Editor: every so often our Society hosts a very special event which is destined to go down as one of the highlights to be fondly remembered by those of us fortunate enough to be present. Such an occasion occurred in April 2004, when Trevor Duncan accepted our invitation to be our Guest of Honour for our Spring London meeting. In the following report, Peter Burt recreates the magic of that memorable weekend.
All in an April afternoon
Sunday 4th April and the usual venue of the Bonnington Hotel on London’s Southampton Row. But a rather special meeting as we had as our Guest of Honour a man described by Paul Clatworthy in an earlier report as "music composer supreme", Trevor Duncan.
There was a larger than usual gathering of members to hear about his career spanning over 50 years and to celebrate his 80th birthday. His interlocutor was André Leon who, due to his interviewee’s self-effacement, sometimes had to almost answer his own questions. Trevor was led through his life in music as firstly BBC balance engineer then producer [including the ‘Show Band Show’], orchestrator and composer; and was prompted to comment on the music he wrote and people he met along the way.
He told us how he first came to orchestration through the encouragement of Ray Martin, how prior to that Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade had sent shivers down his spine, and how he loved the sea. When bracketed with John Williams as "going down in history" for one aspect of his music he quipped: "I shall go down in history as not earning as much money as John Williams".
We had recorded birthday greetings from Ann Dawson, referring to him as "charming and wonderful company", George Barker of Media Music and Peter Cox of KPM.
And the music? There was High Heels [in three different versions], Tomboy, Making Tracks [aka Homeward Bound, aka 20th Century Express], Dramatic Pointers, No Place To Hide, Escape Velocity, Quatermass, Panoramic Splendour ["a masterpiece of vision"], Passage To Windward, Overland To Oregon, St. Boniface Down, Girl From Corsica, Mademoiselle Moderne, Waltz For Terri, A Sequence For Sentimentalists, East Side Story, Climb to Altitude, Icicle Ride, Plan 9 From Outer Space, The Unwanted - The Boy, March from ‘A Little Suite’, Folk Tune and Little Debbie. And we had Trevor’s piano party piece of asking for four notes at random from the audience and then turning them into a composition. What riches!
The afternoon had started with a voice a lot of us would not have heard for years, Donald Peers, singing Bow Bells with Robert Farnon’s Orchestra, from the new ‘A Portrait of Farnon’ Living Era CD. The recording included a nice interpolation of the bells as we used to hear them on the old BBC Home Service.
Our friend Heinz Herschmann is one of several men about music who were born in 1924 and a birthday tribute in the form of his Fluerette followed. A Farnon number was next, Little Miss Molly, featuring the mellifluous flute of Jane Pickles with the Royal Philharmonic Strings conducted by Jack Parnell – a track from the latest RF sessions, which at the time of writing are still to be put out on disc. After that a forthcoming CD of, this time, old recordings made up Cab Smith’s Swing Session. The CD in question, ‘Showcase for Soloists’, and the tracks were: Travellin’ Jazz [Dennis Wilson], Walkin’ Happy [David Snell] and Trumpet Talk [Kenny Baker and Stan Roderick].
Another long-time friend and regular attendee at our meetings is John Fox, also celebrating his 80th birthday this year. It was good to see him again [accompanied by his lovely wife, Joy Devon] and to hear his My Village [from ’Countryside Suite’] played by the Royal Ballet Sinfonia conducted by RFS member Gavin Sutherland. This drew spontaneous applause as David told us it had at a recent Bournemouth Gramophone Society meeting where he had been invited to present a programme of light music.
Unlike in November, new releases did not miss out this afternoon as they were given a good as the first interval approached. Albert and David brought us Heyken’s Serenade, an early Ron Goodwin single on the old Polygon label now restored by Alan Bunting on one of the new Guild ‘The Golden Age of Light Music’ CDs; the very descriptive Busy Streets from Roger Roger’s ‘Whimsical Days’ [Vocalion]; and Siboney, another of those tunes that always seem to get a good recording, this time arranged by Angela Morley and played by Sidney Torch [Living Era].
We then heard Rose, Rose, I Love You,a sprightly arrangement [Leon Young?] from Frank Chacksfield’s ‘South Sea Island Magic/In the Mystic East’ [Vocalion 2 CDs for the price of 1]; Body and Soul from ‘Delicado’, Mr Bunting’s best-selling double-CD on Living Era of early Percy Faith tracks; Dennis Farnon’s Girl Bird played by The New Concert Orchestra on Vocalion’s ‘Boosey & Hawkes Music Library Volume 1’; Monia Liter and his Orchestra’s Blue Fandango from the highly acclaimed – and not just by me – ‘Lovers in Rome/Lovers in Paris’ [Vocalion]; and, finally, in tribute to another of this year’s 80th birthday celebrants, Angela Morley, her Captain Nemo Film Theme from RFS member John Wilson and his Orchestra [Vocalion].
John was with us in the audience [without his orchestra] as were composer Matthew Curtis and Ann Dawson of Boosey Media. In his "parish notices" before we broke for refreshments, David introduced two overseas visitors: James Cahall, all the way from Kentucky just for this meeting, and Sigmund Groven from Oslo.
The final part of the afternoon brought more Radio Recollections by Brian Reynolds. This time he concentrated solely on recordings he had taken from ‘Music While You Work’ broadcasts: Lavoona [Bernard Monshin and his Rio Tango Band]; Tango Yvonne [Louis Voss and his Kursaal Orchestra]; Toni’s Tune [Michael Freedman and his Orchestra] and Bandarilla [Harold C Gee and his Maritza Players]. Memories for some, possibly almost unknown to others. There were more recent memories as we celebrated the life of the sadly departed Bob Monkhouse, a good friend to light music. We heard an extract from one of his Radio 2 ‘Legends of Light Music’ shows where he introduced RF’s Yes! We Have No Bananas and a very rare 78 of George Melachrino’s Spring Morning [subsequently re-issued on Guild GLCD 5104].
David got his personal selection in this time as he brought us "The ‘Lost’ CDs" – Farnon recordings that have never been released. These were Pia Zadorasinging Little Girl Blue, George Benson with One Goodbye, Eddie Fisher’s Love You Didn’t Do Right By Me, and Catana, a track intended for the Robert Farnon Orchestra’s ’At the Movies’ album. We also heard another item from Bob with Jane Pickles, Piccolo Flight. Albert had the final word telling us that the latest new recruit to the Society was a certain Mr Neil Hefti.
As David expressed his usual thanks to one and all, especially Tony Clayden, may I in retrospect on behalf of all of us present thank David and Albert for their afternoon’s exertions as our co-hosts.
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