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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05 Apr

Moira Ades - Tribute

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David and Moira Ades

Moira Ades  1936 – 2015

Moira hailed from Forest Gate, London, the first of two children born to Andrew and Ellen Stevenson. During World War Two, the children and their mother evacuated to Dorset,  where Moira grew to love the countryside. At the end of  hostilities, the family was reunited  and they moved to Leigh-on-Sea, Essex. Moira attended the local Junior and High Schools and the age of nine, she first met her future husband, David Ades.

Throughout her life, Moira was seriously afflicted with chronic asthma, and her education was badly disrupted as a result of this condition. Upon leaving school, and after several different jobs, she ultimately became a book-keeper for her father, continuing in this role until her marriage to David in 1967. Around this time, David gained a promotion within Midland Bank, which necessitated a re-location to Northamptonshire, and it was there in 1968 that their only child – a daughter, Fenella – was born.

Moira believed that some of the most beautiful things in life came from nature. She loved sunsets, flowers, trees and animals. She also had an artistic eye, and inherited a love of antiques from her
father, building up her collection as-and-when funds permitted. Along with David, she enjoyed good food and  wine, and particularly in later years, travelling.

The family moved several times ‘with the job’ and eventually settled in Nottingham. In 1989, David was able to secure a very generous retirement package, and they decided to live in the South-West, which Moira remembered fondly from her childhood. Their beautiful new home and garden in Seavington St. Michael,  Somerset, occasionally played host to members of the Robert Farnon Society for ‘extra’ meetings  during  the summer.

Moira soon became involved with local voluntary work, including helping to raise funds for a new Village Hall.  She was always very supportive of David, both in his professional life and in his ‘second career’ after  retirement, when he ran the RFS and also acted as consultant for many CD projects, including of course his stewardship of the ‘Golden Age Of Light Music’ series for Guild Records.

For many years, Moira accompanied David to the London Meetings of the Society, where she could usually be found  helping out ‘on the door’. She was always very welcoming,  especially to those attending for the first time, and her wonderful smile and cheerful disposition will be remembered with much  affection by many.    

Although in declining  health herself, Moira continued to be a tower of strength for David as his own illness progressed through to its unfortunate final stages.  After his passing, she spent a great deal of time with her daughter’s family, and was looking forward to moving into a specially constructed annexe attached to their house.

As previously reported, Moira was admitted to hospital in mid-December 2015 for a surgical procedure. Whilst this initially appeared to be successful, she then developed post-operative complications which her medical team were unable to resolve, and she sadly passed away on December 27th.

A  loving and caring wife, mother and grandmother, Moira also became a good friend to many of us in the Robert Farnon Society; her passing, especially so soon after David’s, has left a huge void and she will be greatly missed. Once again, our sincere condolences are extended to Fenella and her husband  Barry – and her two grandsons James and William.

©Tony Clayden
    April 2015

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18 Mar

Alan Bunting dies

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It is with the deepest regret and profound sadness that we have to report the death of Alan Bunting on Wednesday March 16th 2016, after a short illness.

Alan was one of only a handful of premier experts in the field of digital recording restoration in the UK, and over the years carried out a great deal of such work, especially for many record companies active in the field of reissues.

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 Company Guild Records, contributing to both the technical and repertoire aspects of what would become a phenomenally successful project.

After David’s death in 2015, Alan assumed responsibility for the overall management of the series and several more CDs were produced.  At the time of his death, further titles were under discussion although only one, Great American Light Orchestras Vol. 4, has been fully completed, and will be released in mid-2016.

A fuller tribute to Alan will follow in due course, but in the meantime sincerest condolences are extended to his son, daughter and grandchildren.

Tony Clayden
March 2016

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02 Mar

Confetti

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CONFETTI
(Bronislaw Kaper)
Analysed by Robert Walton

Bronislaw Kaper had much in common with Victor Young. Firstly they were both Polish, could turn their hand to any sort of music, composed many film scores and as songwriters wrote some important popular standards. Three of Young’s were Stella by Starlight, My Foolish Heart and When I Fall in Love , while Kaper’s two major contributions were On Green Dolphin Street and Invitation.

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CONFETTI
(Bronislaw Kaper)
Analysed by Robert Walton

Bronislaw Kaper had much in common with Victor Young. Firstly they were both Polish, could turn their hand to any sort of music, composed many film scores and as songwriters wrote some important popular standards. Three of Young’s were Stella by Starlight, My Foolish Heart and When I Fall in Love , while Kaper’s two major contributions were On Green Dolphin Street and Invitation.

Kaper was also capable of occasionally coming up with what can only be described as a pure light orchestral gem. The 1956 movie “Forever Darling” produced exactly that - Confetti . In fact it bore an uncanny resemblance to the British mood music model of the 1940s and 50s especially that of Robert Farnon. Did Kaper quite independently conceive this composition or was he directly influenced by what was happening across the pond? Judging by his songs, Kaper was more jazz orientated than most of the veteran Hollywood composers so would have had no problem with something bop influenced. In England, the Queen’s Hall Light Orchestra gave definitive performances of this kind of material but the nearest thing in America just had to be the MGM Studio Orchestra conducted by Johnny Green which recorded Confetti . (Incidentally it was played by the John Wilson Orchestra at the 2013 BBC Proms as part of “Hollywood Rhapsody”).

Time now to follow the paper trail of Confetti , and discover what, if anything, we can learn from it. For starters the $64,000 question is who arranged Confetti? Was it Conrad Salinger? The percussion section was an integral part of the orchestration playing a vital role in the soundtrack of “Forever Darling” featuring tubular bells and snare drums.

The thrilling opening clearly has ‘Hollywood’ written all over it, sounding very much like title music. For a moment it could have almost been the start of Starlight Roof Waltz by the Melachrino Orchestra. All through the drum driven military style introduction we get constant hints of what is to come. By the time the melody starts, we’ve got the general idea. It’s like eager racehorses behind the starting gate that can’t wait to get away. Shortly after we’re up and running, the Farnon influence kicks in with the first of two bursts of exciting woodwind. We have lift off! They might be fiendishly difficult but the MGM players take it all in their stride. Then the answering phrase goes into the soaring string sound of the Queen’s Hall Light Orchestra with three jazzy discords of American brashness before returning to the jagged tune.

And before you can say ‘David Rose’ we’re into the kind of bridge dreamt up by the London born maestro. The strings, supported by a brilliant brass section, having gone up a gear, are now ‘singing’ their hearts out. Then the brass showing you what they’re made of go soli with the ever energetic woodwind.

Just like the beginning, the orchestra gives us as much time as we need to prepare for the thrilling final chorus. Then after those soaring strings reappear for the last time, we find ourselves in the coda where the orchestra employs all sorts of delaying tactics like toying with the tune and guiding us gradually towards a show stopping last chord reminiscent of Alcan Highway .

The building blocks of Confetti have come a long circuitous route from Los Angeles (David Rose) via London (Robert Farnon) and finally coming home to Hollywood and Bronislaw Kaper. To acknowledge a multinational musical marriage created by an American, a Canadian and a Pole, let’s celebrate this meeting of minds with those tiny pieces of paper of various shapes and colours!

The MGM recording of Confetti is available on the Guild CD of the same name (GLCD 5175)

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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.