04 Jun

Different Versions of the Same Set Light Music Selections - Another Look

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As my friend Graham Miles has posted two versions of a piece by Peter Yorke entitled "Fireflies" which are distinctly different by virtue of length, I will take a moment to touch on this particular subject, as it raises some very interesting questions to which there may be myriad answers.

Read the article by William Zucker here...

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As my friend Graham Miles has posted two versions of a piece by Peter Yorke entitled "Fireflies" which are distinctly different by virtue of length, I will take a moment to touch on this particular subject, as it raises some very interesting questions to which there may be myriad answers.

In the case of two recordings of a piece that are noticeably different in length, in the sense that one has material that the other lacks, we first have to ask ourselves which came first and is the original version, to ascertain whether the composer expanded on his original, or on the other hand in the reverse eventuality, whether he cut a short portion from what he originally had, and finally, whether it was rather a matter of cutting it in the recording process to enable it to fit on the side of a 78 or 45 RPM single disc.

Whatever the truth of what may actually have occurred in these cases, it is inevitable that some subjective preference will enter into it when making a judgment.

I do not claim any position of being a final arbiter in such cases. I can only judge each instance of such on its merits as I receive them. I am already aware that there could well be opinions sharply differing from my own, but I have no choice in this matter, as these selections are not being examined as though part of a college course in composition.

To get underway with what I am referring to, I will start with Robert Farnon's "Journey into Melody." Most of us might know that the piece originally had a far more elaborate introduction, making a full circle of keys in the process. This may be heard in the piece's original recording by the Queen's Hall Light Orchestra under Charles Williams. Reportedly Farnon himself decided to shorten the introduction to lead directly into the main melody, resulting in the form most of us are familiar with. For whatever reason, this was more satisfactory to him as being "better balanced" structurally, but as I am at frequent pains to point out, we do not all receive a given piece of music in the same manner individually, and of necessity would include the composer as well. I for one feel that the original extended introduction adds a searching quality at the beginning that gives it a whole new dimension, and I actually prefer the piece in that form and always so play it at the piano.

With Farnon's "Pictures in the Fire" the reverse appears to have occurred as the piece evolved, as one can note by comparing the earlier recording by the Queen's Hall Light Orchestra with the later one by Farnon's own orchestra. In the process, Farnon added in a short phrase to smoothen out a transition within that central modulating section that in a previous article I had written covering this piece I had referred to as "bluesy." I feel that the piece is definitely improved by this short addition, with any feeling of abruptness evident in the earlier version completely remedied, so in this case I will prefer the piece in its later state.

But it should not be assumed from any of the above that I would always by inclination prefer a longer version of a piece when comparing two versions side by side.

To take yet another Farnon selection, "Lake of the Woods" where here too we have alternate presentations; a simpler, normal length presentation in the normal A-A-B-A form of a ballad as given by the Queen's Hall Light Orchestra, and the later one by Farnon with his own orchestra as part of the album "Canadian Impressions" in which the piece is expanded out to include a whole middle section before returning to the B-A of the opening. In this case, at least for me, it is a matter if stylistic incompatibility, at least as I receive it, between this new middle section and the original outlying portions with which I have difficulty in reconciling with one another. For that reason, I will continue to prefer the shorter version on the older recording. Moreover, I see the rather veiled sound quality here as a clear advantage as obviously the purpose of this piece is to convey a certain atmosphere, not to have every last detail of it rendered vividly clear.

Haydn Wood's "Soliloquy" is another example of what I am referring to. I actually found myself in a brief dialogue with the blogger, John France on this piece and expressed my reactions to the piece and to the two versions of it.

The shorter version appears on a recording by the Queen's Hall Light Orchestra under Robert Farnon; the longer version with the Slovak Radio Orchestra under Ernest Tomlinson.

As I advised Mr. France on that blog (it appears that hitherto he had been quite unaware of Farnon's shorter version), with my present information, it is quite impossible to know whether Wood expanded his piece from what he originally had, or trimmed away material from his original in the other eventuality, or perhaps Farnon in his efforts to fit the piece on the side of a single edited the piece to that end (quite expertly, one would think, if such were the case).

In any event, my preference is decidedly for the shorter version, which I invariably use when performing it. Listening to the longer version, I get the inevitable impression that it starts on an indeterminate chord in the middle of nowhere, and that the piece actually begins a few bars later. Moreover, in the reprise section, I feel that by the very nature of the material, it is quite unnecessary to go over every last bar that appeared earlier, and as I have just stated, I will continue to maintain for reasons stated my firm allegiance to the shorter version.

Some years ago, Robert Walton, one of the Society's regular contributor, wrote an essay on a piece by Edward White that I was hitherto unfamiliar, entitled "Caprice for Strings." I found it to be a rather unusual piece, but because of its rather erratic course I found that I was having difficulty in following it so that it made sense to me. At that point Tony Clayden stepped in to graciously share with both Robert and myself a recording of this same piece purporting to be the original, with additional material that was removed in the later recording.

I listened to this, and as a result of this added material I now for the first time found that I could better understand what the piece was about as the sections now held together more coherently. Moreover, some of the instrumental effects that Bob had described I could now hear for the first time, as I could not hitherto on the version that Bob had originally posted.

Further details of what I am referring to may be seen in my comments about this piece at the time it was posted.

Clive Richardson's "London Fantasia" is another example of what I am referring to. The original version was recorded by Mantovani on two sides of a 12" single disc, featuring Monia Liter at the piano, and is the only version I have cultivated, as it is the fullest version.

Richardson himself recorded it subsequently, with both Charles Williams and with Sidney Torch, and both versions have a small piece cut out. As he has recorded it in this fashion on both occasions, it must be presumed that he so preferred it for presentation, but others listening to it might very conceivably feel differently about it and would prefer it in its original form or at least it's more extended version if it came afterward.

The matter of having to economize in order to fit a selection on the side of a single disc can often necessitate some forced adjustments, some of which, in a recording I have posted of myself at the piano on both YouTube and Facebook I have actively sought to remedy.

Thus, with Percy Faith's arrangement of "If I Loved You" and David Rose's arrangements of "Why Do You Pass Me By" and "All I Desire," in each of which there is an obvious attempt to offer two presentations of the song, using existing material I have added extensions so that both presentations structurally have the full A-A-B-A scheme.

With Peter Yorke's "Blue Mink" I have added a slight extension to end the piece more smoothly so that it is not as abrupt, remembering that this is for listening purposes rather than as background music from a mood library. And in a planned second recording, I will be taking the middle slower section of Yorke's "Whipper Snapper," expanding it out to include more of the material from the faster section, being that this was the apparent intent in what is there presently, aborted due to the necessity once again of fitting the selection on the side of a single disc.

I hope that my notes have been informative and as always I will invite comments back.

William Zucker.

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01 Jun

Timeless – The David Snell Trio - Cd Review

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timeless   david snell trioDavid Snell – harp , John Dean – drums , Arthur Watts - bass

Jazz harpists are a very rare breed ! Indeed, it is difficult to think of more than a handful in the entire world, nearly all hailing from the United States.

Pre- eminent amongst this select group is our own ‘home-grown’ David Snell, a consummate musician of many talents.

Read the review by Tony Clayden here...

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26 May

Johnny Gregory (1924 – 2020)

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It is with regret that we record the death of the conductor, composer and arranger Johnny Gregory, who died at his home in Gerrards Cross, Berkshire on April 23rd 2020, about six months short of his 96th birthday.

During his long career, he wrote the scores for fourteen films, (the last in 2000) and TV shows, and was principal conductor of the BBC Radio Orchestra between 1973 to 1974.

He made numerous recordings, both under his own name and (possibly more famously) as Chaquito.

Gregory used a number of other pseudonyms and his orchestra often appeared under the name of The Cascading Strings.

A comprehensive article about his life and work is in preparation and will be published on the LLMMG website in due course.

Tony Clayden
May 2020

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19 May

Big City

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(Robert Busby)
Queen’s Hall Light Orchestra
Analysed by Robert Walton

The Chappell recorded music library created quite a stir in the music business when it came into being in 1941 with a series of 78s specifically designed for the use of radio, films and especially newsreels.

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(Robert Busby)
Queen’s Hall Light Orchestra
Analysed by Robert Walton

The Chappell recorded music library created quite a stir in the music business when it came into being in 1941 with a series of 78s specifically designed for the use of radio, films and especially newsreels. Not only were they perfect for the job but many of the compositions proved to be extremely popular in their own right with the public as well. Many were released as singles. In fact the whole world embraced them. Never in the history of music was there such a unique sound with the highest quality of original tunes, brilliant arrangements and outstanding performances. A Window of Wonder! If it hadn’t been for the requirement of background music, these sounds might never have seen the light of day.

Occasionally some films used them for their entire soundtracks. I forget the title of the first one I saw in 1957 but the music clearly made an impression on me. It became a sort of quiz when I kept guessing what the next title was. Mind you although it was a novel idea, the music was not really suitable for soundtracks. There’s still nothing that can beat commissioning an official composer for such an enterprise to have overall control over the music and dealing personally with each scene.

The second movie I saw which used Chappell mood music recordings was from 1948 entitled “It Happened in Soho” starring Richard Murdoch. It opened with Robert Busby’s “Big City”. I discovered it in the current television series “Talking Pictures”. It was like Charles Williams with a big difference - a touch of Farnon. Williams was the first composer selected for the series. He was very professional and a great craftsman and his style became the prototype for many of the tunes that followed, but sometimes he lacked the emotional input and modern harmonies that later writers wrote.

A thrilling opening quotes Gershwin’s I Got Rhythm, London Bridge is Falling Down and suitable fill-in music emanating from Busby’s pencil. The whole track might be only 1:27 but what a great introduction. After more movement, a gorgeous string melody assisted by flutes and bells gradually climbs the heights providing the necessary passion and intensity. We are now completely immersed into Busby country. The end is essentially the same as the start with a flourish, before the bells highlight a glorious finish.

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09 May

Pourcel Portraits

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Instrumentals À La Française
Franck Pourcel And His Orchestra
Sepia 1352 (74:34)

This is the real deal. I was delighted when it eventually plopped through my letter box – thank you, Postie – as the French composer, arranger and conductor, who died 20 years ago, has long been my favourite continental purveyor of our kind of music. And by all accounts he was a perfectionist but a nice guy. The delightful photo of him on the front of the booklet is an indication of the delights on the CD.

Read the review here...

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04 May

It’s A Lovely Day Tomorrow

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(Irving Berlin)
Analysed by Robert Walton

This is a song written in 1939 by a certain Siberian weather forecaster named Irving Berlin. It was inspired by a conversation between him and the British/Hungarian film producer Alexander Korda in a New York taxicab.

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(Irving Berlin)
Analysed by Robert Walton

This is a song written in 1939 by a certain Siberian weather forecaster named Irving Berlin. It was inspired by a conversation between him and the British/Hungarian film producer Alexander Korda in a New York taxicab. The Munich agreement had just made both men momentarily miserable. The producer asked Berlin if he’d written a war song yet. A few blocks later the composer came up with a tune and lyrics. His head must have been swimming with tunes! (Perhaps something for Esther Williams was also brewing in the brain).

It’s A Lovely Day Tomorrow was first heard in the 1940 Broadway musical Louisiana Purchase introduced by Irene Bordoni. It was recorded by Bea Wain and Tommy Dorsey with vocal by Frank Sinatra. Another Berlin “day” tune was the more grammatically correct It’s A Lovely Day Today from his 1950 musical “Call Me Madam”.

Despite it being virtually forgotten, It’s A Lovely Day Tomorrow, a strongly optimistic melody in the key of C, still stands up well in the 21st century rather like a hymn. I remember it well. It was 1940 and I was at kindergarten. Come to think of it, it would have made an excellent national anthem. Most state-inspired tunes are pretty boring. Everyone remembers the strain but can’t actually place it. Like The Stars Will Remember the second 8 bar phrase suggests the song is about to finish but it’s only a false alarm. They both work. The melody of It’s A Lovely Day Tomorrow has Vera Lynn written all over it rather like We’ll Meet Again, which became her theme. A Berlin tune always seems to find its way to just the right artist and sounds like it wrote itself. Two other tunes that attached themselves to Lynn and were also all the rage at the time: There’ll Always Be An England and another American original The White Cliffs Of Dover.

However the sensational thing about It’s A Lovely Day Tomorrow was its perfect climax near the end on the word SAY (F minor). Very few songs have such a well placed summit with a large natural pause, giving the last few words “tomorrow is a lovely day” maximum emphasis. It’s as if the tune has been in a kind of knot and after direct contact with SAY has immediately untangled. I don’t know about you, but every time I land on something like this, I get a real feeling of peace and tranquility while wallowing in the wonderful sound it creates. It’s the greatest compliment a song can receive.

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23 Apr

Korngold Violin Concerto & String Sextet

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Andrew Haveron, Sinfonia Of London Chamber
Ensemble, Rtế Concert Orchestra, Cond. John Wilson
Chandos CHAN20135 (56’)

I referred to this concerto in my previous Korngold review (CHSA5220) last year. It was written 30 years after the young composer had been lavishly praised by Richard Strauss, and who then forsook classical music to become the toast of Hollywood...

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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.