26 May

Seavington Summer Music Days of the 1990s

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On Sunday 13 September 1992 Moira, David and Fenella Ades invited fellow Robert Farnon Society members to their home in South Somerset to enjoy an informal afternoon of Light Music. The intention was to encourage members living in the West Country to come along, if distance prevented them from attending our usual London meetings. Seventeen members accepted the invitation, but only one was a ‘new face’! The rest were RFS ‘regulars’ who couldn’t resist the attraction of a musical afternoon, and one member even travelled 200 miles to attend. Unfortunately the weather was wet, so members were ‘trapped’ inside the house. The music was deliberately non-formal. Members said what they would like to hear, and the appropriate recordings were sought out and played. When someone suggested the Chappell music that used to feature in Dan Dare – Pilot Of The Future on Radio Luxembourg in the 1950s, we all became 40 years younger – at least, in our minds!

Pictured in the garden at Seavington are: Eric Parkin, pianist; Joy Devon, vocalist; Heinz Herschmann, composer; John Fox, composer; Trevor Duncan, composer; Freddy Dachtler, vocalist and Paul Lewis, composer.
Pictured in the garden at Seavington are: Eric Parkin, pianist; Joy Devon, vocalist; Heinz Herschmann, composer; John Fox, composer; Trevor Duncan, composer; Freddy Dachtler, vocalist and Paul Lewis, composer.

The success of the 1992 event prompted a repeat a year later, on Sunday 12 September 1993. This time the attendance went up to 26, and Jim Palm wrote a special report for JIM 114:

As in 1992 the weather, alas, was wet (very wet, in fact) but the atmosphere inside was warm and convivial. Philip Farlow and I arrived shortly after noon to find the house already filling up fast and, with drinks pressed into our hands, we were soon chatting with friends old and new.

We were soon being invited to help ourselves to a buffet lunch; a large table groaning with food was set up in the dining room and the ladies had clearly been working very hard. Our plates full, some chose to sit in the lounge with others out in the conservatory, and now the important business of the day began. On my right-hand side and all the way from Altrincham was David Mardon; the talk was of music (naturally) and over a potted plant just to my left, Tony Clayden and I were chatting about television themes of yesteryear and, on the subject of music used years ago by the London company Rediffusion, I surprised myself by remembering that, at one time, they used a march by one Stanley Bate. Does this ring a bell with anybody?

With the cheese and biscuits over (or trifle, as appropriate) David invited us, when we were ready, to pick up our chairs and proceed up to his eyrie at the top of the house. Still the rain lashed down but we quickly forgot such mundane matters as we set about delving into boxes of 78s, LPs and CDs. Wallets and chequebooks were soon lighter and slimmer as sundry purchases were made until, seated at last, the music began and a very ‘ad hoc’ programme was to include such items as Clive Richardson’s Running Off The Rails hotted—up by Florian Zabach; mouth-watering tastes of the ‘Memories of the Light Programme’ release; assorted tracks from KPM reissues of the I950s and the Big Band sound of Laurie Johnson. Paul Lewis, the composer profiled in JIM 113, regaled us with stories about musicians and the problems of writing for television. Amongst the many questions raised by those present, there was one about Polygon records. This is one of the nice things about these ‘at homes’: the ready exchange of information and ideas with everyone joining in and learning a lot into the bargain. The informal atmosphere made us all feel at ease; anyone with a special request could have it played and David was, I seem to remember, only stumped on one occasion. At about five o’clock came the call to tea, and soon people were saying their goodbyes.

After two very wet afternoons in previous Septembers, Moira, David and Fenella announced in JIM 116 that the 1994 Seavington Music Day would be two months earlier, on Sunday 17 July. It proved to be ‘third time lucky’, as Jim Palm reported in JIM 118: "A smashing day as always" was my comment in the Stone Gables visitors’ book. This time the sun shone on a lovely summer’s day when lunch in the garden was not only possible, but virtually a ‘must’. The welcome was as genuine and convivial as ever and the attendance fair took the breath away: nearly forty people were there in all and we even had to queue to reach the table which was groaning with food.

On this occasion we had a trio of talented composers in our midst: Paul Lewis, John Fox and Heinz Herschmann. As had now become usual, after lunch we all went upstairs for the music – somehow David’s floor managed to take the weight of us all!

At length we all made our way downstairs again for tea and cakes, and the balmy evening made many of us linger, chatting in the lovely garden until it really was time to go. Philip and I finally dragged ourselves away at 7:40 and headed back to Salisbury ….

In 1995 it was back to Seavington again, with fingers crossed that Sunday 23 July 1995 would also have the lovely weather we had enjoyed the previous year. We were lucky! The garden, patio and conservatory were all packed with members, and on this occasion we welcomed two friends who had actually come all the way from Australia – Kym and Julie Bonython. Kym was something of a legend back home: Australian jazz lovers owed him a great debt of gratitude for all the fine Americans he persuaded to play in the concerts he promoted over many years. During the afternoon he treated us to recordings by Phil Moore – just one of the many musicians he knew.

The usual routine followed … music, then eventually tea, then finally goodbyes.

Everyone hoped there would be another summer meeting in 1996, and it was duly arranged for Sunday 7 July 1996. Perhaps the date was unfortunate (it was Men’s Finals Day at Wimbledon) and the weather forecast was indifferent. But as it turned out the sun shone in Seavington, although Wimbledon was disrupted by rain.

Was this the best Seavington Summer Meeting of them all? Possibly, because the famous guests included Trevor Duncan, John Fox, Joy Devon (Mrs. John Fox), Freddie Dachtler (of The Polka Dots), Heinz Herschmann, Eric Parkin and Paul Lewis. All of them spoke about their work, and members enjoyed many recordings during the afternoon.

The following year, in July 1997, the RFS celebrated Robert Farnon’s 80th Birthday with a lavish meeting and banquet at the Bonnington Hotel. This broke the pattern of Sunday Summer Meetings in Seavington, but in hindsight it was probably fitting that the last of the five, in 1996, was probably the best of them all!

This feature appeared in the August 2013 issue of ‘Journal Into Melody’

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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.