LISTEN TO THE BANNED! By Martin Moritz
Can censorship be ever justified? Can the famous quote, wrongly attributed to Voltaire, that ‘I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to death your right to say it’ still be appropriate today? Free speech is regarded as sacrosanct and, for the most part, it should be, but so often it is abused. Under its protective cover, one believes that one can say what one likes. But surely racial incitement can never be justified as neither can an advocacy for violence. They both run contra to the laws of public decency and welfare.
Censorship arises as a result of cultural or political tensions and is, invariably, used as a means by which the powerful can impose their views on those who lack power. Over the centuries, music has been viewed with suspicion because it has a strong and egalitarian communication and can suggest new and different ideas as well as illicit and unfettered notions that those in control fear. The BBC took advantage of its position and power in dictating what was suitable music, and, more relevantly unsuitable, for us to hear.
The Corporation is still sometimes referred to as ‘Auntie’ and it offered an explanation as to the origin of this nickname: " A phrase of obscure origin: presumably journalistic, possibly from cartoons. Increasingly used in the 1950s to contrast BBC’s prudish, cosy, puritanical ‘refained’ image with that of the much brasher ITV". The Corporation was clearly aware of its perception involving a policy which would remain entrenched well into a time when one would have expected and hoped that they would be more enlightened. Auntie, they were declaring, knew best!
From the outset, the BBC enforced a policy regarding music that regulated what must not be broadcast. In the 1930s, the Dance Music Policy Committee was set up whose remit was to act as cultural guardian monitoring what or was not fit to be aired. For example, there is the following directive, issued in 1942, from Sir Arthur Bliss, Director of Music, to the Committee:
"The BBC’s policy is to encourage a more virile and robust output of dance music to accord more closely with the present spirit of the country. To this end any form of anaemic or debilitated vocal performances by male singers will be excluded. Performances by women singers will be controlled to the extent that an insincere and over-sentimental style will not be allowed. No numbers will be accepted for broadcasting which are slushy in sentiment or contain innuendo or other matter considered to be offensive." This was reinforced, some months later, by an equally pompous note:
"We have recently adopted a policy of excluding sickly sentimentality which, particularly when sung by certain vocalists, can become nauseating and not all in keeping with what we feel to be the need of the public in this country in the fourth year of the war."
And this opinionated piece from a Committee member which shows an utter dislike of dance music and reads like a religious rant:
"No one is more alive than I to the need to buttress the forces of virtue against the unprincipled elements of the jungle"
The BBC could not have been more misguided in regard to those ‘slushy’ songs. They were just what listeners wanted to hear, especially to build wartime, public morale.
Arthur Bliss, unsurprisingly, also decreed that "no number will be accepted for broadcasting which is based on a tune from standard classical works usually found in the concert hall or opera house programmes". Accordingly, Song of India; I’m Always Chasing Rainbows; Baubles, Bangles and Beads; (why, however, did another song from the Borodin-laden ‘Kismet’, And This Is My Beloved, escape the axe?) The Story of a Starry Night; Brahms’ Lullaby and other classics-based songs were forbidden. It seems curious then that Kay Starr’s Comes Along a Love (an adaptation of Rossini’s overture to ‘Semiramade’) and Midnight Sleighride, recorded by the Sauter-Finegan Orchestra, an arrangement that made no bones about it originating in Prokofiev’s ‘Lieutenant Kije’ suite, slipped through the net. It appears that the Committee’s forensic experts did not realise what they were.
Needless to say, songs with a religious nature were anathema to the Committee. Answer Me, a ballad with a deliberately religious content, had been recorded by David Whitfield and Frankie Laine in 1953. It was immediately banned by the Head of Religious Broadcasting who regarded it as "a sentimental mockery of Christian prayer", adding almost apologetically that "it is conceivable that a disappointed lover might sincerely utter such a prayer, if he was totally ignorant of the real nature of prayer". However, a song with such high expectations could not be allowed to die and some small but crucial changes were made to the lyric, notably with its opening line becoming ‘Answer Me, My Love’ instead of ‘Answer Me, Lord Above’. Laine and Whitfield recorded this revised version and the coda to this episode was that, for the first and only time in British chart history, both recordings would share the top spot together.
From 1953 again, Crying in the Chapel, recorded by Lee Lawrence was deemed "nauseating and theologically unexceptional". Strong criticism and yet, twelve years later, Elvis Presley’s recording was permitted, without any apparent explanation. The verdict on St Theresa of the Roses was that it was unsuitable "because the lyric is contrary to both Roman Catholic doctrine and to Protestant sentiment". However, double-standards were evident with It Is No Secret, written by Stuart Hamblen in 1951, an earnest, hymn-like ballad. "A sincere, if misguided presentation of a very personal aspect of the Christian gospel" was the opinion of the anonymous Head of Religious Broadcasting. He suggested, though, it could be featured in request programmes when the responsibility would not lie directly with the BBC. Shifting the blame is hardly a Christian sentiment.
George Formby fell foul of the authorities on two occasions. With My Little Ukelele in My Hand and With My Little Stick of Blackpool Rock had deliberate sexual innuendo in the lyrics. Did George honestly believe he would get both songs aired? As must have Stan Freberg with the very suggestive John and Marsha. Ella Fitzgerald found her recording of Bewitched banned because it included an explicit verse that was never in included the more familiar bowdlerised version. Presumably when the infamous Je t’aime was released, the Committee took an absence of leave to go into therapy!
Some exclusions are bizarre and often risible. One of the big hits of 1942 was Deep in the Heart of Texas which has a four-note clapping motif just before its chorus. The BBC, in Orwellian mode, would not allow the song to be heard during working hours because factory workers would pause and clap their hands thereby neglecting their labours, albeit for a couple of seconds!
Believe it not but Henry Hall’s 1934 recording of his composition Radio Times was banned on the grounds of advertising whilst the reason for withdrawing Greensleeves by The Beverley Sisters was that it ‘has a special place as an endearing melody of peculiar significance’ and would be debased by dance bands whose treatments would be inappropriate. The Sisters had retaliated with We Have to Be So Careful, which good-naturedly and humorously ridiculed the Committee but, with the BBC not wanting to even admit that such a department existed, it remained unheard. Who were they trying to fool?
In retrospect, it all seems unnecessary and totally misguided compounded by the fact that the BBC felt, arrogantly, being what it was, it was their duty to decide on behalf of British listeners what was fitting and proper.
This article appeared in the August 2013 issue of ‘Journal Into Melody’
Saturday, November 5th 1977 - Royal Albert Hall, London
By GARETH BRAMLEY
Slightly later than usual, the 8th Festival of Film & TV Music - compered again by Sir Richard Attenborough - featured John Addison, Dominic Frontiere and Robert Sharples. 1977 was Jubilee Year and the concert also celebrated the golden jubilee of Paramount Pictures (1928-1977) with a fine selection of themes and scores. The studio’s head of music, Dominic Frontiere, flew over from Hollywood especially for this event. He was maybe an unknown in the UK at the time but his TV output in the States had been prolific.
The Mike Sammes Singers also added their distinctive backing vocals to the evening’s concert, a major part of which featured the music from the films of Joseph E. Levine. It was all specially orchestrated by Johnny Gregory who - since the actual scores were not available - had to listen to hours and hours of music, and make copious notes before producing the scores for the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, who played the music for the 8th consecutive year. The orchestra was again augmented by Roland Harker on guitar; Don Innes on piano; Bobby Orr on drums; and Russ Stableford on fender bass.
Following the fanfare ‘Music From the Movies’ arranged by John Gregory and conducted by Don Innes, Bob Sharples raised the baton for ‘The Music of Independent Television – Classical Themes’ - some examples of where classical music had been adapted for use as a TV Theme.
This was split into three distinct regions as follows:
Southampton, Belfast and Birmingham
Moldavian Dance – Liana (c.1950) (Schalaster) from ‘Music in Camera’ (Southern TV)
Violin Sonata Op.5 – Giga (1700) (Corelli) from Food of Love’ (Ulster TV)
Sinfonietta (1926) (Janacek) (‘Crown Court’) (ATV)
London and Manchester
Karelia Suite – 3rd Movement – Alla Marcia (1893) (Sibelius) (‘This Week’) (Thames TV)
English Dances – No.5 (1950) (Arnold) (‘What the Papers Say’) (Granada TV)
Norwich and Leeds
Bassoon Concerto in E Minor P137 – 3rd Movement – Allegro (c.1725) (Vivaldi)
(‘Survival’) (Anglia TV)
Coronation March – Crown Imperial (1937) (Walton) (‘Justice’) (Yorkshire TV)
The concert continued with ‘Thanks For The Memory – 50 Years of Paramount Film Music’ all of which was conducted by Dominic Frontiere. ‘The Early Days’ sequence began with ‘A Precious Little Thing Called Love’ (Coots) from ‘The Shopwork Angel’ (1928); followed by ‘Louise’ (Whiting) from the 1929 film ‘Innocents of Paris’; and ‘Falling In Love Again’ (Hollander) from ‘The Blue Angel’ (1930).
The next section was ‘The Classic Dramas’ consisting of Miklos Rozsa’s ‘The Lost Weekend’ (1945); Franz Waxman’s ‘Sunset Boulevard’ (1950); Bernard Herrmann’s ‘Psycho’ (1960); and finally Victor Young’s music from ‘Samson & Delilah’ (1949).
‘Paramount Americana’ featured Neal Hefti’s theme from ‘The Odd Couple’ (1968); two Elmer Bernstein themes – ‘Hud’ from 1963 and ‘True Grit’ from 1969 – and ended with Victor Young’s theme from the Western ‘Shane’ (1953).
The main section in the first part of the concert – ‘The Great Songs’ was a celebration of some of the studio’s songs, which had won awards for best song. The running order was as follows:
Thanks For the Memory – The Big Broadcast of 1938 (Rainger)
Moon River – Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961) (Mancini)
Swinging on a Star – Going My Way (1944) (Van Heusen)
All the Way – The Joker Is Wild (1957) (Van Heusen)
Sweet Leilani – Waikiki Wedding (1937) (Owens)
Buttons and Bows – The Paleface (1948) (Livingston-Evans)
Mona Lisa – Captain Carey, USA (1950) (Livingston-Evans)
That’s Amore – The Caddy ((1953) (Warren)
Call Me Irresponsible – Papa’s Delicate Condition (1963) (Van Heusen)
In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening – Here Comes the Groom (1951) (Carmichael)
White Christmas – Holiday Inn (1942) (Berlin)
The final selections – under the title ‘Directed by De Mille’ were ‘The Ten Commandments’ – the Elmer Bernstein theme from 1956; and Victor Young’s ‘The Greatest Show On Earth’ from 1952.
As if the above wasn’t enough, the highlight of the concert was still to come in part two with John Addison conducting ‘The Name Above the Title’ – a tribute to Joseph E. Levine – featuring twenty of the films he presented. All the selections were specially arranged and orchestrated by John Gregory, as detailed previously, with the exception of Addison’s own ‘A Bridge Too Far’ and all vocals were by The Mike Sammes Singers. The ‘Main Theme’ and ‘A Dutch Rhapsody’ (both from the film) had been released by United Artists (on single and LP) when the film opened in June ’77. The label had previously released ‘Girl With Green Eyes’ / ‘Love Theme from ‘Tom Jones’ in May 1965.
Again certain tunes were arranged into sections – and followed the ‘Overture’, which was Percy Faith’s ‘Academy Award Night’ from ‘The Oscar’ (1966). It was called ‘Franco-Italian Suite’ and began with Henry Mancini’s ‘Love Theme from ‘Sunflower’’ (1970). Nino Rota’s theme from Fellini’s ‘8 and a Half’ (1963) followed. Then it was George Delerue’s ‘The Fashion House’ from ‘Promise at Dawn’ (1970); Armando Trovajoli’s ‘Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow’ (1964); Francis Lai’s ‘La Bonna Annee’ (‘Happy New Year’) (1974); and finally another of Nina Rota’s themes for another Fellini picture ‘Boccaccio ’70 (1962).
‘Selections from the USA’ was the next sequence starting with ‘Scarborough Fair’ and ‘The Sound of Silence’ from ‘The Graduate’ (1967) composed by pop duo Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel. Roy Budd’s ‘How Wonderful Life Is’ from the 1970 film ‘Soldier Blue’ was next, followed by Andre Previn’s ‘A Long Day’s Journey Into Night’ (1962); ‘Springtime For Hitler’ from John Morris’ score to ‘The Producers’ (1968); Georges Delerue’s ‘Day of the Dolphin’ (1973); Elmer Bernstein’s theme from ‘The Capetbaggers’ (1964); Neal Hefti’s ‘Girl Talk’ from ‘Harlow’ (1965); and finally Alfred Newman’s theme from the 1966 film ‘Nevada Smith’.
‘Made In England’ was the final section including two themes by British composer John Barry – the first ‘Isandhlwana’ from the 1964 film ‘Zulu’. This was followed by the Barrie-Cahn composition ‘A Touch of Class’ from 1973; Johnny Dankworth’s ‘Darling’ from 1965; the 2nd John Barry composition ‘The Lion In Winter’ (1968). The final theme was that which John Addision wrote (and specially arranged for the concert) for the film ‘A Bridge Too Far’ which, as mentioned previously, had opened in June.
Mike Sammes (1928-2001) learnt cello and played in his school orchestra. He worked briefly for Chappell & Co, the London music publisher, and after National Service in the RAF in the late 40s he worked on a variety of jobs until fellow musician Bill Shepherd convinced him to form a group called The Coronets. They recorded some cover versions of hit records for Columbia and some back up vocals for The Big Ben Banjo Band. After bringing together a group of singers in 1955 it wasn’t long before they were accompanying many British singers and doing other work for radio including jingles.
The Mike Sammes Singers were formed and they recorded at least seven albums between 1962 and 1988 in addition to recording on many of the Disneyland Records made for children. Sammes had backed a whole host of artists over the years – Ronnie Hilton; Tommy Steele; Anthony Newley; Helen Shapiro; Engelbert Humperdinck; Tom Jones and Ken Dodd; Barbra Streisand; Kenneth McKellar; Bette Davis; Mrs. Mills; Dionne Warwick; Danny La Rue; Rex Harrsion and Gilbert O’ Sullivan. They also worked with Morecambe & Wise and on the hit record ‘Whispering Grass’ by Don Estelle & Windsor Davies, which reached No.1 in the UK singles charts in June 1975; and previously Michael Holliday’s ‘Starry Eyed’, which also reached No.1 in January 1960. Another notable single was a version of ‘A Man and a Woman’ released in July 1967 for HMV. The singers also recorded numerous singles and albums for Music For Pleasure – one of the most popular being an album of Wombling Songs in 1975.
After his death record entrepreneur Johnny Trunk released a CD of music from Sammes’ own reel-to-reel tapes entitled ‘Music For Biscuits’ - which contained many of his advertising jingles including ‘Tuc Biscuits’.
John Gregory (b.1924) studied violin and composition and during his childhood deputised for various members of his father’s band – whilst at the same time composing and arranging for his father. He learnt solo violin under Afredo Campoli. Gregory has arranged and conducted for many artists including Anthony Newley; Cleo Lane; Matt Monro; Connie Francis; Nana Mouskouri and Peters and Lee. He was the principal conductor for the BBC Radio Orchestra during 1973-74 and has worked widely in the world of TV, films and jingles.
Under the name Chaquito, he released a very successful Latin-American album (‘TV Thrillers’) reaching No.45 in the UK album charts in March 1972. A single from this - ‘Hawaii Five-0’ / ‘Ironside’ - was issued in July 1972. This was followed by another TV Themes album - ‘The Detectives’ - in 1976 with his own orchestra which spawned a single ‘Cannon’ / ‘Streets of San Francisco’. ‘Spies and Dolls’ – by The Chaquito Big Band was released in 1972. The two 1972 albums have been reissued on CD by Vocalion. In addition to Chaquito (Big Band) he conducted The Cascading Strings - another alias was Nino Rico. He also recorded for Standard Music Library in the early 70s.
In 1976 Gregory won the Ivor Novello Award as composer of the best instrumental work for ‘Introduction & Air to a Stained Glass Window’ featured on his album ‘A Man For All Seasons’. His self-composed ‘Jaguar’ from this album was issued on the flip side of a single of his version of Charles Aznavour’s ‘’She’ on United Artists in March 1975.
Robert ‘Bob’ Sharples (1913-1987) started playing piano at the age of seven and moved on to organ at age eleven. He studied orchestration, composition and conducting with Sir Hamilton Harty until he came to London to try his luck with jazz. After establishing himself playing piano in nightclubs, Sharples used his knowledge of orchestration in the writing of arrangements for top dance bands such as Ambrose; Jack Harris; Roy Fox and Carroll Gibbons. In 1934 he joined the Freddy Platt band at the Carlton Ballroom, Rochdale along with Geoff Love, playing piano whilst Love played trombone. In 1963 Sharples conducted the London Festival Orchestra for a Phase 4 recording of the ‘1812 Overture’.
After demobbing from the Army in 1945 he resumed his musical career. In the 60s his record of the ‘1812 Overture’ and the ‘Nutcracker Suite’ was in the US charts for nearly three months following which he became the only Englishman to be commissioned by Duke Ellington to write for his orchestra. ‘Uncle Bob’ Sharples (as he became known to Hughie Green) was musical director for ‘Opportunity Knocks’ on TV and composed the themes for ‘Public Eye’ (1966-69); ‘Special Branch’ (1969); ‘Napoleon and Love’ (TV mini-series – 1974); ’Harriet’s Back in Town’ (1972); ‘The Explorers’ (1972); ‘Man Alive Report’ (1965); ‘If Britain Had Fallen’ (1972).
Another programme was ‘The Americans’ – a 10 part series for the BBC - which he had just completed prior to the concert. He also wrote the music for the silent film ‘Futtock’s End (1970); worked on ‘Hancock’s Half Hour’ (1958); ‘Dave Allen at Large’ (1971); ‘The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes’ (1971-73); and ‘Minder’ (1979-80). Standout films with music composed by Sharples were: ‘Where There’s a Will’ (1955); ‘Home and Away’ (1956); Battle of the V-1’ (1958); and ‘A Prize of Arms’ (1962). Under the name Robert Earley (a musicians’ joke – he always arrived late for sessions!) he wrote the theme for the TV series ‘Man at the Top’ (1970).
Dominic Frontiere (b. 1931) was playing musical instruments at age seven before concentrating on the accordion and at age 12 played a solo at Carnegie Hall. After working with a big band in the late 40s/early 50s he moved to Los Angeles where he enrolled at the UCLA. He then became musical director at 20th Century Fox, scoring several films under the tutelage of Alfred and Lionel Newman, whilst recording jazz music. Frontiere met director and producer Leslie Stevens (scoring ‘The Outer Limits’ for TV) and later worked on Quinn Martin productions such as ‘The Invaders’; ‘The Fugitive’ and ’12 o’ Clock High’.
This led to scoring the films‘ Hang ‘Em High’ (1968) and ‘On Any Sunday’ (1971). Frontiere then became head of the music department at Paramount Pictures in the early 70s – hence his appearance at this concert - even composing a jingle for the studio’s TV department. At the same time he orchestrated popular music albums for artists like Gladys Knight and Chicago.
One of Frontiere’s most memorable themes appeared on both the UK and USA on a United Artists single in June 1968: ‘Hang ‘Em High’ backed with the love theme ‘Rachel’. In the 70s he had a major success with his music from ‘Washington: Behind Closed Doors’, which was released on album by ABC. A single was issued in the States; and here in the UK in Feb ’78. Another notable single release was ‘One Foot In Hell’ / ‘From The Terrace (Love Theme)’ released on Philips as early as 1962 - though these were not his compositions. United Artists also released the title theme from ‘Popi’ in 1969; and in January 1977 Buddah issued a single from the 1976 soundtrack album ‘Pipe Dreams’ (which he arranged) by Gladys Knight & The Pips.
Frontiere worked on numerous TV series providing scores and themes: ‘The New Breed’ and ‘Rawhide’ (1961); ‘Stoney Burke’ (1962-63); ‘The Outer Limits’ (1963); ‘Branded’ (1965); ‘The Fugitive’ (1964-66); ‘F.B.I.’ (1965-67); ‘Iron Horse’ (1966-67); ‘The Flying Nun’ (1967); ‘The Rat Patrol’ (1966-67);‘The Invaders’ (1967-68); ‘Search Control’ (1972-3); ‘Chopper One’ (1974); ‘Vegas’ (1978-81); and ‘Matt Houston’ (1982-84).
Some of his film scoring highlights were; ‘One Foot In Hell’ (1960); ‘Billie’ (1965); ‘Hang ‘Em High’ (1968); ‘Popi’ (1969); ‘Freebie & The Bean (1974); ‘Brannigan’ (1975); ‘Pipe Dreams’ (1976); ‘The Stunt Man’ (1980); ‘The Aviator’ (1985); ‘Colour of Night’ (1994); and his last film score ‘Behind the Badge (2002) - in addition to numerous TV movies.
Frontiere won the Golden Globe award for ‘The Stuntman’ in 1981 and was nominated in 1995 for ‘The Color of Night’. He also won a Primetime Emmy Award in 1971 for his TV work for ‘Swing Out Sweet Land’.
The evening’s final conductor, John Addison (1920-1998), entered the Royal College of Music aged 16 where he studied composition with Gordon Jacob; oboe with Leon Goossens; and clarinet with Frederick Thurston. After the war had ended he returned to London to teach composition at the RCM. His film scores, for which he is best known include: ‘A Taste of Honey’ (1961); ‘Smashing Time’ and ‘The Honey Pot’ (1967); ‘Sleuth’ (1972); ‘Swashbuckler’ (1976) and the TV mini series ‘Centennial’ (1978). When Alfred Hitchcock ended his association with Bernard Herrmann he turned to Addison to score ‘Torn Curtain’ in 1966.
Addison also wrote for the theatre – John Osborne’s plays ‘The Entertainer’ (1957) and ‘Luther’ (1961). He collaborated with John Cranko on a revue, ‘Cranks’ in 1956. His classical works included a trumpet concerto; a trio for oboe, clarinet and bassoon - ‘Carte Blanche’; a ballet for Sadler’s Wells; a septet for wind and harp; a concert ante for oboe, clarinet, horn and orchestra; and a partite for strings. Other notable TV themes were: ‘Sherlock Holmes’ and ‘Detective’ (both 1964); ‘The Eddie Capra Mysteries’ (1978-9);
Addison won the ASCAP Film & Television Music Award six times between 1988 and 1995 for his work on ‘Murder She Wrote’(1984). He won an Oscar and Grammy in 1964 for ‘Tom Jones’ and received a further nomination in 1973 for ‘Sleuth’. He also won the BAFTA in 1978 for ‘A Bridge Too Far’; a previous nomination in 1969 for ‘The Charge of the Light Brigade’; and was awarded a Primetime Emmy award in 1985 for ‘Murder She Wrote’.
Sadly, a recording of the evening’s performance is not available though LWT did screen highlights of an hour at 23.15pm on 17th December under the heading ‘Saturday Special’. It would be 1979 before another audio recording would be made featuring music from the Filmharmonic concerts!
For 1978 there would be a new orchestra – well NEW to Filmharmonic and a new compere! The main composer would be Marvin Hamlisch – flavour of the year at the time - who sadly died last year.
This feature first appeared in ‘Journal Into Melody’ August 2013.
David Mardon seeks some answers
Older readers may recall that, shortly before his death on 7 September 1978, Charles Williams, conductor of the Queen’s Hall Light Orchestra, joined the Robert Farnon Society. During this period he was interviewed by the late Michael Maine, at one time the Editor of this magazine, and Charles explained how initially the Chappell recordings on single sided 78s (four sides per session) were recorded on Saturday mornings at EMI Special Studios between March 1942 and January 1943.
However there was then a ‘hiatus’ until 1944 when Charles Williams resumed recording at Levy’s Sound Studios in New Bond Street – not necessarily on Saturday mornings but on weekdays – mornings and afternoons – until the back end of 1946. These included several retakes of certain numbers.
It was shortly before 1947 that the Sidney Torch / Robert Farnon sessions commenced, with Torch conducting mornings and Farnon in the afternoons, back once again at EMI Studios with four sides per session. This was mentioned to me by the late Anthony Mawer (who was also an enthusiastic member of the RFS).
The last time I met Bob Farnon at the 80th Birthday Celebrations he expressed surprise that I had spotted that he did the afternoon shifts, with Sidney Torch in the mornings. He also explained that occasionally Torch would go in all day, presumably to do some New Century Orchestra recordings for Francis, Day & Hunter, using mostly the same musicians.
I then asked Bob why Chappells had moved from EMI to Decca at the Kingsway Hall for the recordings between C349 and C373. He couldn’t remember but did say that Chappells were not too keen on the recorded sound of the Decca ones, which included Comic Mystic, Oriental March, Gateway To The West and Manhattan Playboy, as well as the two dance band 78s which he conducted, although he himself was quite satisfied with the results.
So from Goodwood Galop to Huckle Buckle and the C387 of Hubert Clifford’s Epic Story/Heavy Industry it was back to EMI Studios, at which point the Musicians’ Union ban stopped future recordings in Britain for many years.
I have no idea who decided which compositions by other composers were allocated to which conductor. But in the case of Gideon Fagan all of his five compositions recorded during the second half of 1947 were conducted by Bob, because he wanted to be present at the sessions. Fagan was conducting Grieg’s "Song Of Norway" at the time in London, and would be free most afternoons. Also I have no idea why Philip Green conducted just one Chappell side – C273 Valse D’Amour by Tony Lowry.
This feature appeared in the August 2013 issue of ‘Journal Into Melody’
THE MUSICAL ROBERT FARNON NEVER WROTE
Former Radio 2 producer Anthony Wills uncovers the extraordinary tale behind a lost musical of the 1950s
Some readers may recall reading in JIM180 that in 2009 my company Golden Sounds Productions restored and recorded an operetta called A Queen For Sunday with book by Alfred Dunning and lyrics and music by Leslie Julian Jones. Leslie (1910-73) was a family friend who rented a flat in my parents’ house in the 1950s. He had already composed A Queen For Sunday in the late 1940s and was now working on a musical adaptation of the 1941 novel No Bed For Bacon, written by Caryl Brahms and S.J. Simon – real name Seca Jascha Skidelsky (known as "Skid" to his friends). Brahms and Simon had written other books together, notably A Bullet In the Ballet (1937).
No Bed For Bacon is set in the time of Elizabeth I (so the "Bacon" referred to is Sir Francis Bacon, who never gets the second-hand bed the Queen has promised him) and tells the story of Viola de Lesseps, a lady-in-waiting who is besotted with the players at the Globe Theatre, and Shakespeare in particular. In order to join the company (which employs only male actors) Viola disguises herself as a boy and impresses Shakespeare and theatre impresario Richard Burbage sufficiently to obtain a walk-on part in one of their plays. During the performance the theatre catches fire and the company is forced to re-locate to the other side of the Thames. Shakespeare subsequently meets Viola at the court without realizing that she is the boy actor, and they fall in love.
I decided to do some detective work on the origins of the show that Leslie Julian Jones was composing and uncovered a remarkable chain of events, which I will now try to summarize.
In 1957 Caryl Brahms had been approached by a young man named Ned Sherrin who had read No Bed For Bacon while at Oxford and felt it might make a good musical. He thought the show should be called What You Will! which, apart from being a very bad pun, was the alternative title to one of Shakespeare’s masterpieces, Twelfth Night. The hook was that Shakespeare had named the heroine of Twelfth Night Viola, which implied that he might have had a relationship with someone of that name. Sherrin suggested that his Oxford friend Leopold Antelme should be commissioned to write the score. Antelme, who was four years older than Sherrin, had written the music for several OUDS revues and the two of them subsequently worked on several shows together, including some of the songs in producer Laurier Lister’s Airs On A Shoe String, starring Denis Quilley, which had been staged at London’s Royal Court Theatre in April 1953.
The following year, 1954, Sherrin and Antelme collaborated on a musical, Gentleman Upcott’s Daughter, which they subsequently offered to Owen Read, Head of Drama at BBC Bristol. After a great deal of consideration involving several layers of BBC management it was accepted, and the orchestration was placed in the hands of Max Saunders. Denis Quilley and Jane Wenham (who was to be married to Albert Finney in 1957) were cast in the leading roles.
The show was recorded in Bristol on 8 January 1956 with the augmented BBC Chorus and the BBC Concert Orchestra conducted by Frank Cantell. Leopold Antelme was present at the recording, which was broadcast on the West of England Home Service just two days later. Antelme requested a copy of the tape but as a failsafe he decided to tape it at home as it was being transmitted.
The show was well received. The BBC Audience Appreciation Report said "These songs, unsophisticated and gay, were the kind to set the errand boys whistling and the toes tapping, and they were woven effectively into an equally simple story." The writers were therefore somewhat disappointed to receive a letter from Owen Read stating that the actual listening figures were not sufficient to warrant a repeat broadcast. It was then that Ned Sherrin decided to approach Caryl Brahms with the idea of turning No Bed For Bacon into a musical.
Antelme now set to work on the score but then discovered that Miss Brahms had also approached several more established composers including Arthur Benjamin (who famously wrote Jamaican Rumba), Larry Adler (then riding high with the theme from Genevieve) and ….. Robert Farnon. Why they turned her down I do not know: it may have been a question of money, or perhaps they were simply too busy. The task eventually fell to Leslie Julian Jones, who was an established composer of revue material for the likes of Hermione Baddeley and Hermione Gingold, as well as light music pieces including Postman’s Knock. Antelme took no further part but two of his numbers ended up being used in the finished show: a setting of Shakespeare’s Fear No More The Heat O’ The Sun (words from Cymbeline) and a song called The First Day Of Summer, which had been performed as a duet by Denis Quilley and Jane Wenham in the afore-mentioned BBC broadcast.
Eventually What You Will! was finished, and in 1957 it was tried out in an amateur production at the West Horsley Village Hall in Surrey. Leslie and his wife, the choreographer Hazel Gee, had already produced two revues for the West Horsley Institute Players, an amateur society which also contained several professional actors. Brahms and Sherrin attended a performance and were impressed. My father and I recorded it on a Grundig machine and the tapes were submitted to actor-manager Bernard Miles, who was looking for a production for his newly opened Mermaid Theatre in the City of London. Miles turned it down in favour of Lock Up Your Daughters!, a bawdy romp based on an 18th-century comedy, Rape Upon Rape by Henry Fielding, and set to music by Lionel Bart with lyrics by Laurie Johnson.
Brahms and Sherrin then changed their minds again and decided to commission Malcolm Williamson (then Master of the Queen’s Musick) to write a completely fresh score for What You Will! The show opened at the Bristol Old Vic in 1959 under the title of the original novel, No Bed For Bacon. Brahms and Williamson were both eccentric and quick tempered and during rehearsals Williamson famously emptied a pint of beer over her head (or wig, actually)! The production received a favourable review in the Times and undertook a brief tour of the provinces including Croydon and Golders Green: it failed, however, to attract audiences and subsequently disappeared. Brahms and Sherrin went on to write I Gotta Show, a black re-telling of the Cinderella story which was presented at London’s Garrick Theatre in december 1962, starring Cleo Laine, Elisabeth Welch and Cy Grant. This time the music was written by Ron Grainer and conducted by Peter Knight.
Nearly 30 years later after What You Will!, in 1998, an extraordinary thing happened. A film called Shakespeare In Love, starring Joseph Fiennes as Shakespeare and Gwyneth Paltrow as Viola, swept the board at the Hollywood Oscars. It was so clearly based on No Bed For Bacon and this was taken up by the Daily Mail and other papers, who approached the screenwriters Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard for comment. Stoppard said he had glanced at the book but was not influenced by it. By then I was working for BBC Radio 2 and seized the opportunity to raise the matter with Ned Sherrin when we both attended the Vivian Ellis Musical Theatre awards: but he "didn’t want to know". My theory (and it is only a theory) is that some kind of financial deal was reached with the estates of the original writers, but Brahms and Simon and Leslie Julian Jones were all dead, so there was no-one else to ask.
There the matter lay, but I wanted to ensure that What You Will!, of which I still had the tapes, did not vanish forever. I played it to the critic Mark Steyn, who had written and presented some Radio 2 documentaries for me, and he agreed. Leslie Julian Jones’ daughter, Candida, who is now a freelance TV producer, had been pleased with my reconstruction of A Queen For Sunday and was happy for me to do the same for What You Will!. Budgetary constraints forced me to limit the project to just four songs, two by Leslie Julian Jones and two by Leopold Antelme, all of which had been sung in the show by Lady Viola. I dusted down the tapes and sent them to master arranger Paul Campbell, who was working with John Wilson on the Proms concerts of Hollywood and Broadway musicals and had done a sterling job on A Queen For Sunday.
The problem was that neither Candida nor I had a copy of the score or even the script, so Paul and I had to transcribe the songs laboriously from the rather primitive tapes, after which I decided to arrange them for soloist, ladies chorus, piano, double bass, drums and percussion. I had recently seen a production of Jerry Herman’s Dear World starring Betty Buckley at the Charing Cross Theatre and been impressed by a young singer named Katy Treharne. Katy auditioned for me alongside two other singers and won by a mile. My old Radio 2 friend Annie Skates, who now works as a vocal coach on The X Factor and whose group Capital Voices is much in demand for concert work, supplied the chorus, and the songs were recorded, with Iain Sutherland conducting, at Resident Studios in Willesden Green in May 2013.
At that very moment something equally astonishing happened. Out of the blue Candida received a letter, forwarded by her agent, from Basil Ede, who had played the part of Shakespeare in the 1957 production. Basil, who is now 82, enclosed a photograph of himself as the Bard and said how much he had enjoyed playing the part and what an inspiration Leslie and Hazel had been to the company. The show was especially significant for him as he had met his wife, who was in the chorus! Basil went on to become a world famous bird illustrator. At the age of 38 he suffered a stroke but managed to teach himself how to paint with his other hand. Basil knew that Chip Coveney, who had played Lady Viola, was also still alive and living in France. Meanwhile I had searched the internet and found that Leopold Antelme was also still with us. Leopold, now 86, has kindly provided much of the information for this article. By the time it appears in JIM I shall have been to his home to present him with a copy of the recording and listen to his vintage recording of the BBC broadcast referred to above. I’ll also send the original Lady Viola a copy of the CD: I think she will be astonished to hear the songs she sang 56 years ago.
To bring the story right up to date, The Disney Corporation have now taken an option on the film of Shakespeare In Love, and I am convinced that in the not-too- distant future I shall be sitting in a West End theatre watching Shakespeare In Love – The Musical…. so the show that Robert Farnon never wrote will reach new audiences.
This article appeared in the August 2013 issue of ‘Journal Into Melody’
By Franck Leprince
On 14th April 2013, Barrett Films celebrated five years of the Magic of Mantovani Orchestra, with Mantovani’s Golden Hits of The Sixties. This tremendously successful near sell-out event is proof beyond doubt, that our kind of music is as popular today, as when it was first written over fifty years ago.
The audience obviously thoroughly enjoyed the music judging by their unrelenting, enthusiastic applause after every number, through to the last item – Monty’s signature tune, Charmaine (which, on some of the original parts, dare I reveal, had been altered to Chow Mein – by his brass players).
What is generally not realized by the audience however is that in order for a lavish show of this scale to take place a considerable amount of work spanning several months is necessary.
Paul Barrett is the Director of both Barrett Films, and the Mantovani concerts, and I am the Producer. Between us, and down to the tiniest, but not least important detail, all the work is divided, although special mention must be made of Jack Maguire, our orchestra contractor, who from our third concert onwards has accepted the responsibility of gathering together 43 – 48 of the UK’s top musicians. The key players however, are still chosen by Paul and me.
The Director’s responsibilities are immense, and Paul is committed to working a seven-day week virtually throughout the twelve to eighteen month-long preparation period, with weekends reserved for continual meetings between us. My time is balanced finely between my other professional commitments, and producing the concerts.
The cycle typically begins with a succession of informal meetings, at which we discuss preliminary ideas for the concerts. The theme of a concert is vitally important, as this provides the basis of everything, and determines which pieces we will eventually perform. For this year’s concert, all of the music had to be recognizable for its almost fluorescent prominence during the 1960s - either composed within that decade, or made popular again (Charmaine, for example, became a hit by the Bachelors). We thought carefully about how we might perhaps persuade younger people to come to the performance. Although most forty-five, to fifty year-olds would probably be too young to remember Mantovani’s music being played daily on the radio in the Sixties, many of them might well remember their parents playing his albums well into the Seventies and beyond.
The 1960s’ decennium happens to be remarkably popular among today’s school pupils and college students as too, are the 1970s, but unless you were around in those days, you would perhaps only be familiar with a fraction of what was then popular.
Eventually, the arduous task of selecting pieces suitable for the programme arrives. Both Paul and I remember the Sixties well, but since Paul was already earning a living while I was busy playing truant from school, our tastes vary accordingly. We tend to choose pieces either for reasons of contrast, or because they have something in common with other pieces. For example, film themes may be positioned together, as might French songs, or dances.
In the case of our own concerts, another category is vital: Who is the arranger of the piece? Mantovani had three main arrangers, and was himself a consummate arranger, and I would argue, probably the best of them all. By the time we have made our preliminary selection, it is then referred to fellow Mantovanians Colin Mackenzie, Alan Dixon, and Timothy Milner, for their opinions.
It wasn’t until we were fairly decided on this year’s programme, that we realized that many of the pieces from the Sixties, particularly the rock-rhythm arrangements of Roland Shaw, required additional brass instruments, as well as an electric keyboard. We had to decide whether or not to augment the standard 43-piece orchestra, or change some of the pieces. But it soon became apparent that certain iconic pieces of the era simply could not be dispensed with. A further problem lay in the ubiquitous trend at the time, for ‘fade-outs’ at track-endings. We knew from previous concerts, that in these cases, the arrangers simply wrote the words "repeat [these bars] several times and fade out" in the parts, instead of inventing a proper coda.
One of my responsibilities in cases like these is to create concert codas, simply because to expect even the best of musicians to ‘fade out’ in a live performance, is asking a little too much. This is easier said than done. The new endings have to be thought out carefully, tastefully, and tailored to fit seamlessly, in order to sound as the original arranger had intended, and obviously include the same complement of players (e.g. one cannot suddenly include, say, a soprano saxophone in the last four bars with credibility, if that instrument has not already been heard in the same piece).
Even though Mantovani was streets ahead of everyone else in the business by including the most recent and current popular hits of the times, there were inevitably some Sixties pieces that he just didn’t manage to include, perhaps owing to time restrictions. Two such classics are the James Bond Theme, and The Avengers, which are as intrinsic to their time, as was John Stephen, Mary Quant, Twiggy, the Post Office Tower, the Daleks, Concorde, and the Yellow Submarine. Both arrangements had to be scored, so that they appealed not only to the fans of James Bond, The Avengers, and Mantovani alike, but also so that they would span the entire decade in question. I therefore arranged the first of these themes to reflect the first and last films of the decade (Dr No , and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service , and the latter as a version, faithful to the ‘Emma Peel years’ (1965 – 1967), and ‘Tara King season’ from 1968 to 1969.
Paul decided it was the right time to include for the first time in our concerts, a singer. He had recently discovered the very versatile, abundantly talented Joy Tobing, who had won the Indonesian Pop Idol title. Our concert made it possible for Joy to make her debut in the United Kingdom, and she chose to sing Dusty Springfield’s song You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me, and a song written specially for her. The task of arranging the Dusty Springfield hit fell to me, while Joy’s M.D. Matheson Bayley arranged Love’s Promised Land. Paul suggested we include a repeat performance of my concerto-like interpretation of Ron Grainer’s famous Maigret Theme, which Eddie Hession once again delivered with great panache on accordion. One of the pleasures of arranging for an orchestra like this is that one has the chance to write with individual musicians in mind, to exploit those abilities and techniques at which they excel. Had it not been for trumpeter Mike Lovatt, for instance, ‘my’ Bond and Avengers themes would not have been possible unless a severe compromise was made (too many cover versions lack the ‘screamer’ trumpets of the originals, for instance, because they are played by symphony orchestra musicians who generally cannot play the extensive range of notes needed for this sort of music). The ideas for a single arrangement may spring almost instantly to mind, and easily take a whole afternoon to commit to paper, in the form of a conductor’s score. The single parts must then be copied from the score, and written out in a form which is clearly legible for the musicians at first glance. For an orchestra of forty-eight, this can easily amount to a combined time of around four days, for a piece of music lasting say, only two minutes. Fast-moving pieces will contain more bars than slower pieces, if they are to last long enough, and rapid passages are typically made up of more notes, each lasting perhaps quarter of a second, but which must be carefully and neatly written. Fortunately, this can be done using a computer programme nowadays. Once the score is complete, individual parts may be printed at the click of a mouse-button. When I first started writing music, photocopiers didn’t exist, and therefore identical copies of the same part would need to be written out by hand, by dipping a nib into Indian ink, and hoping that it wouldn’t flow too quickly from the nib. Inferior paper would sometimes cause the ink to spread, just like blotting paper does. Writing for up to nine desks of First fiddles was an act of courage and endurance, before then tackling the Seconds, and so on. If I smudged notes, they would usually be in the last few bars, and I would have to start again. Fortunately we have progressed, but I am now impatient at the speed of my printer, and curse and swear every time I have to replace the ink cartridge.
I always enjoy writing show opening music, and ‘intros’ because this is the first moment when an audience is exposed to the sound of the evening’s orchestra. This year I wanted to make the audience feel right from the start, as though they had somehow been transported back in time, After a short introduction, during which Up, Up, And Away, The Pink Panther, Soul Bossa Nova (Austin Powers), and Batman all made reference to corresponding images on a large video screen, the scene was set for a bossa nova-style Charmaine, which paid homage towards its end to Ronald Binge’s famous version, and which ended with the "Charmaine cascade", which this time was scored for full brass, rather than for strings. Although the ‘Bossa nova’ rhythm was first heard at a Brazilian university concert in 1958, and later in the film Black Orpheus (1959) it became a hugely popular and enduring Sixties’ rhythm, which many claim is as successful as Rock. Conspicuously, Mantovani never included this rhythm in any of his recordings, save for a pseudo-bossa nova rhythm in Francis Lai’s Un homme et une femme, from 1966.
After much deliberating, and varied opinions, a definitive programme is chosen, and the pieces are then placed in an order which we feel allows not only for contrast, but which also gives certain players an all-important chance to rest. The programme order also serves to enhance continuity and the announcements by our introducer, Ed ‘Stewpot’ Stewart (without whom, the Sixties would not have existed),
In due course we acquire the scores and parts from the Mantovani Library. Kenneth Mantovani is the Librarian, and he has the unenviable task of locating all the music in the Mantovani Music Library catalogue, which he personally transports from London, via Tunbridge Wells, to Poole.
The scores and parts are painstakingly checked before they are put into the musicians’ pads (folders), inevitably revealing anomalies such as missing parts, or alternate versions, and sometimes additional parts need to be copied out. Usually we both do this together, but this year, Paul unfortunately had to do most of this by himself while I was orchestrating and formatting the scores and parts to my own arrangements. This year, additional trumpet parts had to be written for the third trumpeter so that he wouldn’t be left out of much of the programme. Such a seemingly straightforward task seems to invite error, and unless the pads are thoroughly checked repeatedly, mistakes do happen. No stone is left unturned, simply because we know otherwise that no turn will be left ‘unstoned’ on the big day.
Once I have completed the arrangements, and the parts are safely in the pads, it is time for me to start writing the concert notes for Ed’s introductions. Plenty of research is required, and I am indebted to both Colin Mackenzie, whose knowledge is without bounds, and to Alan Dixon, for his fascinating observations which give valuable insight into Mantovani’s methods. The notes are then typed in a succinct and easy-to-read fashion, the pages printed, and the various bits of information then cut into sections to fit onto backing cards, which in turn need to be made presentable for the audience.
At varying stages, before, during, and after these time-consuming activities, we take time to think about advertising – all within a strict budget. Paul handles the marketing, and I design the artwork, including the typefaces (fonts) we use, and set out all the text. Fortunately, I had many years of experience working as a sign writer, and as a calligrapher, also working for a newspaper publisher before I became a professional musician. I never forgot the valuable tricks I learned then, and my later years in Arts management at the Lighthouse in Poole has also enabled me to develop other useful skills. The text is very carefully decided upon between Paul and me, before it is matched to the available space on the flyers, posters, and in the ‘Collector’s Souvenir Programme’.
Then we carry out the editorial and proof-reading tasks before we submit the artwork and text to be ‘realized’ on computer, and, once we approve of the work, sent to print. Nowadays text may easily be changed, and design work can be altered at any stage, before it is sent to print. Musicians occasionally inform us that they are no longer available to play, and their replacements then have to be found. This of course affects the list of personnel in the programme. At one time, when a previous conductor became indisposed, we had scarcely any time to find his replacement. Fortunately for us, we had a tremendous stroke of luck. Gavin Sutherland – in my experience and opinion, the best in the business today, was available, and he happily agreed to conduct.
Gavin was in fact our original choice of conductor four years ago. I had played before under Gavin’s baton, and witnessed his music-making with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra on many occasions. He is a maestro in every sense of the word, and an expert in all musical genres, who clearly enjoys listening to all of them equally. Gavin’s photographic score-reading memory pin-points the slightest error or wrong note before any of the musicians ever has the chance to make them apparent, and this is exceedingly helpful where time is of the essence. He even volunteers to lend a hand in the setting-up of the stage, if necessary, demonstrating a commitment that extends far beyond the imminent performance. Gavin’s rehearsals always run swiftly and efficiently mainly because the musicians so obviously like his personality, and his crystal-clear way of communicating with them.
From the start of the rehearsal, all the pieces immediately spring to life almost in the exact way they were intended. After a single three-hour rehearsal, during which the musicians will see the music parts for the first time, often having to cope with handwritten parts that are barely legible, and exercising virtuosic techniques or effects rarely seen in the symphonic repertoire, they do not see the music until the performance itself.
Mantovani was unequivocally the greatest writer for strings of all time, and his orchestra is still revered throughout the world for that reason. String players adore playing his music, with wind players also revelling in beautifully-crafted solo passages and counter melodies. As challenging as his string writing is for them, string players are in no doubt that Mantovani was himself a true master and virtuoso on the violin, and because every note has been fluently crafted to get the best out of the strings, they relish playing his music. When you mention his name either at home or abroad to people who are old enough to remember his music being played daily on the radio, faces light up. And rightly so! We ourselves are very fortunate to be able to witness faces lighting up within our own audiences, further proving that the BBC made one of their biggest blunders of the last century by trying to ‘kill off’ Light music in the early-Seventies. In Britain it might seem as though they have succeeded, but in most countries Light music remains popular with whole stations devoted to broadcasting it. Nevertheless, huge internet sales of CDs continue here, even though the high street shops apparently do not know how to classify it. Our Mantovani concerts are further proof that audiences are ready to fill halls, given half a chance, and in fact the managers of the Pavilion Theatre in Bournemouth have come to regard the Magic of Mantovani Orchestra concerts as among their most important events. Auditoria for symphony concerts are nowadays rarely more than half-filled, and when they are, the reason is often when the programme features film music, which until recent times was always regarded as inferior music.
Unlike in the great movie studios of the ‘Golden Age’ (with their multiple departments and fixed-rank structures), so-called "backroom boys" don’t exist in our business, and as far as I can tell, they never did; every person involved in the production of music for recordings or concerts, without exception is always very much in the foreground, and therefore is indispensable. They have to be! Anyone working on a musical project has a valid say in all matters, and decisions are often the result of combined ideas. In music and concert production it is common to find that, as well as being administrators or technicians, one’s team members are also highly competent all-round musicians. Many of them read music, compose, or play an instrument to a very high standard, and as such are not easily fooled by another’s ineptitude. Therefore, their opinions are valid. Mantovani always counted his arrangers, musicians, recording engineers, and agents, as equals, and among his closest friends. He never lost sight of the fact that they spelled his success, and always gave credit where credit was due. He kept in touch with them over every relevant matter, in the same way we do today. The great bandleaders, with few exceptions all worked in this way. Owing to the rules of the various music unions of the United States, Europe, and Great Britain during the pre-CD era, it was considered unnecessary to clutter record labels and sleeves with information. The ‘arranger’ of a piece of music was often considered to be irrelevant to buyers. They, it was felt, were rather more interested in the publication details so that they could acquire song sheets, or piano sheet music for their own domestic use.
Today, the tables have turned, and more often it is now the name of an arranger that actually sells an album, with publisher’s details frequently omitted. We have made it our policy to recognize all contributors, such as the arrangers in both the presenter’s announcements, and in our printed programmes, and we often provide details that were never previously published, such as the identities behind the various noms de plume. The former friendships between the maestro and his arrangers Ronald Binge, Cecil Milner, and Roland Shaw have been affirmed through numerous letters, articles, and photographs, with Milner evidently as a frequent visitor to the Mantovani home ‘Greensleeves’ in Branksome Park. Milner and Binge were also established composers in their own right. Indeed many of Cecil Milner’s compositions enjoyed first and frequent performances by the Bournemouth Municipal Orchestra under the baton of Dan Godfrey. For them arranging music was very much of secondary consideration. In fact Ronald Binge was perhaps better known among music professionals as a performer, despite worldwide acclaim as composer of Elizabethan Serenade, a piece which incidentally was first performed in concert in 1951 by Mantovani’s orchestra, and which, according to Binge’s original handwritten parts (scored to include only one flute and one clarinet), was first entitled Theme From "The Man In The Street"* before being adopted as the signature tune to BBC’s Music Tapestry – just to add further mystery to the idea that it was specially composed for a ‘mood music’ library, and called simply Andante Cantabile – among other postulations.
Behind every hugely successful concert there is a devoted team for whom their unrelenting dedicated work will seemingly evaporate within one final climactic, fast-paced day, in order that the audience may experience some ninety minutes of delight, and as if created by pure magic.
*The Man In The Street may have been a documentary shown on BBC Television between 1949 and 1951, according to Vera Parton, Ronald Binge’s widow.
GOLDEN HITS OF THE SIXTIES - MANTOVANI STYLE
Colin MacKenzie reviews the latest Mantovani Success in Bournemouth
April in Paris ? Well, not quite, but the next best thing was to be in Bournemouth on 14th April 2013 to attend another tribute to the "Mantovani Sound". Returning to the Pavilion Theatre were the musicians of The Magic Of Mantovani Orchestra under conductor Gavin Sutherland with the intention of recreating Mantovani's original interpretations of some of the best popular music of the 1960s.
After a long, hard winter which seemed to go on forever - even cosy Bournemouth had been feeling the chill for weeks - and a very wet Saturday - nearby Swanage was the wettest place in the country that day - this show was just the tonic for this particular Mantovani loving weather watcher. In setting the scene for his fifth concert of this type co-promoter and percussionist Paul Barrett told Radio Solent's David Allen in a lengthy interview how he had first become involved with Mantovani's music. On attending a concert in Sheffield in the fifties with his father, he was thrilled to hear music of a type he had never previously encountered. A key factor, too, was the kindness of Charles Botterill, Mantovani's percussionist, who, recognising the youngster's eagerness to learn, took him under his wing and lit a fire which still burns brightly after all these years.
Paul Barrett described how he had played semi-professionally in various theatres for many years in the Sheffield area, and, among other things, spoke warmly of his colleague and producer Franck Leprince, who has a musical pedigree of his own. Special mention was made, too, of arranger Ronald Binge and also the Mantovani family who co-operate so generously on these occasions by providing the original scores used by their father. Paul told David Allen that by highlighting these songs of the sixties he was hoping to introduce the "Mantovani Sound" to a new generation of fans, hence the title of the concert which was indeed a sixties retrospective of some fine film themes and popular song hits.
Unfortunately, orchestra leader John Bradbury was unwell, but his place was splendidly filled by Matthew Scrivener, currently leader of the English National Ballet Orchestra since 2004 and the present leader of the National Symphony Orchestra since 2006. Co-leader Jack Maguire had recruited some members of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra for the string section which also included a graceful Taiwanese player, Joanne Chen. There were some familiar faces elsewhere including stellar trumpeter Mike Lovatt who lined up in a seven man brass ensemble (three trumpets, three trombones and a French horn player), guitarist Max Brittain (who, of course, accompanied vocalist Val Doonican for some 30 years), accordionist Eddy Hession and, naturally, Paul Barrett himself, playing percussion, vibraphone and every other "kitchen sink" department instrument from his raised platform at the back of the stage.
First up was an intriguing melange of sixties tunes which set the scene for what was to follow. Unusually, "Charmaine", Mantovani's signature tune, was presented in bossa nova style by arranger Franck Leprince who also introduced snatches of "Up, Up and Away", the "Pink Panther" theme, music from an Austin Powers movie and even "Batman"! It was entertaining and well received, although some purists may have felt that such a classic tune as "Charmaine" should be left well alone ...
The full version of "Up, Up and Away" was heard next in a meaty Roland Shaw arrangement. Never one of my favourite Mantovani recordings, this was a revelation in its live form, being a splendid work-out for the enthusiastic musicians. Just as we were wondering where the famous "Mantovani Sound" was, it appeared as if by magic in an enthralling arrangement by the maestro himself of "Allison's Theme" from the "Peyton Place" TV series which was so popular in times gone by. As happened so often during the evening, the rich strings were complemented by the lovely undertones of the massed violas and celli (six in each department) supported by three double basses and the trademark sound of the vibraphone. Marvellous!
Bringing back memories of the Broadway show and film, the musicians offered up a good Cecil Milner scoring of "Hello Dolly" before moving onto "Les Bicyclettes de Belsize", another Shaw arrangement. Here Paul Barrett caused some audience mirth by donning a beret and a string of French onions for the occasion. Accordionist Eddy Hession had a starring solo part and was supported by the obligatory bicycle bell provided by percussionist Barrett. An eagle eyed member of my party spotted that the accompanying film on the overhead screen showed a cycle ride, not in France, but in the English countryside! No matter, it made no difference to our enjoyment of a lovely song which made a lot of money for singer Engelbert Humperdinck. Cecil Milner's exemplary scoring of "What Now My Love" which followed allowed for good use of snare drums and tympany as well as fine brass work with Mike Lovatt leading his troops on towards the song's pulsating climax.
In my Mantovani biography written some years ago I recorded that the score of "Yesterday", the Beatles hit, was due to Cecil Milner. This was based on information received at the time, but in fact, this is very much a Mantovani arrangement, as confirmed by inspection of the original score. And what an arrangement! It's an absolute masterpiece in symphonic style, creating a tingling effect on this particular writer and many others in the audience. You could have heard a pin drop in the theatre. The tempo was right, the presentation perfect, it was a joy to hear. Afterwards, one lady member of the audience was overheard saying that she would like to have this version played at her funeral!
Philip Green's masterful "The Singer, Not The Song" was the perfect follow-up to "Yesterday". It's a movie theme that deserves much more recognition than it has had, and this Roland Shaw arrangement brought out the powerful, haunting melody which created quite a stir. The three trumpeters were all gainfully employed in this wonderful setting. Next, we heard Roland's gentle rhythmic scoring of "By the Time I Get to Phoenix" which featured a good saxophone solo and Paul Barrett playing vibraphone and snare drum simultaneously. Compere Ed Stewart was moved to tell us that this was one of the best arrangements of his favourite Glenn Campbell song that he had ever heard. He then introduced Sumatran singer Joy Tobing, an innovation for this type of concert. Joy, who was appearing in Europe for the first time, is a household name in Indonesia and had the support of that country's ambassador and his entourage who were in the audience. Accompanied by the orchestra and her musical director, Mattheson Bayley, on keyboards, she gave an unflinching performance of the Dusty Springfield song "You Don't Have To Say You Love Me", which had been carefully arranged by Frank Leprince.
Taking over on keyboards (in reality, an electronic synthesiser with a harpsichord stop), Sam Hanson delivered a rousing Shaw interpretation of the popular German hit "A Walk In the Black Forest", ably supported by the orchestra and Paul Barrett, who wore a Tyrolean hat. Ed Stewart then told us that the Mantovani arrangement of "Come September" was a Bobby Darin hit but, in fact, it’s not the same song, rather it's a melody written by Lena Martell under her real name of Helen Thomson. This enchanting waltz, given the full "Mantovani Sound" treatment, featured lush strings and vibraphone adorning a simply beautiful song which has always been one of my favourite Mantovani recordings. Surprisingly, Monty never recorded the Maigret theme but next up was a good Leprince arrangement of this TV opus which highlighted accordionist Eddy Hession and reminded us of actor Rupert Davies, who starred in the role of the famous detective.
When Paul Barrett asked me to identify the arranger of "Puppet on a String" for the concert programme, I advised him that it was unclear in the Mantovani family's music catalogue who the arranger was. I plumped for Roland Shaw after seeking expert help from various Mantovani fans both here and in America and thus it was credited to Shaw in the programme. Imagine my surprise on inspecting the original violin score to find the handwriting of Cecil Milner there! Apologies to him. As the orchestra performed his score, we enjoyed good percussion effects including woodblocks and a metal cowbell as well as a quaint film on the overhead screen showing those perennial TV puppets Muffin the Mule and The Woodentops! Memories indeed. Part one of the concert then came to an end when guitarist Max Brittain introduced a masterful Milner arrangement of "Love is Blue", a Eurovision Song Contest hit for Greek songer Vicky Leandros but an even bigger success for French orchestral leader Paul Mauriat. The particular Mantovani edition we were hearing was embellished by a powerhouse climax with brass very much to the fore.
Part two began with three French movie themes, the first two written by Francis Lai. The well-known "A Man and a Woman", arranged by Roland Shaw, took us into less familiar territory, this being "Where Did Our Summers Go", rarely heard nowadays and undeservedly neglected. Monty appreciated its qualities and arranged it himself as an outstanding example of his ability to recognise a good song and make it into a lustrous gem. It is truly a superb melody which was regally played by the orchestra. Ed Stewart amusingly observed that it was a very appropriate piece of music in view of our recent weather! The outstanding Michel Legrand hit "I Will Wait For You" was well played, using the Cecil Milner scoring, then we moved to "The Shadow of Your Smile" which gave us not only the excellent Johnny Mandel theme but also the presence of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton in the film "The Sandpiper", an excerpt from which was shown on screen as the orchestra played the film's memorable theme song.
Ed Stewart now drew our attention to the "Anniversary Waltz", which was performed by Mantovani on 1942 recordings with singers Vera Lynn and Alan Kane. So what was it doing in a sixties tribute concert? As Ed reminded us, it was revived by local Bournemouth girl Anita Harris in 1967 and her recording sold a lot of copies. The audience clearly appreciated hearing the full Mantovani treatment of this grand old song in its new setting with sweeping strings and rich brass. Two excellent Franck Leprince scores of big sixties hits were appropriate at this juncture of the concert; first, came the lively "James Bond Theme" with good guitar and brass sounds, then a stirring treatment of the theme to the TV series "The Avengers" with vibraphone intriguingly involved in the rhythmic introduction. Both tunes were very well played and much enjoyed.
Joy Tobing then came back on stage to present a very tuneful song called "Love's Promised Land", written by Charlotte Cumming and arranged by Joy's musical director, Matheson Bayley, who accompanied her with the orchestra. This was the longest song in the entire show, lasting four and a half minutes, well worth hearing for the emotion and feeling put into her performance by Joy. She has a good stage presence and sings passionately, and on this occasion evoked a warm audience response which encouraged her to thank everyone for her welcome on these shores.
Playfully joking about the pronunciation of the Henry Mancini film theme "Charade" (in the States it is pronounced "Sheraid" to rhyme with Masquerade etc), Ed Stewart led us into yet another fine Mantovani interpretation while Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn appeared in a film clip overhead. "Strangers in the Night" was a most welcome addition to the programme, incorporating the many talents of two favourite orchestra leaders, Mantovani (arranger) and Bert Kaempfert (composer). Featuring guitar and strings, this particular item did not disappoint. A Shaw arrangement of the delicious Tony Bennett hit "I Left My Heart in San Francisco" led to a mystery item which had been omitted from the programme due to an oversight. Even Ed Stewart seemed a little mystified. Recognising that we were "Almost There" in terms of the concert's conclusion, he spoke of Andy Williams but omitted to mention the name of the Cecil Milner arrangement which followed. Hopefully, most of the audience would have recognised that the song was "May Each Day", which invariably closed Andy's TV shows. This particular piece was built up into a big finish, allowing Paul Barrett to pound his drums as the melody came to a close. It left me wondering where he gets his energy from!
Two encores followed: first, a really rousing version of the Tom Jones hit "Love Me Tonight" in which the entire orchestra vigorously interpreted a great Roland Shaw arrangement. Everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves, and up on the big screen you could see Monty leading his 1936 orchestra, swinging and swaying so much that his grandson Paul told me later that he was amazed to see his grandfather in such a lively musical mood. There was even a cameo appearance by Ronnie Binge on accordion, and it all seemed remarkably appropriate with what was going on down below on stage. It brought the concert to a terrific climax except for "Charmaine", of course, in its original setting. A fine muted trumpet solo and the lovely tone of principal trombonist Liam Kirkham enhanced this great Binge arrangement and moved Timothy Milner, the nephew of Cecil, to say that this was the best live version he had heard since Monty's heyday.
This show was equally as good as the previous Pavilion concert featuring Gavin Sutherland, who certainly has the ear for this type of music. With a carefully chosen menu of romantic pieces and some "racier" material, the Mantovani experience was memorable especially where I was sitting in the fourth row of the circle alongside fellow RFS members Timothy Milner and Alan Dixon. I suppose you could lament the omission of a Mantovani composition in the programme but I'm assured that next time around this will be remedied. Ed Stewart with his usual aplomb provided much good humour for the audience which numbered over a thousand. Sponsored once more by Poole Audi, it was a wonderful evening of memories, and our thanks go out to all of those who worked so hard to make it possible.
This article and review appeared in the August 2013 issue of ‘Journal Into Melody’
A new box set from Nimbus promises to be the outstanding Light Music release of 2013 – if not the decade. Every commercial recording of Eric Coates conducting his own compositions has been collected together on 7 CDs, from his earliest acoustics in 1923 to his final sessions in 1957.
This is the brainchild of Alan Bunting, who has been working on this ‘labour of love’ for the best part of the last year. The sound restorations are all outstanding, which is hardly surprising when you consider that Alan is widely recognised as one of the finest digital ‘wizards’ in the world. He has gone to great lengths to obtain the very best copies available of the original discs, calling upon the willing participation of his many contacts in the record collecting fraternity. Sometimes he has had to reject some old 78s, and redouble his efforts to find better copies. The result is that the work of Eric Coates has now been preserved in amazing quality that would not have been possible only a few years ago. There are instances of Coates revisiting some of his earlier works to record them again when better technology became available, following the advent of electrical sound recording. And for the sake of completion a few tracks feature other orchestras playing Coates’ works, where he did not conduct them himself.
Originally Alan worked on this project without knowing for sure if it would ever be offered to record buyers by a commercial company. He simply felt that it was something that ought to be done, in recognition of Eric Coates’ magnificent contribution to the Light Music repertoire of the 20th Century. But always at the back of his mind Alan hoped that, one day, he might be able to convince a record company to release his restorations. At one time there was a vague possibility that the 7 discs might be issued singly over a period of several months, but this would have been considered only as a last resort.
Happily the English company Nimbus enthusiastically embraced the project, and the results have exceeded Alan’s wildest expectations. They have they produced a top quality product in all respects at a very reasonable price (internet retailers are offering the 7 CDs for little more than £20). The accompanying booklet features an extended essay by Michael Payne, the author of the recent published book ‘The Life And Music Of Eric Coates’ (Ashgate Publishing Ltd.).
The Definitive Eric Coates" Nimbus NI 6131
This appeared in the August 2013 issue of ‘Journal Into Melody’
GOLDERS GREEN HIPPODROME – 100 NOT OUT!
Anthony Wills Has Fond Memories Of A Distinguished Venue For Many BBC Broadcasts
The dear old Hippodrome – which we all miss so much – has a very special birthday this year. Designed by Bertie Crewe it opened on Boxing Day 1913 as a music hall. Its arrival on the scene was a direct result of the extension of the Northern line to Golders Green earlier that year. The Hip held more than 3,000 people at its inception but, thanks to local pressure, had no bar! Variety bills were the order of the day and it was not until much later that it was fitted out with proper stage facilities reducing the audience capacity to 2,485. In due course it became a West End "try-out" venue as part of a circuit that included the Streatham Hill Empire and the Wimbledon Theatre. Many famous stars such as Marlene Dietrich played one-night stands on its boards. It was also home to the Carl Rosa Opera Company and Ralph Reader’s celebrated Gang Shows. Audiences however began to decline after the war (apart from the lavish pantomime productions, the last of which starred Danny La Rue) and eventually the lease passed into the hands of the Mecca organisation which turned it into a Bingo Hall.
In 1969 the BBC were looking for a temporary London television studio while those at Television Centre were being adapted for colour transmissions. Many rock bands were recorded in concert there in the early ‘70s and the majority of these tapes survive and are frequently shown on BBC4.
From its beginnings in 1952 the BBC Concert Orchestra had been based at the Camden Theatre (now Koko’s nightclub and still worth looking inside if you can persuade the management to let you in when there’s no show on) and it was there that the BBC Concert Orchestra (formed in 1952) began broadcasting Friday Night Is Music Night under the batons of Gilbert Vinter and Sidney Torch. In due course it was decided to move the orchestra’s base to Golders Green and the Hippodrome became the home of FNIMN apart from many outside broadcasts all over Britain.
When I joined the BBC in 1979 I took many roles including being part of a small coterie within Radio 2 known as the "Light Music Unit" whose members included Robert Bowman, Monica Cockburn, Charles Clark Maxwell and Alan Owen. Apart from auditioning hopeful singers we also produced Matinee Musicale for Radio 3 which included a lot of Light Music, including the compositions of various composers who were unheard elsewhere on the BBC. The Concert Orchestra for Mat Mus (as we called it) was normally conducted by their Principal Conductor of the time, the softly spoken Ashley Lawrence. The first specialist programme of which I took charge was Listen ToThe Band introduced by Charlie Chester, whose scripts were written by Brian Matthew (a well kept secret!). Apart from commissioning brass band recordings from the regions for this series I personally recorded London area bands such as the Hendon Band in session at the Hip Every so often (when the budget allowed) I would book a full military band, which was always an exhilarating occasion. I trailed Friday Night Is Music Night under the tutelage of John Bussell and David Rayvern Allen but never actually took charge of it. As readers will know there was a small group of stalwarts appearing on the show including Cynthia Glover, John Lawrenson, Vernon & Maryetta Midgley and the then recently discovered Marilyn Hill Smith. The Ambrosian Singers were usually present and took a prominent part in the closing medleys brilliantly arranged by Sidney Torch, Robert (Bob) Docker and Gordon Langford.
It’s important to note that there was plenty of other activity going on in the Hip, even if it was the Concert Orchestra’s base. Apart from the brass and military band sessions mentioned above I also produced specially assembled ensembles, often conducted by Stanley Black, for the waltzing part of Marching & Waltzing, presented on Sunday evenings by the eccentric Paddy O’Byrne. And the BBC Radio Orchestra often decamped there, as the Maida Vale studios were too small for its largest configuration (the ‘A’ Orchestra), especially for invited audience events. Among the most memorable of these were the brilliant concert performances of major musicals for which producer John Langridge flew in leading stars from the USA. Undoubtedly the most fulfilling part of my live music work (I was simultaneously co-producing sequences such as The John Dunn Show and Round Midnight as well as many documentary series) were the monthly concerts for the David Jacobs lunchtime programme, usually tributes to one particular composer such as Cole Porter or Frank Loesser. These featured the full Radio Orchestra under its Principal Conductor Iain Sutherland plus the Stephen Hill Singers, sixteen extremely versatile session singers who could read anything on sight and whose members took on solo passages as well. The singers would rehearse upstairs in the former ballet room and then join the orchestra for a quick run-through while David Jacobs practised the script I had written for him. I loved working in the Hippodrome as unlike the Maida Vale studios you had the run of the whole building and it was a proper theatre rather than a converted roller skating rink! On one occasion for a Christmas show I had Father Christmas welcome the audience in the foyer while on another I hired some Can Can costumes and persuaded four Radio 2 production secretaries to pose in them! I still have all of those concerts on tape and perhaps the Club would like to listen one on a future occasion.
In the early 1990s the live music scene began to change, as the BBC now had unrestricted needle time and did not require so many studio sessions. The Radio Orchestra was axed in 1991 though its Big Band section was retained. The Midland and Scottish Radio Orchestras also got the chop. The Concert Orchestra under its energetic manage Ian Maclay realized it had to supplement its income outside of its BBC duties and began to undercut the freelance London orchestras, for example playing Coppelia for a ballet company at the Royal Albert Hall. This caused great resentment at the time. At the same time series such as Melodies For You became all-record programmes resulting in a considerable loss of work. The last Concert Orchestra programme I produced was a 1994 New Year’s Gala which also featured a military band and was introduced from one of the Hippodrome’s boxes by Ian Wallace.
The story of the Hippodrome’s demise is well known and we can only be thankful that no-one was killed or injured by either of the ceiling collapses which caused the Concert Orchestra to refuse to continue playing there. For many years the orchestra became in effect homeless while there was grandiose talk of a new Music Centre at White City to house both it and the BBC Symphony Orchestra. The Mermaid Theatre, which has been the home of FNIMN, has for some time been under threat and presumably LSO St Lukes and the Watford Colosseum will succeed it. Certainly the Finchley Arts Depot was most unsuitable.
After the BBC left the Hippodrome the building deteriorated rapidly until, despite strong objections from local residents, it was sold in 2007 for a paltry £5 million to the El Shaddai International Christian Centre, which already had premises in Birmingham, Bradford, Manchester, Nottingham, Sheffield and Cardiff. El Shaddai have done a magnificent restoration job, removing the clutter of the recording cubicle and painting the various tiers and ceilings in a beautiful blue colour whilst picking out the cherubs and other details in white. The original raked red seats remain underneath the flat floored stalls area where the bands and orchestras once performed and there is still a BBC Trades Union notice board in one of the corridors. The former star dressing room is now a children’s crèche! Ask very nicely and they may let you have a peep inside. Great times, great memories.
This article first appeared in ‘Journal Into Melody’, issue 195 dated April 2013.
By Martin Moritz
‘Muzak’ is one of those words that is always used in a contemptuous way and it is not difficult to understand why. It is so pervasive that the more paranoid of us may well suspect that there is a global conspiracy to cause irreparable damage to our mental state, rather like musical ‘germ warfare’. It seems no place is immune from it. We are constantly aurally assaulted in lifts, hotels, pubs, bars, supermarkets, shops, waiting rooms and, surely demanding a Freudian analysis, public toilets.
It is generally bland, undemanding, unmusical and overwhelmingly irritating. Even Mozart and Vivaldi, who could hardly be called unmusical, have been subjugated and forced to wear a Muzak straight-jacket. Have we not been reduced to near hysteria while both composers’ works are incessantly played as we wait interminably to be connected on the ‘phone? It is certainly ironic that the ethos of Muzak, which, among other things, was designed to aid concentration, lend a harmonious atmosphere and create equable moods, did the exact reverse. However, these very benefits which would have an adverse effect on the public are to be found in many recordings which utilise background and mood music in a much more specific, valid and beneficial way .
The origin of this innovation in domestic listening is to be found in the late 1940s. One of the repercussions of the Second World War was a radical change in the American way of life that would include the nation’s musical tastes. Families were confronted with a marketing onslaught that had an underlying message of more, newer and better. At the core of the campaign was homes of the future which would include appliance-filled kitchens and luxuriant, softly-lit living rooms. Indeed, buyers were praised as patriotic citizens boosting a flagging economy, the result of fifteen years of depression.
Music would play an integral part in complementing this new life-style. The dynamic, extrovert Swing music of the war years was clearly unsuitable for relaxing to in the calm surroundings of these utopian homes. What was required was appropriate music that was much more in keeping, music that was soft, understated and mood evoking. These new homes would have ‘themed-rooms’ and there would be background/mood album concepts specifically created to musically enhance them. So there was music suitable for male-dominated dens, patios, play-rooms, dining-rooms, bedrooms and even barbecues. Thankfully, the toilet was not considered. One could immerse oneself in symbolic music that offered romance, induced relaxation, that soothed and calmed, that could whisk one away to exotic locations and trigger imaginary adventures. The records’ sleeve designs capitalised on this aura of ‘gracious living’ drawing on romantic novels, stylised magazine adverts, films and television for their inspiration , all reflecting an idealised life-style.
One factor that was pivotal to the sales of mood music was the introduction of the long-playing record in 1948. The annoying necessity of having to continually turn over 78 rpm records with an average duration of around three minutes each side was replaced by the ease of a single and more robust disc that offered up to thirty minutes per side of continuous, cleaner reproduction. The advantages of sustaining a mood or a theme were substantial.
WH Auden described the 1930s as the ‘Age of Anxiety’ but, judging by the plethora of LPs that were released to help ease the load of daily life, it could well apply to that decade. RCA Records, for example, released a series of albums featuring George Melachrino that were formulated to reduce stress and create happier dispositions. Equally, Capitol issued six thematic LPs with an overall title that grandly proclaimed: ‘Background Music – Music Blended to Mix Graciously with Social Gatherings’. An early release from Reader’s Digest, which had created a music division in 1960, was a ten LP collection entitled ‘Background Moods’ that featured music for a wide range of moods and themes including carefree, wistful, intimate, dancing , exotic, haunting, soothing, latin, swinging and festive.
There were concepts such as ‘Music for Faith and Inner Calm’, ‘Music to Help You Sleep’, ‘Music for Courage and Confidence’, ‘Music for Daydreaming’, ‘Music for Dining’, ‘Music for a Rainy Night’ and ‘Music for a Nostalgic Traveller’. Some themes bordered on the bizarre seemingly to embrace any form of work, function or recreation: ‘Music for Washing and Ironing’, ‘Music for Baby-Sitters’, ‘How to Belly –Dance for Your Husband’ (yes, really!), ‘Music to Paint By’, ‘Music to Make Housework Easier’, ‘Music for a French Dinner at Home’ and ‘Music for Cooking with Gas – A La Carte’, which had the sub-title ‘Music that’s Rare and Well-Done!
There was even an album of music to help one stop smoking which "will relax you, make you feel good, and keep your hand from groping toward a pack of cigarettes. Reach for a melodious bud….instead of a butt". If this did not work, there were LPs of courses in hypnosis and self-hypnosis that might. There was help on hand as well if the neighbours were continually playing loud, bothersome music although ‘Music to Break a Lease’ or ‘Music to Break a Sub-Lease’ could not actually guarantee it. Its object was defeated by the music which was not of the 1812 Overture variety but sing-along 1920s tunes! One wonders why they bothered.
The sleeve-notes would reinforce the therapeutic benefits of background, mood music. Here is an example from an album entitled ‘Soft & Easy in Percussion’:
‘Soft and easy is a mood. Soft and easy is also a style of music which is prescribed only for dreamy listening. Add percussion to this and you have music for dreamy, relaxed listening. This is an album for those who take their musical pleasures subdued and with ease….The ingredients for your soft and easy mood are all here within the jacket of this album. Close the doors, shut the windows and turn off the telephone……’
Domestic stereo arrived in 1958 and the industry, unsurprisingly, released an extraordinary number of albums produced solely to convey the vitality of stereo techniques. Most made for disconcerting listening with one being subjected to a form of aural tennis as one’s head shot from right to left and vice-versa so as to catch the array of sounds coming from each speaker. Inevitably, technological novelty would also require musical novelty, and, accordingly, producers and engineers began to explore uncharted musical areas so as to exploit a melodic canvas which seemed tailor-made for this new format.
So ensued a seemingly unending flow of exotic-sounding LPs invariably featuring Spanish, Mexican, South American and Gypsy melodies. Whole Pacific island cultures were practically invented for the sake of rhythmic and sonic innovation. Ultimately, although initially developed to create a more ‘realistic’ sense of sound in space, record companies finally realised that they needed to demonstrate the superiority of the advances in stereo more literally and less ‘realistically’ as it turned out. This, as it transpired, would fit very comfortably with a burgeoning style that would become known as ‘easy listening’.
This article first appeared in ‘Journal Into Melody’, issue 195 dated April 2013.
This autumn of 2012 is turning out to be most productive and rewarding for all who admire the composing talents of the Hungarian-born Miklos Rozsa and his two chosen paths of composition. Firstly, both the film scores QUO VADIS and THE RED HOUSE are scheduled for release at the end of October on respectively, the Prometheus and Intrada labels; in addition, no less than eight of his concert works are set to appear on three other discs devoted to his music. Both the film scores have been greatly anticipated as neither have been recorded complete before; QUO VADIS has been best represented up to now by a forty minute disc of highlights with the composer conducting the RPO (recorded in 1977 at the much missed Kingsway Hall in London), and only short suites from THE RED HOUSE have previously appeared, the last conducted by the versatile Charles Gerhardt with his famed National Philharmonic on one of the "Classic Film Score" series, also from the ‘seventies.
In fact it was this very recording that gave American composer/orchestrator Kevin Kaska the desire to one day present this fine RH score complete on disc, and he set about preparing the many scored scenes for just such an occasion. This latest Intrada CD is now just that, his dream come true, with the equal enthusiasms of film expert and record promoter Paul Talkington, conductor Allan Wilson, and the boss of Intrada Records, Doug Fake. The results of this are fantastic: revelatory and rich in musical ideas, all heightened by Rozsa’s use of the unique-sounding theremin, which he had first used so effectively in his two Oscar nominees from 1945, SPELLBOUND and THE LOST WEEKEND, the first of which gained him his first statuette for the Hitchcock melodrama. The seldom shown RED HOUSE is a dark and rather confusing tale starring Edward G. Robinson as a very enigmatic character living near the woods which conceal a grisly secret he tries to keep hidden away from other visitors. The score highlights the intrigue and disturbing madnesses of the key figure, and the theremin, weirdly wailing in many scenes, heightens the suspense.
I can report, having been fortunate enough to attend the sessions in Glasgow in January 2011, that this 2-CD set (Intrada MAF 7122) – produced by Kaska – will be a true highlight in the ever-increasing Rozsa discography. The Royal Scottish National Orchestra was a joy to listen to under the expert control of Allan Wilson. Another highlight without a doubt will be the complete QUO VADIS score also on 2 CDs (Prometheus, PROX PCD172) – over sixty years since the film was released – as this marked Rozsa’s initial encounter with 1st century Roman antiquity (eight years later leading up to his supreme masterpiece, BEN-HUR). The musical canvas he painted for QV after many months of research was utterly effective and brilliant – even by his high standards of movie scoring. Many readers will have seen this flawed epic and be familiar with the vivid scenes depicted in and around the Forum Romanum and arenas of degradation and slaughter, as well as the love tangles between Marcus Vinicius (Robert Taylor) and Lygia (Deborah Kerr). Peter Ustinov as the crazed Nero was the other main protagonist, and he overacted quite delightfully! There are so many musical sequences one can hear now for the first time as they were either completely omitted from the soundtrack or dubbed so poorly as to make them inaudible. These Prague sessions were produced in March this year by the scrupulously meticulous James Fitzpatrick, assisted by Rozsa expert Frank K. deWald and orchestrator Leigh Phillips who were both also in the control room during sessions. James has worked with his Czech musicians at Smecky studios over many years, and they certainly play masterfully for him. Sitting amongst them listening to this latest recreation was a rare privilege and a wondrous experience for me. The City of Prague Philhamonic was ably conducted by the always highly discerning Nic Raine, whose interpretation of an earlier Rozsa epic on the same label (EL CID) has been rightly much praised.
As if these two additions were not enough, Chandos have just released Volume 3 in their series of complete Rozsa orchestral works (CHAN 10738) and it is arguably the most welcome so far, containing a veritable "greatest hits" from the composer’s 45 opus works. The ‘Theme, Variations and Finale’ from 1933 has remained one of his most admired and performed orchestral showcases, and is here played in its original uncut version prior to a later revision. This is the premiere recording of this version. It is a superb set of contrasting variations on an original theme, ending with a furious and dance-like Finale. The ‘Concerto for Strings’ of 1943 is yet another brilliant conception: hard-hitting, strident and darkly brooding. This piece comes closest to those brutally jagged gangster and film noirs movies he scored later in the ‘forties (BRUTE FORCE, THE KILLERS, CRISS CROSS, THE NAKED CITY). Rozsa later quipped that he was at that time considered as the musical Al Capone! The other work on this fine CD is his Violin Concerto he wrote for Jascha Heifetz in 1953, which has become an oft-played virtuoso showcase; this latest version features the young, talented Jennifer Pike, who shows she has encompassed the Rozsa Hungarian folk idiom completely, with an interpretation full of power and flowing mastery. So, three great works played by the BBC Philharmonic under Rumon Gamba, who has made a unique name for himself recording much varied and little-heard repertoire.
Mention must also be made of a recent limited edition on the Kritzerland label containing the original tracks in very good sound of Rozsa’s THE STRANGE LOVE OF MARTHA IVERS, another ‘forties score hardly remembered these days. Producer Bruce Kimmel had located these acetates in the Paramount vaults, and the resulting disc is well worth a listen. Also just reissued is a suite fashioned by Rozsa from some of those gangster films I previously alluded to, entitled (not by the composer) "Backgrounds to Violence". This was originally from a US Decca LP, as was the coupling here of three concert works from another Decca LP (in mono sound), the whole CD composer conducted: (Disques Cinemusique, DCM 141). Lastly, we can expect soon the latest volume in the ongoing Naxos/ Rozsa series; this – the fifth devoted to his concert music – has his two String Quartets plus the Op 1 String Trio from 1929, all played by the Tippet Quartet. The Trio, written as a student, was his first ever composition to be accepted by his now long time publishers, Breitkopf and Haertel. Rozsa was very proud of this, and tells of when he had propped up the score at the end of his bed, so that he could awaken the next morning and proudly stare at it afresh! It is a most assured composition from one so young, and well worth getting to know.
What a long way he progressed and developed since those early days; forty plus more concert works, nearly a hundred film scores (and three Oscars won from countless nominations), a teaching post in Los Angeles for many years, conducting at concerts in various countries as well as on numerous recordings, and an international reputation both highly successful as well as much revered. His autobiography, "Double Life" nicely sums up his dual composing roles in his two chosen musical areas, and so we now welcome these new CD releases which underline his importance as a 20th century master figure, as well as show just how successful he became in these chosen paths.
(Alan Hamer represents the MIKLOS ROZSA SOCIETY in the UK and Europe; contact him at or visit the Society website at miklosrozsa.org )
This article first appeared in Journal Into Melody, issue 194 December 2012
By David Barton
One thing which I’m sure is periodically on our minds, is whether our enthusiasm for light music will transfer to another generation of musicians and listeners. Many of you will know that I’ve been giving music lessons for over 11 years; a lot has changed in that short space of time, not least the pieces which are now considered ‘acceptable’. Instrumental exams have, in the past, been mainly classical-based, but over the past few years, we’ve seen a real ‘opening-up’ of the repertoire and there’s a strong possibility that light music might benefit from this.
Our exam syllabuses now feature a wide range of light pieces and composers, and consequently, albeit from an unlikely source, learners are now exposed to a far greater variety of music. If you did music exams as a child, rest-assured, the ‘old standards’ still appear, but you’d be surprised how breadth of repertoire has widened. Musicians are benefitting too, with previously out-of-print sheet music now being reissued as these pieces appear.
One area which has now become far more accepted is that of arranging. Several exam boards now actively commission arrangements, and more and more are beginning to appear, including: Warren and Gordon’s Chattanooga Choo-Choo (Piano, Grade 1); Gershwin’s Do It Again (Piano, Grade 7) and Summertime (Viola, Grade 3); Irving Berlin’s Puttin’ on the Ritz (Violin, Grade 3); Kurt Weill’s September Song (Viola, Grade 5); Leroy Anderson’s Fiddle-Faddle (Viola, Grade 8); Ron Goodwin’s 633 Squadron (Horn, Grade 3); and Miles Davis’ So What? (Double Bass, Grade 5). As you can see, there are some pretty odd instrument combinations!
Composers associated with the RFS are well-represented too, with: Paul Lewis’ Blue Fiver (Harp, Grade 6); David Snell’s Toccata (Harp, Grade 8); and Philip Lane’s Malagveña (Clarinet, Grade 5) all featuring.
We probably know William Alwyn best for his Festival March, and his music continues to appear with his Sonatina (Violin, Grade 8) and Crépuscule (Harp, Grade 7). Most famous for his piece The Land of the Mountain and the Flood, but also an established composer for Chappells, Buxton Orr features with his Diatonic Preludes (Harp, Grade 4) and several pieces in the brass section. Another library music composer to feature is Gilbert Vinter, with his Playful Pachyderm (Bassoon, Grade 8) and Reverie (Bassoon, Grade 7).
Several other composers who can justifiably claim an association with light music include: Henry Mancini’s Charade (Viola, Grade 2) andinevitably The Pink Panther (Cello, Grade 2); Geoffrey Burgon’s Dawn (Harp, Grade 2); Madeline Dring’s Italian Dance (Oboe, Grade 7); Paul Reade’s Suite from The Victorian Kitchen Garden (Clarinet, Grade 5); and George Shearing’s Lullaby of Birdland (Euphonium, Grade 5).
If you’ve got children or grandchildren taking music exams, ask them what they’re playing; some of their choices may be more familiar than you might think.
This article first appeared in Journal Into Melody, issue 194 December 2012