05 May

Notes on a Possible Performance of two Leroy Anderson selections, consisting of the Richard Rodgers Waltz Medley (1- Lover, 2- Falling in Love with Love, 3- Oh, What a Beautiful Morning, 4- It's a Grand Night for Singing), and Song of the Bells.

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An article by William Zucker.

I'm sure my readers who regularly consult my notes on the many symphonic works and other staples of the classical repertoire will be absolutely flabbergasted upon discovering what I have now chosen to turn my attention to.

The fact does remain, however, that I will not turn my attention to any piece of music in this manner unless I see some genuine merit that I feel obligated to point out or at least acquaint my readers with. For the fact remains that in all genres of music, form the very serious to the lighter varieties, usually termed "For Easy Listening" (an unfortunately far too all-encompassing term); for all genres of music, there is what can be described as good and bad or rather inferior. I make no apologies for my choices. If a piece of music has communicated itself to me in some way, I like to see if I can share my experience with others.

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An article by William Zucker.

I'm sure my readers who regularly consult my notes on the many symphonic works and other staples of the classical repertoire will be absolutely flabbergasted upon discovering what I have now chosen to turn my attention to.

The fact does remain, however, that I will not turn my attention to any piece of music in this manner unless I see some genuine merit that I feel obligated to point out or at least acquaint my readers with. For the fact remains that in all genres of music, form the very serious to the lighter varieties, usually termed "For Easy Listening" (an unfortunately far too all-encompassing term); for all genres of music, there is what can be described as good and bad or rather inferior. I make no apologies for my choices. If a piece of music has communicated itself to me in some way, I like to see if I can share my experience with others.

Accordingly, regarding the music I am about to deal with, I propose to proceed along precisely the same lines as I would with a full length symphony. This music that I am presently covering I feel is deserving of the same amount of respect as its more serious counterpart.

Actually, this genre of music has always been with us. It responds to popular taste in a fashion, but the idea is still to produce something that is aesthetically pleasing. We have had in past generations our Johann Strauss, Jacques Offenbach, Franz von Suppe, Franz Lehar, etc., all of whom are given attention by top notch conductors. What we have here is actually no different, if representing a shift in popular taste and focus from former times. Whether such would be possible today under present day artistic trends is a question I am not about to take up at this point.

Leroy Anderson's Richard Rodgers Waltz Medley is an excellent example of the type I feel deserves serious attention. For one thing, unlike so many such show medleys we are subjected to, this one, along with others that Mr. Anderson has produced, are put together with particular care in that the different component sections follow one another in a musically logical manner, rather than simply a hodge podge of tunes following each other cheek by jowl without the slightest concern for the overall structure or compatibility of sections. He has produced several other such musical comedy medleys which show the same artistry and finish, completely the equal of the perhaps more immediately familiar ones (fully as satisfactory if a bit different in approach) by Robert Russell Bennett. I say this despite having known Mr. Bennett over an all too brief period, and having unfortunately never met Mr. Anderson.

To get to the Waltz Medley, it consists of four sections, as indicated in the title of this essay, but the subtitles will not be carried into this essay, as I vastly prefer to deal with it abstractly and simply as a piece of music.

With the first section, the rather jaunty manner of presentation is entirely appropriate, somewhat in the manner of the waltz from Gounod's Faust. As I always exhort, the dynamic markings are all-important and must be observed to the fullest. In turn, those occasional downbeat accents will actually maintain the forward movement in this case.

After the give and take D/A Flat/D Major extension to the forgoing, on the change to G Major for the second section, a carefully graded ritardando should be provided to lead gently into this section.

As throughout this piece, the byplay in the other parts, while contributory in their effect, must still never be permitted to obscure the main melody. The second portion of this melody is presented in a much more energetic setting, made evident by the all-important dynamics, but the tempo should always remain constant throughout this section.

After disposal of this material, there is an anticipation of the melody of the third section, still maintaining the tempo hitherto. Only in the last four measures, on the approach to E Major and the third section, there is a big ritardando on what is melodically at this point as several repeated Bs which of course will recur at the end of the second strain of this melody.

The ensuing section, at least at the outset, is to be presented at a tempo very much slower than the rest of the piece, almost suggesting a 12/8 meter or an adagio. The staccato subdivisions against the second strain of the melody are once again, contributory in effect, never under any circumstances to be distracting from the main melodic line.

After the end of the second strain to this melody, with once again the repeated Bs and the considerable ritardando to the end of the phrase, we move right back to G Major for the last portion, and back to the tempo of the second section, but following this, as we conclude this section, we have to pull the tempo back drastically, to a point even slower than before.

The final cadence, under a series of trills (how Straussian this really is, one must observe), is to be drawn out as much as practicable, and upon the resolution we are back in motion once again. The G in the treble at the outset and the F Sharp two measures later should be only briefly held; the main interest here being the undulating top voices of the harmonies, moving from G Major to B Flat Major to D Flat Major, and with a harmonic curlicue we turn right around, coming to a momentary halt on an F dominant chord, preparing for the B Flat Major of the fourth and final section, where there may be just a brief pause.

At the commencement of the section, the two chords at the outset, representing the first two notes of the melody should be held, perhaps for two measures apiece. The underlying motion for the ensuing section should be a good deal heavier than what we had in either of the first two sections. This is the summing-up portion, so to speak, and the most should be made of it. Once again, the dynamics are all-important and must be observed to the letter.

At the end of the second strain, there is a slight ritard and pause once again, perhaps not as drastic as at the outset of the section. Resuming the first strain, we must give the same emphasis to the first two chords as before. This time, the repeat of the first strain leads to a reminiscence of the melody from the third section, which is the climax of the forgoing.

After we get three-fourths of this reminiscence, there is a subito piano, and from this point we may very gently begin an accelerando along with the crescendo. After the hold on the dominant seventh chord, the section that resolves to the tonic gives us a much faster tempo, to conclude the piece, in a manner hardly at all different from the conclusion of a Strauss waltz.

The piece by Mr. Anderson, "Song of the Bells," may be very profitably considered in direct conjunction with the preceding, to show the strong family resemblance. I myself, in playing this set, transpose this piece to D Flat Major, down a half step from the original, to emphasize this strong family resemblance, as this gives us a much more closely related key following the B Flat Major conclusion of the preceding.

I am also adding this to the essay, as I consider this as one of Mr. Anderson's best pieces, of all the single sided record selections that he has produced. In general, the less explicitly descriptive the music is, the more congenial I find it. In some of his earlier such works, where one might imagine that due to a perceived lack of confidence in the ability of his own music to speak for itself (assuredly groundless), he resorted to various gimmicks, adding some sound effects which in this humble opinion, only succeeded in spoiling and defiling his work. There is no such problem here; one must only see to it that the bells and tam-tam are never permitted to overwhelm the overall musical substance.

With the brief introduction, we are immediately made aware of a feature almost always present, in that the second bar of a two bar set frequently gets an accent, leaned toward in the phrase. This effect may be explicitly present, as in the very opening gesture where our attention is immediately called to it, or it may be latent; present but not immediately obvious and not requiring any emphasis - simply an underlying feature that one may note. It is not at all the same as we find in Beethoven's work, where we actually have strong measures and weak measures; each measure in effect constituting a beat. In this case, the first measure of the phrase still constitutes the down beat, except that there is a strong emphasis or latent pull on the weak measures.

The tempo itself is much faster and lighter than that typically given in the preceding piece, more as a lighter French waltz than what we've had previously Otherwise there is little in this first section that calls for further comment.

The Trio section, which for me would be in G Flat Major, comes in two settings, the repeat being highly varied from the first. The so called "bell" effect must be presented so that the melody. with one note per measure, is heard integrally without any interference from any other part in that respect. On the repeat, where this melody now appears in the strings, the byplay in the upper parts, should be heard sufficiently only in order that there is the proper lilt to the whole, and the melody still must get its priority.

The reprise, again introduced by the brief introduction we had at the outset, at first proceeds as before, but on its restatement there is a more energetic setting in preparation for the conclusion. On the second phrase of this there will commence a very gradual accelerando and crescendo. After the momentary hold, there is a four bar phrase where the music will momentarily broaden, with the accent on the second bar of each pair; i.e., the dominant seventh chord. At the resolution, the quicker tempo reasserts itself, and may push ever so slightly faster through this final gesture. The B Double Flat of the flat submediant chord should really ring out before the emphatic perfect cadence which closes the piece.

As I may have indicated, we do Leroy Anderson a grave disservice when we think of him merely as a "tunesmith," exampled by those compilations of "your favorite Leroy Anderson melodies" thrown together, one after the other. This is emphatically not what his work was about; there is a very distinctive manner, which can best be appreciate in his arrangements of musical comedy medleys, the Irish Suite, and the like. His best original work will also give us an idea of his capabilities; however, that which had become popular on the hit parade charts back in the early 50's, while recognizably his when his own arrangements are used, do not necessarily represent him at his best, but that is in the nature of things. At the same time, that which he penned in response to the holiday season, also frequently heard in bowdlerized settings, should likewise be heard from his own hands detached from its context. From this point, I leave it to the listener to judge, but I continue to feel that this music should be kept actively alive because it communicates, which is most important. This communication will come about because there is that in the music which responds to a listener's previous experiences and consequent expectations, to a greater or lesser degree. The response to such experiences must always be present, if only to be directly answered or thwarted in some way.

As usual, I am always open to comments.

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29 Apr

The King of Light Music

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Eric CoatesOn BBC iPlayer:- Alasdair Molloy explores the career of Eric Coates.

Although best known for his signature tune to Desert Island Discs and The Dambusters March, Coates's orchestral music is coming back to the concert hall.

Alasdair profiles a man who had to wear shirt, tie and tweed jacket and light up a cigarette before he could sit down and compose, as well as a man keen on photography, fast cars and the Charleston.

Available for the next few days on BBC iPlayer

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19 Apr

Accompanying Gracie

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 View large cover Accompanying GracieThe Life, Times and Music of Harry Parr Davies (1914-1955)

Andrew Everett has written a book about composer and songwriter Harry Parr Davies.

It is available in two formats, either as an e-book at £2.95, or as a paperback at £12.95 plus postage from publishers Authorhouse. However, should anybody like a signed copy, Andrew is happy to supply one for £12 post free.

Furthermore, if of interest, he can also provide a companion to the book, a Powerpoint Presentation with music on CDs.  Andrew can be contacted on 01913730262.

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19 Apr

And The Bridge is Love - English Music for Strings

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English Chamber Orchestra /
Julian Lloyd Webber, Cello and Conductor
Naxos 8.573250

Review by Peter Burt, read it here...

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19 Apr

Cole Porter in Hollywood The John Wilson Orchestra

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Warner Classics 2564627680

Review by Peter Burt, read it here...

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14 Apr

Classic FM Hall of Fame

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Iain Sutherland has announced that six of his recordings which are regularly featured on the Classic FM playlist  were voted by listeners into the list of top 300 titles in the 2015 CLASSIC FM HALL OF FAME.  They are:-

48. SCHINDLER'S LIST -- JOHN WILLIAMS  B000026BIG
109. GREENSLEEVES -- R. VAUGHAN-WILLIAMS SOMMCD 0117
128. ELIZABETHAN SERENADE -- RONALD BINGE SOMMCD 0117
149. ENGLISH FOLK SONG SUITE -- R. VAUGHAN-WILLIAMS  ALC 1192
252. WALKING THE DOG -- GEORGE GERSHWIN  ALC 1206
270. THE WATERMILL -- RONALD BINGE  ALC 1192

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14 Apr

CD review – Guild GLCD 5225 – More Gems from the 1930s

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This is a cracking collection of light music of the ‘30s, mainly from the continent – and if you like that era’s melodies, then you'll lap up these twenty-two tracks !

More information here...

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01 Apr

Composer and arranger Roy Douglas dies

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The composer and arranger Roy Douglas died on March 23rd 2015, at the great age of 107. Almost totally self-taught, he worked extensively with Ralph Vaughan Williams and William Walton. He is probably best known for his collaboration with Richard Addinsell, especially on the Warsaw Concerto, (written for the WWII film "Dangerous Moonlight"), in the composition of which he almost certainly played the greater part. He only received £100 for his efforts - whilst Addinsell reputedly made millions - and he never even received 'proper' recognition for his indispensable contribution to that work.

His reputation, and fortunately his finances, fared much better as a result of his re-orchestration, in  1936, of Frederic Chopin's music for the ballet "Les Sylphides". For this opus he was fully credited and he continued to  receive a substantial royalty income for the rest of his life.  

Tony Clayden

March 2015

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13 Mar

Light Music afternoon at the British Vintage Wireless and Television Museum

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An Afternoon of Light Music (recordings) will be presented at The British Vintage Wireless and Television Museum on Saturday afternoon

28th March 2015 at 12.30pm

Presentation by Brian Reynolds and Chris Money

The cost is £10 per person
and a light lunch will be provided

The
British Vintage Wireless and Television Museum,
23 Rosendale Road, West Dulwich,
London SE21 8DS

Please telephone in advance to make a booking
Please call Eileen on
020- 8670 3667

All proceeds to the Museum Trust.
Registered Charity No 1111516

Light Music afternoon at the British Vintage Wireless and Television Museum

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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.