04 Jan

Hunt-and-peck

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During the 1990s while living in Bath, my wife and I regularly attended the winter series of symphony concerts at the Colston Hall in Bristol. We always sat in the same seats in the choir stalls behind the orchestra facing the conductor. To all intents and purposes we were part of the percussion.

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By Robert Walton

During the 1990s while living in Bath, my wife and I regularly attended the winter series of symphony concerts at the Colston Hall in Bristol. We always sat in the same seats in the choir stalls behind the orchestra facing the conductor. To all intents and purposes we were part of the percussion. In fact a certain timpanist was constantly tuning up. We were so close we could follow the music on his stand. We saw many of the world’s famous orchestras and conductors. Some Russian and East European orchestras were clearly struggling financially because their music was obviously well worn, not to mention their threadbare dinner jackets, but it didn’t affect their performances in the slightest.

And talking of Russian music, a member of the audience who sat right up at the back behind us looked the image of Tchaikovsky! And he never missed a concert but I’m sure he had no idea he looked like the great composer.

Which brings me to the noted popular 20th century composer-arranger-conductor from Webster Groves, Missouri, Gordon Jenkins who certainly didn’t look like him. His music though clearly caught the essence of Tchaikovsky. Jenkins’ detractors often unkindly placed his name at the top of the schmaltz lists. He might have been a 20th century clone of Tchaikovsky but cleverly incorporated the Russian’s style into his own compositions and orchestrations in his own individual way. In fact he could be said to have kept romance alive and well.

Jenkins’ Green from “Tone Poems of Colour” conducted by Frank Sinatra was inspired by a poem of Norman Sickel, a one-time radio scriptwriter for Sinatra. This 1956 recording session with a symphonic- sized orchestra celebrated the opening of Capitol’s new pancake-shaped skyscraper in Los Angeles known as Capitol Records Tower.

At the opening and closing of this tone poem, some Jenkins one-finger piano was required, but the man himself wasn’t available. So Sinatra’s pianist Bill Miller brilliantly simulated Jenkins’ so-called hunt-and-peck piano style (like a hen searching for food, the finger creeps along the keyboard ready to ‘pounce’ on the next note). When sad strings enter I dare you not to be moved. This is followed by the heavenly oboe and flute. You may hardly notice the French horn playing a legato counter-melody but without its contribution it would seem incomplete.

When the strings get even more aroused, the emotion generated is conspicuously overwhelming by its presence. So moving in fact, it’s beyond words and tears! This is what music is all about. We have been elevated to a higher plain in much the same way as Tchaikovsky’s 6th Symphony does.In fact Green could be described as that work in miniature. The horn continues to decorate, adding its own special hue to the mix. The essential Jenkins has now come to life with this sublime songlike strain. I know Pyotr Ilyich would have approved. Listen out for a bit of Borodin (Stranger in Paradise)in slow motion borrowed from ”Prince Igor’s” Polovtsian Dances.

And with a definite pause, the second part of the melody doesn’t disappoint, continuing its dramatic journey downhill played by unison violins at the bottom of their range. We assume the orchestra is preparing itself for a big ending. “But no!” as Danny Kaye might have insisted. After numerous comings and goings with the said woodwind, strings and horn, stand by for two more thrilling string flourishes. The horn and flute finally bring Green to a gloriously peaceful close. But not quite. Bill Miller’s single note piano has the last say but not in its normal middle register. This time it’s uncharacteristically higher than usual.

If you’ve never heard any Tchaikovsky or indeed the 6th Symphony (ThePathétique) I can’t recommend Green highly enough as the perfect Tchaikovsky taster. If you like this, you’ll adore the real thing!

Green, originally from “Tone Poems of Colour”
Capitol (CDP 7 99647 2)
Also on “Scenic Grandeur” from Guild’s Golden Age of Light Music (GLCD 5145)

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03 Jan

André Rieu and his Johann Strauss Orchestra

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Falling In Love / The Flying Dutchman
Decca 5708288

This is the latest release from the phenomenon that is the Dutch violinist and conductor who has already sold over 40 million albums.

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06 Jan

David Mellor hosts Light Music Masters on Classic FM

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On Saturday evenings at 9 o'clock from 7th January until Easter, David Mellor will host Light Music Masters on Classic FM.

This is a new series following positive reaction to the first series, broadcast last year.

More details can be found here:

http://www.classicfm.com/radio/shows-presenters/light-music-masters/upcoming-shows/

However, the website player says: "Sadly our broadcasting rights do not allow us to play to locations outside the UK."

Slightly more programme detail -- basically that for he first three episodes:

DATE: 7 JANUARY 2016

DAVID MELLOR’S LIGHT MUSIC MASTERS*

Last year, David Mellor presented a series of programmes which shine the spotlight on a much-maligned – but much-enjoyed – genre of music: Light Music.  Following feedback from Classic FM listeners, hundreds of whom got in touch to ask for more, David now begins a brand new series of his /Light Music Masters/.

Between now and Easter, David will be picking out plenty of undiscovered gems: tonight's choices include a few treats from the album /Puttnam Plays Puttnam/ – in which son pays homage to father – as well as some Neopolitan songs from the great Luciano Pavarotti.

We’ll also enjoy established favourites: for example, Richard Addinsell’s /Warsaw Concerto/ and Robert Farnon’s /Westminster Waltz/, which begins with the unmistakable sound of the bells of Big Ben.

DATE: 14 JANUARY 2016

2100*    DAVID MELLOR’S LIGHT MUSIC MASTERS*

Join David Mellor for the second instalment of 2017’s Light Music Masters. Throughout the series, he’ll be shining a spotlight on composers from the much-loved genre, including Eric Coates, Ronald Binge and Ron Goodwin. There’ll be tunes you’re sure to recognise, and some new discoveries along the way, so make sure you join him for a truly enjoyable hour of music.

Tonight’s masters include the man who David dubs the “genius of Light Music”, Leroy Anderson, with some of the American composer’s lesser known works /Serenata/ and /The Waltzing Cat/. We’ll also hear from another composer from across the pond, Leonard Bernstein, described by David as “almost too talented for his own good” with musicals such as /On The Town /and /West Side Story./ Rounding off the programme will be a Richard Hayman arrangement of Lionel Bart’s music for /Oliver/.

DATE: 21 JANUARY 2016

2100*    DAVID MELLOR’S LIGHT MUSIC MASTERS*

Join David Mellor as he crosses the Atlantic to shine the spotlight on a number of American Light Music specialists, in particular Henry Mancini, Jerome Kern and George Gershwin.

Amongst the highlights are a modern-day recording making use of a piano roll of Gershwin himself playing his /Rhapsody in Blue/ with Michael Tilson Thomas conducting, and the songs of Jerome Kern arranged for choir. We’ll also be treated to Henry Macnini’s iconic music for the /Pink Panther/.

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11 Dec

BBC Concert Orchestra - Bramwell Tovey 'Urban Runway'

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On 16th Dec 2016 at 2pm from BBC Maida Vale Studios Bramwell Tovey conducts the UK premiere of his Urban Runway and Kathryn Rudge performs songs by Ivor Novello and Eric Coates. You can listen live from 2pm on BBC Radio 3.

Bramwell Tovey’s Urban Runway is laced with both jazz and minimalist flavours. Housed in a cakewalk rhythm, the piece is a musical stroll through the big-city American streets of New York and Rodeo Drive. Co-commissioned by the New York Philharmonic and Los Angeles Philharmonic in 2008, the piece receives its UK premiere by the BBC Concert Orchestra at this afternoon concert conducted by the Grammy award-winning composer himself.

Songs by Eric Coates and Ivor Novello are performed by BBC New Generation Artist and highly acclaimed mezzo-soprano Kathryn Rudge, alongside John McEwan’s vibrant Solway Symphony, completing the programme at the BBC’s iconic Maida Vale Studios.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/events/ehwwhn

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11 Dec

Blue Tango -- Very Best of Leroy Anderson Light Classics -- Iain Sutherland Concert Orchestra

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New Leroy Anderson CD
IAIN SUTHERLAND CONCERT ORCHESTRA.
ALTO ALC 1324

"Leroy Anderson (1908-1975) was arguably the most successful 20th century American composer of light orchestral music, ...

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04 Dec

London Fantasia

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(Clive Richardson)
Columbia Light Symphony Orchestra conducted by
Charles Williams featuring Clive Richardson, piano.

Analysed by Robert Walton

It was in 1990 that Carlin Music asked me to write a “Theatrical Overture” for their library. On the day of the session, imagine my surprise when one of my idols of music Clive Richardson casually strolled into CTS studios at Wembley. I had already met him at a Robert Farnon Appreciation Society recital but this you can understand was something else. His contribution to the session were two new compositions of his called Shopping Around and Mantovani Strings. While he was very generous in praising my work, I was totally immersed in that famous ‘Richardson’ sound. For many years it had been my intention to analyse his London Fantasia for JIM. So why not now?

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(Clive Richardson)
Columbia Light Symphony Orchestra conducted by
Charles Williams featuring Clive Richardson, piano.

Analysed by Robert Walton

It was in 1990 that Carlin Music asked me to write a “Theatrical Overture” for their library. On the day of the session, imagine my surprise when one of my idols of music Clive Richardson casually strolled into CTS studios at Wembley. I had already met him at a Robert Farnon Appreciation Society recital but this you can understand was something else. His contribution to the session were two new compositions of his called Shopping Around and Mantovani Strings. While he was very generous in praising my work, I was totally immersed in that famous ‘Richardson’ sound. For many years it had been my intention to analyse his London Fantasia for JIM. So why not now?

Richard Addinsell’s Warsaw Concerto was undoubtedly the first of its kind and proved to be the most popular of the genre, but I have always maintained the Richardson composition deserved far more recognition because of its highly descriptive musical narrative. It was originally called The Coventry Concerto but the more he worked on the score, Richardson felt London Fantasia was a more appropriate title. In essence it’s a nine minute microcosm of WW2.

An instant attention grabber, the opening section of timpani, brass and strings immediately creates a threatening and uneasy atmosphere, reminding one of the evils and pointlessness of war. But suddenly the music becomes becalmed by a radiant string tune perhaps looking back to those halcyon days of a once peaceful prewar period. Maybe we hoped there was still an outside chance of averting conflict.

But that was all swept away by the first sound of the ‘boots on the ground’ of young men marching off to unknown destinations to fight for King and country. Note a single sustained string note continues right through from the tranquil tune into this dramatic sector. Then a troop-carrying train is brought into the picture. And yet again that calming optimistic tune reappears to even greater effect. After a suggestion of Londoners at work and children at play, there’s a touch of Carriage And Pair from which emerges the bells of old London. Conductor Charles Williams would have related to that, as there was a lot of ‘London’ in his music.

And then something absolutely magical happens - the music slows right down to a virtual standstill, creating one of the most moving moments in music. The piano enters with two lots of nine gentle chords. Never have minor chords sounded so effective. The simplicity after all the drama is mesmerizing. It may not seem obvious but the piece has finally come to life baring its soul.

After a definite break, the strings lead in to Richardson’s glorious theme played by the solo piano supported by a cello, later joined by the rest of the orchestra. Notice his fondness for triplets in the tune like David Rose. Twice the oboe is at the forefront of building up the momentum as we head towards a cadenza or flourish, featuring the frantic fingers of Richardson, demonstrating his dazzling technique and particularly sensitive touch. His use of single notes is far more powerful than any complicated writing. Back briefly to the theme before some more piano pyrotechnics.

Then, as children in the far off Empire, the moment we all used to wait for was an air raid siren brilliantly imitated by the strings, warning that heavy bombers were approaching. The Battle of Britain had begun. Richardson throws everything he can orchestrally at this musical canvas with particular emphasis on the percussion. He didn’t forget the rescue services either rushing along with their bells to where they were needed. Eventually the all-clear sounds, and life returns to some sort of normality.

So what does Richardson do after that first raid? He calls upon the services of the instrument that has the range and capacity to provide a complete coverage of emotions, the violin. Great sadness descends across the nation, echoed from the darkest depths of the violin’s recesses. As it heads to the heights for the brighter top of its range, a major chord expresses a message of peace and hope for the future, now in tandem with the piano.

London Fantasia, Richardson’s magnum opus, gradually builds up to one of the most thrilling endings of any composition for piano and orchestra I know. If ever a piece told its own story then this is it. A tale of courage, endurance and above all humanity. No other composer has written a work of such power, originality and eloquence about such a momentous event. The general public thought so too in their millions.

Finally, with all the excitement and pleasure of meeting Clive Richardson, I almost forgot to mention another musician who happened to be playing on the Carlin session. My all-time favourite jazz drummer and long term member of the great Ted Heath Orchestra - Ronnie Verrell! My cup was overflowing that day!

“London Fantasia” available on Guild Light Music

“The Hall Of Fame” Volume 1 (GLCD 5120)

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04 Dec

Haydn Wood's "Merry Dale" recorded on CD

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Haydn Wood's march "Merry Dale" written for Slaithwaite Brass Band (Slaithwaite the village of his birth) has been recorded for the very first time on a CD called "Evolution".

Merry Dale was never published but was given by Haydn Wood directly to the band, who still own the original hand written manuscript parts.

Merry Dale has never been performed by any one other than Slaithwaite Band or outside the village.

Also on the Evolution CD is a recording of "A Brown Bird Singing" another piece composed by Haydn Wood performed as a cornet solo.

Music from the CD is being featured on Yorkshire Brass (Radio Leeds, York, Humberside + others) on Sunday 4th December and is available for a month on the BBC iPlayer.

The CD Evolution is available by post, price £11 inc p&p direct from Slaithwaite Band. See slaithwaiteband.org.UK for contact details.

 

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22 Nov

British Light Music at The British Home

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Poster for 26th Feb 2017

British Light Music at
The British Home

The Mark Fitz-Gerald Orchestra is holding a
fundraising concert in aid of The British Home.

Piano soloist Stephen Dickinson.

3.00 pm - Sunday 26th February 2017

Concert Hall, The British Home, Crown Lane, SW16 3JB

Tickets: £7.00 and Concessions £5.00 to include tea and coffee.
Tickets are limited please call the Home on 0208 670 8261 to
purchase your tickets or visit the website at www.britishhome.org.uk

The British Home is an independent charity that cares for people with disabilities and long
term medical conditions. Charity Number 206222

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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.