19 May

Big City

By  Robert Walton
(0 votes)

(Robert Busby)
Queen’s Hall Light Orchestra
Analysed by Robert Walton

The Chappell recorded music library created quite a stir in the music business when it came into being in 1941 with a series of 78s specifically designed for the use of radio, films and especially newsreels. Not only were they perfect for the job but many of the compositions proved to be extremely popular in their own right with the public as well. Many were released as singles. In fact the whole world embraced them. Never in the history of music was there such a unique sound with the highest quality of original tunes, brilliant arrangements and outstanding performances. A Window of Wonder! If it hadn’t been for the requirement of background music, these sounds might never have seen the light of day.

Occasionally some films used them for their entire soundtracks. I forget the title of the first one I saw in 1957 but the music clearly made an impression on me. It became a sort of quiz when I kept guessing what the next title was. Mind you although it was a novel idea, the music was not really suitable for soundtracks. There’s still nothing that can beat commissioning an official composer for such an enterprise to have overall control over the music and dealing personally with each scene.

The second movie I saw which used Chappell mood music recordings was from 1948 entitled “It Happened in Soho” starring Richard Murdoch. It opened with Robert Busby’s “Big City”. I discovered it in the current television series “Talking Pictures”. It was like Charles Williams with a big difference - a touch of Farnon. Williams was the first composer selected for the series. He was very professional and a great craftsman and his style became the prototype for many of the tunes that followed, but sometimes he lacked the emotional input and modern harmonies that later writers wrote.

A thrilling opening quotes Gershwin’s I Got Rhythm, London Bridge is Falling Down and suitable fill-in music emanating from Busby’s pencil. The whole track might be only 1:27 but what a great introduction. After more movement, a gorgeous string melody assisted by flutes and bells gradually climbs the heights providing the necessary passion and intensity. We are now completely immersed into Busby country. The end is essentially the same as the start with a flourish, before the bells highlight a glorious finish.

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Read 168 times Last modified on Tuesday, 19 May 2020 12:29

3 comments

  • Tony Clayden posted by Tony Clayden Saturday, 23 May 2020 16:25

    Robert talks about 'Charles Williams being the first composer selected for the new Chappell Library' Its a bit more complicated than that ! Williams was actually commissioned by Chappells to set-up and supervise the new venture; he did so on the understanding that a significant number of the titles would be composed by him. The company revived the name 'Queens Hall Light Orchestra', although the ensemble was largely comprised of the same band of session musicians who were already undertaking recordings for other publishers [e.g. Boosey and Hawkes and de Wolfes]. Williams acted as conductor for most, if not all, of the first batch, but was subsequently joined by Robert Farnon and Sidney Torch. in time, the Chappell library became regarded as the finest of its kind in the entire world.

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  • Tony Clayden posted by Tony Clayden Saturday, 23 May 2020 16:24

    Robert talks about 'Charles Williams being the first composer selected for the new Chappell Library' Its a bit more complicated than that ! Williams was actually commissioned by Chappells to set-up and supervise the new venture; he did so on the understanding that a significant number of the titles would be composed by him. The company revived the name 'Queens Hall Light Orchestra', although the ensemble was largely comprised of the same band of session musicians who were already undertaking recordings for other publishers [e.g. Boosey and Hawkes and de Wolfes]. Williams acted as conductor for most, if not all, of the first batch, but was subsequently joined by Robert Farnon and Sidney Torch. in time, the Chappell library became regarded as the finest of its kind in the entire world.

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  • Alexander Gleason posted by Alexander Gleason Tuesday, 19 May 2020 19:35

    "It Happened in Soho" is an appallingly cheap B feature, but absolutely brim-full of Chappell Classics including Busby's 'Universal Strife', Phil Green's Pan-American Panorama' , Sidney Torch's 'Changing Scenes' Len Stevens' 'Hurly-Burly', a romantic item by Mischa Spoliansky, the title of which escapes me, and finishes off with Busby's 'Sign-off' for the closing titles. Robert, if you recall the first film you saw with library music, I think we'd all love to know more about it, and if anyone else remembers films with Chappell, or FDH or any of the greats included, it would be marvellous if they could post their memories here.

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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.