Report on the Spring Event of the London Light Music Meetings Group - May 7th 2017
About sixty people had made the journey to the Lancaster Hall Hotel in London to enjoy our bi-annual feast of light music.
Tony Clayden welcomed us to the meeting, opening the proceedings with Ernest Tomlinson's Young Man's Fancy and following it with the Simon Park orchestra playing the theme from the TV series Van Der Valk – Eye Level by Jack Trombey, [real name Jan Stoeckart], one of several musicians and broadcasters who have passed away since we last met.
It has only recently come to Tony's attention that the composer and pianist Heinz Herschmann, a stalwart of the Robert Farnon Society for many years, sadly passed away back in September 2014. As a belated tribute, Tony played his composition The Galleon.
As 2017 marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Robert Farnon, Anthony Wills was invited to present a special tribute. After reading out a message from Bob’s son David , he played Jumping Bean performed by the Queen's Hall Light Orchestra, under the ‘Guv’nor’s’ direction.
We then listened to an excerpt from an Allied Expeditionary Forces broadcast which included the opening theme March Along Joe Soldier and Can't Help Singing, conducted by Captain Farnon.
This was followed by Just In Time from the show 'Bells are Ringing' and the film theme, David Raksin’s Laura. Next came an excerpt from the 1952 film 'Captain Horatio Hornblower', (entitled The Wind, from Bob's Symphonic suite, which was based on the music for the film).
After this, Kenneth McKellar sang Country Girl, for which Bob had also written the lyrics – with some invaluable help from his wife ! Conducted by Bob Sharples, it was originally composed for the 1956 Eurovision Song Contest. Regrettably, it was not chosen as the entry, but lost out to Cyril Ornadel's Man Without Love.
Bob Farnon sometimes wrote for television and his title themes from Secret Army and Colditz are particularly outstanding. We listened to a performance from the latter, in which Adrian Leaper conducted the Czechoslovak Radio Symphony Orchestra.
Two songs followed; How Beautiful Is Night sung by Sarah Vaughan and The Good Things In Life, sung by Tony Bennett – who celebrated his 90th birthday in 2016 and is still working !
Our good friend Brian Willey – formerly Anthony Wills' boss at the BBC – then came on stage to contribute his own memories of Bob Farnon, which amazingly went back to their first meeting 73 years ago! As a ‘tailpiece’ to his presentation, Anthony played Portrait Of A Flirt.
The final item before the interval was Silks and Satins by Peter Yorke, which for many years was the signature tune of the ITV soap 'Emergency Ward Ten'. This was played in memory of Desmond Carrington, who played a regular part in the show. Desmond has recently died at the age of 90. He will be fondly remembered by many listeners for his long-running Radio 2 programme All Time Greats ,which was broadcast for over twenty years on Sunday afternoons, and regularly featured Light Music compositions.
As we had overrun, we took a somewhat shortened break.
As a tribute to the late Brian Matthew, Tony opened the second part of the programme with Saturday Jump, the signature tune of the Light Programme’s 'Saturday Club', which Brian hosted, and which really put him ‘on the radio map’ in the late 50s. He went on to present many more programmes on BBC Radio, including several with a large musical content.
Tony then introduced our special guest, the distinguished Norwegian harmonica player Sigmund Groven, a good friend of our group, and indeed a long-standing member of the Robert Farnon Society before the formation of the LLMMG.
Sigmund was a pupil of the late Tommy Reilly and he also knew Larry Adler. Both were at the top of their profession, but whilst Reilly was quiet and self-effacing, Adler – in contrast – was a showman and of the opinion that he was the best in the world – and made no attempt to disguise the fact !
After talking about his own early career, Sigmund played us some recordings of famous themes featuring the harmonica such as The Navy Lark and Dixon of Dock Green, both of which were played by Tommy Reilly.
We then heard Larry Adler play his famous Genevieve theme and Donald Phillips' composition The Firefly performed by Tommy Reilly. Sigmund told us that hearing this piece on a Norwegian radio broadcast was a real ‘life-changing’ experience and inspired his resolve to pursue a career in the music profession.
Sigmund then introduced a recording of Tommy Reilly performing the 3rd movement of Concerto for Harmonica and Orchestra, which was written for him in 1951 by Michael Spivakovsky.
Following this was another recording of Reilly, playing a novel arrangement of Clive Richardson's Melody on the Move, an early example of multi-tracking and ‘echo’ effects. This had been produced by none other than the late George Martin.
'Toots' Thielmans' rendering of Making Whoopee was followed by Valsentino, composed by Tommy Reilly and featuring himself with Sigmund on second harmonica. The next piece was Bob Farnon's arrangement of his Tete A Tete for two harmonicas, strings and harp and after that James Moody's 'tour de force' for harmonica – Toledo – featuring Sigmund Groven with orchestra from a televised concert in Sweden.
We were then treated to a 'mini' live recital in which Sigmund, ably accompanied by Martin Cleave at the piano, played Against the Light (Sigmund's own composition), Bulgarian Wedding Dance by James Moody, Somewhere over the Rainbow from 'The Wizard of Oz', Aria - also by Sigmund - and concluding with Tommy Reilly's arrangement of Begin the Beguine.
Tony thanked Sigmund for a most entertaining and enjoyable presentation and performance, and we took our second break, (this time only ten minutes!)
Part Three commenced with a presentation by Terry Gilmore-James, who regularly travels to
London from Newport, Gwent, to attend our meetings. Terry’s talk was about Richard Rodney
Bennett and his music.
The first item was Celebration from the television series 'Gormenghast'. This was followed by an excerpt from a 'stage and screen' broadcast, in which Richard Rodney Bennett talked about his range of music.
The 1934 song Miss Otis Regrets was played by the BBC Radio Orchestra conducted by Iain Sutherland, in an arrangement by Bennett featuring Dave Hancock on flugelhorn.
We then heard Nicole's Theme from 'Tender is the Night' and Lazy Afternoon from the 1954 musical 'The Golden Apple', both of these items once again featuring Iain Sutherland conducting the BBC Radio Orchestra.
Our next presenter was Barry Raynaud whose contribution was entitled 'The Dance Band Days'. He commenced with a piece called Love Is Good Enough For Anything That Ails You played by the Joe Orlando band.
This was followed by In The Middle Of A Kiss featuring Connie Boswell with an unnamed American band. To conclude, Barry played a recording of the Joe Loss orchestra with Chick Henderson, performing Change Partners.
Finally, in what was a very busy afternoon, Steven Wills, an experienced and capable hospital radio presenter, offered us a selection which he called 'Natural Born Fillers'.
In view of the recent death of the brilliant pianist and composer / arranger Gordon Langford, Steven played his Royal Daffodils, in a recording by the Stuttgart Radio Orchestra conducted by Ralph Elman.
This piece was often to be heard behind the BBC Television Test Card, in the days before continuous daytime television broadcasts.
This was followed by the Hilversum Radio orchestra playing New York Revival by Anthony Meyer and then a very interesting Latin-American arrangement of Robert Farnon's Portrait of a Flirt, performed
by the Cologne Radio Orchestra under Heinz Herschmann.
Steven’s final items were On The Road To Miami from the Hans Hatter orchestra, and the theme from Don Davis's radio series 'Just for Fun' entitled Manhattan Merengue, performed by the Bert Kaempfert orchestra.
This brought to an end a very full programme of music and Tony thanked all who participated - notably our special guest Sigmund Groven, who had flown over from Oslo to be with us. His genial presence is always welcome at our meetings.
It just remained for Tony to remind us that we shall be doing it all again on October 8th, when our special guests will be the Martin Cleave Palm Court Trio.
Brian Reynolds © 2017