Light Music CDs. Some highly recommended releases.
Light Music is ignored by most Record Stores and Radio Stations, yet it is enjoyed by millions of people around the world.
You may know it as Easy Listening or Concert Music ... or maybe Middle-of-the Road. Whatever you happen to call it, Light Music offers relaxing enjoyment at any time of the day or night, and we hope that you will return regularly to this page in the Robert Farnon Society website to keep fully informed on the latest releases.
Releases up to December 2003
JOHN WILSON AND HIS ORCHESTRA
THE FILM & TELEVISION MUSIC OF ANGELA MORLEY
"The Slipper and the Rose": Introduction, Waltz, Transformation Music, Wedding March
Theme from the TV film "Madame X"
"When Eight Bells Toll": theme
A Tender Mood
"The Looking Glass War": theme
White Wing – from TV series "Hotel"
"Dynasty": Blues for Alexis
My Autumn Love
A Canadian in Mayfair
"Watership Down": Venturing Forth, Through the Woods, Kehaar’s Theme, Final Struggle and Triumph
"Captain Nemo and the Undersea City": suite
In her own notes to this CD, Angela Morley explains her choice of music selected, and some of the influences which caused it to be composed. The film score for "The Slipper and the Rose" (which tells the story of Cinderella) is the only part of the album which is not entirely composed by Angela, although one has to observe that the melodies by Richard and Robert Sherman gained considerably from Angela’s magical touches.
Actually some of the music for the film was specially written by Angela, such as the Transformation Music, which accompanies the scene where drab little Cinderella is transformed into an elegant princess. Also the Wedding March, which was played in the film on a church organ.
Happily Angela has included several of her compositions for the Recorded Music Library of her main London publishers, Chappell & Co. These include A Tender Mood, Snow Ride, Rotten Row and the piece which launched her career as a composer – A Canadian in Mayfair. She recalls: "I took a favourite piece of mine, Portrait of a Flirt by my idol and mentor Robert Farnon. Emptying its ‘mould’ of the Flirt, I poured in the elements of the Canadian! I showed this example of my audacity to the master and, expecting a sharp reprimand, was asked instead if I would like it to be recorded and published by Chappell! It is dedicated to Robert Farnon. This score was unavailable and had to be reconstructed during the weeks before this recording. My apologies to purists who detect slight differences from the original version. I simply didn’t have the time to make an exact transcription."
Film buffs will be glad to have Captain Nemo and the Undersea City available at long last. Angela has compiled a suite which includes the main theme, followed by music which represents Nemo’s noble vision. This leads to the music behind the reading of Senator Fraser’s apology for having escaped from the city in the stolen submarine Nautilus II. Here the main theme and Nemo’s theme are combined. Lastly we hear the music for the ascent of the escapees to the surface of the ocean, leading to a reprise of the main title.
Among some other gems are Blues for Alexis (based on a compilation of themes that Angela wrote for the Joan Collins character in the TV series ‘Dynasty’), and White Wing from another US TV series ‘Hotel’. My Autumn Love was composed for Rediffusion in the 1970s, and Angela conducted it on several occasions around that time with the BBC Radio Orchestra.
We are all familiar with Angela Morley’s brilliant compositions, and her superb arrangements for both vocal and orchestral albums. This fine CD also rightly confirms her credentials as one of the leading film and television writers of her generation.
This Vocalion CD is available from all good record stores. It can also be purchased by members of the Robert Farnon Society from the RFS Record Service for £13 [US $26] plus postage and packing.
JOHN WILSON AND HIS ORCHESTRA
Play Classic Arrangements of Paul Weston
"moonlight becomes you"
1 MOONLIGHT BECOMES YOU (Burke, Van Heusen)
2 YOU TURNED THE TABLES ON ME (Mitchell, Alter)
3 TIME AFTER TIME (Cahn, Styne)
4 THIS CAN’T BE LOVE (Hart, Rodgers)
5 TIME ON MY HANDS (Adamson, Gordon, Youmans)
6 KEEPIN’ OUT OF MISCHIEF NOW (Razaf, Waller)
7 THROUGH (how can you say we’re through?) (McCarthy, Monaco)
8 I’M CONFESSIN’ (Neiberg, Daugherty, Reynolds)
9 AFTER I SAY I’M SORRY (What can I Say) (Donaldson, Lyman)
10 JUDY (Carmichael, Lerner)
11 EAST OF THE SUN (Bowman)
12 BUT NOT FOR ME (G. & I. Gershwin)
13 AT SUNDOWN (Donaldson)
14 IT’S THE TALK OF THE TOWN (Symes, Neiberg, Livingston)
15 POOR BUTTERFLY (Golden, Hubbell)
16 ALL OF ME (Simons, Marks)
17 BREEZIN’ ALONG WITH THE BREEZE (Gillespie, Simons, Whiting)
18 SLEEPY TIME GAL (Alden, Egan, Lorenzo, Whiting)
19 WHEN YOUR LOVER HAS GONE (Swan)
20 IT’S A LOVELY DAY TODAY (Berlin)
21 JUST YOU, JUST ME (Klages, Greer)
22 MEMORIES OF YOU (Razaf, Blake)
23 YOU GO TO MY HEAD (Gillespie, Coots)
Vocalion CDSA 6808
This Compact Disc salutes the genius of two outstanding talents in the world of popular music. Firstly it allows us to savour the enthusiasm and sheer professionalism of one of the greatest conducting talents to have emerged in the past five years – John Wilson. Secondly, it unites this young musical prodigy with the work, around fifty years earlier, of Paul Weston, a pioneer of mood music and one of the very best American arrangers and conductors. The resulting performances by Wilson’s orchestra (which contains many of the finest young musicians in London), is a tribute that certainly equals, and sometimes even surpasses, the original recordings by the man who created these magical scores.
It all came together in EMI’s Abbey Road Studios last May, and the story of those sessions (with colour photographs) appeared in the September issue of Journal Into Melody, and can be found elsewhere on this website. What attracted conductor John Wilson to the music of Paul Weston? He first noticed his arrangements through the LPs he conducted for Doris Day, then the Ella Fitzgerald songbooks. This prompted John to investigate Weston’s instrumental albums, and he became impressed with what he describes as "…the unfussy, clean cut writing with a jazz-tinged sound". The more he listened, the more he wanted to conduct a collection of Weston’s scores as a tribute to a man who (although working in a fiercely competitive and commercial environment) managed to maintain high musical standards throughout his impressive career.
Paul Weston was one of the true ‘greats’ of the American Recording Industry of the 20th century. He was around for a long time, so it is hardly surprising that his talent was employed in several different aspects during his highly successful career. Many top singers owe a great deal to him for the perfect backings he provided to their songs, often resulting in hit recordings. He also achieved considerable fame in his later life as ‘Jonathan Edwards’, the pianist who had difficulty keeping to the right tempo in those excruciatingly funny parodies of off-key singers so brilliantly portrayed by his wife, Jo Stafford, as ‘Darlene’.
Some orchestra leaders are figureheads, replying upon the talents of others: Paul Weston’s success was entirely of his own making. When you hear his orchestra you are hearing Paul Weston. He was responsible for the notes on the music manuscripts that his musicians performed with such magical results.
In 2002 Vocalion released a CD of original Paul Weston recordings from the 1940s, based on his collections Music for Dreaming, Music for Memories and Songs Without Words (CDUS 3023). In an accompanying article (JIM 153 – December 2002) we explained the influences in Weston’s life, which resulted in him becoming one of the pioneers of ‘mood music’. But since that particular term is viewed with some derision by people with little knowledge, but inflated egos, it is important to emphasise that Weston’s contribution to the music business was immense, and a tribute such as this new CD by an ardent admirer is long overdue.
Paul Weston was also active in assisting and promoting the work of his colleagues. His standing among his peers can be judged by the fact that he was a founder member and first president of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS), the organisation which began awarding Grammys in 1958. (Robert Farnon’s brother Dennis was another distinguished musician who was involved with NARAS from its very beginnings.)
With the benefit of hindsight it is possible to split Weston’s career into several segments. Initially he gained recognition through his arranging, and he combined this with his conducting skills to good effect on the many vocal records he made, especially with his wife Jo Stafford. She enjoyed considerable success as a ‘straight’ singer, but in her later career it was her spoof performance as a poor amateur hopeful with an equally useless accompanist (Jo with Paul on piano as Jonathan and Darlene Edwards) that amused record buyers and even won them a Grammy. Weston also distinguished himself in films, and was a regular on US radio and television. But internationally it was his ‘mood albums’ that made him famous.
Unlike some of his contemporaries, he liked to use the whole orchestra, not just a few sections. "All I did was add strings to a dance band" he once explained. "The reason it still swung was because I used good jazz musicians." These included soloists of the highest calibre, like Ziggy Elman, Eddie Miller, Paul Smith and Barney Kessel. He sometimes resisted the temptation to amplify the strings, by having the rest of the band play softly during important string passages, resulting in a chamber-music quality that went right to the heart of his kind of music. But it has to be acknowledged that Paul Weston’s scores come into their full, rich beauty, when he has the entire orchestra at his command. The opening track on this CD Moonlight Becomes You is a prime example, with lush strings vying with the brass yet blending to perfection, allowing Gordon Cambell to solo on trombone during the middle-eight.
Paul Weston regularly employed a loyal coterie of musicians who were present on many of his recordings. The trumpets would be led by Conrad Gozzo, with Zeke Zarchy, Ziggy Elman and Don Fagerquist on hand for solos. Bill Schaeffer and Joe Howard were regulars in the trombone section, and Babe Russin could always be seen on saxes, often ably supported by Ted Nash, Freddy Stulce and Lenny Hartman. Paul Smith was a fixture on piano, and Nick Fatool and Alvin Stoller handled the drums. Jack Ryan was on bass, with George Van Eps (a true genius of the seven string) on guitar. At one time each chair in the violin section was the concertmaster of a leading motion picture studio orchestra. As recognition of their admiration for Paul Weston, they would often just take turns at sitting in the first chair. Many of the names on this list will be recognised as leading instrumentalists who had met and worked with Paul during the big band era, and who subsequently ‘migrated’ to the studio session scene in Los Angeles.
In some passages the string sound coming from the John Wilson Orchestra was noticeably fuller than used to be heard on Paul Weston’s own recordings. Was he restricted by his record company bosses, or did he decide for himself that a massive string section was not required? Maybe the microphones and/or studios in the USA produced a different sound? Tim Weston discussed this with his mother upon his return home from London: Jo Stafford said that the small string section reflected the fact that Paul himself was paying for the sessions. Jo was one of the few artists who, by virtue of her big sales, could dictate that the company ‘ate’ the costs of recording.
In 1971 the Trustees of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences gave its Trustees Award to Paul Weston. The citation read in part: "To Paul Weston, whose dedication, wisdom and strength led it (the Academy) through its earliest years, and whose inspiration and dedication ever since, has contributed so greatly to the Recording Academy’s development, acceptance and respect throughout the world." Paul Weston died on 20 September 1996, at Santa Monica, California, aged 84.
This CD is available from all good record stores. It can also be purchased by Robert Farnon Society members from the RFS Record Service for £13 [US$26] plus postage and packing.
The Music of CHARLES WILLIAMS
BBC CONCERT ORCHESTRA
conducted by BARRY WORDSWORTH
BELLS OF ST. CLEMENTS
DREAM OF OLWEN
THE NIGHT HAS EYES
VOICE OF LONDON
THE MUSIC LESSON
GIRLS IN GREY
DESTRUCTION BY FIRE
THE OLD CLOCKMAKER
THROUGH THE YEARS
RHYTHM ON RAILS
SALLY TRIES THE BALLET
Sanctuary – White Line CD WHL 2151
At long last a CD of new recordings of compositions by Charles Williams has finally been released. For many years Light Music enthusiasts have been eagerly anticipating an event like this, particularly because such an issue was virtually ‘promised’ by Marco Polo around ten years ago when they launched their splendid series of British Light Music recordings.
For various reasons, that project never came to fruition, but happily this yawning gap in the repertoire of modern recordings of light music has finally been filled with this splendid new CD from the Sanctuary Group in their prestigious White Line series.
A glance at the list of titles above will confirm that many of Williams’ most famous works have been included, although inevitably some collectors will miss certain old favourites. The problem is that a prolific composer such as Williams really needs a series of several CDs to do him full justice, and many of his other works, not generally available commercially, can be obtained by Robert Farnon Society members through the RFS Record Service.
Before looking at this CD in more detail, it is appropriate to remind ourselves about this genius of Light Music. Charles Williams was born ‘Isaac Cozerbreit’ in London on 8 May 1893; he died on 7 September 1978 at his home in Findon Valley, near Worthing, Sussex. In his busy musical career he became one of Britain's most prolific composers of light music. He can also accurately be described as a pioneer in the use of music by the British film industry, having worked on the very first all-sound movie made in this country, Alfred Hitchcock's 1929 production "Blackmail".
His father, who arrived in England from Poland as a young boy, was a travelling singer whose repertoire embraced liturgical, choral and operatic music. He chose ‘Charles Williams’ as his stage name, and his son Isaac legally adopted it in 1915.
Young Charles's formal musical studies at the Royal Academy were interrupted by the first world war and in 1915 he joined the army. When hostilities were over he resumed his musical career and found himself much in demand as a violinist, leading for Sir Landon Ronald, Sir Thomas Beecham and Sir Edward Elgar. He featured on a number of their recordings, and was also a member of the J.H. Squire Octet.
Like many of his contemporaries, Charles Williams accompanied silent films, and he became conductor of the orchestra at the New Gallery Cinema in Regent Street, London. His early association with Hitchcock resulted in commissions from him for further films during the 1930's. He also worked (although not always credited) as composer or conductor (or both) on many notable British features, including the Will Hay comedies, 'Kipps', 'The Young Mr Pitt', 'The Way To The Stars' and the Robert Donat version of 'The Thirty Nine Steps'. In total he is reputed to have been involved with at least 100 films.
The famous music publishers Chappells decided to establish their own Recorded Music Library in 1942, and Teddy Holmes invited Charles Williams to conduct their Queen's Hall Light Orchestra for these 78s, specially made for use by radio, film and newsreel companies. Williams himself composed many of the early works in the library; he became a master of the art of conveying a particular mood within a few seconds of music. At this time the orchestra used to record on Saturday mornings at the EMI Studios in Abbey Road, and the Chappell Mood Music Library quickly grew to become the finest in the world.
Charles Williams made many 78rpm records for EMI's Columbia label, both with his own Concert Orchestra and also conducting the Queen's Hall Light Orchestra. Depending upon the requirements of the score, his recording orchestra would number up to fifty players - typically 8 violins, 6 second violins, 5 violas. 4 cellos, 2 basses, 4 french horns, 2 flutes, 2 clarinets, oboe, bassoon, 2 trumpets, 3 trombones, harp, percussion and piano.
During the 1940's light music was very popular on the radio, so Charles Williams was called upon to record many of the catchy numbers that took the public's fancy. He was also a respected film composer, so he naturally included some of own his music for the cinema. In some cases, notably 'Dream of Olwen' this became more popular than the film itself.
Numerous Williams compositions became familiar signature tunes. To this day BBC Radio-2 uses his 'High Adventure' to introduce 'Friday Night Is Music Night'.
There is no doubt that Charles Williams was one of the giants of British light music of the 20th century. This collection of new recordings will allow new generations of music lovers to appreciate his genius. The compilers of this new CD have rewarded true CW fans with several pieces they are unlikely to possess already, since they come from non-Chappell sources. These include ‘Model Railway’ (from Boosey & Hawkes) and ‘Cutty Sark’ (Bosworth). CW’s first big success as a composer is also remembered through ‘Blue Devils’ – he wrote this around 15 years before he became such a prolific contributor to the Chappell Recorded Music Library. Keen eyes will notice some other less familiar titles, which all helps to make up an exceptional recording.
The CD cover is inspired: it shows the actors from "Dick Barton – Special Agent", the BBC Radio serial of the 1940s which used Williams’ ‘Devil’s Galop’ as its signature tune. It only remains to compliment Barry Wordsworth and the BBC Concert Orchestra for such great performances, and Tony Clayden for his informative sleeve notes.
This CD is available from all good record stores. Members of the Robert Farnon Society can also get copies from the RFS Record Service for £10 [US $20] plus postage and packing.
New from Vocalion – two great Decca albums of Light Music are available once more
MONIA LITER and his Orchestra
"Lovers in Rome"
1 CHIANTI SONG (Winkler)
2 LOVERS IN ROME (Winkler)
3 TANGO TENERIFFA (Niessen)
4 ANDALUSIAN GIRL (Gaze)
5 ANNA MARIE (Fragna)
6 ITALIAN STREET SCENE (Wayne)
7 CANZONE D’AMORE (Kalman)
8 THE MAGIC FOUNTAINS OF ROME (Wayne)
9 SOFT LIGHTS OF ROME (Liter)
10 TANGO DE CASINO (Ingelhoff)
11 SICILIAN LULLABY (Gaze)
12 SERENATA CORTESE (Casiroli)
13 GUAGLIONE (Fanciulli, Nisa)
14 MARIE LOUISE (Berg, Neisel)
15 THE GIRL I LEFT IN ROME (De Moulin)
"Lovers in Paris"
1 LOVERS IN PARIS (Sherman)
2 THE FLIRT (Silver, Alfred)
3 VALSE ROMANTIQUE (Burns)
4 BLUE FANDANGO (Coslow)
5 SENTIMENTAL AFTERNOON (Sherman)
6 FRENCH FRIES (Hartley, Cassens)
7 BEAUTIFUL LOVE (Newman)
8 MY NEXT SONG (Goehr)
9 FLYING CARPET (Goehr)
10 PRENEZ GARDE (McDonald)
11 SHEBA (Gray)
12 TUMBLE HOME (Warner)
13 BLUE BLUES (Zacharias)
Vocalion CDLK4220 - 2 CDs for the price of 1
I can still recall a pleasant Sunday, early in 1958, when I was at the BBC’s Riverside television studios in London for one of Robert Farnon’s programmes. The guest pianist was Monia Liter, at that time highly respected as a concert pianist; he was also working at the famous music publishers Boosey & Hawkes in their Light Music department. Monia was closely involved with their Recorded Music Library, and I can remember telling him that, despite being a member of the Robert Farnon Society, it was impossible to get hold of Chappell 78s of Bob’s music. He asked me to let him know which titles I particularly wanted, and said that he would try to pull a few strings. It was only a matter of days before a parcel arrived at my home (via Boosey & Hawkes) containing several precious shellac discs featuring Farnon compositions then unrecorded commercially, which I still treasure to this day.
Such an act of kindness was typical of this charming man, so it was with a special sense of gratitude that I learned that Michael Dutton had accepted my suggestion that the two fine mono Decca LPs by Monia Liter from the 1950s should be reissued on CD. It turned out that the two albums lasted too long to fit on one CD, but rather than omit some of the tracks this new Vocalion release actually contains two CDs, but at the usual price for just one.
Monia Literwas born in Odessa on the Black Sea on 27 January 1906, where he studied piano and composition at the Imperial School of Music. He left Russia during the 1917 revolution for Harbin, in North China, where he managed to continue with his musical education. This provided him with the suitable qualifications that enabled him to join an Italian opera company in Shanghai, as assistant conductor and choirmaster, subsequently touring with them throughout China and Japan. When this engagement terminated, he formed his own dance band in Hankow.
Some while later he was in India with an American dance band, which involved touring throughout the sub-continent and Burma, eventually visiting Malaya. He decided to settle in nearby Singapore, and for seven years he was employed with his own orchestra at the famous Raffles Hotel, where he engaged the young Al Bowlly as a vocalist. While in that city he became a naturalised British subject. Monia Liter and Al Bowlly travelled to Britain in 1929, and different reports of this period of Liter’s career contain conflicting information. However it appears that Monia returned to China where he was appointed head of music at a commercial radio station in Shanghai; in 1933 he decided to make his permanent home in London.
His first appearance back in England was with his friend Al Bowlly in variety at the Holborn Empire (by now Bowlly had found fame, mainly as Ray Noble’s singer, although he had provided the vocals on 78s by numerous British dance bands), and thereafter Liter played the piano with virtually every famous dance band in Britain. He was a frequent visitor to the recording studios, firstly with Lew Stone (from 1933 to 1936), Nat Gonella (1934 - 1937), Jack Hylton (1936 and 1937), Harry Roy – where he replaced Stanley Black (1939 and 1940), then on various occasions with Victor Silvester (1940 - 1944). Sometimes these bands would be recording Monia Liter’s own arrangements for them.
In 1941 he joined the BBC as a pianist, conductor and arranger, initially with the Twentieth Century Serenaders. After 10 years at the BBC, he left them to concentrate on composing and concert work, which involved touring with famous names such as Sophie Tucker, Larry Adler and Richard Tauber. George Melachrino chose Monia Liter as the solo pianist on his HMV recording of Gershwin’s ‘Rhapsody in Blue’, and with the Mantovani Orchestra on Decca he recorded Clive Richardson’s ‘London Fantasia’ (reissued on Vocalion CDEA6019), Hubert Bath’s ‘Cornish Rhapsody’, Mischa Spoliansky’s ‘A Voice in the Night’ (Vocalion CDEA6044) and Albert Arlen’s ‘Alamein Concerto’.
He was also in demand for films, recording and television, as well as working in the Light Music department at Boosey & Hawkes, writing numerous works for their Recorded Music Library. In 1956 the BBC commissioned him to compose a serious work for their Light Music Festival, for which he wrote his ‘Scherzo Transcendant’. Other original works include ‘Andalusian Girl’, ‘Black Chiffon’, ‘The Valley of the Kings’, ‘Prelude Espagnole’, ‘Spanish Suite’, ‘Two Southern Impressions’ and ‘The Puppets’.
In his later career Monia Liter preferred to concentrate more on writing, rather than performing. He died in London on 5 October 1988 aged 82.
Although the titles of these two LPs were designed to appeal to record buyers’ nostalgia for romantic places, the truth is that they are really just collections of attractive pieces of light music, written by talented composers from several different countries over a period of many years. Through his work with music publishers, and as a result of his long broadcasting career, Monia Liter would have had personal knowledge of probably thousands of suitable numbers, so it would not have been difficult for him to make highly entertaining selections such as these.
The original album sleeve-notes provide attractive descriptions of the delights of Paris and Rome, but unfortunately they do not go into any helpful details regarding the actual melodies and their talented composers. Despite this distance in time, happily some of the names do still strike a familiar chord, but it is not always easy to avoid the traps laid through the use of pseudonyms – that bugbear of researchers.
Lovers in Rome opens with two melodies from the pen of a distinguished continental composer. Gerhard Winkler (1906-1977) is a German composer, whose name may not be familiar internationally, but his music certainly is. Perhaps his best-known piece of light music outside his homeland is his Neapolitan Serenade, although Chianti Song runs it a close second. He seems to have been inspired by Italy for many of his works, but his greatest success was Answer Me My Love which Nat ‘King’ Cole took into the US hit parade in 1954, where it remained for 40 weeks.
Monia Liter has admitted to composing Soft Lights of Rome, but his publishers also identify him as the composer of Andalusian Girl so, presumably, Sicilian Lullaby is also his creation as well, since both have the same composer credit – ‘Gaze’. Andalusian Girl may be familiar, because with an added vocal it became a pop song Pepe which enjoyed some success around 1960. Another well-known novelty is Guaglione – possibly better known as The Man Who Plays The Mandolin. The two numbers by ‘Wayne’ are most likely the work of American composer Bernie Wayne, who wrote many catchy pieces of light music in the 1950s (such as Vanessa, Port-Au-Prince and Veradero), although his biggest success was the song Blue Velvet.
The title track of Lovers in Paris offers a charming melody from the same pen as the composer of Sentimental Afternoon. Unfortunately the name ‘Sherman’ is not uncommon among composers, so without additional information it is well nigh impossible to attribute these attractive numbers. Perhaps an educated guess can be made in the case of The Flirt, since one of Monia Liter’s colleagues at Boosey & Hawkes was Bassett Silver (who was in charge of the Recorded Music Library), although the co-composer ‘Alfred’ could be a pseudonym – maybe for the maestro himself? We are on slightly safer ground with French Fries, because Fred Hartley was a highly respected broadcaster and composer, and he would have worked with Monia Liter on many occasions.
Two other numbers from this LP can be credited with certainty. Ken Warner (real name Onslow Boyden Waldo Turner – 1902-1988) composed several catchy string novelties, perhaps the best-known being Scrub Brother Scrub. Tumble Home first appeared in the Boosey & Hawkes Recorded Music Library. Warner could play violin, clarinet and saxophone, and during a long and varied career he worked with the likes of Peter Yorke, Max Jaffa, Reginald Leopold and Fred Hartley. He was a BBC employee until 1959, when he decided to retire to Cornwall and raise pigs.
Helmut Zacharias (1920-2002) the famous German violinist achieved international fame with his ‘Magic Violins’. In the 1950s AFN dubbed him ‘the best jazz violinist in the world’ and during his long career he received many awards, notably for his Tokyo Melody which the BBC chose for its coverage of the 1964 Olympic Games, helping it to achieve sales of over 13 million copies worldwide. Blue Blues finds Helmut in a sad, reflective mood.
The delicate touch of Monia Liter at the keyboard can be heard among the rich orchestral sounds on these two albums from the mid-1950s, although he never attempts to overwhelm the melodies. As a highly respected concert pianist he could have been forgiven for using these LPs as a showcase purely for his own talents, but it speaks volumes for his own good taste, and his respect for the gifted composers whose works he conducts, that he allows the music to hold centre stage. Many of the tunes will be unfamiliar on a first hearing, but one suspects that they will soon become established favourites of the music-lovers who appreciate such pleasant sounds as these.
A new Living Era CD fills many of the gaps left by previous Peter Yorke CDs of his Columbia 78s
PETER YORKE and his Concert Orchestra
featuring STEVE CONWAY and FREDDY GARDNER, sax
"Melody of the Stars"
1 MELODY OF THE STARS (Peter Yorke) DB2569
2 TILL THE CLOUDS ROLL BY - selection DB2297
3 THESE FOOLISH THINGS DB2548
4 CARNIVAL IN COSTA RICA - selection DB2329
5 HUMPTY DUMPTY DB2569
6 BLUE SKIES - selection DB2273
7 DAWN FANTASY (Peter Yorke) DB2639
8 THE TIME THE PLACE AND THE GIRL - selection DB2306
9 HOW DEEP IS THE OCEAN DB2519
10 IT’S MAGIC - selection DB2510
11 I ONLY HAVE EYES FOR YOU DB2411
12 NIGHT AND DAY – selection DB2285
13 NO ORCHIDS FOR MY LADY DB2452
14 BAMBI - selection DB2396
15 GENTLE MAIDEN DB2458
16 LOOK FOR THE SILVER LINING - selection DB2615
Sanctuary Group Living Era CDAJA5501
The name Peter Yorke will be familiar to most readers of Journal Into Melody. He conducted one of Britain’s most popular broadcasting orchestras from the 1940s until the 1960s. He was also a gifted composer and he created many stunning arrangements that brought out some fine performances from the top musicians he always employed.
He was born in London on 4 December 1902, the son of a printer, and he was already an accomplished organist by the age of 16. While still in his teens he was appointed choir-master and organist at a London church, and he completed his education at Trinity College, London. His early musical career found him working as a pianist in a west London orchestra, and his skill as an arranger was so apparent that, within a couple of years, he was providing scores to most of the important bands in London. During 1927-28 he appeared as pianist and arranger on British dance band 78s by Percival Mackey, thereafter with George Fisher (1928), Jay Whidden (1928), Jack Hylton (1929-33), and Henry Hall (1932-33).
With Hylton he eventually found the continuous travelling stressful, so for a while he formed his own orchestra which concentrated on providing broadcasts for European radio stations.
In 1936 he began a fruitful collaboration as chief arranger with Louis Levy, one of the pioneers of music for British films, who employed several talented writers such as Clive Richardson, Charles Williams and Jack Beaver, but seldom gave them any credit on-screen. (Typically Levy never mentions Peter’s contributions once in his 1948 book ‘Music For The Movies’). Yorke’s experience and skills were ideally suited to the big, lush sound conjured up by Louis Levy and his Gaumont-British Orchestra on their many recordings and broadcasts.
Peter Yorke joined the Royal Air Force in 1940, and within six months he was transferred to the Broadcasting Section of the three services. Demobilised in 1946, he returned to composing and arranging, and formed his own large Concert Orchestra, which built upon the symphonic sound he had developed before the war under Louis Levy.
‘Sweet Serenade’, ‘Our Kind of Music’ and ‘The Peter Yorke Melody Hour’ became popular on BBC radio, allowing listeners to enjoy sophisticated versions of popular tunes of the day, alongside some of his own pieces of light music. He was a prolific writer, with his compositions accepted by many publishers including Chappells, Francis Day & Hunter, Bosworth, Harmonic, Conroy, Paxton, Southern and Josef Weinberger. He chose his own Sapphires and Sables as his main theme, although he often also used Melody of the Stars, which opens this CD. Possibly his best-known work was Silks and Satins which, for ten years from 1957, was heard on British television several nights each week as the closing theme for the popular soap-opera ‘Emergency Ward 10’.
For his broadcasts and records, the Peter Yorke Concert Orchestra usually comprised between 30 to 40 musicians, and leading the saxes was a talented player called Freddy Gardner. He could reach notes on the saxophone which didn’t exist as far as other players were concerned, and his golden tone can be heard soaring above the strings and brass on many recordings that are highly prized by collectors. It is not fanciful to suggest that I Only Have Eyes For You is one of the top ten orchestral 78s of all time, with a superlative arrangement matched by supreme playing from the entire ensemble – with the added bonus of what can only be described as a virtuoso performance by Gardner at the peak of his charmed career. This was recorded at EMI’s Abbey Road studios on 29 April 1948, just two years before his sudden death from a brain haemorrhage on 26 July 1950 at the early age of 39. For three other examples of Freddy’s brilliance just listen to Old Man River, These Foolish Things and Time On My Hands.
Steve Conway (whose real name was Walter James Groom) was one of several fine vocalists regularly chosen by Peter Yorke for his recordings and broadcasts, and it is a tragedy that he died so young (on 19 April 1952 aged only 31) barely six years after his first broadcast on BBC Light Programme’s "Variety Bandbox". His recorded legacy is not large, and some of his best performances were with Peter Yorke, prime examples being his five songs in this collection: Another Night Like This and Mi Vida (from "Carnival in Costa Rica"); It’s Magic and It’s You Or No One (from "It’s Magic"); and No Orchids For My Lady.
All of the tracks on this CD feature Peter Yorke’s own bull-bodied arrangements, with the big concert-orchestra sound that had made him (and earlier Louis Levy) so popular. His style was well-suited to the film selections that formed a large part of his repertoire, and Hollywood provided plenty of inspiration, with the numerous musicals made during the 1940s as escapist entertainment from the grim realities of the real world during that miserable period of our history. The storylines of the likes of Till The Clouds Roll By, Carnival in Costa Rica, Blue Skies, The Time The Place and The Girl, It’s Magic, Night and Day and Look For The Silver Lining now seem incredibly dated – as does the music, but surely that is in its favour!
Walt Disney made a point of employing top songwriters for his cartoon features. Perhaps Bambi had less hits than some of the others, although you wouldn’t realise it from Peter Yorke’s tasteful score.
As well as the title track Melody Of The Stars, Peter Yorke is also represented as a composer with his Dawn Fantasy. It is largely forgotten today, but achieved considerable popularity during the era when Warsaw Concerto spawned a glut of similar works which broadcaster Steve Race astutely dubbed ‘the Denham concertos’, because it seemed that most films emanating from that once-prolific British studio had a full-blown piano pseudo-concerto on the soundtrack.
Mention should also be made of the radio series "ITMA" featuring comedian Tommy Handley, because one of the musical interludes performed by the orchestra under the baton of Charles Shadwell often featured a specially commissioned arrangement of a popular novelty. Peter Yorke was a frequent contributor, and Humpty Dumpty was just one of his inventive creations.
Happily this is not the only compact disc currently available that pays tribute to Peter Yorke’s wonderful music. Care has been taken to avoid too many duplications with other releases, but hopefully collectors will find that this particular selection is an accurate portrayal of the many facets of his genius. He died aged 63 on 2 February 1966 when his shows were still a popular part of the Light Programme schedules, and one suspects that people will still enjoy his tuneful music for decades to come.
Other Peter Yorke CDs which deserve to be in your collection:
"GLAMOROUS NIGHTS" Vocalion CDEA6005
"FREDDY GARDNER" Naxos 8120506 [14 tracks with Peter Yorke]
"FREDDY GARDNER" Living Era CDAJA5454 [7 tracks with Peter Yorke]
A new name joins the impressive list of Light Orchestras already available on Vocalion CDs
ROGER ROGER AND HIS ORCHESTRA
The Original Compositions of Roger Roger
1 FANTASY WALTZ
2 BUSY STREETS
3 COUNTRY ROMANCE
4 WHIMSICAL DAYS
5 TWENTIES SUITE - CHARLESTON
6 TWENTIES SUITE - ROMANCE
7 TWENTIES SUITE - RAGTIME
8 TWENTIES SUITE - FINALE
9 THE JOLLY POSTMAN
10 CHINESE LANTERN
11 SNAPSHOTS - THE SLEIGH RIDE
12 SNAPSHOTS - THE BEAR
13 SNAPSHOTS - THE CYCLE RIDE
14 SNAPSHOTS - THE OLD JALOPY
15 WESTERN MONTAGE
16 GREENLAND SLEIGH DOGS
17 GERSHWINESQUE No. 1
18 GERSHWINESQUE No. 2
19 GERSHWINESQUE No. 3
Through his many compositions for publishers such as Chappells, and the more recent releases on Parry Music CDs, members of the Robert Farnon Society will already be familiar with the full rich sound of Roger Roger’s own orchestra – especially when it performs his own brilliant musical creations. He was a leading figure on the French music scene for many years, and his fine compositions and arrangements also won him many admirers internationally.
He was born on 5 August 1911 at Rouen, Normandy in France, and to satisfy a personal whim his father, Edmond Roger, really did give him the first name Roger. Music was in the family: his mother was an opera singer and his father was a well-known operatic conductor, who had been a classmate of Claude Debussy at the Paris Conservatoire, so it was hardly surprising that young Roger received music tuition at an early age. His main instrument was the piano (mainly self-taught), but harmony and counterpoint also played an important role in his education. His first job on leaving school was teaching light opera at the Rouen Arts Theatre
Roger Roger made his professional conducting debut at the age of eighteen in a Music Hall, but it wasn’t long before radio and films beckoned. During his long career he claimed to have been involved in more than 500 film productions.
Although his parents encouraged him in classical music, during his teenage years young Roger discovered a love for American popular songs. Later in his life, he told Dutch record producer Gert-Jan Blom that "…George Gershwin, Jerome Kern, Cole Porter and Irving Berlin really were my teachers, because I learned by analysing their compositions and arrangements."
However his classical upbringing did not desert him. The composers which influenced him most were Stravinsky, Chabrier, Wagner and Handel, with Ravel providing most of his inspiration for scoring and orchestration.
He started writing for French films towards the end of the 1930s (firstly documentaries, then feature films), and was responsible for the famous pantomime sequences in Marcel Carné’s Les Enfants du Paradis (1944). Several European radio stations employed him, especially Radio Luxembourg, Radio 37 and Europe 1; he was closely involved with the early programmes on the new French Television service.
After the Second World War Roger played piano and conducted a 35-piece orchestra for a major French weekly radio series "Paris Star Time" (Paris a l’heure des Etoiles), which was sent all over the world and even broadcast in the USA. This featured many of the big names of that period, such as Edith Piaf, Jean Sablon, Maurice Chevalier and Charles Trenet. His own instrumental cameos that were featured in the show brought him to the attention of the London publishers Chappell & Co., who were rapidly expanding their Recorded Music Library of background music at that time. Roger’s quirky compositions soon became available to radio, television and film companies around the world, with distinctive titles like Jack O’Lantern (Feux Follets), Paris Fashions (Haute Couture), The Toy Shop Window (La Vitrine aux Jouets) and The Toilers (Grands Travaux). Usually he recorded his own music in Paris, and the unique studio sound added to the special charm that these works possessed. In addition to his brighter numbers, he was also required to create pieces of a more serious nature, including some heavy, repetitive tracks that could be used as accompaniment for industrial scenes in documentaries. A composer of mood music has to be able to write for almost any kind of subject, and this presented no problems for Roger.
The Paris office of Chappells used to issue its own series of LPs of background music, and from the mid-1950s onwards Roger recorded almost 20 albums of his own compositions for them. He often worked with his childhood friend, Nino Nardini. His widow, the opera singer Eva Rehfuss, remembers that Chappells’ agent in the USA was particularly successful in getting Roger’s music used in various soap operas.
During the 1960s John Parry was in charge of Chappells’ Recorded Music Library in London, before he eventually set up his own publishing company in Canada and the USA. His friendship with Roger Roger later resulted in Parry Music taking some of the composer’s prolific output, and the music on this CD is a result of that fruitful collaboration.
Considering how busy Roger was in films and broadcasting, it is surprising that he didn’t make more commercial recordings. He never had an exclusive contract, so his occasional releases appeared on various different labels such as Vega, Polydor, Festival, US Decca, Everest and MGM. Perhaps the reason is that he despised so much of the music that the record companies wanted him to arrange. He held his own orchestra in such high esteem that he didn’t want it to be associated with what he regarded as an inferior product.
Roger’s own compositions have, at times, been compared with the American Leroy Anderson, although they never actually met. But a close collaboration, which developed into a strong friendship, grew up between Roger and Frank Chacksfield. The two worked together on BBC shows, and in a series called "Performance" for French radio. By a strange co-incidence, Frank died just three days before Roger in 1995. Roger also knew Lalo Schifrin well, but it was more of a friendship than a working relationship, because they each preferred to compose on their own.
Roger Roger died in Paris on 12 June 1995 aged 83. He managed to create his own unique sound through his brilliant compositions and orchestrations, and one suspects that future generations of music-lovers will re-discover and enjoy his melodious creations for a long time to come.
This CD presents the genius of Roger Roger in three main areas of his musical world – as a composer, arranger and conductor. The title track Whimsical Days encapsulates, in just one number, many of the sounds and styles which help to make his music recognisable to his many admirers. The brass at the opening (sounding almost discordant), supported with a firm backdrop of strings, leads into the woodwind performing a perky melody that immediately lifts the spirits in a light-hearted manner. Then comes the hint of toy soldiers, perhaps – another perky sound so typical of the composer. Various moods then vie to predominate, until the opening chords eventually reappear, with a repeat of the main melody which, by now, has become distinctly whimsical – just as the title promised that it would. No one else, but Roger Roger, could have composed this fascinating number.
It is worth drawing attention to the final suite in this collection of original works which represents Roger’s affection, respect and admiration for one of the greatest American composers, George Gershwin. For some reason he chose not to give the three movements separate descriptive titles, perhaps preferring that his music should speak for itself. However one is tempted to try and imagine what his inspiration might have been, and Roger’s publisher, John Parry is in no doubt that the music is intended to portray the vibrant atmosphere of New York and its environs. He suggests On Broadway for the first part, followed by New York Nights and finally Manhattan Rendezvous. Whether or not you agree, the entire suite is a delightful work that makes a fitting climax to a selection of music by a very talented composer who fully deserves to be remembered in the 21st century.
This CD is due to be released in December, and copies may be purchased by members of the Robert Farnon Society from the RFS Record Service for £10 [US $20] plus postage and packing.
Boosey & Hawkes salute one of their most famous composers with a special Production Music CD
THE SEEKERS OF GLORY
THE GREAT QUEST
THE CHALLENGE OF SPACE
PASSAGE TO WINDWARD
CITIZENS OF THE WORLD
AIM AND ENDEAVOUR
THE SPIRIT OF PROGRESS
Boosey Media CAVCD171
Trevor Duncan is one of the great light music composers of the 20th century, and his music has been heard in numerous radio and television programmes, films and documentaries from the 1950s onwards.
"High Heels" started it all way back as the 1940s were drawing to a close, at a time when the composer was working as a sound engineer in BBC Radio. His publishers, Boosey & Hawkes, were happy to take just about everything that he composed, but his output was so prolific that, by the mid-1950s, with their blessing he started to place some of his creations with other London recorded music libraries. From then on it seemed that music just flowed from his fertile imagination, but apart from a few better-known works (such as the "Dr. Finlay’s Casebook" theme and "The Girl From Corsica") most of his delightful melodies have been ‘locked away’ from the general public in publishers’ libraries.
However in recent years record buyers have been able to acquire some of his works on CD, the most important release being the 1996 Marco Polo disc of new stereo performances of just some of his vast output (see details at the end of this feature). The recent Vocalion release of Boosey & Hawkes recordings by the New Concert Orchestra has provided further tantalising examples of Trevor’s work, and it is hoped that more will be forthcoming in due course.
Boosey Media have issued a CD of Trevor Duncan compositions which concentrates on his panoramic and scenic works, stretching from the oceans to the vastness of space. This is an area of his output which was not fully recognised in the Marco Polo selection. We should mention that not every movement of all the suites listed has been included, mainly because the professional users of production music often require only segments as ‘scene setters’ which are frequently incomplete in themselves, musically speaking.
Unfortunately (for the general public) this CD has been produced for use mainly by film and television companies, so it is not commercially available from record stores. Happily copies have been made available to members of the Robert Farnon Society, and they can be ordered from the RFS Record Service in the usual way. The compilation is the work of our good friend André Leon, and we are most grateful to Ann Dawson at Boosey Media for kindly allowing RFS members to obtain copies. David Ades
Some other CDs featuring music by TREVOR DUNCAN
British Light Music – TREVOR DUNCAN 20th Century Express (original title ‘Making Tracks’); Little Suite – March, Lullaby, Jogtrot; High Heels; Children in the Park – Dancing for Joy, At the Pool, Hide and Seek; Serenade from Maestro Variations; The Girl from Corsica; Meadow Mist; Valse Mignonette; Wine Festival; Sixpenny Ride, Enchanted April (original title ‘The Olive Grove’), St. Boniface Down; La Torrida; The Visionaries Grand March; Little Debbie Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra (Bratislava) conducted by Andrew Penny Marco Polo 8223517 (available from the RFS Record Service for £12.50 [US$25].
THE NEW CONCERT ORCHESTRA – Boosey & Hawkes Background Music Volume 1 Trevor Duncan compositions: Citizens of the World – March; Passage to Windward; Four Old Fusspots; Icicle Ride; Broad Reach; Harvest Supper; The Scent of Sandalwood; Little Suite – Folk Tune; The Spirit of Progress – March. CD also includes works by Ernest Tomlinson, Vivian Ellis, Frederic Curzon, Cyril Watters, Dennis Farnon, Monia Liter and Sam Fonteyn –for full details see JIM 156. Vocalion CDLK4192 (available from RFS Record Service for £10 [US$20]).
Tomboy (from "Pink Champagne" – Sanctuary Group Living Era CDAJA5470 (available from RFS Record Service for £8 [US$16]).
Revelation; Testament; Mob Violence 1, 2, 3 & 4; The Unwanted – The Boy 1, 2 (from "Big Screen Little Screen" Boosey Media CAV CD 155 (2 CDs) only available from RFS Record Service £12 [US$24]).
March from ‘A Little Suite’; Making Tracks; High Heels; Title Fanfares 1 & 2; Newsreel Special 1 & 2; Panoramic Splendour; Grand Vista; Transitionals 1, 2, 3, 4 & 5 (from "Archive Collection Vol. 1" Boosey Media CAV CD 32 – only available from RFS Record Service £9 [US$18]).
Peak Production; Plutonium Plant; Spirit of Industry (from "Archive Collection Vol. 2" Boosey Media CAV CD 37 – only available from RFS Record Service £9 [US$18]).
Glad I’m Home; Cartoon Capers; Zebedee; Susilu; Nokogok; Bach with a Bite; Find me There; Wheeler Dealer; Groovy Train; Mad Mendoza; You Were Right I Was …; O’Donovan Downtown (from "Fromage a la Funk" Boosey Media CAV CD 92 (2 CDs) only available from RFS Record Service £12 [US$24]).
Uncle Harry*; Eight Man Bunce; Colonel Crud* (*from "Four Old Fusspots"); Valse Parisienne (from "Archive Collection Vol. 3" Boosey Media CAV CD 125 only from RFS Record Service £9 [US$18]).
Funkrund (from "Soho Hipsters" Boosey Media CAV CD 147 only available from RFS Record Service £9 [US$18]).
March from ‘A Little Suite’; The Girl from Corsica; High Heels; Smile of a Latin (from "The Great British Experience" EMI CD GB 50 (2 CDs) available from RFS Record Service for £15 [US$30]).
March from ‘A Little Suite’ (from "Britain’s Choice" Light Music Society Orchestra conducted by Sir Vivian Dunn – Vocalion CDLK4182 available from RFS Record Service for £10 [US$20]).
The Girl from Corsica (from "Ron Goodwin – That Magnificent Man and his Music Machine" EMI 724358255027 (2 CDs) available from RFS Record Service £16 [US$32]).
Vocalion releases the first volume of a new delve into the riches of the Boosey & Hawkes Recorded Music Library
THE NEW CONCERT ORCHESTRA
1 CITIZENS OF THE WORLD : MARCH (Trevor Duncan)
2 ROMANTIC JOURNEY (Ernest Tomlinson)
3 THE BINGOLA (Vivian Ellis)
4 VIN ROSE (Frederic Curzon)
5 PASSAGE TO WINDWARD (Trevor Duncan)
6 TALKING POINT (Cyril Watters)
7 GIRL BIRD (Dennis Farnon)
FOUR OLD FUSSPOTS (Trevor Duncan)
8 UNCLE HARRY
9 COLONEL CRUD (Bart.)
10 PROF. POTTS Ph. D.
11 FARMER NOAKES
12 SONG OF THE WOODLANDS (Frederic Curzon)
13 EXUBERANT YOUTH (Ernest Tomlinson)
14 CELTIC MELODY (Cyril Watters)
15 ICICLE RIDE (Trevor Duncan)
16 THE BULLFIGHTER (Monia Liter)
17 DIARY OF A DEBUTANTE (Sam Fonteyn)
18 BROAD REACH (Trevor Duncan)
19 PARIS TAXI (Vivian Ellis)
20 WATERSMEET (Cyril Watters)
21 HARVEST SUPPER (Trevor Duncan)
22 RIVERSIDE IDYLL (Frederic Curzon)
23 SPRING (Vivian Ellis)
24 THE SCENT OF SANDALWOOD (Trevor Duncan)
25 LITTLE SUITE : FOLK TUNE (Trevor Duncan)
26 THE SPIRIT OF PROGRESS : MARCH (Trevor Duncan)
This CD is a celebration of the talents of a group of gifted composers who, between them, contributed hundreds of individual pieces of light music to the recorded music library operated by the famous London publishers, Boosey & Hawkes. The recordings date from the 1960s and 1970s, and the name on the original record labels (they first appeared on 78s and LPs) is ‘The New Concert Orchestra’. In actual fact the musicians were drawn from several different broadcasting orchestras, mostly on the continent of Europe, and for contractual reasons the true identities of the conductors could not always be revealed. However one thing remained constant: Boosey & Hawkes ensured that the recordings and performances were all of the highest quality.
Recorded Music Libraries were established by many of the top London publishers, providing films, radio and television companies with a readily accessible source of affordable recorded music that could be used as signature tunes, main themes or simply as backgrounds for every kind of use.
Competition was fierce, and each publisher developed its own style, backed up by top writers, many of them happy to specialise in this particular niche of the music industry.
During the 1950s the legendary Bassett Silver took over the day-to-day running of the B&H Recorded Music Library, and he remained at the helm until his sudden death in 1974. The music in this collection is a testament to his fine leadership which resulted in numerous talented composers contributing original works which demonstrate just how much splendid light music still remains undiscovered.
Dennis Farnon (b. 1923) is the younger brother of Robert Farnon, and he began composing for the Boosey & Hawkes Recorded Music Library in the late 1960s. Prior to that he had worked for ten years in Hollywood where his screen credits included the music for12 ‘Mr. Magoo’ cartoons, and four humorous animated ‘Art’ films. For three years he was Artist and West Coast Album Director for RCA Records, and was one of the five founders in 1957 of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, who present the annual Grammy awards. His conducting and arranging assignments included albums with Harry Belafonte, Tony Martin, Gogi Grant, George Shearing and the Four Freshmen. Among his own LPs are ‘Caution Men Swinging’, ‘Enchanted Woods’ and ‘Magoo in Hi-Fi’. He came to Europe in 1962, and worked on TV series such as ‘Bat Out Of Hell’, ‘Spy Trap’ and ‘Bouquet of Barbed Wire’. Dennis now lives in The Netherlands, where he continues to compose and teach. He admits that his composition in this collection – Girl Bird – is one of his own personal favourites.
Frederic Curzon (1899-1973) devoted his early career to working in the theatre and, like so many of his contemporaries, he gradually became involved in providing music for silent films. As well as being a fine pianist and a conductor, he also played the organ, and his first big success as a composer was his ‘Robin Hood Suite’ in 1937. This encouraged him to devote more of his time to writing and broadcasting, and several of his works have become light music ‘standards’, notably The Boulevardier, Dance of an Ostracised Imp and the miniature overture Punchinello. He was eventually appointed Head of Light Music at Boosey & Hawkes, and for a while was also President of the Light Music Society. Curzon was much liked and admired by fellow musicians and his colleagues in publishing, although he remained an essentially private man. He worked hard on behalf of other composers, and wrote a large amount of ‘mood music’ himself. The three examples in this collection reveal his great ability for pure melody and delicate scoring.
Vivian Ellis (1904-1996) was only 24 when he had his first big success in London’s West End with his show ‘Mr. Cinders’, from which came one of his best-remembered hits Spread a Little Happiness. He had started in the music business as a song-plugger with the famous publishers Francis, Day & Hunter, but thereafter it was his songs that would be sung and played by millions around the world. Many more shows were to follow, leading up to ‘Bless The Bride’ in 1947 which provided his greatest theatrical achievement. But Vivian Ellis did not confine his talents to musicals; he was equally at home composing melodies that became popular light orchestral works. His most famous was Coronation Scot (the signature tune of BBC Radio’s ‘Paul Temple’), closely followed by Alpine Pastures (the theme for ‘My Word’ – on Vocalion CDEA6061). In the 1960s he began composing regularly for Boosey & Hawkes, and three of his contrasting works are included on this CD. Like his contemporary Richard Addinsell, Vivian Ellis possessed the precious skill of being able to conjure up a strong melody, although he preferred to leave it to others to orchestrate his creations. Unfortunately those responsible were seldom credited, so researchers can only assume that the final polish was applied by people such as Cyril Watters, who were employed by his publishers to perform such tasks for their fellow writers.
Monia Liter (1906-1988) was born in Odessa, and left following the 1917 Russian revolution. He worked as a pianist in a cinema orchestra in China, and then moved on to many varied jobs in the Far East, finally ending up in Singapore where he spent seven years leading a dance band at the prestigious Raffles Hotel. While in Singapore he became a naturalised British subject, and came to Britain in 1933 where he worked with many of the top bands, including the famous vocalist Al Bowlly. In 1941 he joined the BBC as a composer, conductor and arranger, initially with the Twentieth Century Serenaders. After 10 years at the BBC, he left them to concentrate on concert work and composing. He was also in demand for films, recording and television, and later worked in the Light Music department at Boosey & Hawkes, writing many works for their Recorded Music Library.
Ernest Tomlinson (b.1924) is one of Britain’s most talented composers, working mainly in light music, but also highly regarded for his choral works and brass band pieces. During a very productive career, he has contributed numerous titles to the recorded music libraries of many different publishers, often under the pseudonym ‘Alan Perry’. One of his best-known numbers is Little Serenade, which he developed from a theme he wrote as incidental music for a radio production ‘The Story of Cinderella’ in 1955. His suites of English Folk Dances have also become part of the standard light music repertoire. In recent years Ernest has worked hard to preserve thousands of music manuscripts that would otherwise have been destroyed, and he is the Chairman of the Light Music Society.
Cyril Watters (1907-1984) was a backroom-boy in the music business in every sense of the word. From 1953 to 1961 he was chief arranger with Boosey & Hawkes, and worked in similar capacities with other publishers, including Chappells. His own compositions were willingly accepted for many mood music libraries, and his greatest success was his Willow Waltz which won him an Ivor Novello Award in 1960; it came to prominence through its use as the theme for the TV serial ‘The World of Tim Frazer’. During the 1960s he worked tirelessly on behalf of his fellow musicians as Secretary of the Light Music Society, and was a true gentleman highly respected and liked by all who came into contact with him.
Trevor Duncan (b. 1924) – real name Leonard Charles Trebilco - is one of Britain’s finest composers of light music during the second half of the last century. In the 1940s he worked at the BBC as a sound engineer, but a conflict of interests arose when his compositions became very popular and BBC rules limited the amount that their own employees’ works could be broadcast. His first big success for Boosey & Hawkes was High Heels, soon followed by other delightful cameos such as Tomboy, Twentieth Century Express and The Girl From Corsica. By the end of the 1950s his output was so prolific that B&H were unable to handle everything that he was writing so, with their blessing, he placed some of his numbers with other publishers. Television used his music for programmes such as The Quatermass Experiment, Dr. Finlay’s Casebook and The Planemakers (the first track on this CD). One of his passions was sailing, and many of his works seem to pay homage to the sea in all its moods. The music for Dr. Finlay’s Casebook is the March from Trevor Duncan’s ‘Little Suite’. This, and two other movements, are already available on various recordings, but a fourth movement from the suite – Folk Tune – has been unfairly neglected. This CD now makes it available for the first time on a commercial release.
The other composer represented in this collection, Sam Fonteyn (real name Sam Soden), was an accomplished writer who may not have achieved the same recognition as the afore-mentioned, but nevertheless produced some very pleasing melodies. There are countless others like him in the world of light music, who often prefer to preserve their anonymity, happy in the knowledge that their work gives pleasure to unsuspecting millions.
David Ades (July 2003)
To co-incide with the release of a new CD, David Ades paints a profile of one of the greatest names in British Light Music
George Melachrino conducted one of the finest British Light Orchestras in the years immediately following World War 2. Thanks to the Long Playing record, his fame spread throughout the world, especially in North America where his albums sold millions of copies.
He was born George Miltiades Melachrino in London in 1909. At the age of four he was being taught by his stepfather on a miniature violin, and was only thirteen when he made his first public appearance as a solo violinist. Three years later he enrolled at the Trinity College of Music, winning particular praise for his work with strings. He proceeded to master all the instruments of the orchestra, with the exception of the piano and harp. In addition he had a pleasant singing voice, and broadcast from the BBC Studios at Savoy Hill when only eighteen.
Like so many of his contemporaries, Melachrino discovered that his talents were well suited to the demands of the British dance bands which flourished during his youth. In numerous broadcasts and recordings he performed on clarinet, alto and tenor saxophone, violin, viola and as a most competent vocalist. While still in his teens, as early as 1926 he was recording with Geoffrey Gelder and his Kettner’s Five, and in the following years he was employed by Ambrose, Harry Hudson, Jack Jackson, Van Phillips, Rudy Starita, Jay Wilbur, Marius B. Winter and Carroll Gibbons and his Savoy Hotel Orpheans. Gibbons made him one of his ‘star’ vocalists, and his duets with Anne Lenner were especially popular. Examples of his work with this fine ensemble can be heard on Vocalion CDEA6047.
By 1938 he was getting star billing for his BBC broadcasts, and in 1939 he was leader of the dance orchestra at London’s Café de Paris.
World War 2 interrupted Melachrino’s career, although it helped to steer him in a different direction, musically speaking. Following a brief spell in the military police, a back injury resulted in him being drafted back into broadcasting, in special shows for the troops overseas. He became Musical Director of the Army Radio Unit, and toured with the ‘Stars In Battledress’. Melachrino formed a 50-piece ‘Orchestra In Khaki’, employing the finest professional musicians serving in the forces. He relished in the artistic freedom he enjoyed, which permitted him to perform a wide variety of music. In 1944 Regimental Sergeant Major George Melachrino (note that the British Army didn’t consider that their top musician should be a commissioned officer!) became conductor of the British Band of the Allied Expeditionary Forces, working alongside Major Glenn Miller and Captain Robert Farnon, who fronted the US and Canadian bands.
There is an intriguing story about how the wartime Melachrino style evolved. His senior at the War Office, Eric Maschwitz (of A Nightingale Sang In Berkeley Square fame), said he wanted to hear Pennsylvania Polka played by an orchestra of 80. So Melachrino’s AEF band numbered 80 musicians, making its conductor the first to introduce sweet, sentimental mood music by the use of masses of strings.
Each of the three AEF bands developed its own special style, building up a large following with the civilian population at home, as well as with the troops who were the main target audience. The British band gained a tremendous reputation, and Melachrino himself sang with all three service bands. His own composition First Rhapsody opened and closed each programme, when the British band started broadcasting to Europe. Originally a serious work for orchestra lasting seven and a half minutes, First Rhapsody was written in 1936. For the purpose of his signature tune, Melachrino adapted the principal theme, and reconstructed the work making it shorter and more popular in character. It was arranged in various forms, notably for solo piano and piano and orchestra. The British film "House of Darkness" was the story of how First Rhapsody came to be written. (Melachrino’s 12" 78 version of First Rhapsody was included in the EMI collection ‘Memories of the Light Programme’).
When the war was over, Melachrino’s AEF band formed the backbone of the magnificent orchestra that was to achieve world-wide fame for almost 20 years. The accent was now on strings, and it was in string orchestration that George excelled. Such was his popularity that he appeared in the 1948 Royal Variety performance.
The Melachrino Organisation grew into one of Britain’s most important musical empires, which included several orchestras and ensembles.
Today it is his recordings which serve to remind us of his exceptional talent. His post-war orchestra made around 100 78rpm records, and he was responsible for more than 50 LPs. For his repertoire he drew upon many of the popular standards and light classics of the day, often made instantly recognisable through his regular BBC radio broadcasts. Many of his records featured his own arrangements and compositions, and he was also in demand from the stage and the cinema, scoring over a dozen feature films. He was a gifted composer, and contributed a number of works for EMI’s short-lived Recorded Music Library, which provided themes and background music for films, radio and television world-wide.
Melachrino was married three times. His first wife and two sons aged 12 and 15 were killed by a flying bomb during the war. Afterwards he devoted much of his time to helping sick children. His second marriage was dissolved (we presume that it is this wife and daughter which appear in the Kolynos advertisement). In 1961 he had a son by his third wife, former ballet dancer Noreen Lee.
Sadly George Melachrino fell asleep in his bath and drowned at his London home in Gordon Place, Kensington on 18 June 1965, at the tragically early age of 56. On hearing the news, prophetically his publisher John Wallington said: "George’s death is a great loss to me personally, and to the world of Light Music. I am sure that his music will go on being played as long as Light Music is played." Sydney Grace, head of variety in the Grade Organisation said: "I admired him immensely, both for his talent and his bright way of life. George was a wonderful host. He was, I think, the instigator of the big orchestra with the tumbling strings, which he did during the war."
Perhaps such a sweeping statement requires some qualification. In the 1930s the likes of Louis Levy in Britain, and Andre Kostelanetz in the USA, were fronting orchestras where the strings were an important feature within the entire orchestra. But Melachrino was fortunate (during his Army years) in being able to call upon vast numbers of strings, with no worries about the cost, which became the dominant feature. Massive sales during the early years of the LP era still permitted light orchestras to use large numbers of string players (as well as Melachrino, one immediately thinks of Mantovani) but gradually modern recording techniques allowed the same effects to be achieved with fewer players.
When considering the choice of music for this CD, I was anxious to avoid too many duplications. Naturally the numbers had to be different from the existing Vocalion CD "Begin the Beguine", and all the tracks must out of copyright, which in Britain means at least 50 years old. Back in 1993 I made a similar compilation for EMI, but that CD was quickly deleted so I have felt justified in selecting works such as Winter Sunshine and Starlight Roof Waltz which ought to be available once again. To compensate, you’ll notice that there are some very rare numbers, which should appeal to ‘serious’ fans of the maestro.
Therefore this collection concentrates exclusively on George Melachrino’s recordings during the first five years of his post-war contract with HMV. It may be of interest to recall the recording techniques which were still in use at the time. In 1993 his producer, Walter J. Ridley, remembered many enjoyable hours working in EMI’s No. 1 Studio at Abbey Road. "During the first months of our association recording was still done on wax; a rather precarious business it was, too. The tiniest speck of dust on the surface of the wax (known as the biscuit) forced the recording to a halt, which all too frequently it did. The wax, over an inch thick and kept in a cabinet at a constant temperature, was placed on a turntable controlled by a pulley suspended from the ceiling, and a large weight kept it turning evenly as the weight descended." By 1950 tape recording had taken over, which permitted the luxury of editing, making the lives of both performers and technicians slightly less stressful.
The labels of the 78s used to describe George Melachrino either as "The Melachrino Orchestra conducted by George Melachrino" or "The Melachrino Strings conducted by George Melachrino". The first issued 78s were by the strings on B9515 (included on Vocalion CDEA6014), but the CD begins with the first 78 by the full orchestra - his own composition Winter Sunshine which was released in 1947. We can safely assume that Melachrino also arranged his own number, but unfortunately it is not possible to be so precise about all the music on this CD. With so many commitments, it would be unreasonable to expect that the maestro would find enough hours in the day to be able to score everything performed by his orchestra. Indeed he used other talented arrangers, notably his ‘right-hand-man’ William Hill-Bowen, who later made many fine recordings in his own name.
Arthur Wilkinson was another of Melachrino’s favoured arrangers, and in accordance with the custom at that time he and Hill-Bowen would be expected to reflect the style of the boss. Occasionally the 78 labels do mention the arranger, but for the rest we have to use our ears and trust to luck. Of course, an added complication is that most famous conductors were not averse to making slight (and sometimes big!) alterations to scores provided by others, wishing to stamp their own ‘trademarks’ on what they performed. It would be surprising if Melachrino resisted such a temptation.
The Kurt Weill classic September Song receives a tender treatment from the strings, probably by Melachrino himself. There is no doubt that Melachrino was responsible for scoring Robert Farnon’s My Song Of Spring (which also acquired unrecorded lyrics by Patricia Nash). Both conductors were enjoying star status as the 1950s dawned, and as a measure of their friendship and mutual respect, they each agreed to arrange and perform a well-known work by the other. Farnon orchestrated Winter Sunshine which he distinguished with an almost syncopated movement for its middle theme; the result was performed in several broadcasts. Melachrino did Farnon the honour of actually recording his My Song Of Spring, although this was probably a shrewd decision, because the song became popular following its introduction in the ice spectacular "London Melody" at the Empress Hall early in 1951. Later Farnon was to record it himself, in a different setting, as Sophistication Waltz (recently reissued on Vocalion CDLK4112).
There is a selection which is as surprising as it is delightful. In 1950 Walt Disney released his animated film "Cinderella", which may have lacked some of the charm of his earlier features but nonetheless contained many enjoyable moments and some good music. In fact Disney films usually had quite good songs; in their original settings they may have seemed fairly ordinary, but clever arrangers could often work minor miracles with them. Messrs Mack David, Al Hoffman and Jerry Livingston created a score with at least three big numbers, and it inspired George Melachrino (surely it must be his arrangement) to weave a ‘Fantasy’ which retells the familiar story using the songs as they appeared. (Many years before, Eric Coates had done something similar with his Cinderella Phantasy, first performed in 1929). The astonishing thing is that this Melachrino ‘Fantasy’ should ever have been recorded at all - especially on two sides of a 78! Children would hate this arrangement - it bears no resemblance to the film at all. Adults would assume (incorrectly) that the music was aimed at children, and not bother to even listen to it. Hopefully 50 years later such prejudices can be pushed aside, because Melachrino has given us almost seven minutes of pure magic. The opening songs - Cinderella and A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes - set the scene where poor downtrodden Cinderella is abused by her stepsisters, but still manages to indulge in daydreams. Then there is the pending Royal Ball, and the realisation that Cinderella won’t be going. Fortuitously the Fairy Godmother appears and sets Cinderella up in clothes (with the assistance of the mice) - The Work Song. Still there is time for hope - O Sing Sweet Nightingale - and Fairy Godmother conjures up transport (with the help of assorted creatures) - Bibbidi Bobbidi Boo - which succeeds in getting the heroine to the palace. She dances to the strains of So This Is Love, but the Fairy Godmother’s warning about watching the clock is cleverly underscored with the darting woodwind reminding us of the time-sensitive magic spell in Bibbidi Bobbidi Boo. The chimes of midnight bring the ball to an abrupt ending, but like all good fairy stories everything comes right in the end, to the strains of a reprise of A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes.
Among the other rare items is a work by a gentle man who has been unfairly neglected in recent decades. Reginald King (1904-1991) was a prolific composer and broadcaster, who became part of the furniture at Swan and Edgar’s restaurant in London’s West End, where his small orchestra performed Monday to Friday from the 1920s to the 1940s. William Hill-Bowen takes the piano solo in one of King’s more serious works Theme from ‘Runnymede Rhapsody’.
Hollywood musicals went through a vogue where a ballet sequence was inserted into the plot with the star dancers (usually Fred Astaire or Gene Kelly) performing a gangster routine. This probably inspired William Hill-Bowen to compose a ballet based on The Legend Of Frankie And Johnnie. The titles of the movements give plenty of clues as to the plot: Street Scene, Bedroom Scene, The Bar-room, Nelly Bly’s Dance, Shooting Scene, Death Of Johnnie. The resultant mini-concerto is an entertaining piece which fully deserves to be resurrected.
Melachrino’s work in films often involved movies which were ... to put it politely ... not exactly big hits. "Dark Secret" remains just that for most of us today, but the Theme Waltz is a charming melody which can be enjoyed in its own right, without having to sit through the film!
George Melachrino left a fine legacy of recordings which today’s music lovers are now starting to appreciate anew. His music always bore a hallmark of quality, and he proved that it is not necessary to resort to cheap gimmicks in order to be able to sell records. It was tragic that he was taken from us while at the peak of his popularity, at a time when he must still have had much to offer. We can only be grateful that, for almost 20 years his orchestral output was prolific, and there are many examples of his work patiently waiting to be rediscovered by his appreciative admirers, old and new.
GEORGE MELACHRINO AND HIS ORCHESTRA AND STRINGS*
"Cascade of Stars"
1. WINTER SUNSHINE (George Melachrino) 2. SEPTEMBER SONG* (Kurt Weil) 3. MY SONG OF SPRING (Robert Farnon) 4. ZINGARA (Chaminade, arr. Arthur Wilkinson) 5. MIDNIGHT IN MAYFAIR* (Newell Chase) 6. CINDERELLA - FILM FANTASY (David, Hoffman, Livingston) 7. CASCADE OF STARS* (Osna Maderna) 8. AUTUMN LEAVES* (Joseph Kosma) 9. SILVER LINING FANTASY 10. IF YOU GO (Michael Emer) 11. DANSE MEXICAINE (Arthur Wilkinson)
12. THEME FROM ‘RUNNYMEDE RHAPSODY’ (Reginald King) 13. STARLIGHT ROOF WALTZ (George Melachrino)
14. ANTE EL ESCORIAL (Ernesto Lecuona) 15. VIOLINS IN THE NIGHT* (George Melachrino) 16. THE LEGEND OF FRANKIE AND JOHNNIE (William Hill-Bowen) 17. THEME WALTZ - FROM FILM ‘DARK SECRET’* (George Melachrino)
18. WORDS AND MUSIC - SELECTION (Richard Rodgers)
VOCALION CDEA 6060