11 Dec

Blue Tango -- Very Best of Leroy Anderson Light Classics -- Iain Sutherland Concert Orchestra

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New Leroy Anderson CD
IAIN SUTHERLAND CONCERT ORCHESTRA.
ALTO ALC 1324

"Leroy Anderson (1908-1975) was arguably the most successful 20th century American composer of light orchestral music, ...

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04 Dec

London Fantasia

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(Clive Richardson)
Columbia Light Symphony Orchestra conducted by
Charles Williams featuring Clive Richardson, piano.

Analysed by Robert Walton

It was in 1990 that Carlin Music asked me to write a “Theatrical Overture” for their library. On the day of the session, imagine my surprise when one of my idols of music Clive Richardson casually strolled into CTS studios at Wembley. I had already met him at a Robert Farnon Appreciation Society recital but this you can understand was something else. His contribution to the session were two new compositions of his called Shopping Around and Mantovani Strings. While he was very generous in praising my work, I was totally immersed in that famous ‘Richardson’ sound. For many years it had been my intention to analyse his London Fantasia for JIM. So why not now?

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(Clive Richardson)
Columbia Light Symphony Orchestra conducted by
Charles Williams featuring Clive Richardson, piano.

Analysed by Robert Walton

It was in 1990 that Carlin Music asked me to write a “Theatrical Overture” for their library. On the day of the session, imagine my surprise when one of my idols of music Clive Richardson casually strolled into CTS studios at Wembley. I had already met him at a Robert Farnon Appreciation Society recital but this you can understand was something else. His contribution to the session were two new compositions of his called Shopping Around and Mantovani Strings. While he was very generous in praising my work, I was totally immersed in that famous ‘Richardson’ sound. For many years it had been my intention to analyse his London Fantasia for JIM. So why not now?

Richard Addinsell’s Warsaw Concerto was undoubtedly the first of its kind and proved to be the most popular of the genre, but I have always maintained the Richardson composition deserved far more recognition because of its highly descriptive musical narrative. It was originally called The Coventry Concerto but the more he worked on the score, Richardson felt London Fantasia was a more appropriate title. In essence it’s a nine minute microcosm of WW2.

An instant attention grabber, the opening section of timpani, brass and strings immediately creates a threatening and uneasy atmosphere, reminding one of the evils and pointlessness of war. But suddenly the music becomes becalmed by a radiant string tune perhaps looking back to those halcyon days of a once peaceful prewar period. Maybe we hoped there was still an outside chance of averting conflict.

But that was all swept away by the first sound of the ‘boots on the ground’ of young men marching off to unknown destinations to fight for King and country. Note a single sustained string note continues right through from the tranquil tune into this dramatic sector. Then a troop-carrying train is brought into the picture. And yet again that calming optimistic tune reappears to even greater effect. After a suggestion of Londoners at work and children at play, there’s a touch of Carriage And Pair from which emerges the bells of old London. Conductor Charles Williams would have related to that, as there was a lot of ‘London’ in his music.

And then something absolutely magical happens - the music slows right down to a virtual standstill, creating one of the most moving moments in music. The piano enters with two lots of nine gentle chords. Never have minor chords sounded so effective. The simplicity after all the drama is mesmerizing. It may not seem obvious but the piece has finally come to life baring its soul.

After a definite break, the strings lead in to Richardson’s glorious theme played by the solo piano supported by a cello, later joined by the rest of the orchestra. Notice his fondness for triplets in the tune like David Rose. Twice the oboe is at the forefront of building up the momentum as we head towards a cadenza or flourish, featuring the frantic fingers of Richardson, demonstrating his dazzling technique and particularly sensitive touch. His use of single notes is far more powerful than any complicated writing. Back briefly to the theme before some more piano pyrotechnics.

Then, as children in the far off Empire, the moment we all used to wait for was an air raid siren brilliantly imitated by the strings, warning that heavy bombers were approaching. The Battle of Britain had begun. Richardson throws everything he can orchestrally at this musical canvas with particular emphasis on the percussion. He didn’t forget the rescue services either rushing along with their bells to where they were needed. Eventually the all-clear sounds, and life returns to some sort of normality.

So what does Richardson do after that first raid? He calls upon the services of the instrument that has the range and capacity to provide a complete coverage of emotions, the violin. Great sadness descends across the nation, echoed from the darkest depths of the violin’s recesses. As it heads to the heights for the brighter top of its range, a major chord expresses a message of peace and hope for the future, now in tandem with the piano.

London Fantasia, Richardson’s magnum opus, gradually builds up to one of the most thrilling endings of any composition for piano and orchestra I know. If ever a piece told its own story then this is it. A tale of courage, endurance and above all humanity. No other composer has written a work of such power, originality and eloquence about such a momentous event. The general public thought so too in their millions.

Finally, with all the excitement and pleasure of meeting Clive Richardson, I almost forgot to mention another musician who happened to be playing on the Carlin session. My all-time favourite jazz drummer and long term member of the great Ted Heath Orchestra - Ronnie Verrell! My cup was overflowing that day!

“London Fantasia” available on Guild Light Music

“The Hall Of Fame” Volume 1 (GLCD 5120)

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04 Dec

Haydn Wood's "Merry Dale" recorded on CD

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Haydn Wood's march "Merry Dale" written for Slaithwaite Brass Band (Slaithwaite the village of his birth) has been recorded for the very first time on a CD called "Evolution".

Merry Dale was never published but was given by Haydn Wood directly to the band, who still own the original hand written manuscript parts.

Merry Dale has never been performed by any one other than Slaithwaite Band or outside the village.

Also on the Evolution CD is a recording of "A Brown Bird Singing" another piece composed by Haydn Wood performed as a cornet solo.

Music from the CD is being featured on Yorkshire Brass (Radio Leeds, York, Humberside + others) on Sunday 4th December and is available for a month on the BBC iPlayer.

The CD Evolution is available by post, price £11 inc p&p direct from Slaithwaite Band. See slaithwaiteband.org.UK for contact details.

 

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22 Nov

British Light Music at The British Home

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Poster for 26th Feb 2017

British Light Music at
The British Home

The Mark Fitz-Gerald Orchestra is holding a
fundraising concert in aid of The British Home.

Piano soloist Stephen Dickinson.

3.00 pm - Sunday 26th February 2017

Concert Hall, The British Home, Crown Lane, SW16 3JB

Tickets: £7.00 and Concessions £5.00 to include tea and coffee.
Tickets are limited please call the Home on 0208 670 8261 to
purchase your tickets or visit the website at www.britishhome.org.uk

The British Home is an independent charity that cares for people with disabilities and long
term medical conditions. Charity Number 206222

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14 Nov

The Goose Pimple Factor Or On The Bumpy Road To Mahler

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According to Robert Walton

Goose bumps, goose flesh, goose pimples, chill bumps or the medical term cutis anserina, are the swelling on the skin at the base of body hairs which may occur when a person is cold, scared or in awe of something. Basically it’s a rush of adrenalin. To be stimulated or overwhelmed is a very individual thing, depending of course what turns you on. It might be a structure, a view, a painting, a book, a person, a voice, or in my case, music.

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According to Robert Walton

Goose bumps, goose flesh, goose pimples, chill bumps or the medical term cutis anserina, are the swelling on the skin at the base of body hairs which may occur when a person is cold, scared or in awe of something. Basically it’s a rush of adrenalin. To be stimulated or overwhelmed is a very individual thing, depending of course what turns you on. It might be a structure, a view, a painting, a book, a person, a voice, or in my case, music.

The first time I ever experienced a serious attack of goose “bumples”, was when I was laid up with a far worse problem, a digestive disorder sometimes called the dreaded lurgy. But I completely forgot the pain when from my bedside radio I happened to hear the signature tune of New Zealand’s version of the BBC’s “Down Your Way” called “South Pacific Flight”. It was Robert Farnon’s Canadian impression Gateway to the West, once described as the thinking man’s Tara’s Theme from “Gone With The Wind”. It’s difficult to explain why Gateway to the West had such an effect on me but I suspect somewhere in my being was a dormant chemical reaction waiting to happen. I became totally absorbed in the music. In this completely random event, I was instantly caught up in its spell, and as a tsunami of emotion swept over me, it changed my life forever. A profusion of pimples broke out accompanied by an uncontrollable stream of tears. Who knows what triggers such reactions? Maybe it’s in the genes. In the case of Gateway to the West, it was the entire package of melody, harmony and orchestration. I guess it simply struck a chord! Trouble was, it took ages before I discovered the title and name of its composer. Once known, it opened the floodgates to Farnon’s music from which I never quite recovered. Strangely enough I had unknowingly heard his Jumping Bean that at the time meant absolutely nothing.

Not long after that memorable moment, another unexpected incident presented itself. I was on my own at a cinema when a trailer for the 195O film “Teresa” came up showing Pier Angeli in a corn field. Just the sight of her was enough to produce a similar reaction to Gateway to the West. It was her stunning natural beauty that caught my eye and left a permanent black and white imprint on my psyche.

It was in another movie “An American in Paris”, that I first heard the Gershwin composition that inspired the title. Just the opening, a revelation, was enough to send me into paroxysms of delight as the tune clashed with the bass line in a way that went right through me like an electric shock. It was a kind of pain caused by the dissonance.

Most sensible singers make it a practice to do a thorough sound and familiarization check before performing on stage, especially one that’s new to them. Vera Lynn was no exception and lucky enough to have the expertise of her fastidious husband Harry Lewis who always made sure that everything was just perfect. I was her pianist on a tour in the mid-1960s when the three of us entered the Stoke-on-Trent venue to give it the once over. As we walked in, the public address system was playing what I can only describe as “music from heaven”. I immediately went into a kind of trance. Vera and Harry couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about, but I was in another world transfixed to the spot. After making inquiries, the engineer in the control room informed me it was the title track of George Shearing’s album “Touch me Softly” - a Shearing arrangement. Near the end of the piece, the ravishing strings go into overdrive in what I call “tone apart” harmony. Let me explain. On the piano, the right hand plays the chord of say G, while an octave below, the left hand plays the chord of F. Play them together and the dissonance it creates is absolutely sublime, especially if you move them up and down in tones.

By then I thought I’d heard it all, but I had to wait another thirty years before the next big musical discovery. It was as a member of the City of Bath Bach Choir I discovered Mahler. Not just any old Mahler mind you, but his 2nd Symphony (“The Resurrection”). Back in the 1950s Mahler’s music was almost unheard of, but a jazz pianist friend of mine, Crombie Murdoch, was even then extolling the virtues of it. At the first rehearsal I sensed this was going to be one of the biggest weepies of my life. That was entirely confirmed when we performed the work with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra at Portsmouth, Bournemouth and the Royal Albert Hall. It might have been only the last ten minutes of the symphony but what an unforgettable ten minutes! These were some of music’s most moving moments with shades of Malotte’s Lord’s Prayer, itself probably inspired by Mahler. As it gradually builds, I became so overwhelmed with emotion I found it impossible to sing. The only way to participate was to become totally detached. It was the hardest thing I ever had to do!

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02 Nov

Two new meetings in November

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Tony Clayden will be presenting an afternoon of recorded music at the British Vintage Wireless and Television Museum on Saturday 19th November.

Please phone Eileen on 020 8670 3667 if you are coming so that catering can be assessed. Details below:


New Eltham Methodist Church, Footscray Road, New Eltham, London SE9 3UL
(Turn right out of New Eltham Station from Charing X, cross over traffic lights, and church is a few hundred yards on the left - less than 5 minutes walk).

Click here for more about the PSA Society)

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31 Oct

The Great British Mood Music Album - a comment

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I have read Bob Walton's article with interest, and although I have already left a comment, I indicated that I might wish to expand on it once having looked at the article in closer detail.

I gather from his comments that he gives the palm of outstanding song writing and quality songs to American song writers while on the other hand that of quality instrumental mood music composers to those in the UK.

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I have read Bob Walton's article with interest, and although I have already left a comment, I indicated that I might wish to expand on it once having looked at the article in closer detail.

I gather from his comments that he gives the palm of outstanding song writing and quality songs to American song writers while on the other hand that of quality instrumental mood music composers to those in the UK.

I had indicated something along those lines in an article that was published in the JIM magazine several years ago, implying that relative strong points in the genre of light music received different respective emphasis in the USA and UK, although I was thinking of purely instrumental selections, citing the pre-eminence of outstanding arrangements of popular standards by American arrangers and a more advanced tradition of light music compositions within the UK.  This is the common assumption, although in both cases, I would venture to say that the opposite is definitely true as well - put a little more directly, I would say that here in the USA we have our Leroy Anderson, Morton Gould, Camarata, David Rose, Victor Young and Percy Faith, etc., as regards original work, all figures whose work shows considerable individuality, while in the UK there are arrangements of popular standards by such men as Robert Farnon, Mantovani, George Melachrino, and Stanley Black which are viable as well.  Thus there is really no monopoly on either aspect of light music despite the fact that different emphasis has been applied in different areas in the two countries.

Now, as far as popular standards go; yes, many of these have certainly made their way in the sense that they have caught on with the general public who can unthinkingly sing or hum them, with or without the lyrics.  Different people may have different preferences in this area as is always the case, but as far as what may be considered greater or rather more popular with a larger percent of the general public, exactly as in serious music, I like to think of this phenomenon as a certain greater versatility of contact.  Please note that this does not take into account inherent quality which again comes from how a listener of some experience receives the song or selection in question.

It should be borne in mind that a song writer is a very different sort of musician from a serious composer or arranger.  Very often, his work is totally dependent on a skilled arranger to make its way - something that those who unthinkingly sing or hum it to themselves might not be aware of.  A song writer can be a musician of considerable substance, as was the case with the likes of Victor Herbert, Rudolf Friml and Sigmund Romberg (in the UK there are Eric Coates and Haydn Wood as examples), or they may be someone who simply hacks out melodies which are catchy in themselves but otherwise lacks basic musical skills - some of these, such as was Irving Berlin, do not even have the ability to read music. Still others, like Richard Rodgers, may fall somewhere between the two extremes but still whose work is best left to top notch arrangers.  The point I am making here is that the two aspects in song writing - constructing a melody that immediately catches on with the public and the musicianship required in providing a suitable setting for these melodies are totally separate and do not necessarily go hand in hand together.  This is something many of us tend to forget, and as a result are guilty of this sort of erroneous thinking.

The best example of this distinction that I can provide is with Richard Rodgers, who as I just stated, falls somewhere in between the extremes of substantial composer song writers and melody hacks.  In the case of Rodgers, we can listen to the magnificent settings by such as Robert Russell Bennett, Andre Kostelanetz and Morton Gould, and later with Leroy Anderson, and contrast these with recordings made by Richard Rodgers himself performing some of his songs at the piano with an orchestra.  This latter may be an interesting historical document, but from a musical standpoint, many who relish the well crafted arrangements by the figures I just named might be turned off by the excessive blandness of Rodgers' presentations, oftentimes bordering on insipidity.

As I stated above, UK composers of light music Eric Coates and Haydn Wood have notably written songs of their own, some of which have even caught on, although I couldn't say whether in the composers' own settings.  In any event, I personally choose to deal with these two figures as full fledged composers of pieces of some substance of which they have shown their full capabilities.

"The Great British Mood Music Album" deals with composers who have contributed to the Chappell Library of Mood Music performed by the Queen's Hall Light Orchestra.  Bob has mentioned a number of these composers whose contributions have considerable value, but I feel that other composers not forming a part of this group should be mentioned as offering works of equal substance and value, at least in my opinion.

Of those that came out of this Chappell group I have already mentioned Felton Rapley, one of my own personal favorites, and in this connection, Joyce Cochrane should also be mentioned, as one who was an actual composer of substance as well as a melodist.

Of those who did not work out of this group, we have Ronald Binge and Richard Addinsell, although I should also point out that both George Melachrino and Mantovani, far better known as conductors, were actually in addition composers whose work show considerable skill and insight. Ronald Hanmer (nee Bernard Landes) is another figure who deserves recognition along those lines, though not part of the Chappell group. Lesser lights might include figures such as Ray Martin and Malcolm Lockyer.

Bob's article I felt was well thought out and I found nothing whatever to criticize within it, but I felt that certain points made called for an expansion and further explanation of some of these points.

William Zucker

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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.