"Chasing The Blues Away"
Report of RFS London meeting held at the Bonnington Hotel on Sunday 26 November 2006 by VERNON ANDERSON
While everyone was settling in we were treated to the sounds of Robert Farnon’s overture for Pia Zadora including many of the pieces Bob had arranged for her albums and concert tours back in the mid 1980’s.
With the strains of Robert Farnon’s "Proscenium" still ringing in our ears David opened the meeting with a warm welcome to everyone, especially having braved the storms encountered during the morning. Thankfully the weather had now settled and it was good to see so many attending, especially those people here for the first time. We were in for a real treat.
David then introduced the other presenters at the top table, Albert Killman and Robert Habermann. Albert then paid tribute to fellow member Brian Coleman who sadly died in May this year (obit. JIM 169 Oct, 2006). Brian joined the society back in the 1950’s and was a great lover of light music but especially Bob’s compositions. One of his favourite pieces was Bob’s "Concorde March", which Albert now played in Brian’s memory.
Albert introduced Robert Habermann for his tribute to Sir Malcolm Arnold who died in September (obit. JIM 170 Dec, 2006) which commenced with "Colonel Bogey March" from the film "Bridge over the River Kwai" (1957) which highlighted his own excellent march theme which he used as a counterpoint. This was followed by Sir Malcolm’s charming "Whistle down the wind" of 1961. Robert related many aspects of Sir Malcolm’s life, focussing on his composing for films and documentaries. In 1948 he had the opportunity to write a full score.
He composed hundreds of films scores but also many overtures and dances for orchestra. Robert’s third selection was Sir Malcolm’s "English Dance". He was a prolific composer; 9 symphonies, 2 operas, 17 concertos, 5 ballets and many notable pieces covering various genres and all of them memorable. However he did suffer some notable rejections. The MGM film "Invitation to the Dance" with Gene Kelly, for which he wrote a modern jazz sequence was not used in the score and this was one of several major disappointments (Robert Farnon’s contribution to the same film suffered a similar fate). However his output was rewarded with Honorary Doctorates from a number of music universities.
Robert’s last selection was the music from the "St Trinians" films, which highlighted Sir Arnold’s very keen sense of humour. Albert thanked Robert for a fitting tribute to a highly talented man, which was well received.
Albert then handed over to David for the first of his New Releases. David held aloft the new Epoch CD from Michael Dutton containing, among other well known and much loved Robert Farnon pieces, the World Premier Recordings of Bob’s symphony No.2 in B major (Ottawa) and the Scherzo from his symphony No.1 in D flat Major. David introduced us to the first movement of symphony No.2. This has a dramatic opening which (for this listener) reflected on a world threatened by war, but soon develops into a more patriotic or "homeland" style, perhaps the Canadian landscape and its indigenous people, city life in more care-free days and then like Bob, feeling the need to join the fight for freedom and the sacrifices that that might entail. The movement ends in tranquil mood. This piece was well received on this its first hearing in over 60 years. David confirmed that copies of the CD were available from the RFS Record Service at the meeting. He mentioned especially the brilliant playing of the BBC Concert Orchestra under the direction of John Wilson, recorded at The Colosseum (formerly know as Watford Town Hall) in June 2006. (A full page advert appears on page 4 of JIM issue No. 170, and a full description of the Sessions is to be found on page’s 48 to 51 including illustrations in JIM issue No. 169).
Albert picked up the theme of the last piece adding that he CD opened with a marvellous interpretation of Bob’s Suite from the 1951 film "Captain Horatio Hornblower RN." Albert went on to introduce the second piece from the Guild Series, presenting "The Golden Age of Light Music" all of which are on sale at today’s meeting. This comes from the CD with colourful themes "Beyond the Blue Horizon" and he highlighted Angela Morley’s 1954 arrangement of "Deep Purple", played by Wally Stott and his orchestra, in which she provides us with a lush string sound. After which David gave us the news that Angela is presently having treatment for cancer, and voiced the thought of all present in wishing her a speedy recovery.
David followed this with a request from fellow member Peter Burt, who with his wife Ellen had been unable to attend today’s meeting due to a flood in their house. David played piece No. 3 - Roland Shaw’s arrangement of Charlie Chaplin’s "The Toy Waltz" from his 1936 film "Modern Times", by the Mantovani Orchestra, from the "A Song for Christmas" Vocalion CD - the piece ends in the manner of a clock winding down.
No. 4 - David’s next selection was composed by fellow RFS member, Paul Lewis and titled "Rosa Mundi". Inspired by the loss of someone special, when he noticed on a single flower on his favourite rose; the only bloom this year was on "that bush". A calm reflective piece, played by the Royal Ballet Sinfonia conducted by Gavin Sutherland on the recent Naxos CD "English String Miniatures - Vol. 6".
No. 5 - David introduced another Guild CD this one titled "Light Music While You Work" and exclaimed that "Brian Reynolds would be interested in this one". Harry Fryer and his Orchestra recorded it for the Decca Label series of 78s ‘MWYW’ but it wasn’t released until 1951 on an early Decca LP. David mentioned the marvellous work which Alan Bunting has done in restoring these old recordings for transferring to C.D format. The composer was believed to be an American named William Wirges and he gave the piece the title "Fascinatin’ Manikin".
No. 6 - Albert introduced a new Eric Coates collection and noted that Eric’s son Austin had given his father’s watch to John Wilson, which John proudly wore during the session for the new Robert Farnon CD in June this year. This is a Living Era re-issue of the ballet suite "The Jester at the Wedding" of 1932, from which Albert played the fourth movement "Dance of the Orange Blossoms". All the pieces on this 2 CD set are conducted by Eric Coates.
No.7 - Albert then introduced us to a new Epoch release courtesy of Mike Dutton titled "Concertino for Celeste" by Roderick Elms, with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Stephen Bell. Roderick Elms is playing Celeste on this recording. He wanted this instrument to be better appreciated, but it has achieved greater acclaim thanks to John Williams’ score for the Harry Potter films.
Albert highlighted a new Sinatra Album - "Sinatra Vegas", a 4 CD set and DVD containing all new material. This is on the Rhino Label and will be available from 27 November, 2006.
David’s "Parish Announcements" then bought our attention to the Petition which has been prepared re. the demise of Brian Kay’s BBC Radio 3 Programme, scheduled to be axed early in 2007. Several copies of the petition were displayed around the room and members were encouraged to add their name if they so wished. Alternatively they should write to Michael Grade at the BBC, to the address on the sheets. (Ironically Michael Grade has now resigned from the BBC).
David gave advance notice of the Society’s 100th meeting at which two gentlemen, Matthew Curtis and Adam Saunders, will be presenting music in April 2007 - two young composers who very much support the Light Music tradition. They were both well received at David’s introduction. We look forward to hearing from them at our next meeting.
David sent us off to the first interval for tea, coffee and biscuits, not forgetting the raffle draw, with Bob Farnon’s "Jockey on the Carousel".
Back to Seats Music - "Seventh Heaven" by Bob.With (practically) everyone returned to their seats, Albert introduced a popular regular presenter to the top table, Rodney Greenberg, who received a warm response from the floor. Rodney then introduced today’s special Guest of Honour, veteran BBC Radio and TV producer Trevor Hill to great applause.
The first point made was reference to the article in the Daily Telegraph on the Gowers Report. Result: "No reason to extend the 50 year ruling". This announcement was received with a round of applause.
Trevor then set the mood by putting his own "interference" on the mike to check the sound system, to much laughter from his audience.
This conversation went at a cracking pace and began with Trevor’s early BBC years with Margaret Potter at Manchester Piccadilly where Rodney first met Trevor. Trevor considered himself exceptionally lucky. While living at 21 Holmwood Grove, N7 he heard some piano music - a neighbour was playing, which got him interested in singing. He won a scholarship to St Paul’s Choir School under the direction of Dr. Field-Hyde where Trevor had to sight read a piece of music. It soon became evident that he required the removal of his tonsils and adenoids. He was keen to listen to the wireless and in particular national programmes of the BBC, through which he was introduced to a gentleman call Sid Walker. Following further exchanges Trevor referred to Rodney as "a walking (seated) encyclopaedia".
Trevor referred to the BBC’s "Band Wagon" programme with Arthur Askey and Richard Murdock which he attended at Mr Walker’s invitation. Trevor got a job at the BBC – one example ITMA door noises!
Music - "Marching On" by Walter Groer - composer/ musician who owned a printing press. Trevor involved with Radio Newsreel, from No. 200 Oxford Street (in the basement of a premier store). Broadcasting House was bombed in 1940.
We heard tape of Dunkirk Evacuation Day. The next day the AEFP was launched. From the BBC Record Library came the signature tune of Forces Favourites which became Two-way Family Favourites from Hamburg - Andre Kostelanetz’s "With a Song in My Heart". Cliff Michelmore, then squadron leader was interviewed; left message to Jean Metcalfe - her response "He’s quite a smoothy, your squadron Leader M!"
Margaret Potter produced her own version of Children’s ( Hour) Magazine, serials etc. Trevor played extracts from "Robin Hood", "Calling All children" 1947 Auditions. Playback of cast of Robin Hood which included many well known celebrities including Cliff Michelmore and Roger Moore etc. Colonel Warren was the first "Ovaltiney". Ivy Benson and her Band, who, following certain escapades with Roger Moore were known as Ivy Bunsen and Her Burners!
Trevor worked for a time with BBC West Region and was then posted North of England to Manchester, worked with Cpl (later Sgt) Ray Martin at base camp in Germany, involving Hamburg Symphony Orchestra. Hugh Garston-Green NWDR. Hamburg Philharmonic.
Other reminiscences included Violet Carson and a whistling postman. The BBC commissioned composer Ray Martin to score music for "Pied Piper" for which Margaret and Trevor wrote the script.
Many other memories followed with names such as Jimmy Edwards, David Hughes, Wilfred Pickles bringing smiles of recognition. Trevor worked with Harry Corbett and his famous glove puppet Sooty for 12 years, and we saw film of Roger Moffat introducing the BBC Northern Dance Orchestra. Other famous animals to rub shoulders with Trevor included Pinky and Perky.
Trevor also knew "Leonard Trebilco", young Bob Farnon and Ted Hockridge. Working on the AEF Programme of the BBC meant acting as sound engineer for Glenn Miller, who wanted individual microphones for each instrument. During a lunch break more were hastily found to satisfy his ego, but it was not possible to connect them to the mixer. Miller didn’t notice, but praised Trevor for the improved sound!
Trevor reflected on further memories from the early days, involving such well known people as Max (Maxwell) Davies - Master of the Queen’s Musik, Julie Andrews, C.S. Forrester and the "Hornblower" books, composer Johnny Pearson which brought the conversation to a close and a special appreciation and thanks from Rodney Greenburg followed by spontaneous applause from the audience.
Albert thanked Rodney and asked Trevor to draw the raffle. We then broke for the Second Interval and returned to the strains of "Sleigh Ride" arranged by (Wally Stott) Angela Morley.
Albert back announced the last piece and then reminded us that Ralph and Geoffrey had videod Trevor’s presentation for our archives. He then introduced our last guest speaker, Peter Worsley.
Peter told us he was formerly a Headmaster at a Secondary School, and now working for "This England" magazine. His first selection was Charles Williams’ "The Old Clockmaker" on the Grasmere label which introduced the BBC Children’s Programme "Jennings at School". Second selection from "London Fields Suite" by Phyllis Tate - "Rondo for Roundabouts". The suite also included "Hampstead Heath".
Peter has produced 3 volumes of TV and radio themes on sale at today’s meeting. He also edited This England’s "Book of British Dance Bands" (from the twenties to the fifties) and the "Second Book of British Bands" - (the Singers and smaller bands) and more recently "London Lights" - A History of West End Musicals.
Peter’s third selection was "Giocosso" by Issac Casabon and so "signed off". Albert thanked Peter for an interesting selection and recommended his books (on display) to us, with Christmas approaching.
Albert then introduced our regular presenter Brian Reynolds who proudly reported that his book "Music While You Work" has gone into reprint (interrupted by general applause). The book has bought family members of many of the artists to Brian, seeking more information.
Brian highlighted the music of Cecil Norman (1907-1988), selecting first "Whistling Cowboy" played by the Gilbert Vinter Orchestra (BBC Midland Light Orch); "Bubble and Squeak"; "Fancy Free" played by the Gerald Crossman Players -Brian confirmed that Gerald Crossman is still alive and well. Next followed "Out and About" with the composer and The Rhythm Players. Final number in recognition that Cecil Norman always used to get up at 5 o’clock in the morning - "Up with the Lark" by Harold Collins and his Orchestra. And a final note. In 1967 Cecil Norman ceased broadcasting - on his 70th birthday. Albert thanked Brian for his tribute to a warm reception.
Albert introduced Cab Smith who decided to present extracts from Robert Farnon’s "Canadian Impressions" Suite commencing with the opening piece "Gateway to the West" (the album was your reporter’s 1st LP bought while serving in Aden in 1956 and one of his treasured possessions!).
Next followed Bob’s impression of the main route through NW Canada - "Alcan Highway" and finally that great piece that forms the grand finale to the album - "Canadian Caravan". Cab’s selection was of course taken from Mike Dutton’s Vocalion CD which really brought out the atmosphere in the music. Sadly this has now been deleted.
Albert thanked Cab for a great selection and then asked David to present a short selection to close the meeting.
David chose a piece from the Hallmark album with Tony Bennett, a real seasonal number - "The Christmas Song" (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire). And we came to the end of a great afternoon of music and narrative with lots of humour for good measure.
David thanked all the presenters by name and especially our Guest of Honour Trevor Hill.
Then a word of thanks to the ladies at the front table and for arranging the raffle etc. And finally Tony for his great technical support.
David and Albert wished everyone a Happy Christmas/New Year, a safe journey home and looked forward to our next meeting, April 2007.
Closing music -"Melody Fair" (Robert Farnon), Manhattan Playboy (RF)