14 Nov

The Goose Pimple Factor Or On The Bumpy Road To Mahler

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According to Robert Walton

Goose bumps, goose flesh, goose pimples, chill bumps or the medical term cutis anserina, are the swelling on the skin at the base of body hairs which may occur when a person is cold, scared or in awe of something. Basically it’s a rush of adrenalin. To be stimulated or overwhelmed is a very individual thing, depending of course what turns you on. It might be a structure, a view, a painting, a book, a person, a voice, or in my case, music.

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According to Robert Walton

Goose bumps, goose flesh, goose pimples, chill bumps or the medical term cutis anserina, are the swelling on the skin at the base of body hairs which may occur when a person is cold, scared or in awe of something. Basically it’s a rush of adrenalin. To be stimulated or overwhelmed is a very individual thing, depending of course what turns you on. It might be a structure, a view, a painting, a book, a person, a voice, or in my case, music.

The first time I ever experienced a serious attack of goose “bumples”, was when I was laid up with a far worse problem, a digestive disorder sometimes called the dreaded lurgy. But I completely forgot the pain when from my bedside radio I happened to hear the signature tune of New Zealand’s version of the BBC’s “Down Your Way” called “South Pacific Flight”. It was Robert Farnon’s Canadian impression Gateway to the West, once described as the thinking man’s Tara’s Theme from “Gone With The Wind”. It’s difficult to explain why Gateway to the West had such an effect on me but I suspect somewhere in my being was a dormant chemical reaction waiting to happen. I became totally absorbed in the music. In this completely random event, I was instantly caught up in its spell, and as a tsunami of emotion swept over me, it changed my life forever. A profusion of pimples broke out accompanied by an uncontrollable stream of tears. Who knows what triggers such reactions? Maybe it’s in the genes. In the case of Gateway to the West, it was the entire package of melody, harmony and orchestration. I guess it simply struck a chord! Trouble was, it took ages before I discovered the title and name of its composer. Once known, it opened the floodgates to Farnon’s music from which I never quite recovered. Strangely enough I had unknowingly heard his Jumping Bean that at the time meant absolutely nothing.

Not long after that memorable moment, another unexpected incident presented itself. I was on my own at a cinema when a trailer for the 195O film “Teresa” came up showing Pier Angeli in a corn field. Just the sight of her was enough to produce a similar reaction to Gateway to the West. It was her stunning natural beauty that caught my eye and left a permanent black and white imprint on my psyche.

It was in another movie “An American in Paris”, that I first heard the Gershwin composition that inspired the title. Just the opening, a revelation, was enough to send me into paroxysms of delight as the tune clashed with the bass line in a way that went right through me like an electric shock. It was a kind of pain caused by the dissonance.

Most sensible singers make it a practice to do a thorough sound and familiarization check before performing on stage, especially one that’s new to them. Vera Lynn was no exception and lucky enough to have the expertise of her fastidious husband Harry Lewis who always made sure that everything was just perfect. I was her pianist on a tour in the mid-1960s when the three of us entered the Stoke-on-Trent venue to give it the once over. As we walked in, the public address system was playing what I can only describe as “music from heaven”. I immediately went into a kind of trance. Vera and Harry couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about, but I was in another world transfixed to the spot. After making inquiries, the engineer in the control room informed me it was the title track of George Shearing’s album “Touch me Softly” - a Shearing arrangement. Near the end of the piece, the ravishing strings go into overdrive in what I call “tone apart” harmony. Let me explain. On the piano, the right hand plays the chord of say G, while an octave below, the left hand plays the chord of F. Play them together and the dissonance it creates is absolutely sublime, especially if you move them up and down in tones.

By then I thought I’d heard it all, but I had to wait another thirty years before the next big musical discovery. It was as a member of the City of Bath Bach Choir I discovered Mahler. Not just any old Mahler mind you, but his 2nd Symphony (“The Resurrection”). Back in the 1950s Mahler’s music was almost unheard of, but a jazz pianist friend of mine, Crombie Murdoch, was even then extolling the virtues of it. At the first rehearsal I sensed this was going to be one of the biggest weepies of my life. That was entirely confirmed when we performed the work with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra at Portsmouth, Bournemouth and the Royal Albert Hall. It might have been only the last ten minutes of the symphony but what an unforgettable ten minutes! These were some of music’s most moving moments with shades of Malotte’s Lord’s Prayer, itself probably inspired by Mahler. As it gradually builds, I became so overwhelmed with emotion I found it impossible to sing. The only way to participate was to become totally detached. It was the hardest thing I ever had to do!

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02 Nov

Two new meetings in November

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Tony Clayden will be presenting an afternoon of recorded music at the British Vintage Wireless and Television Museum on Saturday 19th November.

Please phone Eileen on 020 8670 3667 if you are coming so that catering can be assessed. Details below:


New Eltham Methodist Church, Footscray Road, New Eltham, London SE9 3UL
(Turn right out of New Eltham Station from Charing X, cross over traffic lights, and church is a few hundred yards on the left - less than 5 minutes walk).

Click here for more about the PSA Society)

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31 Oct

The Great British Mood Music Album - a comment

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I have read Bob Walton's article with interest, and although I have already left a comment, I indicated that I might wish to expand on it once having looked at the article in closer detail.

I gather from his comments that he gives the palm of outstanding song writing and quality songs to American song writers while on the other hand that of quality instrumental mood music composers to those in the UK.

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I have read Bob Walton's article with interest, and although I have already left a comment, I indicated that I might wish to expand on it once having looked at the article in closer detail.

I gather from his comments that he gives the palm of outstanding song writing and quality songs to American song writers while on the other hand that of quality instrumental mood music composers to those in the UK.

I had indicated something along those lines in an article that was published in the JIM magazine several years ago, implying that relative strong points in the genre of light music received different respective emphasis in the USA and UK, although I was thinking of purely instrumental selections, citing the pre-eminence of outstanding arrangements of popular standards by American arrangers and a more advanced tradition of light music compositions within the UK.  This is the common assumption, although in both cases, I would venture to say that the opposite is definitely true as well - put a little more directly, I would say that here in the USA we have our Leroy Anderson, Morton Gould, Camarata, David Rose, Victor Young and Percy Faith, etc., as regards original work, all figures whose work shows considerable individuality, while in the UK there are arrangements of popular standards by such men as Robert Farnon, Mantovani, George Melachrino, and Stanley Black which are viable as well.  Thus there is really no monopoly on either aspect of light music despite the fact that different emphasis has been applied in different areas in the two countries.

Now, as far as popular standards go; yes, many of these have certainly made their way in the sense that they have caught on with the general public who can unthinkingly sing or hum them, with or without the lyrics.  Different people may have different preferences in this area as is always the case, but as far as what may be considered greater or rather more popular with a larger percent of the general public, exactly as in serious music, I like to think of this phenomenon as a certain greater versatility of contact.  Please note that this does not take into account inherent quality which again comes from how a listener of some experience receives the song or selection in question.

It should be borne in mind that a song writer is a very different sort of musician from a serious composer or arranger.  Very often, his work is totally dependent on a skilled arranger to make its way - something that those who unthinkingly sing or hum it to themselves might not be aware of.  A song writer can be a musician of considerable substance, as was the case with the likes of Victor Herbert, Rudolf Friml and Sigmund Romberg (in the UK there are Eric Coates and Haydn Wood as examples), or they may be someone who simply hacks out melodies which are catchy in themselves but otherwise lacks basic musical skills - some of these, such as was Irving Berlin, do not even have the ability to read music. Still others, like Richard Rodgers, may fall somewhere between the two extremes but still whose work is best left to top notch arrangers.  The point I am making here is that the two aspects in song writing - constructing a melody that immediately catches on with the public and the musicianship required in providing a suitable setting for these melodies are totally separate and do not necessarily go hand in hand together.  This is something many of us tend to forget, and as a result are guilty of this sort of erroneous thinking.

The best example of this distinction that I can provide is with Richard Rodgers, who as I just stated, falls somewhere in between the extremes of substantial composer song writers and melody hacks.  In the case of Rodgers, we can listen to the magnificent settings by such as Robert Russell Bennett, Andre Kostelanetz and Morton Gould, and later with Leroy Anderson, and contrast these with recordings made by Richard Rodgers himself performing some of his songs at the piano with an orchestra.  This latter may be an interesting historical document, but from a musical standpoint, many who relish the well crafted arrangements by the figures I just named might be turned off by the excessive blandness of Rodgers' presentations, oftentimes bordering on insipidity.

As I stated above, UK composers of light music Eric Coates and Haydn Wood have notably written songs of their own, some of which have even caught on, although I couldn't say whether in the composers' own settings.  In any event, I personally choose to deal with these two figures as full fledged composers of pieces of some substance of which they have shown their full capabilities.

"The Great British Mood Music Album" deals with composers who have contributed to the Chappell Library of Mood Music performed by the Queen's Hall Light Orchestra.  Bob has mentioned a number of these composers whose contributions have considerable value, but I feel that other composers not forming a part of this group should be mentioned as offering works of equal substance and value, at least in my opinion.

Of those that came out of this Chappell group I have already mentioned Felton Rapley, one of my own personal favorites, and in this connection, Joyce Cochrane should also be mentioned, as one who was an actual composer of substance as well as a melodist.

Of those who did not work out of this group, we have Ronald Binge and Richard Addinsell, although I should also point out that both George Melachrino and Mantovani, far better known as conductors, were actually in addition composers whose work show considerable skill and insight. Ronald Hanmer (nee Bernard Landes) is another figure who deserves recognition along those lines, though not part of the Chappell group. Lesser lights might include figures such as Ray Martin and Malcolm Lockyer.

Bob's article I felt was well thought out and I found nothing whatever to criticize within it, but I felt that certain points made called for an expansion and further explanation of some of these points.

William Zucker

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23 Oct

John Parry has passed away

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We are sorry to hear from Forrest Patten that longtime RFS member John Parry passed away on 21st October in Florida at age 76.

John, outside of being one of the original members of the RFS, was involved for a number of years at Chappell's in London before re-locating to Toronto and starting his own production music library, Parry Music.

RIP, John.

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20 Oct

The Great British Mood Music Album

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By Robert Walton

I don’t know when the expression “The Great American Songbook” was coined and by whom, but a more suitable name for that magical era from about 1920 to 1960 was long overdue. Will Friedwald and Michael Feinstein both use the phrase freely. Before it entered the language, those evergreens, mainly from Broadway shows and Hollywood musicals, were usually described as “standards”. This is the term for tried and tested songs of outstanding quality and originality that have earned their place over the years for their sheer staying power and have become established in the repertoire. But the word “standard” isn’t exactly the most descriptive of names.

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By Robert Walton

I don’t know when the expression “The Great American Songbook” was coined and by whom, but a more suitable name for that magical era from about 1920 to 1960 was long overdue. Will Friedwald and Michael Feinstein both use the phrase freely. Before it entered the language, those evergreens, mainly from Broadway shows and Hollywood musicals, were usually described as “standards”. This is the term for tried and tested songs of outstanding quality and originality that have earned their place over the years for their sheer staying power and have become established in the repertoire. But the word “standard” isn’t exactly the most descriptive of names.

On the other hand, “The Great American Songbook” somehow perfectly sums up the entire period. Certainly there’s no denying the best and the bulk of the songs were written by Americans, especially the Big 5 (Berlin, Gershwin, Kern, Porter, and Rodgers), so the term is spot on. Although these songs were first associated with singers, a large part of their continued fame is due to non-vocal versions. So without the bonus of instrumentals “The Great American Songbook” wouldn’t have reached such a wide audience. The word “songbook” suggests a massive imaginary tome of vocal compositions each one containing two main ingredients (words and music). But tunes by themselves can be just as potent. Even in an instrumental, the lyrics can be “sung” subconsciously, especially by older listeners without being aware they’re doing it. Younger people will hopefully enjoy the melodies for their own sake.

Andre Kostelanetz may have been one of the first conductor/arrangers to elevate these songs to a new level of symphonic treatment, but it was Paul Weston who invented the mood album concept in 1944 with “Music for Dreaming”, consisting of four 78s. Using the framework of a big band and a string section (a forerunner of the Farnon format), Weston’s arrangements appealed more to those who had enjoyed the swing era. In the process he, and others, gave “The Great American Songbook” more publicity than it could have dreamed of. In fact this constant exposure of standards also acted like a permanent reference point for anyone on the lookout for material.

On the other side of the Atlantic in the early part of WW2, another kind of mood music was stirring, that of the Chappell Recorded Music Library. But this was “pure” mood music designed specifically as background music for films, newsreels, documentaries, television and radio that also generated many memorable signature tunes. Because of public demand, a number of these were released commercially. This particular Golden Era of works by the finest composers, conductors and arrangers has never been equaled. A world away from the light music of the 1930s, these compositions were totally fresh and modern unlike anything heard before.

And the main men responsible for this event were two of Russian descent and a Canadian. The latter, the prodigious Robert Farnon, created a whole new genre of music with his unique melodic and harmonic style. The two other light orchestral composers were Sidney Torch who wrote many original cameos of extraordinary quality, and Charles Williams, another prolific writer who conducted the first recordings in 1942. And proving to be the perfect interpreters of these gems was the legendary Queen’s Hall Light Orchestra. Other talented writers from the same stable included Jack Beaver, Robert Busby, Bruce Campbell, Eric Coates, Frederic Curzon, Trevor Duncan, Vivian Ellis, Philip Green, Geoffrey Henman, Byron Lloyd, Angela Morley, Clive Richardson, Colin Smith, Len Stevens, Jack Strachey, Edward White, Haydn Wood and Peter Yorke.

Many other publishers, composers and orchestras contributed to this vast library of subjects, situations and emotions that lasted well into the 1960s. This twenty-five year phenomenon is unlikely ever to be repeated. Inspired by the title “The Great American Songbook”, this most exclusive and original back catalogue of highly specialized music has more than earned its place as “The Great British Mood Music Album!”

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19 Oct

The next LLMMG meeting: May 7th 2017

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The next LLMMG meeting will take place at the Lancaster Hall Hotel on Sunday May 7th 2017 – All are welcome, please tell your friends!

An afternoon of Light Music

on Sunday May 7th. 2017
at The Lancaster Hall Hotel,
35 Craven Terrace, London W2 3EL

Doors open: 1.30pm, Programme: 2pm - 6pm

The event includes presentations using recordings
and will also feature guest presenter:

Sigmund Groven - World famous virtuoso Norwegian harmonica player

Admission fee: £12.00 - includes refreshments during the first interval

Nearest stations: Paddington(main line), Paddington & Lancaster Gate (underground)
On-street parking available and very limited spaces in
the hotel car park @ £8 per vehicle
See map below

Further details from Tony Clayden
email:
telephone: 020 8449 5559

© 2016 London Light Music Meetings Group
49 Alexandra Road, Well End, BOREHAMWOOD, Herts WD6 5PB

Everyone is welcome!

 

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19 Oct

London Light Music Meetings Group - Sunday 9th October 2016

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It was time once again for Light Music lovers to come together at the Lancaster Hall hotel, for our twice-yearly feast of light music. The BBC may think that light music is dead, but we say 'not while we're alive!'

Tony Clayden welcomed us to the meeting, opening the proceedings with Eric Coates' Television March, which was specially composed (apparently, at very short notice) for the re-opening of the BBC Television Service in 1946, and was used daily for several years thereafter. This was to commemorate, in November, the 80th anniversary of the start of regular high-definition television broadcasting in Britain, which was also a world 'first'.


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