Robert Farnon
Robert Farnon

CENTENARY CELEBRATION
Robert Farnon’s 100th birthday
By Robert Walton

July 24th 2017 is exactly 100 years since Toronto-born Robert Farnon first saw the light of day. Much of my knowledge and praise of him has trickled down through my JIM articles especially in the miniatures. It’s amazing what one learnt from the music. Bob used to regularly ring me with a comment or two about my latest article. He appreciated my musical analyses and sometimes gave me details of the back-stories of his Canadian impressions.

Why does music move us? It’s a very personal thing really. There are many reasons we are affected, mostly impossible to fathom, but in Farnon’s case it’s a totally spiritual experience covering all the emotions especially in his magnificent miniatures. The great JS Bach affected us in much the same way. Farnon’s might be brief but they contain such a huge range of melodic and harmonic originality that they come up fresh every time. Each aspect of the music sends out an unspoken message of positiveness and hope. Normal language ceases to exist as the music does the talking.

Take Melody Fair for example. This radiant classically orientated two and a half minute masterpiece demonstrates Farnon’s natural sense of musicianship in which every element slots perfectly into place. Like a river it flows beautifully from start to finish. There never was or indeed ever will be such perfectly formed pieces of creativity. Strangely you get more for your money with a miniature.

In Farnon’s obituary I omitted to mention his arrangements of popular songs from shows and films. It was the first time many overseas fans ever heard his work. However they were generously sprinkled with the seeds of his miniatures.

It’s hard to believe 100 years have passed since he came into the world but his music from symphonies and film soundtracks right down to those towering miniature masterpieces, continue to excite the old guard and thrill the up-and-coming generations,

Although Robert Farnon is generally regarded as the greatest arranger of his generation, he surely must also be a strong contender for the title “Greatest Miniaturist of the 2Oth century”. Just as Bach’s 48 Preludes and Fugues, each lasting only a few minutes, is an entire world of music in miniature, so too are Farnon’s light orchestral pieces. Unfortunately because of his association with background music and particularly signature tunes, he never received the serious recognition he deserved. Only when his music is completely divorced from its original purpose and treated independently on its own merits, will it be properly appreciated. It may take a little time, but make no mistake that will come.

As well as his memorable music, it is not generally known that many musicians and arrangers including myself have reason to be grateful for his generosity with help and advice.

Happy 100th Bob!

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14 Jul

My Object All Sublime

Written by

(Gilbert; Sullivan)
Robert Farnon & His Orchestra
Analysed by Robert Walton

There can’t be many arrangements that have such a variety of musical nuts and bolts - Canadian Caravan, “James Bond”, “Maytime in Mayfair”, Count Basie, Fred Astaire and Gilbert and Sullivan...

Read the article here...

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(Gilbert; Sullivan)
Robert Farnon & His Orchestra

Analysed by Robert Walton

There can’t be many arrangements that have such a variety of musical nuts and bolts - Canadian Caravan, “James Bond”, “Maytime in Mayfair”, Count Basie, Fred Astaire and Gilbert and Sullivan. The opening alone is one of the most thrilling in music taking full advantage of the arrival of stereo. You’ve never heard strings, brass and woodwind like it. Purists of comic opera were not exactly pleased but American audiences enjoyed Mike Todd’s “The Hot Mikado”, his first Broadway musical in 1939.

And then the orchestra swings like the clappers in a way that the original “Mikado” never did and never will again. A toe-tapping rhythm grabs you everytime and instantly brings back Gilbert’s lyrics in a most unexpected setting. And talking of feet, we’re treated to a dazzling display of ‘Astaires’s wares’ after which the ghost of Count Basie bounces in. (I once met Robert Farnon at a 1957 Basie concert in which he described the sound as “a shot in the arm!”).

The piece gradually builds up to a terrific climax influenced by the orchestra long considered one of the world’s best swing bands Count Basie, on a par with Duke Ellington and Jimmy Lunceford. The Farnon sound still bears the stamp of Kansas City. The brass belts away with the strings having the final say.

Let’s remind ourselves of those clever catchy words we heard in our youth.

My object all sublime
I shall achieve in time-
To let the punishment fit the crime,
The punishment fit the crime;
And make each prisoner pent
Unwillingly represent
A source of innocent merriment,
Of innocent merriment.
My Object all Sublime (Gilbert & Sullivan)

Jack Saunders Orchestra (actually Robert Farnon’s Orchestra)
“A Box of Light Musical Allsorts”
Golden Age of Light Music
Guild Records GLCD 5157

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28 Jun

Elgar and His Peers, The Art of the Military Band

Written by

ELGAR AND HIS PEERS, The Art of the Military Band SOMM CD0170 London Symphonic Concert Band conducted by Tom Higgins and the Joyful Company of Singers directed by Peter Broadbent...

Reads the review here.

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20 Jun

Raymond Lefèvre - Holiday Symphonies & Tomorrow’s…Symphonies du Futur

Written by

RAYMOND LEFEVRE & HIS ORCHESTRA
Holiday Symphonies & Tomorrow’s…Symphonies du Futur
Vocalion CDLK 4592 (77:15)

Raymond Lefèvre (1929-2008) was one of the triumvirate of French easy listening orchestra leaders/arrangers/composers – the others being Paul Mauriat and Franck Pourcel – who sold millions of albums around the world in the 1960s and ‘70s.

Read the review here...

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15 Jun

International tribute to Paul Mauriat (about new recordings from Paris)

Written by

Grand Orchestra of Jean Jacques Justafre (France) had its second birth in America thanks to the efforts of USA producers Alexander Goldstein and Boris Lontsikh. The producers reached out to Grand Orchestra of Jean Jacques Justafre (GOJJJ) leader, one of the last conductors of the legendary Grand Orchestra de Paul Mauriat. GOJJJ is welcome in many countries primarily for its efforts to preserve the style, and most importantly, the sound of Paul Mauriat's orchestra.

The producers gave GOJJJ a very different challenge. They carefully selected music material and style for the new arrangements, so that on the one hand, it would be recognizable to a wide circle of music fans, and on the other, introduce a new big symphonic orchestra sound of the 21st century...

Read more details about brand new CD album:
http://paulmauriat.grandorchestras.ru

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11 Jun

Hubert Clifford The Cowes Suite and other works

Written by

Vocalion CDLX 7338 BBC Concert Orchestra conducted by Ronald Corp.

The Cowes Suite (Cowes Roads, Buccaneer, Carnival & Fireworks, Royal Visitor); Dargo (A Mountain Rhapsody); Irish Comedy Overture; Pageant of Youth; Left of the Line; Victorian Polka; Hunted (1952 film suite); Voyage at Dusk (Fantasy).

Read the review here...

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11 Jun

Cecil Armstrong Gibbs Orchestral Works

Written by

Vocalion CDLX 7338 BBC Concert Orchestra conducted by Ronald Corp.

Crossings (Suite for Orchestra); Enchanted Wood; A Vision of Night (Symphonic Poem); Dusk (Waltz from the Fancy Dress Suite); Suite in A for Violin and Orchestra; The Cat and the Wedding Cake; Four Orchestral Dances.

Read the review here...

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31 May

Aspidistra Drawing Room Orchestra Concert – May 29th 2017

Written by

By  Tony Clayden

An extensively re-furbished Lauderdale House, in North London’s Highgate Village, was the venue for the annual Spring Concert given by the Aspidistra Drawing Room Orchestra. This was their sixteenth consecutive Bank Holiday event, which was well supported by many faithful ‘regulars’ – including several from the London Light Music Meetings Group – and in addition, a number of ‘first timers’...

Read the article here...

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An extensively re-furbished Lauderdale House, in North London’s Highgate Village, was the venue for the annual Spring Concert given by the Aspidistra Drawing Room Orchestra. This was their sixteenth consecutive Bank Holiday event, which was well supported by many faithful ‘regulars’ – including several from the London Light Music Meetings Group – and in addition, a number of ‘first timers’.

Amongst the latter was Howard Del Monte, who had travelled from Hampshire to hear a spirited rendering of his father Sydney’s composition ‘ Bows and Bells ‘. This was a popular

favourite on BBC Radio around fifty years ago. Sydney Del Monte was a guitarist and banjo player, who was a regular member of The Banjoliers for many years.

We were treated once again to an afternoon of fine ‘Palm Court’ music in contrasting styles; a few ‘fast and jolly’ compositions, interspersed with some calmer pieces and garnished with some songs performed Liz Menezes and Camilla Cutts.

Nearly one hundred years of musical heritage was represented, ranging from ‘light classical’ to ‘jazzy’. The programme featured a line-up of works, which, with one or two exceptions, have not previously been performed by the orchestra. These included two selections with a definite gipsy influence, from the Russian composer Yascha Krein and G. S. Mathis [a pseudonym of Hungarian émigré Matyas Seiber].

Other composers featured included Charles Ancliffe, Sigmund Romberg, Gerhard Winkler and Albert Ketelbey, who made two appearances with pieces written specifically to accompany silent films. A later generation was represented by, amongst others, Horst Jankowski, Ray Martin and Leroy Anderson.

A welcome surprise was the original version of the famous ‘American Patrol’ by Fred Meacham, in a very different rendition from the familiar arrangement made popular by Glenn Miller and others.

Adam Bakker, who runs and directs the orchestra, has recently acquired the entire collection of sheet music previously owned by Ann Adams, who was the founder of – and for many years conducted – the Ladies Palm Court Orchestra. Four of the items on the programme came from this source. Speaking to Adam during the interval, it became apparent that he faces a mammoth task of sorting and archiving this vast inventory of compositions !

As always, the orchestra’s performance was of a very high standard, the players obviously relishing the opportunity to perform repertoire from a ‘threatened genre’ which, most regrettably, achieves very little exposure these days.

Very many thanks are therefore due to Adam Bakker and the Aspidistra Drawing Room Orchestra, for presenting another really enjoyable concert and especially for continuing to promote ‘Palm Court’ music.

Tony Clayden

© 2017

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About Geoff 123
Geoff Leonard was born in Bristol. He spent much of his working career in banking but became an independent record producer in the early nineties, specialising in the works of John Barry and British TV theme compilations.
He also wrote liner notes for many soundtrack albums, including those by John Barry, Roy Budd, Ron Grainer, Maurice Jarre and Johnny Harris. He co-wrote two biographies of John Barry in 1998 and 2008, and is currently working on a biography of singer, actor, producer Adam Faith.
He joined the Internet Movie Data-base (www.imdb.com) as a data-manager in 2001 and looked after biographies, composers and the music-department, amongst other tasks. He retired after nine years loyal service in order to continue writing.