ONE OF THE MOST ENJOYABLE Peter Burt reports on the latest London meeting at the Bonnington Hotel on Sunday 28th November 2004
As usual some glorious Farnon sounds regaled the ears of members and friends as they took their seats for our 95th London meeting. The choice as our overture this time was Robert Farnon's Hollywood Stars played by the Bratislava Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted by Peter Breiner, on the Vocalion CD "The Wide World of Robert Farnon".
Instead of occupying the co-compere's chair, we were sorry to hear that Albert Killman was languishing in a hospital bed in deepest, darkest Essex. We wished him well as we welcomed his replacement at the music players, André Leon, "literally off the plane from South Africa". The meeting had begun with a few moments of silence in memory of that lovely lady, Joy Fox, who had died in August - and the first music we heard was of her singing Send In The Clowns, accompanied by husband John at the piano. There was to be more of John later.
The programme proper kicked off with Hey There, the title track from the new CD featuring Bob's sensitive settings of familiar compositions and arrangements, especially for Jane Pickles on flute, with Jack Parnell conducting the Royal Philharmonic Strings. This was followed by the opening titles from Bob's music for the film 'Maytime in Mayfair', which David Ades told us had never actually been put out on record.
And so to John Fox. It was a pleasure to be celebrating his 80th birthday and he [very bravely, I thought] shared with us some of his memories and choose some of the music Joy loved. He was introduced with his familiar theme for the BBC Radio Orchestra series 'String Sound': String Magic. He said how his life in music had been a marvellous time playing, composing and arranging the music he loved.
After more String Magic, John told us that he loved fairy tales and played Beautiful Princess and Gallant Prince [two of his 'Characters from The Fairy Tales'], from the CD 'British Light Music Premieres Vol.1' on Dutton Epoch. We then heard Love Walked In, his own favourite of all the songs sung by his beloved wife, who sang professionally as 'Joy Devon'. This was followed by another of his own compositions, Strings in 3/4 [also on the above CD], which caused him to say: "It is a composer's glory to hear his music played just like that. It makes you feel good".
John then reminded us that he was deeply fond of the English countryside and played his A Pastoral Reflection from 'British Light Music Discoveries Vol.5' [ASV White Line]. John's last choice was a real showstopper that brought a smile to our faces: his terrific arrangement of London Pride, a medley of tunes taken from a radio broadcast introduced by Steve Race. John finished by telling us that he was working on an orchestral suite to be called 'The Love Of Joy'. Thank you, John; we hope to see you at our meetings for many more years to come.
The recent CDs section of the programme was a bit short considering the number of new titles on sale. We heard Robert Farnon's Mauve from Vocalion's 'Colours' album featuring Vic Lewis and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra; Gary Williams singing You're Sensational from his sensational new album with the John Wilson Orchestra, 'Alone Together', on full-price Vocalion; and Dancing In The Dark, a track from Guild's 'Light Music From The Silver Screen', with the MGM Studio Orchestra conducted by Adolph Deutsch. This conjured up the memorable scene from 'The Band Wagon' of Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse in New York's Central Park - what Denis Norden has described as "one to steam up your bi-focals".
As we came to the first interval and a welcome "cuppa", we learnt that we had in our audience Matthew Curtis [with a new CD out], Eric Parkin, Philip Lane and David Snell. It was David Snell playing the harp on Robert Farnon's Walkin' Happy which accompanied us to the refreshments, anticipating his starring appearance at our next meeting in April 2005.
Our "back to seats" music of segments from Fairy Coach, Concert Jig, Dick's Maggot and Waltz For A Princess gave us the clue that the next presentation was to be another celebration of an octogenarian: the engaging Ernest Tomlinson.
Recalling his appearance at one of our meetings two years ago, Ernest said that this time he wanted to introduce us to some of the lesser-known aspects of his output. So we heard Fantasia On North Country Tunes, commissioned by the Hallé Orchestra in 1978; I'm Late and a vocal version of Little Serenade, from broadcasts in 1959 by the Ernest Tomlinson Music Makers; Cornet Concerto, Concerto For Five [saxophones] and his own favourite self-penned composition, Pastorella from 'The King and the Mermaid'.
Each piece was prefaced by stories of how and why they came to be written. Ernest also talked at some length about Library or Mood music. He told us how it was unpopular with performers because they were only paid for it once, how for 25-30 years the Musicians Union insisted that all recordings of it must be made abroad, and how even such a luminary as Frederic Curzon was blacklisted for conducting it abroad.
From Ernest's own extensive catalogue of Library music we heard Gay And Vivacious and a selection from 'Cartoon Capers': Trickie Quickie, Flitting Along, Enter Villain, Pride And Fall, Cccrash, Quick Ending, Fast Asleep, Flickering Flames and Busy Chatter.
David asked about Ernest's recent broadcast interview with Brian Kay, which prompted him to tell us about how in 1962 he had won prize money of one million liras for writing Symphonica 1962. Ernest admitted that he did not like listening to other music very much as he found that what he heard influenced his own music too much.
One of his many stories was of the lady who, on seeing his name under "Music Arrangers" in the local Yellow Pages, had phoned him to ask whether he could arrange to sell her deceased husband's double bass that she had in the attic. It had been a wonderful hour or so of entertainment from a man whose many styles of music we could only marvel at.
After another interval, and opportunities to investigate the many tempting offers on the RFS Record stall, we were welcomed back to our seats with Robert Farnon's lush arrangement of Do I Hear a Waltz - one of the titles he recorded around 40 years ago for Reader's Digest, which have gradually reappeared piecemeal on various compilations over the years. It would be nice to have all of them on just one CD, supplemented, of course, with some similar material to fill the disc.
Brian Reynolds, is invariably good value for money with his "Radio Recollections" and this time he brought us an Ernest Tomlinson arrangement of a Leroy Anderson Potpourri played in 1958 by Joseph Muscant and his Orchestra; James Warr's Little Lisa played by the BBC Midland Light Orchestra in a Harold Rich [with us in the audience] arrangement conducted by Sverre Bruland, taken from an early morning programme 'Bright and Early' complete with mid-music time check; George Scott Wood and his Music playing Don Roberto by accordionist Albert Delroy; and Pretty Trix written by jazz violinist Joe Venuti and played by the Sidney Sax Strings.
It was good to have the Request Spot again as this used to be a regular feature of our meetings. Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas, a Farnon arrangement sung by Tony Bennett, was played for Norman Grant. Peter Luck's choice was Oranges and Lemons, arranged by Spike Hughes for the BBC Light Orchestra conducted by Vilem Tausky, and used around 50 years ago at the start of broadcasting on the BBC Light Programme. This came from Tony Clayden's impressive collection of early radio and television memorabilia, into which he has promised to delve deeper for one of our future meetings.
Another highlight of the afternoon - [not!] - was yours truly playing tracks from three releases possibly in the running for "CD Of the Year 2004": Love's Dream After The Ball - Mantovani [Guild], Deep River - Frank Chacksfield [from 'Beyond the Sea'] [Vocalion] and Serenade To A Lemonade - David Rose [Living Era].
Once again David had only time to play two of his own choices: Max Geldray, who had died in October, playing Crazy Rhythm with the Wally Stott Orchestra; and extracts from the forthcoming Guild issue '1950s Volume 2' - Midnight Matinee [Len Stephens], Postman's Knock [Angela Morley], The Magic Touch [Hugo Winterhalter] and Moonlight Fiesta [Winifred Atwell with the Cyril Ornadel Orchestra] with its wonderful horn whoop at the end.
The Leslie Jones Orchestra of London's recording of Melody Fair brought to an end a meeting that, in my opinion, was one of the most enjoyable of recent times. All credit to David and especially André for handling the controls so efficiently, and to Tony Clayden, sound technician extraordinaire, and the London committee.