ALICE AND LIGHT MUSIC: A Summary
by Philip L Scowcroft
Lewis Carroll (1832-98) was, as Charles Luttridge Dodgson, a mathematician but remains celebrated for his Alice books, reckoned by many as children's literature though there is also a deeper message to be found in them.
Doubtless this "deeper message" was exploited in a series of "scenes and arias" from the Alice stories by David Walter del Tredici (1937-), sometime Professor of Music at Harvard, in a "tonal 12 note" idiom and very accessible. By my count there are eleven of these, many for amplified soprano and orchestra, but others for smaller ensembles; several are substantial, Vintage Alice (on the Mad Hatter's Tea Party) being timed at 28 minutes. In 1986 they were drawn on (in Canada) for a ballet.
Other American composers derived inspiration from Alice: Joseph Deems Taylor (1885-1966), composed an orchestral suite Through the Looking Glass; Edgar Stallman-Kelley (1857-1944) had his pantomime pictures Alice in Wonderland performed by the Bournemouth Municipal Orchestra in 1922; and Homer Simmons published for two pianos in 1940 a passacaglia The Duchess and a minuet The Gryphon and the Mock Turtle.
But two of the greatest of all British composers were asked to set Carroll. Sir Arthur Sullivan was the first with Carroll himself making the contact, proposing a staged setting of "Alice in Wonderland" including "two or three of the songs". Sullivan was not keen and was doubtful if such a project would get off the ground; one source suggests that Sullivan attempted to set some of the lyrics but was defeated by the unusual metre. More than twenty years later in January 1899, A J Jaeger ("Nimrod") of Novello's suggested to Elgar a mock-heroic cantata on The Jabberwock (from Through the Looking Glass). Elgar dismissed this as "unsaleable", though later he did briefly start to sketch Jabberwocky for voice and orchestra.
However, composers on both sides of the Atlantic managed to progress further than Sullivan and Elgar and a selection of their (and del Tredici's) pieces would make an attractive concert even if confined to orchestral and instrumental works. For example, Ronald Hamner's fantasy for brass band Alice in Wonderland appeared in 1974, Joseph Horovitz's Alice ballet (actually entitled Wonderful Scenes from Alice ) included a Waltz of the Flowers and Gardens and Lobster Quadrille. Alfred Reynolds (1884-1969) provided delicious incidental music of which more later. Music educationist, arranger and composer for young people Geoffry Russell-Smith penned two pieces for a trio of clarinets, Alice and the Mad Hatter. Philip Gates wrote an alto saxophone solo, March Hare, Nigel Ogden composed a White Rabbit Scherzo for organ, Stan Tracey a suite Alice in Jazz, Paul Paviour a suite for piano, Alice in Pianoland. Peter Cork's suite, Alice Through the Looking Glass and What She Found There has been recorded fairly recently, all twelve movements of it. Albert Ketèlbey composed a four movement piano suite, Alice in 1906 (before the days of In a Monastery Garden).
E Markham Lee, known for his piano pieces for children, published twelve movements (two sets of six) for piano duet, four hands one piano. And most recently (so far), Alice's Adventures Through Sound and Space for wind band was premiered in November 2012 by Sheffield University Wind Band; the music was by Sheffield undergraduate Tierney Kirby, a saxophonist in the Band. Most, perhaps all, of these orchestral and instrumental titles were on the lighter side of the musical spectrum.
We have seen that Carroll was anxious to have a staged (musical) version of "Alice" and it is time to examine some of those which have existed. First and in many ways the most successful, came during Carroll's lifetime. One H Savile Clark adapted "Alice in Wonderland" as a "dream play for children" and Walter Slaughter (1860-1908), a conductor for the London stage and a prolific, tuneful and accessible composer, was approached to do the music. It was first put on at the Prince of Wales Theatre for 57 matinées, starting December 1886, as a Christmas feature but was so popular that it lasted until March 1887. The Clark/Slaughter "Alice" was to have eighteen London revivals, at the Globe (1888-9), Opera Comique (1898-9), Vaudeville (38 performances 1900-01) and other London theatres for mainly Christmas seasons up to as late as 1934. The music was published and Slaughter's reputation burgeoned as he was invited to compose for several other children's musicals.
There was an attempt at the New Theatre (1903) to repeat its success with the "fairy play" "Alice Through the Looking Glass". The music, by Walter Tilbury, was less successful, though its football jokes and "impressions", interpolated to spice Carroll, fell flat. Yet it survived for sixty performances that winter and the score was published. More durable was "Florian Pascal's" "(Joseph Williams')" children's fairy operetta "In Wonderland" (1908) and several times revived including once in Doncaster by a young choir in 1946.
Staged "Alices" with music continued to appear. "Alice Up to Date", music by Philip Braham, appeared at the Pavilion Theatre in 1913. Incidental music for a play version was composed in 1933 by one H Cyphus. "Alice in Wonderland" (1932) and "Through the Looking Glass" (1943), both adapted by Clemence Dane, had music by Richard Addinsell, a composer well known to readers of JIM (some of Addinsell's songs, like Beautiful Soup, A Boat Beneath a Sunny Sky and Father William were published). Graham Garton (1929- )wrote a musical "Alice". In 2001-02 the RSC put on Adrian Mitchell's new version of both "Alice" classics with incidental music by Stephen Warbeck and Terry Davies. Even more recently (2004) Carl Davis provided a score for a stage musical version of "Alice in Wonderland". But we must return to the earlier (1947) Christmas show at Stratford, again a combination of both "Alices", and to its delicious music by Alfred Reynolds with charming titles such as Ballet of Rabbits, Crawl of the Caterpillars, Dance of the Cards, Ballet of the Talking Flowers, Jabberwocky (with a part for swanee whistle), Parade of the King's Hobby Horses and March of the Drums. Two suites were extracted from this music; several of their movements were recorded some years ago by Marco Polo, the Royal Ballet Sinfonia being conducted by Gavin Sutherland. Away from "Alice", a stage version of Carroll's "The Hunting of the Snark" (1991) had songs by Mike Batt, but it did not achieve success.
However, I have still not done with musical stage adaptations. An operetta for amateurs, "Alice in Dreamland" was performed by Armthorpe [Doncaster] Evening Institute (March 1935) but the composer for this is unrecorded. A rock "Alice in Wonderland" appeared at the Intimate Theatre, Palmer's Green in 1976 (one wonders what Carroll would have made of that). The Collegiate Theatre's "Alice" (1980) had music by theatre conductor David Lowe. Wilfred Joseph's set "Through the Looking Glass" as a children's opera in twelve short scenes with a prologue and epilogue (1978). In the 1980s Stephen Scotchmer's "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" was another children's adaptation; still another was David Aylott, "Alice, A Musical for Schools" (1994). "Alice", with "updated" music by Anthony Phillips, was produced at the Leeds Playhouse in 1984. James Leisy's "Alice A Musical Play" (based on both Alices and timed at 90 minutes), was published in 1981. The Korean composer Unsuk Chin was working on an Alice opera in August 2005; as a "trailer" five songs, entitled Snags and Snarls, received a first European performance at a BBC Prom in that month and impressed with their conciseness and sensitive, jewel-like orchestral accompaniment. I have alluded to the major "Alice" ballet version (1953, revived both on stage and TV) and its music by Joseph Horovitz; a fresh "Alice" ballet (1995) drew on Tchaikovsky's music. More recently "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" (2011) had music by Joby Talbot, much praised.
Songs setting lyrics by Carroll but primarily for the concert hall rather than the stage, have come from various composers. Maybe the earliest were by Liza Lehmann (1862-1918), Nine (actually ten) Nonsense Songs for SATB or, in some cases, vocal solo or duet. Harold Fraser-Simson (1878-1944), known for "The Maid of the Mountains" and settings of AA Milne, also published eight songs from "Alice in Wonderland". Victor Hely-Hutchinson, who worked for the BBC, and composed A Carol Symphony and nursery rhyme settings, also set Father William, Humpty Dumpty, Jabberwocky, To the Looking Glass World, Tweedledum and Tweedledee and Beautiful Soup. The latter was also set as a two part song for children by the American Thomas Benjamin and as one of a number of songs by Roger Fiske in 1952.
In more recent years there have been The Mad Hatter's Song from "Birds and Beasts" by author Percy Young (d. 2003), The Crocodile and Father William (1984), combining Alice and Peter Pan, by Michael Berkeley for unaccompanied women's voices in six parts, Jabberwocky by Carol Barratt as the first of Four Strange Wild Songs, Tweedledee's Song by Mavis de Mierre, Songs for Alice (1978) by Don Harper, Five Alice Songs by Jeffrey Joseph for mezzo and instrumental ensemble, Some Hallucinations (unison voices) by Patrick Williams, The Lobster Quadrille for women's voices by Colin Hand, Seven Songs (1989) for women's voices by Maurice Bailey, and Father William (in 2 parts) by Sol Berkovitz, an American. Derek Bourgeois (1941- ) with his extravaganza Jabberwocky (baritone, mixed voice chorus and orchestra) achieved in 1967 what Elgar had failed to finish. Finally among these recent examples, Philip Lane (1950- ) has told me he was commissioned in 1998 to set "Rhymes of Lewis Carroll" for Guildford High School to mark the centenary of Carroll's death, for SSA choir and piano. For once they do not set words from "Alice".
Alice has naturally figured on both large and small screens. The first talkie of "Alice in Wonderland" included music credited to Hollywood mogul Dimitri Tiomkin, though the twelve published items included ten songs, some credited to Nathaniel Finston, and the instrumental pieces, Lobster Quadrille and Morris Dance. Similarly, the 1951 Disney cartoon version had its music credited to Oliver Wallace but other Carroll songs published by Disney were credited to Don Raye and Gene de Paul, Mack David, Al Hoffman, Jenny Livingston and at least five songs by Sammy Fain. John Barry of James Bond fame, wrote a score for a British film, "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" (1972) and published a song book therefrom. Music for "Putting on the Ritz" included a song Alice in Wonderland by Irving Berlin. Most recently, "Alice in Wonderland" (2010) had music by Danny Elfman.
We are left with television, radio and audio books, for which latter Martin Cook wrote music. I have little information on the music used for the many radio Alice adaptations (a radio "Hunting of the Snark" had incidental music from Max Saunders) and none on who composed for the first televised Alices in 1936-7 and later in 1946, though the latter may have utilised Addinsell's music previously mentioned. A 69 minute radio version of "Alice in Wonderland" (1960) had music by Antony Hopkins, broadcaster and sometime director of Intimate Opera. Adaptations of Alice in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s included one in 1966 which had music from sitar player Ravi Shankar. For a recent TV version (2000, Channel 4) later issued on DVD, a score was written by the Yorkshire born composer Richard Hartley, born in 1944.
There have been a number of "spoof" Alices; as just one example I offer the parody ballet "Alice in Lumberland", whose music was by the theatre composer Norman O'Neill (1875-1934). Generally, though, we can say with confidence that the richness and whimsy of Carroll are matched by the variety and sheer enjoyment of the music written for dramatised versions or otherwise inspired by them. I suspect that what we have recalled here is just the tip of a significant iceberg. And more will surely come to delight us in future years.
1953 AND ALL THAT
Sixty years ago the British nation was gripped by Coronation fever: we had had the 1948 Olympics, the 1951 Festival of Britain and, early the following year, a new Queen had come to the throne. Now, on 2nd June 1953, she was to be crowned in Westminster Abbey; the event was to be televised and would be seen all over the world. The British record industry was in fine form; 78s still held sway but 45s and LPs were appearing in increasing numbers and would gradually take over.
Unless Vivaldi, Benvenuto FineIIi and Helga Mott were your particular favourites there was little to get excited about amongst the January LP releases but, at other speeds, it was a different story. On
Columbia we had Coronation Scot and The Horse Guards, Whitehall from the
Queens Hall Light Orchestra, the 78 having been with us since May 1948. Blue Tango. Belle Of The Ball, The Waltzing Cat and Marching Strings filled a pair of 45s by RayMartin and, on Parlophone, half a dozen titles from Sidney Torch included Valse Grise, Mexican Fiesta and Claude Yvoire’s Cresta Run.
78s at the start of the year included Leroy Anderson’s own recordings of A Trumpeter’s Lullaby, Jazz Pizzicato and Jazz Legato; Ray Martin’s Tickled Pink and Henpecking and the QHLO under Bob Farnonwith Champagne March and Tony Lowry’s superb Seascape. George Melachrino brought usReginald King’s Song Of Paradise and Ron Goodwin popped up on Polygon with Heyken’s Serenade and The Wedding Of The Rose.
In February there was a pot-pouzri of Leroy Anderson titles on a Brunswick LP. while a certain Robert Famon appeared on Decca with The Fleet’s In, Sand In My Shoes, Lazybones and nine or ten other items; David Rose, meanwhile, offered Portrait Of A Flirt on an MGM 45. Leroy Anderson came up with two more of his own pieces on a Brunswick 78 and Charles Williams, on a 12-inch Columbia, showed the Coronation Year spirit with Long Live Elizabeth and The Yeomen Of England. On Decca Bob Farnon gave us two of his "Fleet’s In" titles on a 12-inch 78 and George Melachrino paraded the film hits on HMV. Nick Acquaviva made a rare appearance on with Holiday In Rio and Her Tears while Sidney Torch offered a pair of popular titles on a Parlophone ‘R’.
As winter gave way to spring, LPs had little to offer but there were some 45rpm issues by Ray Martin and his London Saga on a Columbia 78, while on Parlophone Sidney Torch brought us The Last Rhapsody and Ron Goodwin took off with his scintillating Jet Journey, and Ron was also on his original label Polygon, with Rainbow Run by Eddie Mers. April’s light music ‘hit’ was undoubtedly Acquaviva’s breathtaking recording of Curtain Time on an MGM 45; Ray Martin was still in the Columbia lists with Waltzing Bugle Boy and Lazy Cowboy on DB3258. The Melachrino Strings gave us a TV hit of the day with Little Red Monkey and Sidney Torch, was Meandering on Parlophone R3674.
With the Big Event approaching rapidly, Decca brought us, on LP, The Three Elizabeths and Four Centuries Suites by Eric Coates as part of a release of all-British music in specially-designed sleeves. Bob’s Lincolnshire Poacher was at large on one of their ten-inch LPs and Coates was again to the fore with his London and London Again suites on a Parlophone LP. Those two patriotic Charles Williams titles reappeared on a 45 and Parade Of The Clowns was the May MGM offering fron David Rose. The new Charles Williams titles were The British Grenadiers and Heart O’London while Ray Martin brought us Veradero and the catchy One Finger Serenade.
Tuesday, 2nd June dawned dismal, dull and damp - in fact it was one of the wettest days that anyone could remember. But everything went ahead as planned: Sidney Torch gave us Magic Circles and Cornflakes but the only really noteworthy light music accolade went to Frank Chacksfield for his famous recording of Ebb Tide. The major July issue was the HMV LP set of the Coronation service which still sounds impressive today; on Columbia Ray Martin countered with Begorrah and Serenade To Eileen and Sidney Torch ignored his own compositions in favour of a selection from Chu Chin Chow.
August was traditionally the month when EMI went on holiday: very brief release sheets mention two minor titles from Melachrino, and David Rose’s Waltz Of The Bubbles. But things were looking up the following month when Sidney Torch offered us A Canadian In Mayfair on Parlophone R 3732 and Ron Goodwin recorded two attractive titles: Shane and The Melba Waltz on R3736.
In October I began my National Service and would not have had time to note down any record releases, but looking back I see that Leroy Anderson had another LP of his own compositions on Brunswick, Bob had one - LK 4067 - on Decca and the Melachrino Strings had a ten-inch LP on HMV. Leroy Anderson presented us with his Serenata and Horse And Buggy on a Brunswick 78 and Camarata, on the same label, greeted us with Rendezvous and Fiddlesticks. The then-popular Swedish Rhapsody was Ray Martin’s contribution and Charles Williams introduced us to A Girl Called Linda.
The November fogs were much in evidence when Peter Yorke turned up, surprisingly, on the Brunswick label with an LP of standards while Ray Martin was on familiar territory with a clutch of his classics on the ‘Magic Notes’ label and Sidney Torch did a similar job on Parlophone. Wally Stott made a very rare appearance on MGM with My One And Only Love and Serenade For A Tin Horn; Charles Williams was on Parade with the Clowns on Columbia and, by way of a change, the youngsters were being catered for on HMV with Noddy, Muffin the Mule and dear old Uncle Mac. Tropicana and Blue Night were Sidney Torch’s titles and Philip Green, also on Parlophone, was having a Spanish Affair.
And so to December. Appropriately. Leroy Anderson gave us a Christmas Festival on a Brunswick 78; Axel Stordahl brought us a very attractive version of The Piccolino on Capitol and George Melachrino pleased this enthusiast immensely when he recorded Ken Warner’s Scrub Brother Scrub for HMV. Mind you, this had been recorded before - in 1947 on a Columbia DB.
But nobody told me …..
This feature appeared in the August 2013 issue of ‘Journal Into Melody’
On Sunday 13 September 1992 Moira, David and Fenella Ades invited fellow Robert Farnon Society members to their home in South Somerset to enjoy an informal afternoon of Light Music. The intention was to encourage members living in the West Country to come along, if distance prevented them from attending our usual London meetings. Seventeen members accepted the invitation, but only one was a ‘new face’! The rest were RFS ‘regulars’ who couldn’t resist the attraction of a musical afternoon, and one member even travelled 200 miles to attend. Unfortunately the weather was wet, so members were ‘trapped’ inside the house. The music was deliberately non-formal. Members said what they would like to hear, and the appropriate recordings were sought out and played. When someone suggested the Chappell music that used to feature in Dan Dare – Pilot Of The Future on Radio Luxembourg in the 1950s, we all became 40 years younger – at least, in our minds!
The success of the 1992 event prompted a repeat a year later, on Sunday 12 September 1993. This time the attendance went up to 26, and Jim Palm wrote a special report for JIM 114:
As in 1992 the weather, alas, was wet (very wet, in fact) but the atmosphere inside was warm and convivial. Philip Farlow and I arrived shortly after noon to find the house already filling up fast and, with drinks pressed into our hands, we were soon chatting with friends old and new.
We were soon being invited to help ourselves to a buffet lunch; a large table groaning with food was set up in the dining room and the ladies had clearly been working very hard. Our plates full, some chose to sit in the lounge with others out in the conservatory, and now the important business of the day began. On my right-hand side and all the way from Altrincham was David Mardon; the talk was of music (naturally) and over a potted plant just to my left, Tony Clayden and I were chatting about television themes of yesteryear and, on the subject of music used years ago by the London company Rediffusion, I surprised myself by remembering that, at one time, they used a march by one Stanley Bate. Does this ring a bell with anybody?
With the cheese and biscuits over (or trifle, as appropriate) David invited us, when we were ready, to pick up our chairs and proceed up to his eyrie at the top of the house. Still the rain lashed down but we quickly forgot such mundane matters as we set about delving into boxes of 78s, LPs and CDs. Wallets and chequebooks were soon lighter and slimmer as sundry purchases were made until, seated at last, the music began and a very ‘ad hoc’ programme was to include such items as Clive Richardson’s Running Off The Rails hotted—up by Florian Zabach; mouth-watering tastes of the ‘Memories of the Light Programme’ release; assorted tracks from KPM reissues of the I950s and the Big Band sound of Laurie Johnson. Paul Lewis, the composer profiled in JIM 113, regaled us with stories about musicians and the problems of writing for television. Amongst the many questions raised by those present, there was one about Polygon records. This is one of the nice things about these ‘at homes’: the ready exchange of information and ideas with everyone joining in and learning a lot into the bargain. The informal atmosphere made us all feel at ease; anyone with a special request could have it played and David was, I seem to remember, only stumped on one occasion. At about five o’clock came the call to tea, and soon people were saying their goodbyes.
After two very wet afternoons in previous Septembers, Moira, David and Fenella announced in JIM 116 that the 1994 Seavington Music Day would be two months earlier, on Sunday 17 July. It proved to be ‘third time lucky’, as Jim Palm reported in JIM 118: "A smashing day as always" was my comment in the Stone Gables visitors’ book. This time the sun shone on a lovely summer’s day when lunch in the garden was not only possible, but virtually a ‘must’. The welcome was as genuine and convivial as ever and the attendance fair took the breath away: nearly forty people were there in all and we even had to queue to reach the table which was groaning with food.
On this occasion we had a trio of talented composers in our midst: Paul Lewis, John Fox and Heinz Herschmann. As had now become usual, after lunch we all went upstairs for the music – somehow David’s floor managed to take the weight of us all!
At length we all made our way downstairs again for tea and cakes, and the balmy evening made many of us linger, chatting in the lovely garden until it really was time to go. Philip and I finally dragged ourselves away at 7:40 and headed back to Salisbury ….
In 1995 it was back to Seavington again, with fingers crossed that Sunday 23 July 1995 would also have the lovely weather we had enjoyed the previous year. We were lucky! The garden, patio and conservatory were all packed with members, and on this occasion we welcomed two friends who had actually come all the way from Australia – Kym and Julie Bonython. Kym was something of a legend back home: Australian jazz lovers owed him a great debt of gratitude for all the fine Americans he persuaded to play in the concerts he promoted over many years. During the afternoon he treated us to recordings by Phil Moore – just one of the many musicians he knew.
The usual routine followed … music, then eventually tea, then finally goodbyes.
Everyone hoped there would be another summer meeting in 1996, and it was duly arranged for Sunday 7 July 1996. Perhaps the date was unfortunate (it was Men’s Finals Day at Wimbledon) and the weather forecast was indifferent. But as it turned out the sun shone in Seavington, although Wimbledon was disrupted by rain.
Was this the best Seavington Summer Meeting of them all? Possibly, because the famous guests included Trevor Duncan, John Fox, Joy Devon (Mrs. John Fox), Freddie Dachtler (of The Polka Dots), Heinz Herschmann, Eric Parkin and Paul Lewis. All of them spoke about their work, and members enjoyed many recordings during the afternoon.
The following year, in July 1997, the RFS celebrated Robert Farnon’s 80th Birthday with a lavish meeting and banquet at the Bonnington Hotel. This broke the pattern of Sunday Summer Meetings in Seavington, but in hindsight it was probably fitting that the last of the five, in 1996, was probably the best of them all!
This feature appeared in the August 2013 issue of ‘Journal Into Melody’
Brian Willey recounts the history of the BBC Dance Orchestra from
its 1928 birth to its 1952 demise
It would seem that the BBC, right from its infancy at Savoy Hill, set out to promote dance music by hitting the airwaves in February 1926 with broadcasts by the London Radio Dance Band, a nine-piece unit led by violinist, Sidney Firman. The band made about a dozen records for the Columbia label and did sterling work as the mainstay of radio dance music for two years until a new combination, the BBC Dance Orchestra, was formed and took over its duties. The new sounds were first heard on March 12th 1928 and, according to a Melody Maker report: ‘Despite a limited opportunity for rehearsal, gave a satisfactory performance’.
In its first manifestation it evolved from a dance orchestra directed by Jack Payne that had entertained for some four years in the Hotel Cecil in London’s Strand. (The hotel was demolished in 1930 to make way for Shell-Mex House)
Jack Payne had first broadcast from there in late 1925 and it was he to whom the BBC turned when it decided to feature its own dance orchestra.
Once established, the new unit became highly popular and Jack Payne became a household name throughout the land. He also secured a recording contract with Columbia Records and it is interesting to note that the record labels stated ‘Jack Payne and His BBC Dance Orchestra’. The BBC was initially cautious about the establishment of such an orchestra and had decided the musicians would not be on its own payroll but assembled and employed by Jack Payne, to be hired when required for broadcasts. But that billing was appropriate only for the commercial records and not for the radio – but it was a ruling that would change!
The Melody Maker noted that in July 1928 ‘Ray Noble, the brilliant British orchestrator, who has been with the Lawrence Wright Music Co., has left to take up an engagement with the BBC.’ - thus ensuring the orchestra would have first-class scores in its library.
All went relatively smoothly until April 1930 when Jack Payne decided to take the orchestra into variety at the London Palladium and the Holborn Empire followed by a Royal Command Performance, at which time he was billed as Jack Payne and his BBC Band. Naturally this was much to the annoyance of the Director-General, Sir John Reith – but Payne, having asserted himself, the BBC finally caved in and allowed the Radio Times billings to read ‘Jack Payne and his BBC Dance Orchestra’.
By late 1931 Jack had grown tired of BBC studio restrictions and, without any prior reference, audaciously announced his resignation on the air. Although this caused an outcry from many thousands of radio fans, it cannot have caused too much aggravation with the hierarchy, for according to Jack’s autobiography, ‘Signature Tune’ he recounts that Reith was present in the studio to bid farewell to him at the final transmission. With the broadcast ended, Reith then addressed the assembled members of the press, saying how proud he was of what Payne had done for the Corporation and, if at any time he wanted to return to the BBC he would personally see that he had his job back.
I find it most hard to believe, but fortunately the statement was never put to the test, for Jack knew exactly where he was going. He had become enormously popular via his radio appearances and now, having taken the orchestra with him, it was to be personal appearances on stage during extensive country-wide and European tours and also starring in a film ‘Say it with Music’.
It was January 1932 when Henry Hall received the BBC invitation to form a new orchestra. It is not known exactly how he got selected for the job, for at the time he was in the employ of the LMS Railway Hotel chain in control of 32 bands. Prior to that appointment he had been directing the Gleneagles Hotel Band in Manchester’s Midland Hotel, and not surprisingly he readily accepted the offer and the New BBC Dance Orchestra made its debut in March 1932 from the newly-built, but as yet unfinished, Broadcasting House.
This time the orchestra was a fully-fledged staff house-band and remained under Henry Hall’s direction for five years, broadcasting daily from 5.15 to 6 o’clock, while also frequently recording for the Columbia label.
Back in the days when ‘78 rpm’ records still ruled the turntables, the orchestra’s 1932 recording of The Teddy Bear’s Picnic contained such a plethora of wonderful bass frequencies that, in 1942 it was re-issued under a new catalogue number and a special pressing made and sited in practically every studio control room throughout the BBC for use as a loudspeaker test!
There were two significant events to affect Henry’s life during the mid-1930s that are worth noting. In March 1934 ‘Henry Hall’s Guest Night’ made its first appearance as a regular Saturday night feature, a format which would later became a popular programme in its own right and run for 21 years.
The other event was considerably more short-lived, for in May 1936 Henry Hall was given leave of absence from his BBC duties to become the director of the dance orchestra aboard Cunard’s new liner Queen Mary on her maiden voyage from Southampton to New York and, until he returned, pianist Bert Read took over his BBC job.
By 1937 dozens of hotel dance bands were regularly broadcasting and the BBC Dance Orchestra seemed suddenly superfluous, so Henry decided to resign. The orchestra made its final Columbia recording in the July of that year and on September 25 1937 gave its last radio performance before being disbanded and immediately reformed to become Henry Hall’s own orchestra, which he then successfully took on tour for the next two years.
For the BBC it meant a two-year gap before a new Dance Orchestra was established, this time under the baton of Billy Ternent who arrived right at the start of the Second World War with a ready-made unit from the Jack Hylton Organisation.
It was soon dispatched to Bristol which had been selected as Variety Department’s first refuge from the London blitz and when Bristol began receiving undue attention from the Luftwaffe the department made a further move to Bangor, North Wales.
Known simply as ‘The Dance Orchestra’ its main use during those years was to accompany the many variety shows that had become firm favourites with the radio audience of the time, and Billy Ternent with his strong Geordie accent had become popular as a stooge for the many comedians that lightened the wartime airwaves.
In 1944 ill-health forced Billy to resign and the next conductor to inherit the BBC baton was Stanley Black who directed the orchestra until 1952 – calculating that during those eight years he conducted some 3,000 shows.
Stanley had introduced two vocalists to the orchestra’s personnel – Diana Coupland and Monty Norman – both of whom went on to achieve further fame in other directions. Monty became a composer for the musical theatre and famously created the James Bond Theme. Diana became an actress, probably best remembered as the TV-wife of Sid James in the 1971 sitcom ‘Bless this House’.
Stanley Black’s departure heralded the final curtain for the then veteran dance orchestra which was almost immediately replaced by a 17-piece big band. Named The BBC Show Band, under the direction of Cyril Stapleton – who coincidentally had been a violinist with Henry Hall exactly twenty years earlier – it contained the cream of the music profession and performed brilliantly for five years until guitars, amplifiers and rock ’n’ roll rang the death knell for the big bands’ supremacy – but that is another story!
This feature appeared in the August 2013 issue of ‘Journal Into Melody’
LISTEN TO THE BANNED! By Martin Moritz
Can censorship be ever justified? Can the famous quote, wrongly attributed to Voltaire, that ‘I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to death your right to say it’ still be appropriate today? Free speech is regarded as sacrosanct and, for the most part, it should be, but so often it is abused. Under its protective cover, one believes that one can say what one likes. But surely racial incitement can never be justified as neither can an advocacy for violence. They both run contra to the laws of public decency and welfare.
Censorship arises as a result of cultural or political tensions and is, invariably, used as a means by which the powerful can impose their views on those who lack power. Over the centuries, music has been viewed with suspicion because it has a strong and egalitarian communication and can suggest new and different ideas as well as illicit and unfettered notions that those in control fear. The BBC took advantage of its position and power in dictating what was suitable music, and, more relevantly unsuitable, for us to hear.
The Corporation is still sometimes referred to as ‘Auntie’ and it offered an explanation as to the origin of this nickname: " A phrase of obscure origin: presumably journalistic, possibly from cartoons. Increasingly used in the 1950s to contrast BBC’s prudish, cosy, puritanical ‘refained’ image with that of the much brasher ITV". The Corporation was clearly aware of its perception involving a policy which would remain entrenched well into a time when one would have expected and hoped that they would be more enlightened. Auntie, they were declaring, knew best!
From the outset, the BBC enforced a policy regarding music that regulated what must not be broadcast. In the 1930s, the Dance Music Policy Committee was set up whose remit was to act as cultural guardian monitoring what or was not fit to be aired. For example, there is the following directive, issued in 1942, from Sir Arthur Bliss, Director of Music, to the Committee:
"The BBC’s policy is to encourage a more virile and robust output of dance music to accord more closely with the present spirit of the country. To this end any form of anaemic or debilitated vocal performances by male singers will be excluded. Performances by women singers will be controlled to the extent that an insincere and over-sentimental style will not be allowed. No numbers will be accepted for broadcasting which are slushy in sentiment or contain innuendo or other matter considered to be offensive." This was reinforced, some months later, by an equally pompous note:
"We have recently adopted a policy of excluding sickly sentimentality which, particularly when sung by certain vocalists, can become nauseating and not all in keeping with what we feel to be the need of the public in this country in the fourth year of the war."
And this opinionated piece from a Committee member which shows an utter dislike of dance music and reads like a religious rant:
"No one is more alive than I to the need to buttress the forces of virtue against the unprincipled elements of the jungle"
The BBC could not have been more misguided in regard to those ‘slushy’ songs. They were just what listeners wanted to hear, especially to build wartime, public morale.
Arthur Bliss, unsurprisingly, also decreed that "no number will be accepted for broadcasting which is based on a tune from standard classical works usually found in the concert hall or opera house programmes". Accordingly, Song of India; I’m Always Chasing Rainbows; Baubles, Bangles and Beads; (why, however, did another song from the Borodin-laden ‘Kismet’, And This Is My Beloved, escape the axe?) The Story of a Starry Night; Brahms’ Lullaby and other classics-based songs were forbidden. It seems curious then that Kay Starr’s Comes Along a Love (an adaptation of Rossini’s overture to ‘Semiramade’) and Midnight Sleighride, recorded by the Sauter-Finegan Orchestra, an arrangement that made no bones about it originating in Prokofiev’s ‘Lieutenant Kije’ suite, slipped through the net. It appears that the Committee’s forensic experts did not realise what they were.
Needless to say, songs with a religious nature were anathema to the Committee. Answer Me, a ballad with a deliberately religious content, had been recorded by David Whitfield and Frankie Laine in 1953. It was immediately banned by the Head of Religious Broadcasting who regarded it as "a sentimental mockery of Christian prayer", adding almost apologetically that "it is conceivable that a disappointed lover might sincerely utter such a prayer, if he was totally ignorant of the real nature of prayer". However, a song with such high expectations could not be allowed to die and some small but crucial changes were made to the lyric, notably with its opening line becoming ‘Answer Me, My Love’ instead of ‘Answer Me, Lord Above’. Laine and Whitfield recorded this revised version and the coda to this episode was that, for the first and only time in British chart history, both recordings would share the top spot together.
From 1953 again, Crying in the Chapel, recorded by Lee Lawrence was deemed "nauseating and theologically unexceptional". Strong criticism and yet, twelve years later, Elvis Presley’s recording was permitted, without any apparent explanation. The verdict on St Theresa of the Roses was that it was unsuitable "because the lyric is contrary to both Roman Catholic doctrine and to Protestant sentiment". However, double-standards were evident with It Is No Secret, written by Stuart Hamblen in 1951, an earnest, hymn-like ballad. "A sincere, if misguided presentation of a very personal aspect of the Christian gospel" was the opinion of the anonymous Head of Religious Broadcasting. He suggested, though, it could be featured in request programmes when the responsibility would not lie directly with the BBC. Shifting the blame is hardly a Christian sentiment.
George Formby fell foul of the authorities on two occasions. With My Little Ukelele in My Hand and With My Little Stick of Blackpool Rock had deliberate sexual innuendo in the lyrics. Did George honestly believe he would get both songs aired? As must have Stan Freberg with the very suggestive John and Marsha. Ella Fitzgerald found her recording of Bewitched banned because it included an explicit verse that was never in included the more familiar bowdlerised version. Presumably when the infamous Je t’aime was released, the Committee took an absence of leave to go into therapy!
Some exclusions are bizarre and often risible. One of the big hits of 1942 was Deep in the Heart of Texas which has a four-note clapping motif just before its chorus. The BBC, in Orwellian mode, would not allow the song to be heard during working hours because factory workers would pause and clap their hands thereby neglecting their labours, albeit for a couple of seconds!
Believe it not but Henry Hall’s 1934 recording of his composition Radio Times was banned on the grounds of advertising whilst the reason for withdrawing Greensleeves by The Beverley Sisters was that it ‘has a special place as an endearing melody of peculiar significance’ and would be debased by dance bands whose treatments would be inappropriate. The Sisters had retaliated with We Have to Be So Careful, which good-naturedly and humorously ridiculed the Committee but, with the BBC not wanting to even admit that such a department existed, it remained unheard. Who were they trying to fool?
In retrospect, it all seems unnecessary and totally misguided compounded by the fact that the BBC felt, arrogantly, being what it was, it was their duty to decide on behalf of British listeners what was fitting and proper.
This article appeared in the August 2013 issue of ‘Journal Into Melody’
Saturday, November 5th 1977 - Royal Albert Hall, London
By GARETH BRAMLEY
Slightly later than usual, the 8th Festival of Film & TV Music - compered again by Sir Richard Attenborough - featured John Addison, Dominic Frontiere and Robert Sharples. 1977 was Jubilee Year and the concert also celebrated the golden jubilee of Paramount Pictures (1928-1977) with a fine selection of themes and scores. The studio’s head of music, Dominic Frontiere, flew over from Hollywood especially for this event. He was maybe an unknown in the UK at the time but his TV output in the States had been prolific.
The Mike Sammes Singers also added their distinctive backing vocals to the evening’s concert, a major part of which featured the music from the films of Joseph E. Levine. It was all specially orchestrated by Johnny Gregory who - since the actual scores were not available - had to listen to hours and hours of music, and make copious notes before producing the scores for the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, who played the music for the 8th consecutive year. The orchestra was again augmented by Roland Harker on guitar; Don Innes on piano; Bobby Orr on drums; and Russ Stableford on fender bass.
Following the fanfare ‘Music From the Movies’ arranged by John Gregory and conducted by Don Innes, Bob Sharples raised the baton for ‘The Music of Independent Television – Classical Themes’ - some examples of where classical music had been adapted for use as a TV Theme.
This was split into three distinct regions as follows:
Southampton, Belfast and Birmingham
Moldavian Dance – Liana (c.1950) (Schalaster) from ‘Music in Camera’ (Southern TV)
Violin Sonata Op.5 – Giga (1700) (Corelli) from Food of Love’ (Ulster TV)
Sinfonietta (1926) (Janacek) (‘Crown Court’) (ATV)
London and Manchester
Karelia Suite – 3rd Movement – Alla Marcia (1893) (Sibelius) (‘This Week’) (Thames TV)
English Dances – No.5 (1950) (Arnold) (‘What the Papers Say’) (Granada TV)
Norwich and Leeds
Bassoon Concerto in E Minor P137 – 3rd Movement – Allegro (c.1725) (Vivaldi)
(‘Survival’) (Anglia TV)
Coronation March – Crown Imperial (1937) (Walton) (‘Justice’) (Yorkshire TV)
The concert continued with ‘Thanks For The Memory – 50 Years of Paramount Film Music’ all of which was conducted by Dominic Frontiere. ‘The Early Days’ sequence began with ‘A Precious Little Thing Called Love’ (Coots) from ‘The Shopwork Angel’ (1928); followed by ‘Louise’ (Whiting) from the 1929 film ‘Innocents of Paris’; and ‘Falling In Love Again’ (Hollander) from ‘The Blue Angel’ (1930).
The next section was ‘The Classic Dramas’ consisting of Miklos Rozsa’s ‘The Lost Weekend’ (1945); Franz Waxman’s ‘Sunset Boulevard’ (1950); Bernard Herrmann’s ‘Psycho’ (1960); and finally Victor Young’s music from ‘Samson & Delilah’ (1949).
‘Paramount Americana’ featured Neal Hefti’s theme from ‘The Odd Couple’ (1968); two Elmer Bernstein themes – ‘Hud’ from 1963 and ‘True Grit’ from 1969 – and ended with Victor Young’s theme from the Western ‘Shane’ (1953).
The main section in the first part of the concert – ‘The Great Songs’ was a celebration of some of the studio’s songs, which had won awards for best song. The running order was as follows:
Thanks For the Memory – The Big Broadcast of 1938 (Rainger)
Moon River – Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961) (Mancini)
Swinging on a Star – Going My Way (1944) (Van Heusen)
All the Way – The Joker Is Wild (1957) (Van Heusen)
Sweet Leilani – Waikiki Wedding (1937) (Owens)
Buttons and Bows – The Paleface (1948) (Livingston-Evans)
Mona Lisa – Captain Carey, USA (1950) (Livingston-Evans)
That’s Amore – The Caddy ((1953) (Warren)
Call Me Irresponsible – Papa’s Delicate Condition (1963) (Van Heusen)
In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening – Here Comes the Groom (1951) (Carmichael)
White Christmas – Holiday Inn (1942) (Berlin)
The final selections – under the title ‘Directed by De Mille’ were ‘The Ten Commandments’ – the Elmer Bernstein theme from 1956; and Victor Young’s ‘The Greatest Show On Earth’ from 1952.
As if the above wasn’t enough, the highlight of the concert was still to come in part two with John Addison conducting ‘The Name Above the Title’ – a tribute to Joseph E. Levine – featuring twenty of the films he presented. All the selections were specially arranged and orchestrated by John Gregory, as detailed previously, with the exception of Addison’s own ‘A Bridge Too Far’ and all vocals were by The Mike Sammes Singers. The ‘Main Theme’ and ‘A Dutch Rhapsody’ (both from the film) had been released by United Artists (on single and LP) when the film opened in June ’77. The label had previously released ‘Girl With Green Eyes’ / ‘Love Theme from ‘Tom Jones’ in May 1965.
Again certain tunes were arranged into sections – and followed the ‘Overture’, which was Percy Faith’s ‘Academy Award Night’ from ‘The Oscar’ (1966). It was called ‘Franco-Italian Suite’ and began with Henry Mancini’s ‘Love Theme from ‘Sunflower’’ (1970). Nino Rota’s theme from Fellini’s ‘8 and a Half’ (1963) followed. Then it was George Delerue’s ‘The Fashion House’ from ‘Promise at Dawn’ (1970); Armando Trovajoli’s ‘Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow’ (1964); Francis Lai’s ‘La Bonna Annee’ (‘Happy New Year’) (1974); and finally another of Nina Rota’s themes for another Fellini picture ‘Boccaccio ’70 (1962).
‘Selections from the USA’ was the next sequence starting with ‘Scarborough Fair’ and ‘The Sound of Silence’ from ‘The Graduate’ (1967) composed by pop duo Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel. Roy Budd’s ‘How Wonderful Life Is’ from the 1970 film ‘Soldier Blue’ was next, followed by Andre Previn’s ‘A Long Day’s Journey Into Night’ (1962); ‘Springtime For Hitler’ from John Morris’ score to ‘The Producers’ (1968); Georges Delerue’s ‘Day of the Dolphin’ (1973); Elmer Bernstein’s theme from ‘The Capetbaggers’ (1964); Neal Hefti’s ‘Girl Talk’ from ‘Harlow’ (1965); and finally Alfred Newman’s theme from the 1966 film ‘Nevada Smith’.
‘Made In England’ was the final section including two themes by British composer John Barry – the first ‘Isandhlwana’ from the 1964 film ‘Zulu’. This was followed by the Barrie-Cahn composition ‘A Touch of Class’ from 1973; Johnny Dankworth’s ‘Darling’ from 1965; the 2nd John Barry composition ‘The Lion In Winter’ (1968). The final theme was that which John Addision wrote (and specially arranged for the concert) for the film ‘A Bridge Too Far’ which, as mentioned previously, had opened in June.
Mike Sammes (1928-2001) learnt cello and played in his school orchestra. He worked briefly for Chappell & Co, the London music publisher, and after National Service in the RAF in the late 40s he worked on a variety of jobs until fellow musician Bill Shepherd convinced him to form a group called The Coronets. They recorded some cover versions of hit records for Columbia and some back up vocals for The Big Ben Banjo Band. After bringing together a group of singers in 1955 it wasn’t long before they were accompanying many British singers and doing other work for radio including jingles.
The Mike Sammes Singers were formed and they recorded at least seven albums between 1962 and 1988 in addition to recording on many of the Disneyland Records made for children. Sammes had backed a whole host of artists over the years – Ronnie Hilton; Tommy Steele; Anthony Newley; Helen Shapiro; Engelbert Humperdinck; Tom Jones and Ken Dodd; Barbra Streisand; Kenneth McKellar; Bette Davis; Mrs. Mills; Dionne Warwick; Danny La Rue; Rex Harrsion and Gilbert O’ Sullivan. They also worked with Morecambe & Wise and on the hit record ‘Whispering Grass’ by Don Estelle & Windsor Davies, which reached No.1 in the UK singles charts in June 1975; and previously Michael Holliday’s ‘Starry Eyed’, which also reached No.1 in January 1960. Another notable single was a version of ‘A Man and a Woman’ released in July 1967 for HMV. The singers also recorded numerous singles and albums for Music For Pleasure – one of the most popular being an album of Wombling Songs in 1975.
After his death record entrepreneur Johnny Trunk released a CD of music from Sammes’ own reel-to-reel tapes entitled ‘Music For Biscuits’ - which contained many of his advertising jingles including ‘Tuc Biscuits’.
John Gregory (b.1924) studied violin and composition and during his childhood deputised for various members of his father’s band – whilst at the same time composing and arranging for his father. He learnt solo violin under Afredo Campoli. Gregory has arranged and conducted for many artists including Anthony Newley; Cleo Lane; Matt Monro; Connie Francis; Nana Mouskouri and Peters and Lee. He was the principal conductor for the BBC Radio Orchestra during 1973-74 and has worked widely in the world of TV, films and jingles.
Under the name Chaquito, he released a very successful Latin-American album (‘TV Thrillers’) reaching No.45 in the UK album charts in March 1972. A single from this - ‘Hawaii Five-0’ / ‘Ironside’ - was issued in July 1972. This was followed by another TV Themes album - ‘The Detectives’ - in 1976 with his own orchestra which spawned a single ‘Cannon’ / ‘Streets of San Francisco’. ‘Spies and Dolls’ – by The Chaquito Big Band was released in 1972. The two 1972 albums have been reissued on CD by Vocalion. In addition to Chaquito (Big Band) he conducted The Cascading Strings - another alias was Nino Rico. He also recorded for Standard Music Library in the early 70s.
In 1976 Gregory won the Ivor Novello Award as composer of the best instrumental work for ‘Introduction & Air to a Stained Glass Window’ featured on his album ‘A Man For All Seasons’. His self-composed ‘Jaguar’ from this album was issued on the flip side of a single of his version of Charles Aznavour’s ‘’She’ on United Artists in March 1975.
Robert ‘Bob’ Sharples (1913-1987) started playing piano at the age of seven and moved on to organ at age eleven. He studied orchestration, composition and conducting with Sir Hamilton Harty until he came to London to try his luck with jazz. After establishing himself playing piano in nightclubs, Sharples used his knowledge of orchestration in the writing of arrangements for top dance bands such as Ambrose; Jack Harris; Roy Fox and Carroll Gibbons. In 1934 he joined the Freddy Platt band at the Carlton Ballroom, Rochdale along with Geoff Love, playing piano whilst Love played trombone. In 1963 Sharples conducted the London Festival Orchestra for a Phase 4 recording of the ‘1812 Overture’.
After demobbing from the Army in 1945 he resumed his musical career. In the 60s his record of the ‘1812 Overture’ and the ‘Nutcracker Suite’ was in the US charts for nearly three months following which he became the only Englishman to be commissioned by Duke Ellington to write for his orchestra. ‘Uncle Bob’ Sharples (as he became known to Hughie Green) was musical director for ‘Opportunity Knocks’ on TV and composed the themes for ‘Public Eye’ (1966-69); ‘Special Branch’ (1969); ‘Napoleon and Love’ (TV mini-series – 1974); ’Harriet’s Back in Town’ (1972); ‘The Explorers’ (1972); ‘Man Alive Report’ (1965); ‘If Britain Had Fallen’ (1972).
Another programme was ‘The Americans’ – a 10 part series for the BBC - which he had just completed prior to the concert. He also wrote the music for the silent film ‘Futtock’s End (1970); worked on ‘Hancock’s Half Hour’ (1958); ‘Dave Allen at Large’ (1971); ‘The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes’ (1971-73); and ‘Minder’ (1979-80). Standout films with music composed by Sharples were: ‘Where There’s a Will’ (1955); ‘Home and Away’ (1956); Battle of the V-1’ (1958); and ‘A Prize of Arms’ (1962). Under the name Robert Earley (a musicians’ joke – he always arrived late for sessions!) he wrote the theme for the TV series ‘Man at the Top’ (1970).
Dominic Frontiere (b. 1931) was playing musical instruments at age seven before concentrating on the accordion and at age 12 played a solo at Carnegie Hall. After working with a big band in the late 40s/early 50s he moved to Los Angeles where he enrolled at the UCLA. He then became musical director at 20th Century Fox, scoring several films under the tutelage of Alfred and Lionel Newman, whilst recording jazz music. Frontiere met director and producer Leslie Stevens (scoring ‘The Outer Limits’ for TV) and later worked on Quinn Martin productions such as ‘The Invaders’; ‘The Fugitive’ and ’12 o’ Clock High’.
This led to scoring the films‘ Hang ‘Em High’ (1968) and ‘On Any Sunday’ (1971). Frontiere then became head of the music department at Paramount Pictures in the early 70s – hence his appearance at this concert - even composing a jingle for the studio’s TV department. At the same time he orchestrated popular music albums for artists like Gladys Knight and Chicago.
One of Frontiere’s most memorable themes appeared on both the UK and USA on a United Artists single in June 1968: ‘Hang ‘Em High’ backed with the love theme ‘Rachel’. In the 70s he had a major success with his music from ‘Washington: Behind Closed Doors’, which was released on album by ABC. A single was issued in the States; and here in the UK in Feb ’78. Another notable single release was ‘One Foot In Hell’ / ‘From The Terrace (Love Theme)’ released on Philips as early as 1962 - though these were not his compositions. United Artists also released the title theme from ‘Popi’ in 1969; and in January 1977 Buddah issued a single from the 1976 soundtrack album ‘Pipe Dreams’ (which he arranged) by Gladys Knight & The Pips.
Frontiere worked on numerous TV series providing scores and themes: ‘The New Breed’ and ‘Rawhide’ (1961); ‘Stoney Burke’ (1962-63); ‘The Outer Limits’ (1963); ‘Branded’ (1965); ‘The Fugitive’ (1964-66); ‘F.B.I.’ (1965-67); ‘Iron Horse’ (1966-67); ‘The Flying Nun’ (1967); ‘The Rat Patrol’ (1966-67);‘The Invaders’ (1967-68); ‘Search Control’ (1972-3); ‘Chopper One’ (1974); ‘Vegas’ (1978-81); and ‘Matt Houston’ (1982-84).
Some of his film scoring highlights were; ‘One Foot In Hell’ (1960); ‘Billie’ (1965); ‘Hang ‘Em High’ (1968); ‘Popi’ (1969); ‘Freebie & The Bean (1974); ‘Brannigan’ (1975); ‘Pipe Dreams’ (1976); ‘The Stunt Man’ (1980); ‘The Aviator’ (1985); ‘Colour of Night’ (1994); and his last film score ‘Behind the Badge (2002) - in addition to numerous TV movies.
Frontiere won the Golden Globe award for ‘The Stuntman’ in 1981 and was nominated in 1995 for ‘The Color of Night’. He also won a Primetime Emmy Award in 1971 for his TV work for ‘Swing Out Sweet Land’.
The evening’s final conductor, John Addison (1920-1998), entered the Royal College of Music aged 16 where he studied composition with Gordon Jacob; oboe with Leon Goossens; and clarinet with Frederick Thurston. After the war had ended he returned to London to teach composition at the RCM. His film scores, for which he is best known include: ‘A Taste of Honey’ (1961); ‘Smashing Time’ and ‘The Honey Pot’ (1967); ‘Sleuth’ (1972); ‘Swashbuckler’ (1976) and the TV mini series ‘Centennial’ (1978). When Alfred Hitchcock ended his association with Bernard Herrmann he turned to Addison to score ‘Torn Curtain’ in 1966.
Addison also wrote for the theatre – John Osborne’s plays ‘The Entertainer’ (1957) and ‘Luther’ (1961). He collaborated with John Cranko on a revue, ‘Cranks’ in 1956. His classical works included a trumpet concerto; a trio for oboe, clarinet and bassoon - ‘Carte Blanche’; a ballet for Sadler’s Wells; a septet for wind and harp; a concert ante for oboe, clarinet, horn and orchestra; and a partite for strings. Other notable TV themes were: ‘Sherlock Holmes’ and ‘Detective’ (both 1964); ‘The Eddie Capra Mysteries’ (1978-9);
Addison won the ASCAP Film & Television Music Award six times between 1988 and 1995 for his work on ‘Murder She Wrote’(1984). He won an Oscar and Grammy in 1964 for ‘Tom Jones’ and received a further nomination in 1973 for ‘Sleuth’. He also won the BAFTA in 1978 for ‘A Bridge Too Far’; a previous nomination in 1969 for ‘The Charge of the Light Brigade’; and was awarded a Primetime Emmy award in 1985 for ‘Murder She Wrote’.
Sadly, a recording of the evening’s performance is not available though LWT did screen highlights of an hour at 23.15pm on 17th December under the heading ‘Saturday Special’. It would be 1979 before another audio recording would be made featuring music from the Filmharmonic concerts!
For 1978 there would be a new orchestra – well NEW to Filmharmonic and a new compere! The main composer would be Marvin Hamlisch – flavour of the year at the time - who sadly died last year.
This feature first appeared in ‘Journal Into Melody’ August 2013.
David Mardon seeks some answers
Older readers may recall that, shortly before his death on 7 September 1978, Charles Williams, conductor of the Queen’s Hall Light Orchestra, joined the Robert Farnon Society. During this period he was interviewed by the late Michael Maine, at one time the Editor of this magazine, and Charles explained how initially the Chappell recordings on single sided 78s (four sides per session) were recorded on Saturday mornings at EMI Special Studios between March 1942 and January 1943.
However there was then a ‘hiatus’ until 1944 when Charles Williams resumed recording at Levy’s Sound Studios in New Bond Street – not necessarily on Saturday mornings but on weekdays – mornings and afternoons – until the back end of 1946. These included several retakes of certain numbers.
It was shortly before 1947 that the Sidney Torch / Robert Farnon sessions commenced, with Torch conducting mornings and Farnon in the afternoons, back once again at EMI Studios with four sides per session. This was mentioned to me by the late Anthony Mawer (who was also an enthusiastic member of the RFS).
The last time I met Bob Farnon at the 80th Birthday Celebrations he expressed surprise that I had spotted that he did the afternoon shifts, with Sidney Torch in the mornings. He also explained that occasionally Torch would go in all day, presumably to do some New Century Orchestra recordings for Francis, Day & Hunter, using mostly the same musicians.
I then asked Bob why Chappells had moved from EMI to Decca at the Kingsway Hall for the recordings between C349 and C373. He couldn’t remember but did say that Chappells were not too keen on the recorded sound of the Decca ones, which included Comic Mystic, Oriental March, Gateway To The West and Manhattan Playboy, as well as the two dance band 78s which he conducted, although he himself was quite satisfied with the results.
So from Goodwood Galop to Huckle Buckle and the C387 of Hubert Clifford’s Epic Story/Heavy Industry it was back to EMI Studios, at which point the Musicians’ Union ban stopped future recordings in Britain for many years.
I have no idea who decided which compositions by other composers were allocated to which conductor. But in the case of Gideon Fagan all of his five compositions recorded during the second half of 1947 were conducted by Bob, because he wanted to be present at the sessions. Fagan was conducting Grieg’s "Song Of Norway" at the time in London, and would be free most afternoons. Also I have no idea why Philip Green conducted just one Chappell side – C273 Valse D’Amour by Tony Lowry.
This feature appeared in the August 2013 issue of ‘Journal Into Melody’
THE MUSICAL ROBERT FARNON NEVER WROTE
Former Radio 2 producer Anthony Wills uncovers the extraordinary tale behind a lost musical of the 1950s
Some readers may recall reading in JIM180 that in 2009 my company Golden Sounds Productions restored and recorded an operetta called A Queen For Sunday with book by Alfred Dunning and lyrics and music by Leslie Julian Jones. Leslie (1910-73) was a family friend who rented a flat in my parents’ house in the 1950s. He had already composed A Queen For Sunday in the late 1940s and was now working on a musical adaptation of the 1941 novel No Bed For Bacon, written by Caryl Brahms and S.J. Simon – real name Seca Jascha Skidelsky (known as "Skid" to his friends). Brahms and Simon had written other books together, notably A Bullet In the Ballet (1937).
No Bed For Bacon is set in the time of Elizabeth I (so the "Bacon" referred to is Sir Francis Bacon, who never gets the second-hand bed the Queen has promised him) and tells the story of Viola de Lesseps, a lady-in-waiting who is besotted with the players at the Globe Theatre, and Shakespeare in particular. In order to join the company (which employs only male actors) Viola disguises herself as a boy and impresses Shakespeare and theatre impresario Richard Burbage sufficiently to obtain a walk-on part in one of their plays. During the performance the theatre catches fire and the company is forced to re-locate to the other side of the Thames. Shakespeare subsequently meets Viola at the court without realizing that she is the boy actor, and they fall in love.
I decided to do some detective work on the origins of the show that Leslie Julian Jones was composing and uncovered a remarkable chain of events, which I will now try to summarize.
In 1957 Caryl Brahms had been approached by a young man named Ned Sherrin who had read No Bed For Bacon while at Oxford and felt it might make a good musical. He thought the show should be called What You Will! which, apart from being a very bad pun, was the alternative title to one of Shakespeare’s masterpieces, Twelfth Night. The hook was that Shakespeare had named the heroine of Twelfth Night Viola, which implied that he might have had a relationship with someone of that name. Sherrin suggested that his Oxford friend Leopold Antelme should be commissioned to write the score. Antelme, who was four years older than Sherrin, had written the music for several OUDS revues and the two of them subsequently worked on several shows together, including some of the songs in producer Laurier Lister’s Airs On A Shoe String, starring Denis Quilley, which had been staged at London’s Royal Court Theatre in April 1953.
The following year, 1954, Sherrin and Antelme collaborated on a musical, Gentleman Upcott’s Daughter, which they subsequently offered to Owen Read, Head of Drama at BBC Bristol. After a great deal of consideration involving several layers of BBC management it was accepted, and the orchestration was placed in the hands of Max Saunders. Denis Quilley and Jane Wenham (who was to be married to Albert Finney in 1957) were cast in the leading roles.
The show was recorded in Bristol on 8 January 1956 with the augmented BBC Chorus and the BBC Concert Orchestra conducted by Frank Cantell. Leopold Antelme was present at the recording, which was broadcast on the West of England Home Service just two days later. Antelme requested a copy of the tape but as a failsafe he decided to tape it at home as it was being transmitted.
The show was well received. The BBC Audience Appreciation Report said "These songs, unsophisticated and gay, were the kind to set the errand boys whistling and the toes tapping, and they were woven effectively into an equally simple story." The writers were therefore somewhat disappointed to receive a letter from Owen Read stating that the actual listening figures were not sufficient to warrant a repeat broadcast. It was then that Ned Sherrin decided to approach Caryl Brahms with the idea of turning No Bed For Bacon into a musical.
Antelme now set to work on the score but then discovered that Miss Brahms had also approached several more established composers including Arthur Benjamin (who famously wrote Jamaican Rumba), Larry Adler (then riding high with the theme from Genevieve) and ….. Robert Farnon. Why they turned her down I do not know: it may have been a question of money, or perhaps they were simply too busy. The task eventually fell to Leslie Julian Jones, who was an established composer of revue material for the likes of Hermione Baddeley and Hermione Gingold, as well as light music pieces including Postman’s Knock. Antelme took no further part but two of his numbers ended up being used in the finished show: a setting of Shakespeare’s Fear No More The Heat O’ The Sun (words from Cymbeline) and a song called The First Day Of Summer, which had been performed as a duet by Denis Quilley and Jane Wenham in the afore-mentioned BBC broadcast.
Eventually What You Will! was finished, and in 1957 it was tried out in an amateur production at the West Horsley Village Hall in Surrey. Leslie and his wife, the choreographer Hazel Gee, had already produced two revues for the West Horsley Institute Players, an amateur society which also contained several professional actors. Brahms and Sherrin attended a performance and were impressed. My father and I recorded it on a Grundig machine and the tapes were submitted to actor-manager Bernard Miles, who was looking for a production for his newly opened Mermaid Theatre in the City of London. Miles turned it down in favour of Lock Up Your Daughters!, a bawdy romp based on an 18th-century comedy, Rape Upon Rape by Henry Fielding, and set to music by Lionel Bart with lyrics by Laurie Johnson.
Brahms and Sherrin then changed their minds again and decided to commission Malcolm Williamson (then Master of the Queen’s Musick) to write a completely fresh score for What You Will! The show opened at the Bristol Old Vic in 1959 under the title of the original novel, No Bed For Bacon. Brahms and Williamson were both eccentric and quick tempered and during rehearsals Williamson famously emptied a pint of beer over her head (or wig, actually)! The production received a favourable review in the Times and undertook a brief tour of the provinces including Croydon and Golders Green: it failed, however, to attract audiences and subsequently disappeared. Brahms and Sherrin went on to write I Gotta Show, a black re-telling of the Cinderella story which was presented at London’s Garrick Theatre in december 1962, starring Cleo Laine, Elisabeth Welch and Cy Grant. This time the music was written by Ron Grainer and conducted by Peter Knight.
Nearly 30 years later after What You Will!, in 1998, an extraordinary thing happened. A film called Shakespeare In Love, starring Joseph Fiennes as Shakespeare and Gwyneth Paltrow as Viola, swept the board at the Hollywood Oscars. It was so clearly based on No Bed For Bacon and this was taken up by the Daily Mail and other papers, who approached the screenwriters Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard for comment. Stoppard said he had glanced at the book but was not influenced by it. By then I was working for BBC Radio 2 and seized the opportunity to raise the matter with Ned Sherrin when we both attended the Vivian Ellis Musical Theatre awards: but he "didn’t want to know". My theory (and it is only a theory) is that some kind of financial deal was reached with the estates of the original writers, but Brahms and Simon and Leslie Julian Jones were all dead, so there was no-one else to ask.
There the matter lay, but I wanted to ensure that What You Will!, of which I still had the tapes, did not vanish forever. I played it to the critic Mark Steyn, who had written and presented some Radio 2 documentaries for me, and he agreed. Leslie Julian Jones’ daughter, Candida, who is now a freelance TV producer, had been pleased with my reconstruction of A Queen For Sunday and was happy for me to do the same for What You Will!. Budgetary constraints forced me to limit the project to just four songs, two by Leslie Julian Jones and two by Leopold Antelme, all of which had been sung in the show by Lady Viola. I dusted down the tapes and sent them to master arranger Paul Campbell, who was working with John Wilson on the Proms concerts of Hollywood and Broadway musicals and had done a sterling job on A Queen For Sunday.
The problem was that neither Candida nor I had a copy of the score or even the script, so Paul and I had to transcribe the songs laboriously from the rather primitive tapes, after which I decided to arrange them for soloist, ladies chorus, piano, double bass, drums and percussion. I had recently seen a production of Jerry Herman’s Dear World starring Betty Buckley at the Charing Cross Theatre and been impressed by a young singer named Katy Treharne. Katy auditioned for me alongside two other singers and won by a mile. My old Radio 2 friend Annie Skates, who now works as a vocal coach on The X Factor and whose group Capital Voices is much in demand for concert work, supplied the chorus, and the songs were recorded, with Iain Sutherland conducting, at Resident Studios in Willesden Green in May 2013.
At that very moment something equally astonishing happened. Out of the blue Candida received a letter, forwarded by her agent, from Basil Ede, who had played the part of Shakespeare in the 1957 production. Basil, who is now 82, enclosed a photograph of himself as the Bard and said how much he had enjoyed playing the part and what an inspiration Leslie and Hazel had been to the company. The show was especially significant for him as he had met his wife, who was in the chorus! Basil went on to become a world famous bird illustrator. At the age of 38 he suffered a stroke but managed to teach himself how to paint with his other hand. Basil knew that Chip Coveney, who had played Lady Viola, was also still alive and living in France. Meanwhile I had searched the internet and found that Leopold Antelme was also still with us. Leopold, now 86, has kindly provided much of the information for this article. By the time it appears in JIM I shall have been to his home to present him with a copy of the recording and listen to his vintage recording of the BBC broadcast referred to above. I’ll also send the original Lady Viola a copy of the CD: I think she will be astonished to hear the songs she sang 56 years ago.
To bring the story right up to date, The Disney Corporation have now taken an option on the film of Shakespeare In Love, and I am convinced that in the not-too- distant future I shall be sitting in a West End theatre watching Shakespeare In Love – The Musical…. so the show that Robert Farnon never wrote will reach new audiences.
This article appeared in the August 2013 issue of ‘Journal Into Melody’
By Franck Leprince
On 14th April 2013, Barrett Films celebrated five years of the Magic of Mantovani Orchestra, with Mantovani’s Golden Hits of The Sixties. This tremendously successful near sell-out event is proof beyond doubt, that our kind of music is as popular today, as when it was first written over fifty years ago.
The audience obviously thoroughly enjoyed the music judging by their unrelenting, enthusiastic applause after every number, through to the last item – Monty’s signature tune, Charmaine (which, on some of the original parts, dare I reveal, had been altered to Chow Mein – by his brass players).
What is generally not realized by the audience however is that in order for a lavish show of this scale to take place a considerable amount of work spanning several months is necessary.
Paul Barrett is the Director of both Barrett Films, and the Mantovani concerts, and I am the Producer. Between us, and down to the tiniest, but not least important detail, all the work is divided, although special mention must be made of Jack Maguire, our orchestra contractor, who from our third concert onwards has accepted the responsibility of gathering together 43 – 48 of the UK’s top musicians. The key players however, are still chosen by Paul and me.
The Director’s responsibilities are immense, and Paul is committed to working a seven-day week virtually throughout the twelve to eighteen month-long preparation period, with weekends reserved for continual meetings between us. My time is balanced finely between my other professional commitments, and producing the concerts.
The cycle typically begins with a succession of informal meetings, at which we discuss preliminary ideas for the concerts. The theme of a concert is vitally important, as this provides the basis of everything, and determines which pieces we will eventually perform. For this year’s concert, all of the music had to be recognizable for its almost fluorescent prominence during the 1960s - either composed within that decade, or made popular again (Charmaine, for example, became a hit by the Bachelors). We thought carefully about how we might perhaps persuade younger people to come to the performance. Although most forty-five, to fifty year-olds would probably be too young to remember Mantovani’s music being played daily on the radio in the Sixties, many of them might well remember their parents playing his albums well into the Seventies and beyond.
The 1960s’ decennium happens to be remarkably popular among today’s school pupils and college students as too, are the 1970s, but unless you were around in those days, you would perhaps only be familiar with a fraction of what was then popular.
Eventually, the arduous task of selecting pieces suitable for the programme arrives. Both Paul and I remember the Sixties well, but since Paul was already earning a living while I was busy playing truant from school, our tastes vary accordingly. We tend to choose pieces either for reasons of contrast, or because they have something in common with other pieces. For example, film themes may be positioned together, as might French songs, or dances.
In the case of our own concerts, another category is vital: Who is the arranger of the piece? Mantovani had three main arrangers, and was himself a consummate arranger, and I would argue, probably the best of them all. By the time we have made our preliminary selection, it is then referred to fellow Mantovanians Colin Mackenzie, Alan Dixon, and Timothy Milner, for their opinions.
It wasn’t until we were fairly decided on this year’s programme, that we realized that many of the pieces from the Sixties, particularly the rock-rhythm arrangements of Roland Shaw, required additional brass instruments, as well as an electric keyboard. We had to decide whether or not to augment the standard 43-piece orchestra, or change some of the pieces. But it soon became apparent that certain iconic pieces of the era simply could not be dispensed with. A further problem lay in the ubiquitous trend at the time, for ‘fade-outs’ at track-endings. We knew from previous concerts, that in these cases, the arrangers simply wrote the words "repeat [these bars] several times and fade out" in the parts, instead of inventing a proper coda.
One of my responsibilities in cases like these is to create concert codas, simply because to expect even the best of musicians to ‘fade out’ in a live performance, is asking a little too much. This is easier said than done. The new endings have to be thought out carefully, tastefully, and tailored to fit seamlessly, in order to sound as the original arranger had intended, and obviously include the same complement of players (e.g. one cannot suddenly include, say, a soprano saxophone in the last four bars with credibility, if that instrument has not already been heard in the same piece).
Even though Mantovani was streets ahead of everyone else in the business by including the most recent and current popular hits of the times, there were inevitably some Sixties pieces that he just didn’t manage to include, perhaps owing to time restrictions. Two such classics are the James Bond Theme, and The Avengers, which are as intrinsic to their time, as was John Stephen, Mary Quant, Twiggy, the Post Office Tower, the Daleks, Concorde, and the Yellow Submarine. Both arrangements had to be scored, so that they appealed not only to the fans of James Bond, The Avengers, and Mantovani alike, but also so that they would span the entire decade in question. I therefore arranged the first of these themes to reflect the first and last films of the decade (Dr No , and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service , and the latter as a version, faithful to the ‘Emma Peel years’ (1965 – 1967), and ‘Tara King season’ from 1968 to 1969.
Paul decided it was the right time to include for the first time in our concerts, a singer. He had recently discovered the very versatile, abundantly talented Joy Tobing, who had won the Indonesian Pop Idol title. Our concert made it possible for Joy to make her debut in the United Kingdom, and she chose to sing Dusty Springfield’s song You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me, and a song written specially for her. The task of arranging the Dusty Springfield hit fell to me, while Joy’s M.D. Matheson Bayley arranged Love’s Promised Land. Paul suggested we include a repeat performance of my concerto-like interpretation of Ron Grainer’s famous Maigret Theme, which Eddie Hession once again delivered with great panache on accordion. One of the pleasures of arranging for an orchestra like this is that one has the chance to write with individual musicians in mind, to exploit those abilities and techniques at which they excel. Had it not been for trumpeter Mike Lovatt, for instance, ‘my’ Bond and Avengers themes would not have been possible unless a severe compromise was made (too many cover versions lack the ‘screamer’ trumpets of the originals, for instance, because they are played by symphony orchestra musicians who generally cannot play the extensive range of notes needed for this sort of music). The ideas for a single arrangement may spring almost instantly to mind, and easily take a whole afternoon to commit to paper, in the form of a conductor’s score. The single parts must then be copied from the score, and written out in a form which is clearly legible for the musicians at first glance. For an orchestra of forty-eight, this can easily amount to a combined time of around four days, for a piece of music lasting say, only two minutes. Fast-moving pieces will contain more bars than slower pieces, if they are to last long enough, and rapid passages are typically made up of more notes, each lasting perhaps quarter of a second, but which must be carefully and neatly written. Fortunately, this can be done using a computer programme nowadays. Once the score is complete, individual parts may be printed at the click of a mouse-button. When I first started writing music, photocopiers didn’t exist, and therefore identical copies of the same part would need to be written out by hand, by dipping a nib into Indian ink, and hoping that it wouldn’t flow too quickly from the nib. Inferior paper would sometimes cause the ink to spread, just like blotting paper does. Writing for up to nine desks of First fiddles was an act of courage and endurance, before then tackling the Seconds, and so on. If I smudged notes, they would usually be in the last few bars, and I would have to start again. Fortunately we have progressed, but I am now impatient at the speed of my printer, and curse and swear every time I have to replace the ink cartridge.
I always enjoy writing show opening music, and ‘intros’ because this is the first moment when an audience is exposed to the sound of the evening’s orchestra. This year I wanted to make the audience feel right from the start, as though they had somehow been transported back in time, After a short introduction, during which Up, Up, And Away, The Pink Panther, Soul Bossa Nova (Austin Powers), and Batman all made reference to corresponding images on a large video screen, the scene was set for a bossa nova-style Charmaine, which paid homage towards its end to Ronald Binge’s famous version, and which ended with the "Charmaine cascade", which this time was scored for full brass, rather than for strings. Although the ‘Bossa nova’ rhythm was first heard at a Brazilian university concert in 1958, and later in the film Black Orpheus (1959) it became a hugely popular and enduring Sixties’ rhythm, which many claim is as successful as Rock. Conspicuously, Mantovani never included this rhythm in any of his recordings, save for a pseudo-bossa nova rhythm in Francis Lai’s Un homme et une femme, from 1966.
After much deliberating, and varied opinions, a definitive programme is chosen, and the pieces are then placed in an order which we feel allows not only for contrast, but which also gives certain players an all-important chance to rest. The programme order also serves to enhance continuity and the announcements by our introducer, Ed ‘Stewpot’ Stewart (without whom, the Sixties would not have existed),
In due course we acquire the scores and parts from the Mantovani Library. Kenneth Mantovani is the Librarian, and he has the unenviable task of locating all the music in the Mantovani Music Library catalogue, which he personally transports from London, via Tunbridge Wells, to Poole.
The scores and parts are painstakingly checked before they are put into the musicians’ pads (folders), inevitably revealing anomalies such as missing parts, or alternate versions, and sometimes additional parts need to be copied out. Usually we both do this together, but this year, Paul unfortunately had to do most of this by himself while I was orchestrating and formatting the scores and parts to my own arrangements. This year, additional trumpet parts had to be written for the third trumpeter so that he wouldn’t be left out of much of the programme. Such a seemingly straightforward task seems to invite error, and unless the pads are thoroughly checked repeatedly, mistakes do happen. No stone is left unturned, simply because we know otherwise that no turn will be left ‘unstoned’ on the big day.
Once I have completed the arrangements, and the parts are safely in the pads, it is time for me to start writing the concert notes for Ed’s introductions. Plenty of research is required, and I am indebted to both Colin Mackenzie, whose knowledge is without bounds, and to Alan Dixon, for his fascinating observations which give valuable insight into Mantovani’s methods. The notes are then typed in a succinct and easy-to-read fashion, the pages printed, and the various bits of information then cut into sections to fit onto backing cards, which in turn need to be made presentable for the audience.
At varying stages, before, during, and after these time-consuming activities, we take time to think about advertising – all within a strict budget. Paul handles the marketing, and I design the artwork, including the typefaces (fonts) we use, and set out all the text. Fortunately, I had many years of experience working as a sign writer, and as a calligrapher, also working for a newspaper publisher before I became a professional musician. I never forgot the valuable tricks I learned then, and my later years in Arts management at the Lighthouse in Poole has also enabled me to develop other useful skills. The text is very carefully decided upon between Paul and me, before it is matched to the available space on the flyers, posters, and in the ‘Collector’s Souvenir Programme’.
Then we carry out the editorial and proof-reading tasks before we submit the artwork and text to be ‘realized’ on computer, and, once we approve of the work, sent to print. Nowadays text may easily be changed, and design work can be altered at any stage, before it is sent to print. Musicians occasionally inform us that they are no longer available to play, and their replacements then have to be found. This of course affects the list of personnel in the programme. At one time, when a previous conductor became indisposed, we had scarcely any time to find his replacement. Fortunately for us, we had a tremendous stroke of luck. Gavin Sutherland – in my experience and opinion, the best in the business today, was available, and he happily agreed to conduct.
Gavin was in fact our original choice of conductor four years ago. I had played before under Gavin’s baton, and witnessed his music-making with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra on many occasions. He is a maestro in every sense of the word, and an expert in all musical genres, who clearly enjoys listening to all of them equally. Gavin’s photographic score-reading memory pin-points the slightest error or wrong note before any of the musicians ever has the chance to make them apparent, and this is exceedingly helpful where time is of the essence. He even volunteers to lend a hand in the setting-up of the stage, if necessary, demonstrating a commitment that extends far beyond the imminent performance. Gavin’s rehearsals always run swiftly and efficiently mainly because the musicians so obviously like his personality, and his crystal-clear way of communicating with them.
From the start of the rehearsal, all the pieces immediately spring to life almost in the exact way they were intended. After a single three-hour rehearsal, during which the musicians will see the music parts for the first time, often having to cope with handwritten parts that are barely legible, and exercising virtuosic techniques or effects rarely seen in the symphonic repertoire, they do not see the music until the performance itself.
Mantovani was unequivocally the greatest writer for strings of all time, and his orchestra is still revered throughout the world for that reason. String players adore playing his music, with wind players also revelling in beautifully-crafted solo passages and counter melodies. As challenging as his string writing is for them, string players are in no doubt that Mantovani was himself a true master and virtuoso on the violin, and because every note has been fluently crafted to get the best out of the strings, they relish playing his music. When you mention his name either at home or abroad to people who are old enough to remember his music being played daily on the radio, faces light up. And rightly so! We ourselves are very fortunate to be able to witness faces lighting up within our own audiences, further proving that the BBC made one of their biggest blunders of the last century by trying to ‘kill off’ Light music in the early-Seventies. In Britain it might seem as though they have succeeded, but in most countries Light music remains popular with whole stations devoted to broadcasting it. Nevertheless, huge internet sales of CDs continue here, even though the high street shops apparently do not know how to classify it. Our Mantovani concerts are further proof that audiences are ready to fill halls, given half a chance, and in fact the managers of the Pavilion Theatre in Bournemouth have come to regard the Magic of Mantovani Orchestra concerts as among their most important events. Auditoria for symphony concerts are nowadays rarely more than half-filled, and when they are, the reason is often when the programme features film music, which until recent times was always regarded as inferior music.
Unlike in the great movie studios of the ‘Golden Age’ (with their multiple departments and fixed-rank structures), so-called "backroom boys" don’t exist in our business, and as far as I can tell, they never did; every person involved in the production of music for recordings or concerts, without exception is always very much in the foreground, and therefore is indispensable. They have to be! Anyone working on a musical project has a valid say in all matters, and decisions are often the result of combined ideas. In music and concert production it is common to find that, as well as being administrators or technicians, one’s team members are also highly competent all-round musicians. Many of them read music, compose, or play an instrument to a very high standard, and as such are not easily fooled by another’s ineptitude. Therefore, their opinions are valid. Mantovani always counted his arrangers, musicians, recording engineers, and agents, as equals, and among his closest friends. He never lost sight of the fact that they spelled his success, and always gave credit where credit was due. He kept in touch with them over every relevant matter, in the same way we do today. The great bandleaders, with few exceptions all worked in this way. Owing to the rules of the various music unions of the United States, Europe, and Great Britain during the pre-CD era, it was considered unnecessary to clutter record labels and sleeves with information. The ‘arranger’ of a piece of music was often considered to be irrelevant to buyers. They, it was felt, were rather more interested in the publication details so that they could acquire song sheets, or piano sheet music for their own domestic use.
Today, the tables have turned, and more often it is now the name of an arranger that actually sells an album, with publisher’s details frequently omitted. We have made it our policy to recognize all contributors, such as the arrangers in both the presenter’s announcements, and in our printed programmes, and we often provide details that were never previously published, such as the identities behind the various noms de plume. The former friendships between the maestro and his arrangers Ronald Binge, Cecil Milner, and Roland Shaw have been affirmed through numerous letters, articles, and photographs, with Milner evidently as a frequent visitor to the Mantovani home ‘Greensleeves’ in Branksome Park. Milner and Binge were also established composers in their own right. Indeed many of Cecil Milner’s compositions enjoyed first and frequent performances by the Bournemouth Municipal Orchestra under the baton of Dan Godfrey. For them arranging music was very much of secondary consideration. In fact Ronald Binge was perhaps better known among music professionals as a performer, despite worldwide acclaim as composer of Elizabethan Serenade, a piece which incidentally was first performed in concert in 1951 by Mantovani’s orchestra, and which, according to Binge’s original handwritten parts (scored to include only one flute and one clarinet), was first entitled Theme From "The Man In The Street"* before being adopted as the signature tune to BBC’s Music Tapestry – just to add further mystery to the idea that it was specially composed for a ‘mood music’ library, and called simply Andante Cantabile – among other postulations.
Behind every hugely successful concert there is a devoted team for whom their unrelenting dedicated work will seemingly evaporate within one final climactic, fast-paced day, in order that the audience may experience some ninety minutes of delight, and as if created by pure magic.
*The Man In The Street may have been a documentary shown on BBC Television between 1949 and 1951, according to Vera Parton, Ronald Binge’s widow.
GOLDEN HITS OF THE SIXTIES - MANTOVANI STYLE
Colin MacKenzie reviews the latest Mantovani Success in Bournemouth
April in Paris ? Well, not quite, but the next best thing was to be in Bournemouth on 14th April 2013 to attend another tribute to the "Mantovani Sound". Returning to the Pavilion Theatre were the musicians of The Magic Of Mantovani Orchestra under conductor Gavin Sutherland with the intention of recreating Mantovani's original interpretations of some of the best popular music of the 1960s.
After a long, hard winter which seemed to go on forever - even cosy Bournemouth had been feeling the chill for weeks - and a very wet Saturday - nearby Swanage was the wettest place in the country that day - this show was just the tonic for this particular Mantovani loving weather watcher. In setting the scene for his fifth concert of this type co-promoter and percussionist Paul Barrett told Radio Solent's David Allen in a lengthy interview how he had first become involved with Mantovani's music. On attending a concert in Sheffield in the fifties with his father, he was thrilled to hear music of a type he had never previously encountered. A key factor, too, was the kindness of Charles Botterill, Mantovani's percussionist, who, recognising the youngster's eagerness to learn, took him under his wing and lit a fire which still burns brightly after all these years.
Paul Barrett described how he had played semi-professionally in various theatres for many years in the Sheffield area, and, among other things, spoke warmly of his colleague and producer Franck Leprince, who has a musical pedigree of his own. Special mention was made, too, of arranger Ronald Binge and also the Mantovani family who co-operate so generously on these occasions by providing the original scores used by their father. Paul told David Allen that by highlighting these songs of the sixties he was hoping to introduce the "Mantovani Sound" to a new generation of fans, hence the title of the concert which was indeed a sixties retrospective of some fine film themes and popular song hits.
Unfortunately, orchestra leader John Bradbury was unwell, but his place was splendidly filled by Matthew Scrivener, currently leader of the English National Ballet Orchestra since 2004 and the present leader of the National Symphony Orchestra since 2006. Co-leader Jack Maguire had recruited some members of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra for the string section which also included a graceful Taiwanese player, Joanne Chen. There were some familiar faces elsewhere including stellar trumpeter Mike Lovatt who lined up in a seven man brass ensemble (three trumpets, three trombones and a French horn player), guitarist Max Brittain (who, of course, accompanied vocalist Val Doonican for some 30 years), accordionist Eddy Hession and, naturally, Paul Barrett himself, playing percussion, vibraphone and every other "kitchen sink" department instrument from his raised platform at the back of the stage.
First up was an intriguing melange of sixties tunes which set the scene for what was to follow. Unusually, "Charmaine", Mantovani's signature tune, was presented in bossa nova style by arranger Franck Leprince who also introduced snatches of "Up, Up and Away", the "Pink Panther" theme, music from an Austin Powers movie and even "Batman"! It was entertaining and well received, although some purists may have felt that such a classic tune as "Charmaine" should be left well alone ...
The full version of "Up, Up and Away" was heard next in a meaty Roland Shaw arrangement. Never one of my favourite Mantovani recordings, this was a revelation in its live form, being a splendid work-out for the enthusiastic musicians. Just as we were wondering where the famous "Mantovani Sound" was, it appeared as if by magic in an enthralling arrangement by the maestro himself of "Allison's Theme" from the "Peyton Place" TV series which was so popular in times gone by. As happened so often during the evening, the rich strings were complemented by the lovely undertones of the massed violas and celli (six in each department) supported by three double basses and the trademark sound of the vibraphone. Marvellous!
Bringing back memories of the Broadway show and film, the musicians offered up a good Cecil Milner scoring of "Hello Dolly" before moving onto "Les Bicyclettes de Belsize", another Shaw arrangement. Here Paul Barrett caused some audience mirth by donning a beret and a string of French onions for the occasion. Accordionist Eddy Hession had a starring solo part and was supported by the obligatory bicycle bell provided by percussionist Barrett. An eagle eyed member of my party spotted that the accompanying film on the overhead screen showed a cycle ride, not in France, but in the English countryside! No matter, it made no difference to our enjoyment of a lovely song which made a lot of money for singer Engelbert Humperdinck. Cecil Milner's exemplary scoring of "What Now My Love" which followed allowed for good use of snare drums and tympany as well as fine brass work with Mike Lovatt leading his troops on towards the song's pulsating climax.
In my Mantovani biography written some years ago I recorded that the score of "Yesterday", the Beatles hit, was due to Cecil Milner. This was based on information received at the time, but in fact, this is very much a Mantovani arrangement, as confirmed by inspection of the original score. And what an arrangement! It's an absolute masterpiece in symphonic style, creating a tingling effect on this particular writer and many others in the audience. You could have heard a pin drop in the theatre. The tempo was right, the presentation perfect, it was a joy to hear. Afterwards, one lady member of the audience was overheard saying that she would like to have this version played at her funeral!
Philip Green's masterful "The Singer, Not The Song" was the perfect follow-up to "Yesterday". It's a movie theme that deserves much more recognition than it has had, and this Roland Shaw arrangement brought out the powerful, haunting melody which created quite a stir. The three trumpeters were all gainfully employed in this wonderful setting. Next, we heard Roland's gentle rhythmic scoring of "By the Time I Get to Phoenix" which featured a good saxophone solo and Paul Barrett playing vibraphone and snare drum simultaneously. Compere Ed Stewart was moved to tell us that this was one of the best arrangements of his favourite Glenn Campbell song that he had ever heard. He then introduced Sumatran singer Joy Tobing, an innovation for this type of concert. Joy, who was appearing in Europe for the first time, is a household name in Indonesia and had the support of that country's ambassador and his entourage who were in the audience. Accompanied by the orchestra and her musical director, Mattheson Bayley, on keyboards, she gave an unflinching performance of the Dusty Springfield song "You Don't Have To Say You Love Me", which had been carefully arranged by Frank Leprince.
Taking over on keyboards (in reality, an electronic synthesiser with a harpsichord stop), Sam Hanson delivered a rousing Shaw interpretation of the popular German hit "A Walk In the Black Forest", ably supported by the orchestra and Paul Barrett, who wore a Tyrolean hat. Ed Stewart then told us that the Mantovani arrangement of "Come September" was a Bobby Darin hit but, in fact, it’s not the same song, rather it's a melody written by Lena Martell under her real name of Helen Thomson. This enchanting waltz, given the full "Mantovani Sound" treatment, featured lush strings and vibraphone adorning a simply beautiful song which has always been one of my favourite Mantovani recordings. Surprisingly, Monty never recorded the Maigret theme but next up was a good Leprince arrangement of this TV opus which highlighted accordionist Eddy Hession and reminded us of actor Rupert Davies, who starred in the role of the famous detective.
When Paul Barrett asked me to identify the arranger of "Puppet on a String" for the concert programme, I advised him that it was unclear in the Mantovani family's music catalogue who the arranger was. I plumped for Roland Shaw after seeking expert help from various Mantovani fans both here and in America and thus it was credited to Shaw in the programme. Imagine my surprise on inspecting the original violin score to find the handwriting of Cecil Milner there! Apologies to him. As the orchestra performed his score, we enjoyed good percussion effects including woodblocks and a metal cowbell as well as a quaint film on the overhead screen showing those perennial TV puppets Muffin the Mule and The Woodentops! Memories indeed. Part one of the concert then came to an end when guitarist Max Brittain introduced a masterful Milner arrangement of "Love is Blue", a Eurovision Song Contest hit for Greek songer Vicky Leandros but an even bigger success for French orchestral leader Paul Mauriat. The particular Mantovani edition we were hearing was embellished by a powerhouse climax with brass very much to the fore.
Part two began with three French movie themes, the first two written by Francis Lai. The well-known "A Man and a Woman", arranged by Roland Shaw, took us into less familiar territory, this being "Where Did Our Summers Go", rarely heard nowadays and undeservedly neglected. Monty appreciated its qualities and arranged it himself as an outstanding example of his ability to recognise a good song and make it into a lustrous gem. It is truly a superb melody which was regally played by the orchestra. Ed Stewart amusingly observed that it was a very appropriate piece of music in view of our recent weather! The outstanding Michel Legrand hit "I Will Wait For You" was well played, using the Cecil Milner scoring, then we moved to "The Shadow of Your Smile" which gave us not only the excellent Johnny Mandel theme but also the presence of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton in the film "The Sandpiper", an excerpt from which was shown on screen as the orchestra played the film's memorable theme song.
Ed Stewart now drew our attention to the "Anniversary Waltz", which was performed by Mantovani on 1942 recordings with singers Vera Lynn and Alan Kane. So what was it doing in a sixties tribute concert? As Ed reminded us, it was revived by local Bournemouth girl Anita Harris in 1967 and her recording sold a lot of copies. The audience clearly appreciated hearing the full Mantovani treatment of this grand old song in its new setting with sweeping strings and rich brass. Two excellent Franck Leprince scores of big sixties hits were appropriate at this juncture of the concert; first, came the lively "James Bond Theme" with good guitar and brass sounds, then a stirring treatment of the theme to the TV series "The Avengers" with vibraphone intriguingly involved in the rhythmic introduction. Both tunes were very well played and much enjoyed.
Joy Tobing then came back on stage to present a very tuneful song called "Love's Promised Land", written by Charlotte Cumming and arranged by Joy's musical director, Matheson Bayley, who accompanied her with the orchestra. This was the longest song in the entire show, lasting four and a half minutes, well worth hearing for the emotion and feeling put into her performance by Joy. She has a good stage presence and sings passionately, and on this occasion evoked a warm audience response which encouraged her to thank everyone for her welcome on these shores.
Playfully joking about the pronunciation of the Henry Mancini film theme "Charade" (in the States it is pronounced "Sheraid" to rhyme with Masquerade etc), Ed Stewart led us into yet another fine Mantovani interpretation while Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn appeared in a film clip overhead. "Strangers in the Night" was a most welcome addition to the programme, incorporating the many talents of two favourite orchestra leaders, Mantovani (arranger) and Bert Kaempfert (composer). Featuring guitar and strings, this particular item did not disappoint. A Shaw arrangement of the delicious Tony Bennett hit "I Left My Heart in San Francisco" led to a mystery item which had been omitted from the programme due to an oversight. Even Ed Stewart seemed a little mystified. Recognising that we were "Almost There" in terms of the concert's conclusion, he spoke of Andy Williams but omitted to mention the name of the Cecil Milner arrangement which followed. Hopefully, most of the audience would have recognised that the song was "May Each Day", which invariably closed Andy's TV shows. This particular piece was built up into a big finish, allowing Paul Barrett to pound his drums as the melody came to a close. It left me wondering where he gets his energy from!
Two encores followed: first, a really rousing version of the Tom Jones hit "Love Me Tonight" in which the entire orchestra vigorously interpreted a great Roland Shaw arrangement. Everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves, and up on the big screen you could see Monty leading his 1936 orchestra, swinging and swaying so much that his grandson Paul told me later that he was amazed to see his grandfather in such a lively musical mood. There was even a cameo appearance by Ronnie Binge on accordion, and it all seemed remarkably appropriate with what was going on down below on stage. It brought the concert to a terrific climax except for "Charmaine", of course, in its original setting. A fine muted trumpet solo and the lovely tone of principal trombonist Liam Kirkham enhanced this great Binge arrangement and moved Timothy Milner, the nephew of Cecil, to say that this was the best live version he had heard since Monty's heyday.
This show was equally as good as the previous Pavilion concert featuring Gavin Sutherland, who certainly has the ear for this type of music. With a carefully chosen menu of romantic pieces and some "racier" material, the Mantovani experience was memorable especially where I was sitting in the fourth row of the circle alongside fellow RFS members Timothy Milner and Alan Dixon. I suppose you could lament the omission of a Mantovani composition in the programme but I'm assured that next time around this will be remedied. Ed Stewart with his usual aplomb provided much good humour for the audience which numbered over a thousand. Sponsored once more by Poole Audi, it was a wonderful evening of memories, and our thanks go out to all of those who worked so hard to make it possible.
This article and review appeared in the August 2013 issue of ‘Journal Into Melody’
A new box set from Nimbus promises to be the outstanding Light Music release of 2013 – if not the decade. Every commercial recording of Eric Coates conducting his own compositions has been collected together on 7 CDs, from his earliest acoustics in 1923 to his final sessions in 1957.
This is the brainchild of Alan Bunting, who has been working on this ‘labour of love’ for the best part of the last year. The sound restorations are all outstanding, which is hardly surprising when you consider that Alan is widely recognised as one of the finest digital ‘wizards’ in the world. He has gone to great lengths to obtain the very best copies available of the original discs, calling upon the willing participation of his many contacts in the record collecting fraternity. Sometimes he has had to reject some old 78s, and redouble his efforts to find better copies. The result is that the work of Eric Coates has now been preserved in amazing quality that would not have been possible only a few years ago. There are instances of Coates revisiting some of his earlier works to record them again when better technology became available, following the advent of electrical sound recording. And for the sake of completion a few tracks feature other orchestras playing Coates’ works, where he did not conduct them himself.
Originally Alan worked on this project without knowing for sure if it would ever be offered to record buyers by a commercial company. He simply felt that it was something that ought to be done, in recognition of Eric Coates’ magnificent contribution to the Light Music repertoire of the 20th Century. But always at the back of his mind Alan hoped that, one day, he might be able to convince a record company to release his restorations. At one time there was a vague possibility that the 7 discs might be issued singly over a period of several months, but this would have been considered only as a last resort.
Happily the English company Nimbus enthusiastically embraced the project, and the results have exceeded Alan’s wildest expectations. They have they produced a top quality product in all respects at a very reasonable price (internet retailers are offering the 7 CDs for little more than £20). The accompanying booklet features an extended essay by Michael Payne, the author of the recent published book ‘The Life And Music Of Eric Coates’ (Ashgate Publishing Ltd.).
The Definitive Eric Coates" Nimbus NI 6131
This appeared in the August 2013 issue of ‘Journal Into Melody’