29 Jan

Copland: Orchestral Works 1

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COPLAND : Orchestral Works 1 - Ballets BBC Philharmonic / John Wilson Chandos CHSA 5164
Rerviewed by Peter Burt

Aaron Copland (1900-90) was probably America’s greatest native-born composer.

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COPLAND : Orchestral Works 1 - Ballets BBC Philharmonic / John Wilson Chandos CHSA 5164
Reviewed by Peter Burt

Aaron Copland (1900-90) was probably America’s greatest native-born composer. His continuing popularity primarily, although not solely, rests on his three folksy ballets. These are meat and drink to former RFS member and BBC Proms favourite John Wilson, with the BBC Philharmonic responding so well to his conducting that memories of Leonard Bernstein are sometimes evoked. On an album of 79½ minutes duration the first two items are the familiar Fanfare for the Common Man (1942), and El Salón México (1932-38), which widely uses Mexican folk melodies. The Suite from ‘Billy The Kid’ (1938) is well-known for its incorporation of several cowboy tunes and American folk songs. ‘Rodeo’ (1942) is in similar vein but leaves the folk element relatively intact with very little alteration on the part of the composer . Of the Four Dance Episodes here the final Hoe-Down is great fun. The well-known last variation in the Suite from ‘Appalachian Spring’ (1943-4) is the Shaker tune Simple Gifts that Sydney Carter used for his hymn Lord of the Dance . Chandos deliver their usual high quality sound and I look forward to further releases in the series.

Peter Burt

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29 Jan

Strolling Home

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STROLLING HOME
(Farnon)
Analysed by Robert Walton

It was in 1959 that the original Gang Show producer Ralph Reader wrote Strollin’, the song most associated with Bud Flanagan. Two years later in 1961 Robert Farnon composed the mood music equivalent, Strolling Home.

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STROLLING HOME
(Farnon)
Analysed by Robert Walton

It was in 1959 that the original Gang Show producer Ralph Reader wrote Strollin’, the song most associated with Bud Flanagan. Two years later in 1961 Robert Farnon composed the mood music equivalent, Strolling Home.

A one-finger piano in the style of Gordon Jenkins (sometimes in octaves) plays with a small string section. This laid back 1930’s type tune has a rhythm reminiscent of the clip clopping of a slow horse in a western. It clearly calls to mind Laurel & Hardy’s unhurried approach to Brushwood Gulch accompanied by a mule in “Way out West”. It’s also the sort of tempo associated with the Ink Spots.

The opening two notes of the intro are identical to Willie Nelson’s song Crazy made famous by Patsy Cline. After a short lead-in (the first of many sustained string passages), the actual melody starts out as if it’s going into These Foolish Things. As the piece progresses the ghost of Carroll Gibbons pervades the performance, though not in the decorative sense. In this case the piano fills owe more to ragtime. And then to end the phrase, Farnon’s melody once more quotes from Crazy while the harp wraps things up. Then something highly unusual happens. Normally after 16 bars you’d expect the tune to go into the bridge but Farnon repeats the last 4 bars of the chorus.

Now it’s really time to go to the bridge in a new key with the laid back strings now in the driving seat. After a suggestion of Have You EverBeen Lonely, the delightful middle melody provides the perfect contrast to the earlier sleepy piano, although even this section isn’t going anywhere fast! And waiting in the wings our soloist is gently awakened for a rerun of the opening. Again the harp finishes the phrase. Then the strings join the piano that eventually modulates twice, before going into Tom and Jerry mode for a soft landing/ending.

This is yet another example of Robert Farnon’s ability to turn his talent to almost any kind of music. Unlike his established compositions, this utterly simple instrumental is a rarity. Despite that, any perceptive Farnon fan will soon sus out the identity of the composer from those little touches he never lost. So whether you’re Strolling Home after walking the dog or returning from the pub, what emerges is an air of total tranquility. In other words, perfect retirement music!

The Chappell recording of Strolling Home is available on the Guild CD “Holidays for Strings” (GLCD 5189)

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Radio Times Light Music 1957. This is still an experimental page.

Click on thumbnails to open photos, click on arrow for next.

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04 Jan

Wagon Lit

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WAGON LIT
(Sidney Torch)
Analysed by Robert Walton

There can’t be many arrangements which are defined by a constant brass interjection, but that’s the very thing that attracted me to Wagon Lit . It’s a typical Torch touch on which the whole composition rests and is perfectly in keeping with his strict policy of crispness. This syncopated feature is first heard just after the third beat of the opening bar of the tune; in fact the second quaver of the third beat. Yes, I know it’s an unlikely component of a chart to choose, but this accentuation, part and parcel of the rhythm of a train, is somehow crying out to be noticed. You may have spotted the composition is slightly more subdued than most instrumental train records, perhaps giving consideration to the passengers in the sleeping compartment of this European railroad car!

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WAGON LIT
(Sidney Torch)
Analysed by Robert Walton

There can’t be many arrangements which are defined by a constant brass interjection, but that’s the very thing that attracted me to Wagon Lit . It’s a typical Torch touch on which the whole composition rests and is perfectly in keeping with his strict policy of crispness. This syncopated feature is first heard just after the third beat of the opening bar of the tune; in fact the second quaver of the third beat. Yes, I know it’s an unlikely component of a chart to choose, but this accentuation, part and parcel of the rhythm of a train, is somehow crying out to be noticed. You may have spotted the composition is slightly more subdued than most instrumental train records, perhaps giving consideration to the passengers in the sleeping compartment of this European railroad car!

Starting out on a bright and breezy note, Wagon Lit quickly gets into its stride with a perky little tune punctuated by the said staccato insertion that only Torch, a master ‘painter’ of mood music could create. Although the orchestration is basically lighthearted, there’s an element of drama and excitement too. And then taking a brief break from all this musical sandwiching, the brass takes over the tune in a new key. Before returning to the original key, Torch brilliantly brings the orchestra back down to earth free falling no less than nine times caught very neatly in a safety net by the harp. But no sooner has the first chorus finished, than Torch retains this wonderful sense of fun and freedom with brass and pizzicato strings darting about. Finally a French horn heralds the middle section.

For once we can quite legitimately call this a ‘bridge’, the word not unconnected to a train. But an engineer called Rose who just happened to be very keen on trains himself originally designed this one! After that monumental moment in light orchestral history with his Holiday for Strings, subdivisions like this provided the perfect contrast to busier openings. Of course Torch made them entirely his own, like this one which sort of creeps in with nothing to indicate its about to start. But when it does, this gentle song-like tune provides the perfect causeway. Halfway through, the maestro can’t resist one of his favourite sounds, pizzicato strings. After the brass job-share an upwardly mobile broken chord, arco strings with more feeling and tension, leave us in no doubt that the main melody is about the return.

Which means of course we’re back to that delightful opening with those persistent trumpets slotting in at the exact moment with the now familiar exclamation. Torch never wasted a good idea so it was no surprise that he ended Wagon Lit in the same way as he embellished it. His imagination and arranging skill could well have been acquired from his organ playing days when he was required to improvise on occasions. Incidentally in that early part of his career he also caught the baton-waving bug.

Wagon Lit might not have been such a high profile number in its day, probably because it wasn’t available commercially, but after having been neglected for so long, I would thoroughly recommend you to give it a listen. The art of Sidney Torch is a wonder to behold. And with the legendary Queen’s Hall Light Orchestra conducted by the composer it’s a bonus.

The original Chappell recording of Wagon Lit is available on the Guild CD "The 1940s" (GLCD 5102)

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04 Jan

Moira Ades, R.I.P.

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It is with profound sadness that we report the death of Moira Ades, wife of the late David Ades, on 27th December 2015.

Moira was admitted to hospital in mid-December to undergo an emergency surgical procedure. Whilst initially this appeared to have been successful, she then developed post-operative complications, which unfortunately her doctors were unable to resolve.

It is hoped to publish a fuller tribute to Moira in due course.

Our sincere condolences are extended to her daughter Fenella, her two grandsons James and William, and her son-in-law Barry.

Tony Clayden
30 / 12 / 15

David and Moira Ades
David and Moira Ades
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16 Dec

CD REVIEW ‘BEGUINE AND BUGATTI STEP’- THE ASPIDISTRA DRAWING ROOM ORCHESTRA

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Tony  Clayden has written a CD review of the album.

Read it here...

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11 Nov

New Vocalion Catalogue

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An exciting selection of new CDs will be available in time for Christmas and include Easy Listening, Light, Latin, Film Soundtracks/LibraryMusic, Jazz/Soul and Dance Bands/Big Bands.

Artistes  featured  include Henry Mancini, Floyd Cramer, Paul Mauriat, Caterina Valente, Cleo Laine, Neal Hefti, John Dankworth,  Victor Silvester, Ted Heath, Jack Hylton and Geraldo.

The listings also include a number of back catalogue re-issues, featuring, among others, Roy Fox, Carroll Gibbons, Henry Hall, Ray Noble, Ambrose, Ted Heath and the Queen’s Hall Light Orchestra.

In addition, there is a huge range of existing titles all still available.

The catalogue can be obtained from Vocalion - or by telephone 01923 803 001. The company operates a mail-order service – their postal address is PO Box 609  Watford WD18 7YA England.

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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.