Analysed by Robert Walton
As I’m sure you know, I get a great kick out of analysing light orchestral pieces, especially ones that are jolly and cheerful. Without doubt Mannequin Melody fits into that category perfectly. In fact it puts one instantly into a good mood. This Clive Richardson composition contains many of the qualities of the 1940’s Golden Era, including the presence of the Queen’s Hall Light Orchestra conducted by Robert Farnon. You can’t ask for more than that. So let’s take a closer look at this latter day classic Mannequin Melody from 1958.
The piece opens with two sustained notes from the bassoon whilst the violins illuminate the chords with some appropriate lively decoration. Flying flutes flutter down to join one of light music’s most stylish tunes, Mannequin Melody. And there’s nothing quite so effective as a melody played by unison violins. They might be playing in the middle register region of the keyboard, but they give a definite impression of lower strings. Being on the same note creates a far more dramatic sound than if they were in harmony. (Just listen to the Melachrino Strings). This simple format really does give the tune the ultimate in exposure. Note on bars 7 and 8 of the first outing of the melody a pizzicato reminder of Holiday for Strings. Big Brother David is watching!
So let’s continue this soaring syncopated strain by one of the masters of this most British of genres. It depicts the post-war era when models on the fashion fairways were of normal size, not dangerously thin and certainly not looking miserable! Returning to the melody, the one-note violins magically metamorphose into harmony with the woodwind briefly taking over before repeating what the pizzicato strings were doing.
The sound of vibes and harp herald a full 32 bar middle section, much of it borrowed from Richardson’s own 1946 prototype Melody on the Move with strings, woodwind, muted brass and vibes. A case of recycling. If you listen carefully you will even hear echoes of Holiday Spirit.
Then it’s back for a final single-note saunter along the catwalk with the three main constituents, Clive Richardson, Robert Farnon and the Queen’s Hall Light Orchestra, all adding their expertise to the finished product. This tried and tested formula works every time.
This Chappell recording of Mannequin Melody is available on the Guild CD “A Box of Light Musical Allsorts” (GLCD 5157)