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05 May

My Lifetime's Appreciation of a Great Composer and Friend

By  David Ades
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by RFS Secretary David Ades

I was still a teenager the first time I met Robert Farnon. It was in 1956 at the Bonnington Hotel in London's Southampton Row, and the Robert Farnon Appreciation Society had recently been formed by Kenneth and Dorothy Head and John Costin. I'm not sure if I plucked up the courage to actually speak to Bob on that first occasion; what I can remember was that I was completely in awe of him.

Here I was in the presence of a man whose music I idolised. I listened to him on the radio, and watched his programmes on television. I owned a few of his records, but in those far off days my meagre earnings wouldn't allow me to purchase them all — especially the LPs which seemed incredibly expensive to a young lad.

For the first time in my life I saw a Chappell 78 bearing those magical words: `Queen's Hall Light Orchestra Conducted by Robert Farnon'. It would be many years before I managed to acquire one for myself.

Through the Society's meetings I gradually came to know Bob, and in 1962 he did me the great honour of allowing me to take over the running of the RFAS from Ken and Dot. In the following years the membership steadily increased, although we were all becoming aware that the public's awareness of Light Music was in decline, due to changing musical trends and tastes. Happily Robert Farnon's career continued to thrive, with his composing, arranging and conducting talents being increasingly in demand from some of the biggest international stars.

I believe that Bob was proud of the RFS. After all, it was his society. Without him it would never have existed. His willing co-operation in our activities enabled us to build up today's large membership, and everything we do is in honour of his life's work.

Although he was undoubtedly one of the great composers of his generation, healways retained the charm and modesty that endeared him to us all. The word ‘approachable’ might have been invented for Robert Farnon — ask any member who has met him at our meetings.

It is perhaps a well-worn phrase to say that we will never see his like again, but in his case it is simply true. Life just won't seem the same without Bob. I still cannot believe that I won't hear that friendly voice at the other end of the telephone any more.

But what I will continue to hear is his wonderful gift for melody. Those happy and sad, triumphant and scenic sounds that he managed to conjure up from notes on a musical manuscript will continue to enrich my life in fond memory of a true friend.

In our moment of sorrow, we must be grateful that he continued to spoil us with so many wonderful new musical creations right up to the end of his long life.

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