Analysed by Robert Walton
For many years I have been meaning to analyse Walter Mourant’s Ecstasy but somehow I never got around to it. I can’t believe I left it so long, because it’s one of the few openings that made such a lasting impression.
The first time I heard it was in 1958 when I was an announcer in Whangarei, New Zealand, at 1XN Radio Northland. Those were the days before sealed airtight cubicles when there was an open window in the studio overlooking an attractive garden and heavily wooded hills. Very civilized! Incidentally four years before, sitting in that very same announcer’s chair was Corbet Woodall later to work for BBC Television in London as a newsreader. We were both learning the ropes of broadcasting on live radio. I met him only once in 1976 at his Marble Arch delicatessan in London.
The 78rpm Brunswick disc (05153) in question featured clarinetist Reginald Kell with Camarata’s Orchestra. As I placed it on the turntable and cued it ready to go on air, it was just another recording.
After a few seconds of introduction, mysterious high strings carried me off to another world. I was hooked. Harmonically it kept wandering off into Debussyian byways as well as quite a bit of diving down, but always returning to the home chord on a major 9 like Poinciana. And speaking of Poinciana, occasionally you’ll hear the David Rose string sound. Some of the chords reminded me of Tony Lowry’s Seascape. I wasn’t a bit surprised that Tutti Camarata was in charge as every aspect of the recording indicated quality.
Then taking over this meandering tune, Kell makes his first appearance with the orchestra and is soon joined by a violin, with which he produces an atonal moment. After going totally solo for a few bars, the clarinet is once more partnered by the orchestra. Note Kell’s distinctive vibrato for which he was famous. From here right until the end it’s the mournful clarinet of ‘roving’ Reginald playing the melody supported by those now familiar harmonies.
At this juncture it might help to give you a brief bio of the comparatively unknown American Walter Mourant (1911-1995) who began his career in jazz. One of his best-known works was Swing Low Sweet Clarinet performed by Woody Herman and Pete Fountain. Clearly Mourant loved writing for the clarinet. Also his chamber music and orchestral compositions are well worth Googling. Various assignments included arranging for the Raymond Scott Orchestra at CBS and composing a March of Time theme for NBC.
Ecstasy is that the somewhat dreary second half of the arrangement does not fulfill the initial promise of the ecstatic opening. In spite of that, I wouldn’t dismiss it out of hand but still recommend you to give it a listen and enjoy.
Download file here (PDF, 1.4MB)
From time to time the music of Maurice Arnold is played among other light music.
Maurice Arnold was a relative and in the mid 50’s sent to my mother a copy of the piano sheet music of his composition Lavoona – we live in Australia.
There is an inscription to my mother on the front and also mention of the date he recorded the piano Solo and the date of its release.
We've updated our May flyer to indicate that Lancaster Gate underground station is closed until July while they replace the lifts.
Many of our attendees use the station to get to our meetings.
LLMMG MAY 2017 Meeting (complete PDF file)
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.
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)
Falling In Love / The Flying Dutchman
This is the latest release from the phenomenon that is the Dutch violinist and conductor who has already sold over 40 million albums.
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:
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/.
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.