005. The concert at the Francis Winspear Centre for Music commences at 2.00pm.

William Eddins is the Music Director of the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra. He is also the Principal Guest Conductor of the National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland and a frequent guest conductor of major orchestras throughout the world. He has served consecutively as Assistant, Associate and Resident Conductor of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra over the last ten seasons.

Recent engagements include the New York Philharmonic, St. Louis Symphony, Philadelphia Orchestra, as well as the symphony orchestras of San Francisco, Minnesota, Cincinnati, Atlanta, New Jersey, Detroit, Dallas, Baltimore, Indianapolis, Milwaukee, Houston, San Antonio, Colorado, as well as the Los Angeles, Jacksonville and Tulsa Philharmonics.

Although focusing on his career as a conductor, Mr. Eddins continues his work as a pianist and chamber musician. He regularly conducts from the piano in works by Mozart, Beethoven, Gershwin and Ravel.

In 2000 Mr. Eddins received the Seaver/NEA Conducting Award, a triennial grant of $50,000 awarded to exceptionally gifted young American conductors.

A native of Buffalo, NY, (born in December 1964) Mr. Eddins attended the Eastman School of Music, studying with David Effron and graduating at age eighteen, making him the youngest graduate in the history of the institution. Previous positions include the Associate Conductor of the Minnesota Orchestra and assistant to Daniel Barenboim at the Berlin State Opera. He also studied conducting with Daniel Lewis at the University of Southern California and was a founding member of the New World Symphony in Miami, FL.

■ Robert Farnon’s latest major work is a Bassoon Concerto, which will be premiered in Europe and North America by Daniel Smith. This concerto will feature Daniel on an amplified bassoon backed by a big band incorporated within a full symphony orchestra. Bob completed the work early this year, and he tells us that he is very excited with this project.

The three movement concerto is in a jazz style with symphonic overtones and includes a spectacular finale with an up-tempo blues featuring the bassoon along with a rhythm section. Bob hopes that one of the movements will be suitable for performance on its own, and he has been discussing this with Alan Boyd, producer of BBC Radio-2’s "Friday Night is Music Night". There is a possibility that a broadcast could be fixed by the time this issue is published.

American bassoon virtuoso Daniel Smith has been a musical pioneer in promoting the bassoon as an important and major solo instrument. He is the world's most recorded bassoon soloist, as well as the only one performing and recording in both the classical and jazz fields. Daniel Smith was designated in 2003 as the 'Ambassador for the Bassoon' by the National Foundation for Youth Music in the UK to help promote the instrument with young music students.

His unique career has been profiled in Gramophone, the New York Times, Fanfare, Classical Music, Musical Heritage Review, Music And Musicians, American Record Guide, Classic CD and leading British newspapers including The Times. His solo performances include classical recitals, jazz concerts with his quartet, concertos with orchestra and highly popular programmes divided between classical and jazz, with music that ranges from Vivaldi, Elgar, Mozart and Verdi to Duke Ellington, John Coltrane, Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie. Described as the ‘Rampal of the bassoon’ and ‘a phenomenon’, he brings his unique sound and style to concert series, festivals and jazz clubs.

His historic and unprecedented recording for ASVof the entire 37 Vivaldi bassoon concertos was chosen as ‘Best Concerto Recording Of The Year’ by the Music Industry Association and awarded the Penguin Guide’s coveted *** rosette rating as well as inclusion in Fanfare’s annual ‘Want List’. These concertos, recorded with the English Chamber Orchestra and I Solisti di Zagreb, firmly established Daniel Smith as a leading soloist on his instrument. His recordings with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and the Caravaggio Ensemble for theSanctuary White Line label produced innovative crossover music, with unique renditions of ragtime pieces, opera excerpts, and popular standards. His recordings include the historic and award winning set of the complete 37 Vivaldi bassoon concertos, jazz with his quartet 'Bassoon and Beyond', crossover and popular albums, and numerous recordings as a concerto and recital soloist with orchestras, ensembles, string quartets, and with piano.

Daniel Smith's concerto performances, recitals and jazz concerts, and especially his highly popular programmes divided between classical and jazz, have received outstanding reviews in the press. He has premiered several new works and presented the first ever solo bassoon concerts at New York's Lincoln Center and Tivoli Concert Hall in Copenhagen. In the world of jazz, Daniel Smith has performed at many festivals, concert series and jazz clubs world-wide. He has also presented the bassoon in concert on several cruise ship lines including Cunard, Seabourn and Royal Viking.

In Britain, the BBC's Radio 3 used one of his recordings as their signature tune for several months to begin their broadcast day. Recent recordings made with his acclaimed jazz quartet ‘Bassoon and Beyond’ - ‘Bebop Bassoon’ and ‘The Swinging Bassoon’ - have brought the bassoon into the world of jazz.

BBC Radio 4 will be presenting a programme featuring Daniel Smith in May. The likely dates are 24th and 28th May, the second being a repeat. No doubt Daniel will be mentioning the new Concerto composed by Robert Farnon.

When we learn some firm details regarding the premiere, the information will be given in the ‘Latest News’ section on our website – and, of course, in our next magazine.

■ By the time this issue reaches you, John Wilson will have been in the studios conducting the BBC Concert Orchestra for a special edition of Brian Kay’s BBC Radio 3 programme – "Brian Kay’s Light Programme". John is selecting many Robert Farnon compositions which have either never been recorded commercially, or else are only on disc in mono versions. One or two special exceptions may be made – for example, John is keen to record How Beautiful Is Night … "because it is such a lovely piece which I admire so much." If there is time, John may also conduct some music by Angela Morley, who is being invited to appear on Brian’s show later this year.

■ A leading record company, which specialises in band music, is keen to record a CD of Robert Farnon’s Military Band compositions. As well as works specially composed by Bob for bands (Un Vie de Matelot specially written for the National Brass Band Championships in 1975 is a good example), the CD may also include band arrangements of some of Bob’s best-known works. We may be able to give you some more information in our next issue.

■ Another project in the ‘pending’ file of a major recording company is the possibility of a CD of Film and Television music composed by Robert Farnon. Like so many new recordings these days, the money has to be found from somewhere, but if this can be sorted out then we could be in for some very special treats. Over the years Bob has composed a great deal of fine music for films which has never been recorded commercially.

■ Two recent CDs from Memoir include recordings made over 50 years ago where Robert Farnon has arranged and conducted 78s featuring leading singers of the day. On "The Great Dance Band Vocalists" (Memoir CDMOIR587) Robert Farnon accompanies Paul Carpenter in Maybe You’ll Be There, and Bob is also the conductor (uncredited) on Getting Nowhere featuring Carole Carr with the Geraldo Orchestra. A Vera Lynn collection – appropriately titled "Yours" - has seven Farnon tracks: You Can’t Be True Dear, My Thanks To You, Heartaches, Put Your Dreams Away, I Don’t See Me In Your Eyes Anymore, You’d Be Hard To Replace and Our Love Story (Memoir CDMOIR588). For more details please see ‘Keeping Track’ in this issue.

■ Thanks to some hard work by Adam Endacott, we should shortly be in a position to rectify a glaring omission on our website – namely a list of Robert Farnon’s compact discs. As you will know, our RF Discography only goes up to 1996, since when many CDs have been released. Details of most of them can be found in various parts of our website (and, of course, in our magazines) but it will be far more helpful and convenient to have them all listed in one place. We are most grateful to Adam, and Malcolm Powell who has also assisted, in getting this work brought to a satisfactory conclusion.

■ Finally this time, we have news of a talented young lady who is following in the Farnon family musical tradition. Nicola Farnon has just released a new CD, which has been highly praised by Robert Farnon. As Nicola says in her publicity: "When your Dad is the first cousin of the highly acclaimed arranger and composer Robert Farnon, you’d hope that some of that talent might brush off on you!"

Originally classically trained on the cello and piano, Nicola did a Performing Arts degree in London, and soon changed musical direction. She acquired a double bass and started learning her trade in the jazz pubs and clubs around London. Now Nicola sings and plays double bass with her own Quintet, which is quickly gaining a fine reputation. She is based in Sheffield, and together with her partner and co-rhythm section member, drummer Phil Johnson, is making a determined effort to get back to (jazz!) business, having recently concentrated more on bringing up her two daughters, Billie and Jodie.

Lately Nicola’s band has appeared at major clubs and festivals, and has become a regular feature at the Isle of Man Jazz Festival, alongside such jazz luminaries as Digby Fairweather, Jim Mullen, Bruce Adams and Alan Barnes. Her quintet includes international stars from Canada (Piero Tucci on piano) and Australia (Nigel McGill on tenor sax) and has supported class jazz acts as diverse as Courtney Pine, Georgie Fame and Acker Bilk.

Nicola originally got in touch with Robert Farnon when she cheekily asked him for a foreword for her first CD "Portrait Of A Farnon". Since then they are regularly in touch, and ‘Uncle Bob’ has overwhelmed Nicola with his warmth , encouragement and continued enthusiasm. Nicola says that he is truly a great inspiration to her, "and is such a lovely Uncle, too!"

Nicola’s influences are not only jazz; in fact she is just as likely to be listening to Stevie Wonder, Jimi Hendrix and Aretha Franklin. But she will always have a soft spot for the likes of Ella Fitzgerald, Chet Baker, Anita O’Day, Ray Charles and Count Basie. Her quintet performs material that is all her favourite jazzy, bluesy and Latin standards (arranged in her own inimitable fashion) to an ever increasing and enthusiastic fan base. As her esteemed ‘Uncle’, Robert Farnon, states: "what a great choice of songs. What a fine group of musicians … an absolute joy."

Nicola’s new CD is called "THAT’S THE BOTTOM LINE" A Beautiful Friendship, Four Brothers, Don’t Know Why, Teach Me Tonight, Show Me, On The Street Where You Live, Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man, Ain’t Necessarily So, Wouldn’t It Be Loverly, Time After Time, *Yes It Is, The Way You Look Tonight, *Don’t Know Why, The More I See You (*composed by Nicola, who also did all the arrangements).

This CD costs £10 (including post and packing). Please send a cheque payable to ‘Nicola Farnon’ at: 71 Burcot Road, Sheffield, S8 9FD, England – and mention that you are a member of the RFS.

Submit to Facebook

We are accustomed to having many of Robert Farnon’s earlier recordings made available again on compact discs, but it is always a very special event when a brand new release reaches the catalogues! This month last January’s London sessions showcasing the talents of flautist Jane Pickles have appeared on a new Vocalion Digital CD of Farnon arrangements and compositions entitled "Hey There". Full details can be found in our ‘Light Music CDs’ section and, of course, this new CD is available from the RFS Record Service.

We are still waiting for some firm news regarding the premiere of Robert Farnon’s Symphony No. 3 – the ‘Edinburgh Symphony’. From recent issues of this magazine you will have grasped that it is Robert Farnon’s wish that the first performance should take place in the city to which the work is dedicated, but early indications suggested that orchestras in Montreal or Oslo might win the race. As we go to press, the latest news is that the Scottish conductor Iain Sutherland has appeared on the scene, and a recent Canadian newspaper report seems to suggest that the premiere now seems certain in Edinburgh next spring. After so many hopes have been dashed, we hesitate to get too optimistic, but as soon as a date is fixed we will tell the world in the ‘Latest News’ section of our website.

■ The first performance of Robert Farnon’s new arrangement of Song of Scandia for bassoon and strings took place on 27 August in "Friday Night is Music Night" on BBC Radio-2. Margaret Pollock was the soloist, and the BBC Concert Orchestra was conducted by John Wilson.

■ A new Frank Sinatra book has been widely praised by the press and Sinatra fans alike. Called "The Sinatra Treasures" it is written by Charles Pignon, and has forewords by Frank Sinatra jnr. and Quincy Jones. Naturally Sinatra’s album with Robert Farnon gets mentioned, and the accompanying CD includes Roses of Picardy from the ‘Great Songs From Great Britain’ album. The book (which doesn’t come cheap – the UK price seems to be around £35) contains 30 removable artefacts comprising expensively replicated items from Sinatra’s life.

■ Back in 1946, Robert Farnon was in charge of the Geraldo Orchestra while the boss was away on business in the USA. During October and November Bob conducted the orchestra on ten titles recorded at EMI’s Abbey Road studios for the Parlophone label (full details can be found in our Robert Farnon Discography: the printed version is no longer available, but the complete Discography is on our website). A new Living Era CD includes two of those numbers: Getting Nowhere (with a vocal by Carole Carr) and Sleepy Serenade (featuring Ivor Mairants on Guitar) – bother recorded on 4 October 1946.

Submit to Facebook

■ The first item of Robert Farnon’s news in our last issue concerned a collection of string arrangements which Bob hopes will be recorded during the coming year. An extra title recently completed is called Un Place de mon Coeur and Bob has provisionally given this collection the title "Cameo For Strings". Naturally we’ll let you have more information as soon as a recording session is booked. Bob hopes that the Phoenix Studios in Wembley will be available, because he prefers the more intimate sound to larger venues such as Watford Town Hall.

Song of Scandia keeps reappearing on Bob’s music stand. The version for the above proposed CD is essentially for strings, and Bob has also written a new setting for bassoon. This is at the request of Margaret Pollock, the principal bassoon player with the BBC Concert Orchestra, and it may well be heard in a "Friday Night Is Music Night" before long. Originally this work featured the cello, and Bob explained to us that the cello and bassoon have many similar characteristics which suit this piece particularly well. If possible, Bob would like Margaret to perform some solos on the projected "Cameo for Strings" album (see our first paragraph). He has scored his new work A Place In My Heart (Une Place de mon Coeur) for bassoon; this is a slow blues number, and is in recognition of Margaret’s love of jazz. Please turn to page 47 to read more about Margaret Pollock.

■ Flautist Jane Pickles is adding a new Farnon composition to her repertoire. It is called Songbird and is a 10-minute work in two movements. Again it could be heard soon on "Friday Night Is Music Night".

■ Fred Mills, the trumpeter formerly with Canadian Brass, now has an active solo career which takes him to several countries for special concerts. Bob has composed Vivacity for him – a 5-minute work which is apparently not very easy to play!

■ Beloved is a recent Farnon work which is on the list for the "Cameos for Strings" collection. The vocal version is called This is my Beloved, and Brian Farnon is currently performing it with his band. Bob understands that Tony Bennett may also be interested, and there could be some positive news later in the year.

■ As we reported in our last issue, Marc Fortier in Montreal is working tirelessly to try and get a premiere performance of Robert Farnon’s Symphony No. 3 as soon as possible. Unfortunately he has recently received a letter from André Previn explaining that it will be difficult for him to conduct the symphony in Montreal, because he has no plans to be working there, at least in the next few years. However André is doing all he can to get it scheduled in to a programme in Norway, where he is currently working with the Oslo Philharmonic. We all remember the much quoted comment by André that he regards Robert Farnon as the greatest living writer for strings. In his latest letter to Marc Fortier he ends up: "I’m an enormous admirer of Mr. Farnon’s work and have been for a great many years. Please send him my warmest regards."

 

"Happy Birthday, Bob!" - on the Internet

FORREST PATTEN sent the following message to all his fellow-members of the ‘Beautiful Instrumentals’ web site in celebration of Bob’s 87th. We repeat his message in full, exactly as it was received around the world:

-----Original Message-----
From: musicsfx [mailto:]
Sent: Friday, July 23, 2004 2:52 PM
To:
Subject: [BeautifulInstrumentals] Happy 87th Birthday to Robert Farnon! Saturday, July 24 marks Canadian composer/arranger Robert Farnon's 87th birthday.  The good news is that he's continuing to write with no signs of slowing down.  From his home in Guernsey (in Britain's Channel Islands), the "Guv'nor", as he's affectionately known by his musical peers, is enjoying a renaissance in popularity.  This is due, in no small part, to the availability of his vast Decca repertoire reissued on CD thanks to Michael Dutton's Vocalion label.  There is also a thriving worldwide appreciation society dedicated to the works of Robert Farnon (and other composers/arrangers of light music) based in England.  Their website (www.rfsoc.org.uk) is filled with all sorts of great information. On a personal note, it's been my pleasure to know Bob since the 1970's.  We continue to stay in touch on a regular basis.  His name alone has opened many doors and allowed me to meet and to interview a number of musical greats including Tony Bennett, John Williams, Henri Rene, Ron Goodwin, Dizzy Gillespie, Andre Previn, Frank Comstock, Henry Mancini, Peggy Lee, and Gene Puerling.  They all have acknowledged Bob's influence on their respective careers.  Listen to arrangements by Don Costa, Marty Paich and Johnny Mandel.  You'll hear the "Farnon touch." Musically, he can write everything from classical to some of the hottest jazz you'll ever hear.  But it is his "string" sound that captivates.  When you listen to a Farnon recording, you'll end up asking yourself "how did he do that?"  His arrangements are filled with so many surprises.  His writing skills are all a very natural and flowing part of the genius of this man. While interviewing Bob back in the 1980's, I asked him why he wasn't as well known to the record buying public as the other conductors in the Decca stable like Stanley Black, Frank Chacksfield and Mantovani.  His answer was that he simply didn't want to go through all of the promotional machinations that the others had to when selling their music to the public.  His idea was to write, conduct and record the music, and to let the public react to it accordingly.  It's safe to say that if the general public didn't initially embrace or respond, people in the music business certainly did! Today, Robert Farnon's music continues to be heard throughout the world.  Besides the Vocalion CD releases, you can hear many of his Chappell Music Library pieces on the cult TV series 'The Prisoner.'  Also from Chappell's is the haunting music box cue used for "Josette's music box" on early episodes of the ABC-TV gothic soap opera 'Dark Shadows.' His "Gateway ToThe West" will be remembered as the theme for the long running 'David Susskind Show'.  And, of course, there are the movie scores for Gregory Peck's 'Captain Horatio Hornblower, R.N.', 'Shalako' with Sean Connery and Bridget Bardot, and the final "road picture" with Bing Crosby and Bob Hope, 'Road To Hong Kong'. Happy birthday to my friend Robert Farnon.  Keep writing.  We need your wonderful music in our world today.

Forrest Patten

‘Beautiful Instrumentals’ is the Number One Music Discussion Group Celebrating Beautiful Easy Listening Music Instrumentals and Vocals. For more information visit www.groups.yahoo.com/group/BeautifulInstrumentals/

Willi Tokarev is one of Russia’s top singers and entertainers, and he is a great fan of Robert Farnon. On Willi’s website (www.willitokarev.ru/robert_farnon.htm) you can read his tribute to Bob, but for those of you who might have difficulty in understanding Russian, Willi’s friend Alexander Korobko has kindly made the following translation for ‘Journal Into Melody’

 

If I was provided with something from God, then the rest I got from Tchaikovsky, Stravinsky and Robert Farnon.

Certainly, I marvel at Chopin, Rachmaninoff, Mussorgsky, Mozart, and Beethoven! Yes, needless to say, every well-known composer, beginning with Gluck, grasped my attention, making me admire his brilliant works. In the melodic sense I was influenced by Peter Tchaikovsky, in the harmonic - by Igor Stravinsky, but Robert Farnon has literally influenced my entire musical credo: the melody, the harmony, the arrangement.

He instilled in me the taste, which determines the quality of work in any genre. When a musician's erudition is filled with all that is beautiful, beginning with the folk music and concluding with the most complex symphonic works, the treatment of his own creations under the influence of this very erudition, acquires its own unique value. In the 1960s we acquired a radio receiver at home and I tuned into radio from London, discovering music arranged with such highest craftsmanship, that it immediately became the object of my admiration. That was the orchestra of Robert Farnon, his music and his arrangements.

Later, I also familiarised myself with other conductors and their orchestras, which were I found very interesting. These are the orchestras of Andre Kostelanetz, Percy Faith, George Melachrino, Mantovani and many others, but none of them has reached Robert Farnon's level when it comes to arrangements.

Robert Farnon focuses attention on many aspects of his works: the irreproachable selection of musicians, splendid instruments, amazing soloists, the striking cleanliness of the intonation of the orchestra, an infinite quantity of "colours" thanks to the unique combination of instruments, and the main thing - the soul and the heart of the conductor, his special, finesse and taste, which one can feel in any of his works.

This absolute harmonic and melodic texture can be created only by highest, perfect intellect. The intellect of Robert Farnon. For example, each of his introductions to any piece which he arranges - is a mini masterpiece, making you admire the limitless possibilities of this composer and master of orchestration. Because of his fantastic arrangements many works acquired a timeless quality.

As a conductor, the skill of Robert Farnon, in combination with the craftsmanship of his arrangements provides a kind of pleasure that is difficult to define. It is a balsam, which cleans your heart and soul, making a man more noble and much happier. It would be a very useful practice to listen to Robert Farnon's music before the beginning of lessons in schools. Fifteen minutes of his celestial music, would fine-tune the emotions of schoolboys to something very positive, making further learning that much more effective.

One can say that Robert Farnon's creativity - is virtually an unattainable art and skill. Robert Farnon is the apex of musical Everest. The Lord himself listens to his music with pleasure. Robert Farnon's music - this is the Milky Way, where the scales and logic – are amazing. His enormous orchestra is a magic rainbow of sounds.

When dressing up well-known melodies, Robert Farnon applies to them an unusual "make up", conveying feelings of amazing beauty. In their design these "dresses" do not have anything equal in terms of beauty. In the theatre there is the acknowledged Stanislavski system. It would be wonderful if the world's musical institutions would teach the system of Robert Farnon. That would change our world into a better place.

The Titanic ability of Robert Farnon is amazing. Being the conductor of three symphony orchestras in London, he also wrote music for films, arranging it with his usual lustre. Robert Farnon is a unique phenomenon who extends into the infinity. His music is eternal, thanks to his unique orchestra, in which as Perpetual Mobile his heart is beating. Thanks to you, celestial musical envoy, for making happy the millions of people on our planet.

                                                                                           Willi Tokarev

Submit to Facebook

■ In March Robert Farnon advised us that he had just completed working on several new arrangements for strings, harp, piano and percussion. These have been conceived with harpist Suzy Willison in mind, and include several brand new compositions as well as a few old favourites: Alto Vista, Infatuation for Harp, Song of Scandia, Hopscotch, Novelette Sentimental, Moonset, Timeless Rose, Indecision, Piano Strings, Walkin’ Happy, Sacree et Profane (Debussy), Intermezzo for Harp, La Douzieme Jardin (The Twelfth Garden) and Beloved. These pieces are being held in readiness for a future recording project, which it is planned that John Wilson will eventually conduct. In the meantime John will keep these new works in his library, and possibly use one or two in his public concerts.

■ Symphony orchestras have to plan their concerts well in advance, so it is hardly surprising that the premiere performance of Bob’s Symphony No. 3 is still awaited. However the omens are good: Andre Previn has spoken to Bob about conducting it in Oslo, and Marc Fortier is trying to get it scheduled in Montreal. Several other orchestras have also expressed keen interest in this work, so it is only a matter of time before the paying public gets to hear it! Meanwhile the amateur musicians in the Guernsey Symphony Orchestra have been rehearsing it for the benefit of the composer, so that any ‘glitches’ can be removed from the manuscripts.

Robert Farnon has been commissioned to compose a major new work lasting around 15 minutes for an American Wind Band, based in New Jersey. It is likely that it will be premiered by the Roxbury High School Honors Wind Band conducted by Stanley Saunders in January 2006. The instrumentation comprises just about every possible instrument, except strings, and the large ensemble (nine clarinets and seven percussionists are just two examples!) will allow Bob’s creativity full rein. His initial thoughts are to give the work a Scottish theme, and no doubt we will have more to report later this year.

■ Although it is disappointing that the album Robert Farnon recorded with George Benson has never appeared, George does use some of Bob’s charts in his public performances. He recently said that "… the entire orchestra is lifted up with enthusiasm…" when they see the arrangements on their music stands. "The morale of the orchestra improves significantly!" [note: one track from the Benson/Farnon sessions did appear on CD in 1990 – "Portrait of Jennie" on Warner Bros 926295-2.] Two other legendary performers whose cherished ambitions were to record with Bob were J.J. Johnson and Eileen Farrell. J.J. was unhappy following the death of his wife, and the sessions with Bob came at just the right time to lift his spirits. He was very nervous during the recordings, possibly because Bob’s scores were stretching his artistic talents to the limit. But as we all know the result was the award of a Grammy! Similarly Eileen Farrell (who had also lost her husband) had told friends for years that she wanted to work with Bob before she died: in the event they did four CDs together.

■ The recordings featuring Kathryn Oldfield on the recent Robert Farnon CD "A Portrait of Farnon" reminded Derek Boulton that she was the only singer – male or female – who had ever achieved the distinction of having two radio series on both the BBC and Radio Luxembourg. At the time, the BBC normally ‘black-listed’ any of their performers who had dared to go to the commercial rival, but somehow Kathryn slipped through the net! For the BBC Kathryn sang with Bob and Laurie Johnson. Her Radio Luxembourg shows were sponsored by football and hair products.

John Parry tells us that he is very pleased that Robert Farnon’s album "Showcase for Soloists has finally made it on to CD. John produced it while he was in charge of the Recorded Music Department at Chappells, and he regards it as one of the best things he did for them. He was involved in everything, from the original concept right through to the final mix. The reason why the commercial release on Invicta was delayed was through technical mistakes – nothing to do with John. Invicta could have used the same plates that produced the Chappell LP, but they insisted on re-cutting it. Unfortunately the engineer failed to read the tape box label, and didn’t realise that the master was in Dolby. The tape was played in non-Dolby, with the resultant unsatisfactory results, so the LP master had to be made again. The new Vocalion CD also includes some tracks that John can remember recording in Europe, such as Power and Glory, Winter Jasmine etc.

■ Just recently Robert Farnon confided in us that next month (July) marks the 50th anniversary of the date when he and his wife Pat fell in love. Bob had just returned from the USA to work on the film "Lilacs In The Spring" which was being made by Herbert Wilcox. Patricia Smith was the casting director on the film, although she and Bob had first met back in the 1940s on films such as "Spring In Park Lane" and "Maytime In Mayfair". Pat was a good friend of the publicity manager at Herbert Wilcox Productions, Jackie Ward (her father was the leader of the orchestra on the ‘Titanic’). Bob chuckled as he remembered that Jackie told Pat that her romance with Bob would never last! When Bob arrived at the studios that July (back in 1954) to start working on "Lilacs In The Spring", Pat had arranged for a sign on his office door to read "Sir Shottis Bolt". He wishes he had kept it! Bob and Pat eventually got married in his home town of Toronto.

 

 

Robert Farnon is praised in Review of Harold Arlen Tribute Concert in New York

Harold Arlen was the only composer from the golden age of Broadway who was primarily concerned with celebrating the African-American experience. The son of a cantor from Buffalo, he first became famous by writing the scores for the all-Black Cotton Club revues of the early 1930s, then went on to craft hundreds of classic songs for Broadway and Hollywood.

From Lena Horne's "Stormy Weather" to Judy Garland's "Over the Rainbow," to Ray Charles's "Come Rain or Come Shine" and Frank Sinatra's "One for My Baby (and One for the Road)," he provided many of America's greatest singers with their signature material.

On Friday 5th March the composer was the subject of a salute from Skitch Henderson and the New York Pops Orchestra at Carnegie Hall. The concert said a little about Harold Arlen but an awful lot more about the Pops form, illuminating both its strengths and weaknesses. The genre - most closely associated with the late Arthur Fielder of the Boston Pops - is a hybrid of classical music, show tunes, and jazz.

Pops orchestras generally start with familiar standard songs and set them in lush, semi symphonic arrangements, then spice them up with occasional jazz solos. At its worst, this music is pale and bloodless, a species of Muzak that differs from the kind heard in elevators only in the way it's presented: people actually listen to this in concert. But at its best, it's a wonderful vehicle for the Great American Songbook.

Certain composers - especially George Gershwin, Richard Rodgers, Jerome Kern, and Arlen himself - wrote with a classical sense of melody and form but also used harmonies and rhythms that never fail to inspire jazz musicians. Mr. Henderson, most famous from his celebrated stint on the original, New York-based edition of Johnny Carson's "Tonight Show," has been conducting Pops-style music for more than 60 years. In his time, he has been affiliated with great singers from Cliff Edwards to Sinatra and Bing Crosby (who gave him his nickname).

But the first half of the Pops Arlen presentation featured a vocal quartet known as Monday Off, who sing in roughly the same contortionist mode as the Manhattan Transfer and the New York Voices. As such, the first portion of the evening suffered from a distinct lack of soul - an ingredient essential to a proper presentation of Arlen's rich, jazz-inflected melodies.

The second half was a distinct improvement, and the reason was the fine singer Lillias White whose artistry, like Arlen's, is equally rooted in Broadway and the Blues. The second half's sole instrumental was also a highlight: the relatively rare "What's Good About Goodbye" (written for the 1948 film "Casbah" where it was sung by Tony Martin, and recorded by Sarah Vaughan, Eydie Gorme, and not many others) in a sumptuous orchestration by Robert Farnon and featuring Dianne Loesser on oboe. The Canadian-born, Britain-based Mr. Farnon, who at 86 is a year older than Mr. Henderson, is unchallenged as the greatest orchestrator of what the English call "light music." He weaves a stunning tapestry of sound with sumptuously rich harmonic voicings and a palette of tonal colours as distinctly idiosyncratic, in its own way, as Ravel or Ellington. His orchestrations make the point - too often unheeded - that light music doesn't have to sound like watered down classical music or jazz. His writing represents everything that's good about the genre. Would that every arrangement that Mr. Henderson's New York Pops Orchestra played was his.

 

 

Robert Farnon arranged "What’s Good About Goodbye" for the BBC Radio Orchestra in 1986. To date it has not been recorded commercially. The above report is adapted from Will Friedwald’s review of the concert in the New York Sun, 9 March 2004, with due acknowledgements. Our thanks to Malcolm Frazer for sending this to Journal Into Melody.

Submit to Facebook

Robert Farnon completed his Symphony No. 3 in F major at the beginning of December. It lasts approximately 25 minutes, which Bob considers is quite long enough for him to be able to develop his ideas. He believes that so many symphonies last too long, allowing audiences to become bored with them before the end. As you will have seen on the opposite page (and later in this issue) the news of Bob’s new symphony has made the headlines in Edinburgh, and it is hoped that its premiere performance may take place in Scotland’s capital city later this year.

■ Once his symphony was completed, Bob began work on a new 2-part composition for flautist Jane Pickles entitled Songbird. It is not know whether this will be recorded in the near future, but she wanted a special work that she can perform at concerts with a fairly large orchestra. At the same time (unusually for Bob, since he rarely moves on to another piece of music until the work in hand is fully completed) he began sketching out a semi-classical work for the Canadian Brass trumpet player Fred Mills, which will be called Veracity. Fred has been performing Bob’s Schertzando for Trumpet regularly in his concerts, and he said it would be nice to have something else as well!

■ The latest Robert Farnon CD of new recordings with flautist Jane Pickles took place in January, and Bob told us that he was delighted with the work Jack Parnell did in conducting the orchestra. We hope to allow RFS members to hear a preview at our next London meeting on 4 April, and we will have further details of this new release in our June magazine.

■ Robert Farnon’s latest composition (as we went to press at the end of January) is a piece for full string orchestra (ten first violins, 8 second violins, 6 violas, 6 cellos and 4 double basses – plus harp and keyboards) entitled This Is My Beloved. Bob couldn’t say how long it would be: "It all depends where the inspiration will take me!" he explained.

■ Last November, the US President George W. Bush made a State Visit to Britain, and he was the Guest of Honour at a State Banquet at Buckingham Palace on 19 November, hosted by HM Queen Elizabeth II. The following day the London Times gave full details of the guest list, and what they had to eat and drink. The music performed by the Band of the Scots Guards, directed by Major R.J. Owen was also listed (16 pieces), and we were pleased to see that the third item was Westminster Waltz by Robert Farnon. Other featured composers and arrangers included Richard Rodgers, Michael Kamen, Sousa, Leroy Anderson and Charles Ancliffe.

■ Robert Farnon has contributed the foreword to Laurie Johnson’s new autobiography "Noises in the Head". Reproduced in his own handwriting, Bob writes: Whenever friends wish to know the name of my favourite British film composer, the answer has remained the same since I first listened to the brilliant underscoring by the true musician and gentleman who is responsible for this book of rich and varied musical tales, Laurie Johnson.

Submit to Facebook

► The recording sessions for the latest Robert Farnon CD did not take place in July as originally expected (see page 3 of our last issue), but it is now hoped that they can be slotted in soon. The titles will be almost the same as previously listed, with the possible addition of Tete a Tete (solos on flute and oboe), and The Nearness of You (for bass flute).

► Robert Farnon gave us the exciting news in July that he had started work on his Symphony No. 3. Subtitled "I Love Life", the opening theme is based upon his recent composition of that name. Bob told us that he simply felt the urge to be creative, hence the decision to commence this major project. Does this mean that we may eventually hear the first two symphonies – are there any plans to revise them for public performance? Sadly, no. "I’ve already used many of the themes in them for other works!" confessed Bob.

► Robert Farnon’s Lake of the Woods was played by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra conducted by John Wilson, in a recorded concert that was broadcast on BBC Radio 3 on Wednesday 14 May.

► Richard Jenkinson performed Robert Farnon’s Pictures in the Fire at a concert at the Gatehouse, Barston, West Midlands on 28 June. This was a special evening of music for cello and piano, and Richard was pleased to have the opportunity to play this piece once again, shortly after he performed it in Canterbury on 10 May, alongside works by Bach, Beethoven, Brahms and Debussy. Bob made this cello/piano arrangement for Richard last year, and he first played it in a recital at St. Paul’s, Covent Garden, London.

► As we went to press, Brian Farnon and his Orchestra were due to play a special piece by his brother Bob – "Idaho Opening" – at an event in Idaho on 7 August. No doubt Forrest Patten will be able to fill in the details in his News from The States in our December issue.

► ENSA Complete Concerts is the title of a new 2-CD set from a new label – Rex. A Forces Broadcasting Service programme by the Bob Farnon Orchestra is included: Journey Into Melody, Begin the Beguine, All Through the Day (Dick James, vocal), What is this Thing Called Love, The Nearness of You (Carole Carr, vocal), Oh Susannah, Love Walked In, The Stars will Remember (Dick James), Getting Nowhere (Carole Carr), South American Way, Journey Into Melody. Colin Brown has compiled this collection, and he was also responsible for the 1997 President CD "Journey Into Melody" featuring Robert Farnon and the same soloists (PLCD564). In fact all the titles on this new CD are also on the earlier CD, although the introductions to each number were edited out of the President CD. Also the President CD includes many more titles, so it would appear that Colin Brown has access to more than one of these broadcasts. On Rex we seem to have everything as it originally was, with producer Arthur Adair also making the introductions. CD1 in this set features a "Break For Music" with Henry Hall and his Orchestra; "Over to You" Geraldo; and "Top Of The List" RAOC Blue Rockets Dance Orchestra. CD2 begins with the Bob Farnon programme, then moves on to "Break for Music" Lou Preager and his Orchestra with Edna Kaye (alias Mrs. Stanley Black); and finally another "Top of the List" with the RAOC Blue Rockets Dance Orchestra. Unfortunately no recording dates are given, but these shows must date from around 1946/47 – maybe slightly earlier. The sound quality is reasonable, and the catalogue number of this Rex 2-CD set is REXX300 (the retail price is around £10). The RFS Record Service can still supply copies of the earlier President CD for £7.50 [US $15].

Submit to Facebook

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Submit to Facebook

This new Vocalion CD completes the major project to reissue Robert Farnon’s great Decca albums from the 1950s

"The Songs of Britain" and "Stephen Foster Melodies"

The Songs of Britain Decca LF1123

    1. THE BRITISH GRENADIERS (Trad.)

    2. DRINK TO ME ONLY WITH THINE EYES (Trad.)

    3. THE LINCOLNSHIRE POACHER (Trad.)

    4. THE LONDONDERRY AIR (Trad.)

    5. STRAWBERRY FAIR (Trad.)

    6. ANNIE LAURIE (Lady Scott)

    7. ALL THROUGH THE NIGHT (Trad.)

    8. EARLY ONE MORNING (Trad.)

Stephen Foster Melodies [The Robert Farnon Octet] Decca LF1034

  1. JEANIE WITH THE LIGHT BROWN HAIR

  2. SWANNEE RIVER

  3. DEEP RIVER (Trad.)

  4. CAMPTOWN RACES

  5. OH! SUSANNA

  6. COME WHERE MY LOVE LIES DREAMING

  7. SWEET AND LOW (Tennyson, Barnby)

  8. BEAUTIFUL DREAMER

BONUS TRACKS

17 APRIL IN PARIS (Vernon Duke) LF1020

18 INVITATION WALTZ (Richard Addinsell) LF1020 F9530

19 JUST ONE OF THOSE THINGS (Cole Porter) LF1020 F9530

20 KISS ME AGAIN (Victor Herbert) LF1020

21 SHADOW WALTZ (Harry Warren, Al Dubin) LF1020

22 DONKEY SERENADE (Friml, Stothart, Wright) LM4509 F9185

23 PERSIAN NOCTURNE (Robert Stolz) LM4509 F9264

24 THE WALTZING CAT (Leroy Anderson) F10005

25 PROUD CANVAS (Robert Farnon) DFE6470

26 BIRD CHARMER (Robert Farnon) DFE6470

27 JOCKEY ON THE CAROUSEL (Farnon, Buchel) DFE6470

28 WESTMINSTER WALTZ (Robert Farnon) F10818 45-F10818

DFE series Decca 7" EP 45
F series Decca 10" 78 45-F 7" 45
LF series Decca 10" LP
LM series Decca 10" LP

Recording History

28.1.49 Donkey Serenade
18.5.49 Persian Nocturne
27.10.49 Swannee River, Deep River, Camptown Races
28.10.49 Come Where My Love Lies Dreaming, Sweet and Low, Beautiful Dreamer
4.5.50 Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair, Oh! Susanna
9.5.50 Just One of Those Things, Invitation Waltz
10.5.50 April in Paris, Kiss Me Again, Shadow Waltz
2.10.52 Waltzing Cat
27.4.53 ‘The Songs of Britain’ – all tracks
2.7.56 Westminster Waltz
12.2.58 Proud Canvas, Bird Charmer, Jockey on the Carousel – these three tracks were recorded in stereo, but originally issued on the EP only in mono

It is likely that the Stephen Foster tracks, and the 1958 sessions, were recorded at Broadhurst Gardens in London. The other tracks were probably recorded at Kingsway Hall.

Robert Farnon and his Orchestra

Vocalion CDLK4174

As many members of the Robert Farnon Society already know, Robert Farnon is a self-confessed lover of folk music, so when Decca asked him to arrange and conduct a selection of famous airs associated with the British Isles in honour of the Coronation of H.M Queen Elizabeth II in 1953, it was like being let loose in a sweet shop and told to savour all the goodies on the shelves.

It was perhaps a pity that he was only allowed a 10" LP, but it has to be remembered that long-playing records were expensive luxuries in the early 1950s, and the smaller discs (the same size as the familiar 78s they were gradually replacing) were considerably cheaper than the 12" ‘big brothers’ that would eventually become the standard format of sound reproduction.

Nevertheless in his album The Songs of Britain Bob Farnon managed to create eight brilliant orchestrations that cleverly captured, in turn, the majesty, romance, humour, sentimentality and sense of tradition that are intrinsic values inherent in the finest folk melodies that have been handed down through many generations.

The selection opens quietly with the fife and drums announcing the approach of a military band, which soon turns out to be a full concert orchestra. The British Grenadiers is probably the most famous march associated with the British Army, and Farnon’s clever score gives the impression of a band marching by on parade, finally moving on into the distance – until the final chords! Delicate strings support a solo viola in an unusual setting of Drink to me only with thine eyes. This is a very old song: Ben Jonson’s lyric dates from the 17th century, with the melody originally published as a glee around one hundred years later. The idea of lapsing into a 20th century slow foxtrot might alarm purists, but in the skilful hands of Farnon it works admirably. (It is not always easy to distinguish between the viola and a cello. Bob assures us that he used a viola in this arrangement; as he put it to us just recently – "Thanks to William Walton, the viola became a respectable instrument!")

The Lincolnshire Poacher is a carefree vagabond, who may be the scourge of local landowners, but is regarded as a popular hero for his harmless lawbreaking. Robert Farnon is a master at portraying humour in music, and his witty arrangement also suggests that the poacher enjoys the occasional drink as the climax to his escapades. In complete contrast the focus shifts across the Irish Sea from England to the Emerald Isle, for perhaps the most famous of all the folk melodies to emanate from that mystical realm. The strings predominate in Farnon’s affectionate and sensitive setting of The Londonderry Air, a work that has achieved popularity throughout the world. It is regarded as a genuine folk melody, having been handed down through many generations until it was eventually published in the middle of the nineteenth century.

It’s back to England where rustic merry-making is the order of the day in Strawberry Fair, with the muted brass, wood-winds, perky strings, and xylophone all clamouring for attention. After a brief pause to restore their energy levels, the dancers regroup for one final major burst of merrymaking. Robert Farnon next takes us north of the border to Scotland for Annie Laurie, the only non-traditional work in this collection, although Lady Scott’s melody has long achieved the status of a national air. It is introduced by the oboe, leading to a big swell of strings that dwells and lingers upon the passionate melody, subsequently taken up by the full orchestra.

The remaining area of Britain to be represented is Wales, and Farnon’s gift of being able to conjure up a serene, pastoral mood is perfectly suited to All Through The Night. Solo violin and harp set the tender scene right from the start, with the strings of the orchestra soon surging to embrace this ethereal melody.

To conclude this journey around the British Isles, we return to England for Early One Morning. Farnon originally orchestrated this bouncy folk song when he was musical director for the film "Spring in Park Lane" (1948). He re-worked his score for this album, using as the opening passage the sequence where Anna Neagle is seen walking along a fashionable Mayfair Street, only to be somewhat surprised when her front door is opened by Michael Wilding, instead of her usual butler. Such things used to happen in films light years ago! In one of his typical scores like this, Farnon employs the whole orchestra, so we hear the wood-winds almost in a question and answer session with the strings and muted brass. The melody happily flits around until it is finally, and firmly, grasped by the full orchestra which majestically builds into one of the finest musical climaxes that Robert Farnon has ever created.

The second 10" LP featured on this CD is Stephen Foster Melodies played by The Robert Farnon Octet (as opposed to the full orchestra, on all the other tracks). The smaller instrumentation allowed for a kind of chamber music quality which certainly suits some of the numbers, which were mostly composed in the middle of the 19th century, and would therefore have been played at the time by similar sized ensembles, both professional and amateur.

Stephen Collins Foster was born in Lawrenceville (now part of Pittsburgh), Pennsylvania on 4 July 1826, the ninth in a family of ten children. He died in New York on 13 January 1864, and during his 37 years he became America’s first professional popular songwriter, with more than 200 songs to his credit. Reports suggest that he received a basic formal musical training from a German immigrant, Henry Kleber, and he started writing songs when he was only 14; his first big success was Oh! Susanna, published in 1848. His inspiration seems to have been the singing and dancing of negroes he heard as a child on the wharves of the Ohio River, and he was profoundly affected by the traditional minstrel shows. Occasionally he employed lyric writers, but most of his best-known works featured his own words and music.

He married Jane McDowell in 1850, and composed Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair for her in 1854 when they were separated. (Way Down Upon the) Swanee River is also known as The Old Folks at Home and it appeared in 1851 which seems to have been one of Foster’s busiest years for new works. He wrote it for the famous Christy Minstrels, and Foster apparently permitted E.P. Christy to name himself as the composer. Camptown Races had been published the year before, and it became very popular with children; its alternative title was Gwine to Rune All Night - an unusual line to the ears of the many singers who have performed it over the years.

Come Where my Love Lies Dreaming was probably another tribute to his lost love. It comes from 1855 at the start of a five year period which saw far fewer new songs than previously. By the time Foster wrote Beautiful Dreamer in 1862 he was again producing numerous works at an increasing rate. But when he died from a fall induced by a fever that would have been easily curable today, he had just 37 cents in his pocket. His lack of riches can be blamed on the absence of enforceable copyright laws, and the impracticality of collecting performing rights fees at that time.

Two numbers in this collection are apparently not the original works of Foster. Sweet and Low surely evolved as a spiritual, with lyrics ‘borrowed’ from Alfred Tennyson. It would seem that a Joseph Barnby published it in 1863, claiming it as his own. Deep River also appears in reference books as a traditional black spiritual, published in 1917, but who is to say that many years before it had not reached the ears of Foster and his contemporaries?

Over the years, within the RFS there have occasionally been conflicting views about whether or not Bob actually conducted – or indeed arranged – the tracks on this LP. Your Editor discussed this with Bob at some length when writing the notes for this CD, and the explanation that follows will hopefully settle any friendly arguments once and for all! Bob clearly remembers conducting the sessions, but Bruce Campbell probably assisted with some of the scores. It was still a case of a ‘master and pupil’ relationship, with Campbell gradually learning more about the skills of arranging and composing. Farnon’s own busy schedule meant that he would occasionally sketch out the bones of a score, which Campbell would embellish before handing it back to the maestro for the final finishing touches.

Bruce Campbell was a fellow Canadian who had come to Britain in the 1930s to play trombone with various dance bands including Jack Hylton, Jack Harris, Sid Millward and Hugo Rignold. Eventually he developed into a talented light music composer in his own right.

‘Stephen Foster Melodies’ was recorded mainly for the American market, and it provides some interesting contrasts with the big orchestral sounds that had been associated with Farnon up to that time.

The remaining tracks in this collection come from various 78s, 45s and LPs that have escaped the net so far in Vocalion’s major project to reissue the vast majority of Robert Farnon’s orchestral recordings for Decca. In the early days of LPs, a few releases were made up of 78s, rather than special projects purely for LPs. Some of Bob’s 10" albums fall into this category, and because of the contents they have not been suitable for reissue on CD as individual albums, in the same way as major projects such as "From the Highlands" or "Canadian Impressions". Now those remaining tracks have been assembled, the only few exceptions being well-known numbers ("Comedians’ Galop" and "Huckle-Buckle" are two examples) which are already available elsewhere on recently released CDs.

The Vernon Duke song April In Paris hardly needs any introduction. At one time it was in the repertoire of almost every band and orchestra, and Robert Farnon often included it in his radio programmes. Richard Addinsell’s charming Invitation Waltz is also known as ‘Ring Round The Moon’ - the title of Christopher Fry’s play, produced in 1950, for which this haunting piece was specially composed.

Robert Farnon never actually got around to making an LP of Cole Porter’s music, although he featured the works of this American genius on many occasions. Just One Of Those Things finds the orchestra on top form, with brief solos from Sidney Bright (piano – brother of the famous bandleader Geraldo) and Dave Goldberg (guitar). Kiss Me Again, Shadow Waltz and Donkey Serenade were all popular songs from 1930s film musicals, suitably dressed up to date in Farnon’s own stunning orchestrations. However the next item, Persian Nocturne, is the one track on this CD where the Farnon touch is missing as arranger. Just after the war he got to know the famous Austrian composer Robert Stolz very well, and they both admired each other’s music-making. Stolz had taken some of Farnon’s early compositions to perform in Germany, so Bob returned the compliment by recording one of his own Stolz favourites. The arranger is unknown – maybe the composer himself?

While Robert Farnon was making a name for himself in Britain as one of the leading light music composers, Leroy Anderson was doing the same in North America. He had a string of big successes, such as Sleigh Ride, Blue Tango and Belle Of The Ball. When Waltzing Cat came out, Decca asked Bob to record it, and it is interesting that his arrangement is unlike any of the other 78s of this tune that were around at the same time.

To complete this compilation we have four Robert Farnon compositions. Proud Canvas is simply a wonderful piece of ‘sea music’, conjuring up the great days of sail. Not long after he composed it, Farnon was signed to score the seafaring epic "Captain Horatio Hornblower". The eldest son of Pat and Bob Farnon is David, himself a successful musician with many fine compositions to his credit. When he was very young, one day his mother made the comment that he could "charm the birds out of the trees". At the time his father was just finishing a new piece which lacked a title: Bird Charmer provided the answer.

During his time working on films produced by Herbert Wilcox (such as "Spring in Park Lane" and "Maytime in Mayfair"), Bob found himself scoring for dance routines dreamed up by Philip and Betty Buchel. Philip liked to write the odd tune, but he always needed help in finishing it. So from the few brief notes of one of Philip’s sketchy melodies, Bob createdThe Jockey On The Carousel.

Our final track introduces again one of the most successful numbers that Robert Farnon has composed. Like so many of his works, it was originally written as background music for Chappell’s Record Music Library, and started appearing in newsreels and radio programmes. The public quickly took note, and Bob made a commercial recording for Decca. The melody won him his first Ivor Novello Award, as the best piece of Light Orchestral Music in 1956. Perhaps some of its charm lies in the opening chimes. Originally Bob had been using a working title "The First Waltz", but his publishers suggested incorporating the famous Westminster chimes which naturally meant a change of name. Some years later Bob did compose another "First Waltz" which is a delightful melody, but it hasn’t achieved the same fame.

As stated at the top of this feature, the major project to reissue Robert Farnon’s Decca albums from the 1950s is virtually complete. However, readers will be aware that he continued to be active in the recording studios long after his ‘salad days’ with Decca came to an end. There are still many fine Farnon treasures patiently waiting to be rediscovered for a new lease of life on CD!

David Ades

Submit to Facebook

Another Landmark Robert Farnon CD from Vocalion - released Autumn 2002

"The Wide World of Robert Farnon"

1 THE WIDE WORLD 2 OLYMPIAN MARCH Michael Hankinson and his Orchestra 3 RHAPSODY FOR VIOLIN AND ORCHESTRA Robert Farnon and his Orchestra Steven Staryk - violin soloist 4 SCENIC WONDERS Bratislava Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted by Peter Breiner 5 I SAW MY LADY WEEP Robert Farnon and his Orchestra 6 SWALLOW FLIGHT 7 LAKE LOUISE 8 THE MAGIC ISLAND Paul Zaza and his Orchestra 9 CASCADES TO THE SEA – CONCERTO FOR PIANO AND ORCHESTRA Bratislava Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted by David Farnon Peter Breiner - piano soloist 10 HOW BEAUTIFUL IS NIGHT Robert Farnon and his Orchestra 11 CRUISE WORLD Bratislava Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted by David Farnon 12 HOLLYWOOD STARS Bratislava Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted by Peter Breiner 13 SPORTS ARENA 14 HOCKEY NIGHT Stateside Marching Band conducted by Charles Yates

All compositions by Robert Farnon

Vocalion CDLK4146

While still in his teens, back home in Canada, Robert Farnon had a yearning to compose classical music. He recently said: "At that time I thought of nothing else but writing serious music. And my teacher encouraged me to just start and see what would happen. I had a lot of ideas in my head, from which my Symphony No. 1 in D Flat Major was born. I wrote it during two summer holidays: one, in 1939, in northern Ontario, and the following summer out in Vancouver on Grouse Mountain. When I finished the score, I presented it to Sir Ernest MacMillan to get his opinion of it. He liked it very much, and decided to perform it with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra."

MacMillan conducted the first performance in January 1941, and it soon came to the attention of Eugene Ormandy who introduced it to American audiences with his famous Philadelphia Orchestra during a week of concerts in April 1942.

Elated by the reception to his first symphony, Farnon composed a second – in B Major (the ‘Ottawa Symphony’) – which was also conducted by MacMillan in a CBC broadcast.

This promising career was cut short when World War 2 intervened, and Captain Robert Farnon was posted to Britain with his Canadian Army Band. Serious music had to be forgotten, at least temporarily. The troops wanted popular music, and Bob and his musicians duly obliged.

Over the years admirers of Farnon’s more serious works have yearned to hear these symphonies, but the Maestro has always politely resisted all attempts to persuade him to release them for further public performances. True there are problems with missing scores (some of Farnon’s works were lost at sea en route from Canada to Britain during the war), but Farnon admits that the main reason is that he doesn’t consider that they had sufficient merit. In practice, these works have not been completely ‘lost’, because several of the themes have appeared in later compositions.

Fortunately Farnon’s army service proved to be not the end of his musical aspirations, but the launch of his multi-talented career on to an international stage. His talent for composing light orchestral cameos resulted in hundreds of delightful works for Chappells, and proved to be the basis of his successful career for decades.

Now in his mid-eighties, Robert Farnon is still composing and arranging from the serenity of his home on the beautiful Channel Island of Guernsey. Today he tends to concentrate more on delicate tone poems, rather than the bright, bouncy numbers which established his fame over half a century ago. Whatever he chooses to write, he knows that a loyal army of admirers across the world is waiting to marvel at the rich orchestrations which have become his trademark.

Many of the recordings on this CD are being released commercially for the first time. Composed in 1983, the opening number The Wide World presents the traditional rich sound of a Farnon composition extolling the virtues of nature in its finest form. Many of his works have a scenic feel, no doubt influenced by his upbringing in Canada.

Olympian March was written for a British Press Association Centenary Concert in June 1983, where it was performed by the Grimethorpe Colliery Band conducted by Ray Parr; this version, for full orchestra, was scored at the request of Farnon’s publishers. Concert marches are another of Farnon’s specialities, and his catchy themes have enlivened many reports of sporting events in television and cinema newsreels.

There are two major works in this collection, revealing the more serious side of Farnon’s composing aspirations. In 1958 the BBC commissioned him to write a new work for its annual Light Music Festival, and he chose to compose a Rhapsody for Violin and Orchestra, being a showpiece for the famous violinist Raymond Cohen, for many years the leader of the Robert Farnon Orchestra. Initially the work was heard in a shorter form, but soon afterwards Farnon expanded it to its present length, and its premiere recording (with Raymond Cohen) was made in September 1959 at Walthamstow Town Hall. The work soon attracted the attention of other violinists, notably the Canadian Steven Staryk, heard on this CD. Once again Walthamstow Town Hall was the choice of venue (its ideal acoustics were much favoured by record companies at the time) and the session took place just over a year later, on 3 December 1960. Comparisons between the Cohen and Staryk versions are fascinating: as the first performer of the work, Cohen’s interpretation was regarded as definitive, but the speed at which Staryk handles some of the solo passages (particularly the scherzando section) left many listeners gasping in admiration.

Born in Toronto in 1932, Staryk first came to prominence aged only 24 when chosen by Sir Thomas Beecham as concertmaster and soloist of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. After three successful years he resigned to take up a similar position with the Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam, and as Professor at the Amsterdam Conservatorium. Later he moved to the Chicago and Toronto symphonies. His career as a leading international artist was probably hampered by his aversion to publicity, and his air of detachment on stage. Injuries forced him to retire from active playing in 1986, and for the next decade he taught at the University of Washington in Seattle.

Comparing the two interpretations of his work, Robert Farnon recalls how the technical brilliance of Steven Staryk contrasted with the romantic feel of Cohen’s interpretation; he regards both performances as being equally valid.

Steven Staryk’s version of Farnon’s Rhapsody was previously only available on LPs with limited distribution, so this is the first opportunity for many music lovers to hear this virtuoso performance.

Scenic Wonders was composed and recorded in 1999. As the title aptly suggests, it gives Farnon the opportunity to indulge his passion for the spectacular beauty of his homeland.

I Saw My Lady Weep was originally called Blue Moment, but a change of title was considered desirable for this April 1966 recording.

Canada is again the inspiration for the next three works – Swallow Flight, Lake Louiseand The Magic Island, which were commissioned in 1984 for a selection of works with a summery, outdoor feel.

The second important work on this CD is Farnon’s latest major composition. This is the premiere commercial release of Cascades To The Sea – Tone Poem For Piano And Orchestra, with Peter Breiner as solo pianist. Robert Farnon’s son David is conducting the Bratislava Radio Symphony Orchestra in this recording made in March 1998. The work was commissioned in October 1997 by Mrs. Donna Grescoe Dojack in celebration of the 80th birthday of her husband, Charles E. Dojack. A short poem on the title page of the score reads: "Music is like painting in Sound. You take it into your inner heart and never lose it. It is eternally mysterious. Anon. "

In the early 1940s Robert Farnon wrote another work which he also called Cascades To The Sea. Although it was performed during the war, he felt that he never fully completed it, and he only retained the middle theme which he eventually developed into In a Calm. The two ‘Cascades’ – composed more than half a century apart - bear little resemblance to each other.

This new work is outlined in Farnon’s own programme note: "A descriptive composition in one movement for piano and orchestra, the music commences at the source of a mountain stream which wends its way, increasing in volume and speed, to the brink of a waterfall, descending to the river below and joining its path of adventure through the beauties of countryside, the excitement of rapids, the fluvial activities of a delta, eventually reaching the grandeur of the open sea where it meets a receding tide and joins the flow to the calm of a distant horizon."

Commenting upon the actual task of composing Cascades, Farnon said that the work flowed naturally, and was virtually completed by Christmas 1997. "It was as if it was something I had been waiting to compose all my life."

The piano soloist, Peter Breiner, was born in 1957 in Humenne, now part of Slovakia. His involvement in a wide variety of musical styles finds him recording jazz and pop, as well as symphonic music; he writes for films, is a musical journalist and also hosts television programmes. Since March 1992 he has been based in Toronto, and he travels the world conducting and playing the piano.

At the same April 1966 session for I Saw My Lady Weep, Farnon decided to record again How Beautiful Is Night, since his original version was in mono. This has become one of his most popular tone poems, made recognisable worldwide thanks to recordings by Sarah Vaughan, Tony Bennett and George Shearing. The inspiration was a poem of the same name by Robert Southey.

Two recent works illustrate Farnon’s penchant for full-blown glamorous numbers: Cruise World (1998) and Hollywood Stars (1999) remind us that this is the same composer who gave us Journey Into Melody and A Star Is Born.

The mood changes for the final two numbers in this collection. Marching bands are a popular feature at many sporting and outdoor events in North America, and it was almost inevitable that Robert Farnon would be persuaded to score something for this musical phenomenon that attracts so many amateur enthusiasts. Sports Arena was actually written as the signature tune for a TVS television series in 1983, but Hockey Night is purely a tribute to a game which still enjoys strong support across the Atlantic – both on grass and ice. The six main notes of the melody are based on the famous ‘charge’ theme which is always used in ice hockey games in North America, usually played live in the arena by a resident electric organist.

Although his work can be readily identified by his many admirers, Robert Farnon is far from a typical composer. He loves both jazz and the classics, and has worked with opera singers and top popular crooners. Jumping Bean is vastly different from Gateway To The West; it is hard to believe that the composer of the theme music for Colditz was also responsible for Peanut Polka. Such diversity, and mastery of so many varied styles of music, is represented in this latest collection of Farnon’s composing skills. It makes a truly valuable, and essential, addition to the existing vast repertoire of his recorded works.

David Ades

Submit to Facebook

A Great New Robert Farnon CD to celebrate his 85th Birthday in July!

"Lovers Love London"

The music of

ROBERT FARNON

played by the

ROYAL PHILHARMONIC STRINGS

Leader: Rolph Wilson

Conducted by

JACK PARNELL

  1. LOVERS LOVE LONDON (Robert Farnon)
  2. EN BATEAU (Claude Debussy)
  3. LAURA (David Raksin)
  4. LITTLE DID I KNOW (Robert Farnon)
  5. TO A YOUNG LADY (Robert Farnon)
  6. OCCASION TO REMINISCE (Robert Farnon)
  7. FOR EILEEN (Robert Farnon)
  8. THE TOUCH OF YOUR LIPS (Ray Noble)
  9. INTERMEZZO FOR HARP (Robert Farnon)
  10. LADY BARBARA (Robert Farnon)
  11. A VIOLIN MINIATURE (Robert Farnon)
  12. COEUR BRISÉ (Robert Farnon)
  13. PEACEHAVEN (Robert Farnon)
  14. FOR "C.K." (Robert Farnon)
  15. HOW BEAUTIFUL IS NIGHT (Robert Farnon)

Recorded on 6 November 2001 at Angel Studios, Islington, London

Avid/Horatio Nelson AVHN101 - Price £12.50
Available from
RECORDS DIRECT, PO Box 1123, LONDON, SW1P 1HB
Cheques should be made payable to ‘Records Direct’
[This CD is also available through the RFS Record Service]

André Previn declared, many years ago, that Robert Farnon is the greatest living writer for strings. When he hears this new album, he will be reassured that his opinion was not misplaced.

At the age of 84, Farnon could have been forgiven for merely ‘polishing up’ a few old friends, which would certainly have been gratefully received by his many admirers around the world. But it is clear that his urge to compose is still as strong as ever, and five of these delicate miniatures are brand new works, while others are given fresh new settings which frequently amaze through their sheer beauty.

Today Bob prefers to leave it to other conductors to interpret his works, and he could have made no better choice than his old friend Jack Parnell.

"I was very honoured when Bob asked me to conduct his music for this CD" was Jack’s opening remark, when asked to reflect on the sessions.

"I have known, worked with, and deeply admired Bob for over half a century, and to conduct such beautiful music I considered one of the highlights of my career.

"The Orchestra were superb, and the exquisite playing of our leader, Rolph Wilson, and flautist Jane Pickles an absolute joy.

"I’m sure everyone who enjoys listening to romantic music will enjoy listening to this CD."

Robert Farnon was born in Toronto, Canada, on 24 July 1917. Still in his teens, he was well-known to radio listeners playing trumpet and cracking jokes with "The Happy Gang", which became a Canadian institution. He played in Percy Faith’s CBC orchestra, and eventually took over the baton when Faith was lured south to the richer pastures of the USA. During this period Farnon composed two symphonies, and he nursed aspirations to become a ‘serious’ composer. His first symphony was performed in the USA by Eugene Ormandy conducting the Philadelphia Orchestra, and both were played by the Toronto and Montreal Symphony Orchestras.

Unfortunately World War 2 intervened, and in September 1944 he arrived in England as Captain Robert Farnon, conductor of the Canadian Band of the Allied Expeditionary Forces. Working alongside Glenn Miller and George Melachrino (who fronted the American and British bands), he undertook a punishing schedule of numerous broadcasts and concerts for the troops. Although the AEF Programme of the BBC was aimed at the Allied Forces, its broadcasts were popular with the civilian population as well, and by the end of the war Farnon was highly respected by fellow musicians and his many fans.

In Britain Robert Farnon had discovered that Concert Music was very popular, thanks to the influence of composers and conductors such as Eric Coates and Haydn Wood. Films also needed a steady supply of background music. Farnon decided that there were opportunities for him to develop his composing skills that were absent back home, so he chose to remain in England when he was demobbed from the Canadian Army.

He was soon in demand from radio, recording companies and the film industry. But perhaps the most significant turning point in his career came when Teddy Holmes, boss of the Chappell Recorded Music Library, put Farnon under contract to compose a steady stream of light music cameos covering many varied moods. It retrospect it seems that this event was akin to a dam being burst; dozens of wonderful melodies that had probably been kicking around in Farnon’s subconscious for years, suddenly found an outlet. Chappells was pleased to publish anything that Farnon created, allowing us all to marvel at miniature masterpieces such as Jumping Bean, Portrait of a Flirt, A Star is Born, Journey Into Melody, Peanut Polka and Westminster Waltz.

The arrival of the long playing record brought Robert Farnon’s brilliant arrangements and compositions to the notice of music lovers worldwide, and he was soon in demand to work with international stars such as Frank Sinatra, Sarah Vaughan, George Shearing, Lena Horne, Jose Carreras, Eileen Farrell, George Benson, Tony Bennett and Eddie Fisher.

The need to support a large family meant that Farnon had to provide the kind of music that would pay the bills. However, he has never forgotten his early ambitions to compose more serious works, and occasionally this has been possible. One of his first film scores was "Captain Horatio Hornblower, R.N." which contains some tender love themes among the stirring, swashbuckling excitement demanded by the script. In 1958 the BBC commissioned Rhapsody for Violin and Orchestra, a beautiful romantic work, which has been unjustly neglected by concert promoters. The harmonica virtuoso Tommy Reilly persuaded Farnon to write specially for him, which resulted in Prelude and Dance for Harmonica and Orchestra, a work which forced harmonica manufacturers to redesign their instruments.

Saxophone Triparti is a three movement work for soprano, tenor and alto saxophones, which the Musicians’ Union commissioned in 1971 for Bob Burns. Other important scores include A La Claire Fontaine, Lake of the Woods, The Frontiersmen and A Promise of Spring.

This latest collection opens with a new composition Lovers Love London. According to Robert Farnon, his inspiration was an affection for lighting-up time on the streets, and the parks, of Westminster, and along the river. Some of this magic can be seen in the cover photograph of this CD, reproduced on the front page of this magazine.

En Bateau is a delightful work by Claude Debussy, which Farnon once orchestrated for the 1948 film "Spring In Park Lane", a very successful British movie starring Anna Neagle and Michael Wilding. It was Farnon’s first major film score, and could have resulted in a Hollywood career, had he not decided to remain on this side of the Atlantic. On this CD the work takes on a simplified setting of the two main themes, with a lovely music conversation between Jane (flute) and Rolph (violin).

Laura has always been one of Farnon’s favourite film themes. He first orchestrated it back in the 1940s, and hoped that one day he would hear it performed by a large orchestra in a major concert hall. He has had his wish fulfilled on more than one occasion (including a memorable concert at London’s Royal Festival Hall in 1974), and he could not resist allowing the Strings of the Royal Philharmonic to weave their special magic with David Raksin’s timeless melody.

Little Did I Know is the second brand-new Farnon score, and he plans to write a lyric to this pensive tune:

"Little did I know about her,
Not even her name.
She was shy
So was I … "

To a Young Lady is a proud father’s tribute to his daughter Judith.

Occasion to Reminisce is one of the many works that Robert Farnon originally composed for the Chappell Recorded Music Library – a vast storehouse of music that can be used by film, radio and television companies around the world. Although first published over forty years ago, this is the first time that it has been available on a commercial recording.

The ‘Eileen’ in the title of For Eileen is a very special lady who was held in high esteem in North America – the opera singer Eileen Farrell, whose recent death is reported elsewhere in this issue. During the 1990s Robert Farnon arranged and conducted four albums with her, and as a surprise item on the last of these he included this purely instrumental tribute. It is sometimes known under a different title, Our Romance.

The Touch of Your Lips is one of the enduring melodies written back in the 1930s by the British bandleader Ray Noble. It has become a popular ‘standard’ in the true sense of the word, and this superb string arrangement, like the others, is a joy to listen to.

During his long career Robert Farnon has worked with many of the finest musicians on the London scene. One of the most charming was the harpist Marie Goossens, who was frequently in the orchestra for its radio and television programmes, and numerous recording sessions. Intermezzo for Harp was composed by Bob especially for Marie, and it has become a firm favourite with the many harpists who have performed it subsequently.

Lady Barbara is the main love theme which Robert Farnon composed for the "Hornblower" film in 1951. Although it was an integral part of the score, it stands alone as a tender portrayal of the searing passions – both happy and sad – which mark all great love affairs. Lyrics have been added, and the title of the song version is On the Lips of Lovers.

A Violin Miniature comes from a suite "Showcase for Soloists" highlighting many instruments of the orchestra. It bears a passing resemblance to Farnon’s longer work Rhapsody for Violin and Orchestra.

Coeur Brisé (literal translation ‘Heartbreaks’) is another new composition, receiving its premiere recording on this CD.

Peacehaven - also a new work – is a tone poem in the finest Farnon tradition, dedicated to the children’s home founded by Gracie Fields on the south coast of England.

In August 1998 Robert Farnon arranged and conducted an album for the great Scottish jazz singer Carol Kidd. For "C.K." (his fifth new composition on this CD) is Bob’s present to her, reminding them both of a joyous occasion which resulted in some superlative performances of great songs of the last century.

How Beautiful is Night reveals Robert Farnon at his most lyrical. Written in the 1940s, it has become a standard thanks to vocal recordings by Tony Bennett and Sarah Vaughan, and remains one of his best-known works. The title comes from a poem by Robert Southey, which provided the young Robert Farnon with the necessary inspiration.

Jack Parnell is one of the best-known and most popular British jazzmen. Born 6 August 1923, he is fondly remembered as drummer with the famous Ted Heath band, before his long association with Associated TeleVision. For years he conducted the theatre orchestra for the legendary ‘Sunday Night at the London Palladium’, and provided the orchestra for many of ATV’s top musical shows, culminating in ‘The Muppet Show’. Later in his career he returned to his jazz roots, leading the London Big Band. Widely admired in the music profession, he has worked with Robert Farnon on numerous recordings, and was a natural choice to conduct this album.

David Ades

Submit to Facebook
Page 12 of 64

Login Form RFS

Hi to post comments, please login, or create an account first.
We cannot be too careful with a world full of spammers. Apologies for the inconvenience caused.

Keep in Touch on Facebook!    

 If you have any comments or questions about the content of our website or Light Music in general, please join the Robert Farnon Society Facebook page.

Contact Geoff Leonard - editor of the RFS website
Contact Geoff Leonard to submit new articles only, please.

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