29 Apr

Mind If I Make Love To You

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(Cole Porter)
Pete King’s arrangement analysed by Robert Walton

For many years now my Guild collection of the “Golden Age Of Light Music” has been providing me with a perfect soundtrack for afternoon tea. But more than that, it has become something of an everyday quiz for country folk, in my case living on a farm at the edge of Europe in the far west of Ireland. I try to identify the tunes, composers, arrangers and orchestras from a vast treasure trove of titles. This virtual ‘university’ of music helps to maintain the brain as well as entertain.

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29 Apr

Robert Farnon’s ‘Prelude to the Lake of the Woods

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On February 25th 2016, a performance of Robert Farnon’s  ‘Prelude to the Lake of the Woods was given in Kenora, Ontario, Canada.

Our concerts are held in Knox United Church in Kenora, Ontario. The orchestra is the Thunder Bay Symphony. Thunder Bay is 550 km east of Kenora; it is part of their mandate to perform in the smaller communities in Ontario.

We have had the orchestra perform here for over 35 years. This concert featured the composition by Robert Farnon,entitled Prelude to the Lake of the Woods, which is where Kenora is situated. The lake features 14,524 Islands and goes as far south as Minnesota in the USA.

The composition by Robert Farnon was found in the archives of the local museum.  We couldn’t find the individual parts anywhere, so we had the score transcribed for the Symphony. This was a very successful evening as it not only featured the music but outstanding photographs of the lake area.

We are not 100% sure that Robertever visited the area, however, after setting the music to the photographs we have convinced ourselves that he must have. The pictures were shown on a large 75”  TV sitting on top of the organ console that is visible in the right corner of the photo.

Len Mark
April 2016

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28 Apr

Alan Bunting 1939 - 2016

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Alan Bunting was born on 1st August 1939, in Blackminster, Worcestershire. What was destined to become a lifelong interest in music began at a very early age, and after leaving school he worked for a time in a record shop.

His military service was spent in the Royal Air Force, where he trained as a ground crew communications technician, and upon discharge he joined the BBC, initially working in Cardiff, South

Wales. By 1969, he had moved to Scotland, where he eventually became an Audio Manager for the Corporation in Glasgow.

After around thirty years’ service, he was offered an early-retirement package, and this enabled him to set-up ABCD Enterprises, to specialise in digital restoration and re-mastering of audio recordings.

The following years would see him undertake work for many record companies, particularly those which were involved in the re-issue of vintage and back-catalogue product. These include such labels as Living Era, Naxos, Must Close Saturday, Retrospective, HEP, Memory Lane, Jasmine, Cherry Red, Sackville, Spotlite and Mastermix, encompassing a wide range of musical genres.

In 2004, together with the late David Ades, Alan was instrumental in the establishment of the Golden Age of Light Music series of CDs for the Swiss-based company Guild Recordings. Although it was initially envisaged that he would be mainly involved in carrying-out the digital restorations, Alan soon brought his considerable knowledge of Light Music to bear upon the repertoire side of the series as well. As time went by, the project virtually became a ‘joint venture’ between the two men.

It is doubtful if the phenomenal success of this series could have been foreseen at the time of its inception, but to date a total of 135 discs has been published, containing well in excess of three-thousand tracks – a unique and magnificent achievement.

After the sad death of David Ades in 2015, Alan assumed overall management of the series, and it was agreed that I would assist him, writing the booklet notes and contributing to the choice of repertoire. We soon established a good working rapport, and as a result of this new collaboration, a total of seven further CDs was produced. We were in regular – frequently daily – contact, discussing new ideas and planning for future releases.

Alan owned a huge collection of recordings, largely in LP format, and was constantly on the lookout for more material. He was particularly interested in the career and music of the Canadian conductor and arranger Percy Faith, of whom he had an encyclopaedic knowledge, and was responsible for creating the much-acclaimed Percy Faith Discography, containing copious information about Faith’s enormous recorded canon.

Alan also made significant contributions to the discography of fellow-Canadian composer, arranger and conductor Robert Farnon, and was an enthusiastic member (at a distance) of the Robert Farnon Society. When the latter ceased operations in 2013, a number of former members helped me to set-up the London Light Music Meetings Group to continue the twice-yearly events, and Alan was very encouraging about the new venture, taking a great interest in its progress.

Over the years, Alan developed consummate skills in the art (and science) of audio restoration. He used a number of proprietary hardware and software systems, including the well-known CEDAR. He was always striving to improve his techniques and would often spend hours to eliminate noise, clicks, pops and blemishes from an individual track.

He came to be regarded as one of the very few top UK specialists in this field and was held in high esteem by his many friends and colleagues in the industry. When his wife Janet sadly passed away about six years ago, he threw himself back into the work he loved so much, regularly working through the night to meet deadlines.

Alan suddenly became ill just before Christmas 2015, and as his condition worsened, he was admitted to hospital at the beginning of January 2016. Although the cause of his severe infection was never fully established, he was discharged about two weeks later, even though he was still quite

unwell. Although in increasingly severe pain, he immediately resumed work, and was able to finalise the fourth-and-final volume of ‘100 Great American Light Orchestras ’ for Guild; this was one of the last tasks he undertook before he collapsed once again and was re-admitted to hospital. Sadly, his condition continued to deteriorate and he passed away on March 16th.

Because of the great geographical distance between us, Alan and I never actually met, but through emails, and particularly telephone calls, we struck-up a good friendship over several years, and discovered that we had a number of common interests in addition to our shared love of music.

We are very fortunate that Alan has left us a wonderful legacy in the form of all his audio restorations. The world of recorded music is greatly impoverished by his passing, and I’m sure that I speak for very many when I say that he will be greatly missed.

Our sincere condolences are extended to his sons David and Gareth, his daughter Jane and his grandchildren.

Tony Clayden © April 2016

Footnote: Volume 4 of ‘Great American Light Orchestras’ is scheduled to be issued later in 2016, and arrangements are in hand to continue the Guild ‘Golden Age Of Light Music’.

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26 Apr

Overtures from the British Isles, Volume 2

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Overtures from the British Isles, Volume 2
Chandos CHAN 10898
BBC National Orchestra of Wales conducted by Rumon Gamba.

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22 Apr

Neeme Järvi conducts Ibert

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Orchestre de la Suisse Romande Chandos CHSA 5168

This is I, Burt reviewing Ibert [sorry about that!] Jacques Ibert, ...

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21 Apr

Lake of the Woods - Robert Farnon and His Orchestra

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Robert Farnon wrote this piece about our beautiful 'Lake of the Woods' in the early fifties. This video features my photos taken mostly of the northern portion of Lake of the Woods.

Wayne Kelso

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16 Apr

Secret Love

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When I first came to England from New Zealand in 1957 with my family, one thing I was determined to do was to meet my idol of music, Robert Farnon. But it wasn’t as easy as I had imagined. As time went by, for one reason or another, it was becoming increasingly obvious that I might miss him. Undeterred by this possibility, I then decided to take the bull by the horns and just present myself at his Gerrard’s Cross home. Nervously knocking on the door and not knowing what to expect, suddenly he appeared looking just like the photograph he had originally sent me. I needn’t have worried though because after an extremely warm welcome I was invited in and given a signed copy of his LP “Pictures in the Fire”. Mission accomplished!

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(Sammy Fain and Paul Francis Webster)
Robert Farnon’s arrangement analysed by Robert Walton

When I first came to England from New Zealand in 1957 with my family, one thing I was determined to do was to meet my idol of music, Robert Farnon. But it wasn’t as easy as I had imagined. As time went by, for one reason or another, it was becoming increasingly obvious that I might miss him. Undeterred by this possibility, I then decided to take the bull by the horns and just present myself at his Gerrard’s Cross home. Nervously knocking on the door and not knowing what to expect, suddenly he appeared looking just like the photograph he had originally sent me. I needn’t have worried though because after an extremely warm welcome I was invited in and given a signed copy of his LP “Pictures in the Fire”. Mission accomplished!

Back down under I couldn’t wait to take the disc out of its sleeve, place it on the turntable and hear his latest creations. One arrangement that really stood out was the Doris Day hit Secret Love from “Calamity Jane”. Going straight in with no introduction, gentle strings in foxtrot tempo treat us to the classic simplicity and symmetry of a Farnon score with celeste and clarinet trimmings. Even with just the basic sheet music chords, the sound was like no other orchestra. So nothing unusual about the first 16 bars of harmony and orchestration.

Now the woodwind plays the melody. Following the words “The way that dreamers often do” something symphonic stirred in the strings. But there’s more. In the bar after “Just how wonderful you are” the most magnificent swell occurs, transforming the tune from a ditty into a miniature masterpiece. It literally took my breath away and over an hour later I finally identified that gorgeous chord of E9,11+,13 in the key of G. Robert Farnon was the first arranger to successfully employ shock tactics seamlessly, in the nicest possible way, in a simple song.

No need for altered chords in the bridge since we’re still reeling from that heavenly harmony. In complete contrast to singer Day’s strident strains, Farnon opted for a beautiful more laid back violin solo guaranteed to produce the inevitable goose pimples. The strings still enriched with that burst of musical uranium, wind down for more conventional chords. Then the orchestra sort of hovers, as if deciding what to do next. The woodwind, minus the rhythm section, repeats the bridge.

In the final 8 bars Farnon again turns up the heat with some magical examples of his own particular brand of slightly dissonant chords. The strings and woodwind suddenly slow down bringing this Great American Songbook standard to a perfectly natural Farnon finish with the guitar having the final say. Fain and Webster must have wondered what hit them!

Robert Walton

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05 Apr

Dance Of An Ostracised Imp

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(Frederic Curzon)
Analysed by Robert Walton

It was my good friend composer and arranger Cyril Watters who first extolled the virtues of composer Frederic Curzon to me. Certainly there’s absolutely no doubt he was a superb craftsman. As a child I was already aware of his work especially in connection with the Queen’s Hall Light Orchestra. Quite clearly though Curzon also had a flare for unusual titles like the eye-catching and indeed ear-catching Dance Of An Ostracised Imp written in 1940. It must have been bad enough being an imp without being ostracised as well, but somehow the composer managed to cleverly encapsulate this unwelcome mischievous child, elf or demon. So with a little help from Curzon, let’s try and get under the skin of an imp and find out what makes it so sociably unacceptable.

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(Frederic Curzon)
Analysed by Robert Walton

It was my good friend composer and arranger Cyril Watters who first extolled the virtues of composer Frederic Curzon to me. Certainly there’s absolutely no doubt he was a superb craftsman. As a child I was already aware of his work especially in connection with the Queen’s Hall Light Orchestra. Quite clearly though Curzon also had a flare for unusual titles like the eye-catching and indeed ear-catching Dance Of An Ostracised Imp written in 1940. It must have been bad enough being an imp without being ostracised as well, but somehow the composer managed to cleverly encapsulate this unwelcome mischievous child, elf or demon. So with a little help from Curzon, let’s try and get under the skin of an imp and find out what makes it so sociably unacceptable.

It’s unusual for a tambourine to appear in a light orchestral piece, but the jingle rattle off beats from this small single-headed drum of Arabic origin adds something to the mix. After quickly setting the scene with a four bar vamp (not unlike the clip clop rhythm of a horse), the strings enter with the tune in the key of G, but after only two bars are hijacked by the flute for another two bars in E flat. Back in G, the strings cut in for a further two while the waiting flute pounces yet again grabbing another two in E flat. Now in the key of B, the strings remind me of the opening phrase of Buttons and Bows.

And so this constant game of bouncing the melody between the two sections continues for 24 bars. More charitably it could I suppose be described as sharing and caring! Perhaps it’s the classical way of “trading phrases” like musicians in small-group jazz take it in turns to play solos. Dance Of An OstracisedImp is in many ways a modulatory nightmare keeping the listener on his/her toes trying to guess the next unexpected harmony. On first hearing some of the changes may seem a bit unconnected, but in the final analysis it all makes musical sense.

And then the cheeky imp emerging from its grotto makes its first appearance for the following 16 bars in the guise of an oboe. There’s a suggestion of Sidney Torch’s Comic Cuts about the orchestration. It cunningly darts about all over the place dreaming up trouble for whoever or wherever it fancies. The opening section is then fully repeated.

A 16 bar bridge begins with a very rich sustained note played by the lower G of the violins. Decorative woodwind dance above in various keys continuing the harmonic freedom of the first chorus. And then the imp re-emerges for another16 bars. The final 24 lead to a sudden coda with a giggling bassoon offering it up to pizzicato strings who end the piece, but not before the tambourine puts in a brief last appearance.

In some ways Dance Of An Ostracised Imp anticipates Robert Farnon because of its unconventional juxtapositions of harmony. However Curzon’s orchestral texture isn’t as light or as inventive as Farnon’s. Right near the end, I almost expected to hear the closing cascading strings of Farnon’s arrangement of Would YouLike To Take A Walk. They would have fitted Dance Of An Ostracised Imp like a glove.

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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.