■ Mrs. Judith Walsh, the daughter of Robert Farnon and his former wife Joanne, wrote recently to tell us about her son Thomas who seems to be following in the family’s musical tradition. Tom was 14 last June, and during the summer holidays he was busking on Colchester High Street every Friday afternoon playing jazz trumpet. On one of those occasions, Thomas was playing outside the George Hotel, and he was heard by a jazz double bassist who happened to be a committee member of the Association of British Jazz Musicians (ABJM). The man was Eddie Johnson, who was visiting from Southend to enjoy an anniversary dinner with his wife. While in their hotel room, Eddie happened to hear Thomas playing on the street below. He went down to have a good listen, and contacted Bill Ashton (director of the National Youth Jazz Orchestra) to recommend Thomas. So now Thomas is in his element, playing at NYJO rehearsals every Saturday morning, along with his trumpet and flugelhorn. He has joined the Musicians’ Union, using the name Tom Farnon-Walsh in honour of his famous grandfather and their shared love of the trumpet!
■ RFS member Brian Luck presented a Tribute to Robert Farnon at Hornchurch Library last November.
■ James Beyer continues to spoil the good people of Scotland’s capital city with excellent concerts performed by his Edinburgh Light Orchestra. Last November he included a tribute to Robert Farnonwith Derby Day, The Westminster Waltz and Portrait Of A Flirt. The concert programmes for these events are always a mine of information about the music and the composers. The next concert will be on 27 May, and details are available from James Beyer, 4 St John’s Gardens, Edinburgh, EH12 6NT.
■ RFS member Mike Carey hosts a popular weekly radio show on BBC Radio Derby, at 4.00pm every Sunday afternoon. "Memorable Melodies" can now be heard throughout the world via the nternet: www.bbc.co.uk/derby. The show includes light music, big bands, great vocalists and soundtracks from Hollywood, Broadway and West End musicals. Mike would be delighted to hear from fellow RFS members and play their requests (if possible!). He was one of several RFS members featured in last year’s BBC Four documentary "Music for Everybody".
■ RFS member Alan Willmott has recently produced a new film for his Windjammer Films company. Entitled "Along The Curved And Narrow", it tells the story of the progress of the privately operated steam hauled narrow-gauge passenger carrying railways around the British Isles. Eight of the eleven railways featured are situated in Wales, and can trace their origins to mining areas and quarries. Alan tells us that a DVD release is possible later in the year, and we will naturally let you have details if this happens.
■ Towards the end of last year Ray Purslow was concerned to learn that a rumour was circulating saying that his Record Store in Birmingham was closing down. Ray assures us that this is not true - in fact he has recently signed a new three-year lease. Ray is now one of the few retailers still offering expert advice and a first-class service to regular clients.
■ Our Canadian representative Pip Wedge usually covers local concerts in his regular column, but we would like to add our own congratulations to Charles Job and his Palm Court Orchestra following a splendid concert last September/October. The guest conductor was another Canadian RFS memberMarc Fortier, who waved the baton for some of his own compositions, as well as works by the likes of Haydn Wood, Clive Richardson, Eric Coates and Leroy Anderson. Robert Farnon was represented with A La Claire Fontaine. As a local paper reviewer reported: ‘Marc Fortier certainly kept the orchestra on their toes all evening, in the process evincing some of the finest playing I’ve yet heard from them – lush and full-bodied, with every instrument making its presence felt and ensemble as tight as one could wish.’
■ The winter issue of Classic Record Collector mentioned the Leslie Jones recordings of Robert Farnon’s music in a long article. An accompanying photo showed Leslie and his son holding a copy of the Farnon LP. [Thanks to Nigel Burlinson for this information].
■ In April Taragon Records will be issuing a 2 on 1 CD containing the two extremely rare albums originally made for the Japanese market KOGA MELODIES and RYOICHI HATTORI MELODIES. The original LPs were never issued in America although KOGA MELODIES had a limited release in Europe from CBS Holland. At the same time Taragon will issue the only other Faith album not already available on CD - FOOTBALL SONGS (also known as TOUCHDOWN!) Alan Bunting has been a driving force behind these reissues.
■ Around the time that you receive this issue, a new Dutton Vocalion CD will be released featuring the music of Anthony Collins. Among many rarities on this must-have CD are Festival Royal Overture, Symphony for Strings, Louis XV Silhouettes and film scores such as Victoria the Great, Odette and The Lady with a Lamp. Naturally Collins’ most famous piece Vanity Fair is also on the list. The sessions took place at Watford last September, with John Wilson conducting the BBC Concert Orchestra (Vocalion CDLX7162). Other releases in the same batch feature a cycle of music byRichard Arnell (CDLX7161) and the Lochrian Ensemble performing the romantic String Quartets of Edgar Bainton and Hubert Clifford (CDLX7164). Details of a further selection of Easy Listening CDs for release this March were not available as we went to press, but no doubt we will have a lot of good news for you in June!
■ Gary Williams was in the Abbey Road studios from 6-9th February recording his latest CD "In the Lounge with Gary Williams".
Alan Bunting has reported that he is investigating a claim that some of his restorations of Percy Faith recordings, currently available on Living Era's DELICADO 2CD set, and in which he holds the copyright, may have appeared on another label without his or Living Era's permission.
Glenn Adams likes the music of Albert Sandler, and wonders if many of his recordings have been reissued on CDs. He is aware of two, as he explains: "I have two and you may be interested in them for other members of the society. They are both excellent, one is "Albert Sandler with The Palm Court Orchestra and his Trio" It's on the Music and Memories label No MMD 1058 PO Box 99, St Austell, Cornwall, PL25 3YD. The other one I have is "Albert Sandler & His Orchestra at the Park Lane Hotel, London" with Jack Byfield, piano and Reginald Kilbey, Cello. This one is on the Pearl 'Flapper' label from Pavilion Records Ltd, Sparrows Green, Wadhurst, East Sussex,England. It is excellent and has some lovely old recordings, one of my favourites being "With you" a fox-trot with a vocal solo by a lady called Marjorie Stedeford who had a really lovely voice."
The long running legal disagreement between EMI and Naxos in the USA has been settled, according to a report in the March issue of ‘The Gramophone’. The result is that a large number of Naxos CDs will no longer be available in the USA. The losers are going to be music lovers, and it is a warning to us all about what will happen if the present 50-year copyright on sound recordings in the UK is extended.
■ The Sidney Torch feature in the centre of this issue is thanks to Lew Williams, who has great admiration for Torch as a cinema organist before World War II. Lew also has plenty of admirers himself: as our member Robin King tells us, "Lew is a superb, very much respected musician. He is one of the world’s finest organists – both classical and theatre – equally well-known in UK organ circles as in the USA. He is resident organist at Organ Stop, Mesa, Arizona (a suburb of Phoenix) which has the world’s largest Wurlitzer housed in a public place … 5 manuals and 77 ranks. Awesome! There is more information (and some audio samples) at www.organstoppizza.com "
The March issue of The Gramophone included a full page article on Light Music by Andrew Lamb.Guild and Vocalion CDs were specifically mentioned.
A major light orchestral hardback biography is on its way, hopefully out in time for the centenary of Mantovani's birth on 15 November next. "Mantovani – A Lifetime In Music" tells of Mantovani's relentless quest for perfection in a musical career that lasted over 50 years. Written by Colin MacKenzie and to be published by Melrose Books, it follows the maestro's musical career in detail, from his early days as an aspiring classical musician, his dance band days of the 1930s, his activities as a musical director in the theatre and his successes in America and worldwide in the 1950s and up until his retirement in 1975. The author has had unique access to the Mantovani family, his record producers, arrangers, musicians and fans from various parts of the globe to provide a very detailed portrait of his life and times. It's the "full Monty", of interest to Mantovani fans everywhere, but also to anyone interested in light orchestral music and the history of popular music in the 20th century. More details as and when we have them.
Derek Boulton tells us an amusing story from Russia. In last September’s JIM we told you about the Russian singer Willi Tokarev, who is infatuated with the music of Robert Farnon. Willi lives in a block of flats in Moscow, which has been renovated from former army barracks. The old public address system is apparently still intact, and wired to all the flats. Each morning Willi wakes up his fellow residents to the strains of either Portrait of a Flirt or Westminster Waltz!
Paul Barnes is back on Saturday evenings. His radio show "Gold for Grown-Ups" from BBC Radio Norfolk (beamed to many BBC local stations in Eastern England) is no longer on Sundays (where it failed to reach its potential target audience) to Saturdays between 6.00pm and 9.00pm. Check the frequencies in Radio Times and tune in next week. Alternatively you can listen via the internet on the BBC website www.bbc.co.uk
Former BBC Radio-2 producer Anthony Wills now runs Golden Sounds Productions, but radio isn’t his only passion. He is also the Chairman of the National Piers Society, which publishes a fascinating magazine. If you’d like to know more, drop a line to the Membership Secretary: Phil Johnson, 26 Weatheroak Close, Webheath, Redditch, Worcestershire, B97 5TF, England.
Allan Bula has previously reported on the Hastings Light Orchestra, and the latest news is that it will join the Waldron Light Orchestra to perform a joint open-air concert near Lucas Hall, Waldron, on Sunday July 10th from 3.00pm onwards. Waldron, an ancient village approx. three miles east of Uckfield, East Sussex, is in the Domesday Book as Waldrene (from ‘the forest house’) and acquired its modern spelling in 1336.
John Wilson conducted the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra on April 21st at London’s Royal Albert Hall before a capacity audience (reports Tony Clayden). The Classic FM Live concert included popular items by Mozart, Vaughan Williams, Handel and Walton; the latter’s Spitfire Preldue and Fugue was given a particularly spirited performance. Two compositions by Saint-Saens were featured, the Carnival of the Animals and the finale of the Third Symphony, which showcased the recently rebuilt RAH organ. The programme concluded with Elgar’s Cello Concerto, with Julian Lloyd Webber as soloist. John has now done a lot with the RLPO, and the synergy between conductor and orchestra was most evident.
We are pleased to report that Ann Adams has been invited to play once again in a London park this summer. The venue is Kensington Gardens, on Sunday 31 July and as we go to press the concert is expected to start at 2.30 pm. If you plan to attend, you may care to ring Brian Reynolds beforehand (telephone number on inside front cover) to check that there have not been any last-minute changes.
Shelley Van Loen has just released a new CD – "In The Shade Of The Palms" - on her own PalmCourt Records label. Full details, plus a review, will appear in our next issue, but if you would like to order a copy before then you can telephone Shelley on 01869 351990.
Sound Copyright – the battle goes on! In April a New York Court of Appeal found in favour of Capitol in a dispute with Naxos. Initially this raised alarm bells since there seemed a prospect that record companies reissuing recordings over 50 years old could be prohibited from selling in the USA. However this appears to have been an over-reaction, and the suggestion has been made that Capitol’s win could prove to be a Pyrrhic victory. It is alleged that the judgement only applies to record companies with an office in New York (such as Naxos of America). Another complication is that a query has arisen as to whether EMI could assign rights to its Capitol subsidiary in recordings that had already fallen out of the 50-year copyright in Britain, and were therefore in the public domain. Clearly there are going to have to be even more court cases in an attempt to clear up what is becoming a very messy situation. One speculates as to how any judgement in one country could prevent the world-wide trade in CDs that now exists via the internet. The best answer for the major record companies would seem to be to exploit their own catalogues by bringing out reissues themselves, competitively priced, so that there would be no point in independents such as Naxos trying to gain a share of the market.
Within ten days of the news of Robert Farnon’s passing, Sanctuary Living Era advised all their dealers of the CD "A Portrait of Farnon" originally released in February 2004.
BRAVO MARK STEYN!
For all the 49-odd years that our Society has existed, we have come to expect snide, derogatory comments about ‘our kind of music’ from musical snobs who wouldn’t recognise a tune if it jumped up and slapped them in the face. Give them atonal cacophony and they roll over with their legs in the air waiting to be tickled, just like the Editor’s black cat Mamba. But to admit to enjoying melody …?
Therefore it’s all the more pleasing when, occasionally, a columnist does have the courage to admit to liking something musical which gives pleasure to the majority. Even more surprising, is a columnist who takes his fellow writers on the same newspaper to task.
This is what Mark Steyn said in his Daily Telegraph column on 3 May:
"It's the little things in the paper that drive you nuts. I made the mistake of reading Thursday's obituary of Robert Farnon on a plane and the following sentence caused my mouthful of coffee to explode over the guy in front of me and set his hair plugs alight: ‘He also did some suitably syrupy arrangements for the crooners Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Lena Horne and Vera Lynn.’
Good grief. There's nothing "syrupy" about Farnon's arrangements for Sinatra. If you listen to his work on Sinatra Sings Great Songs From Great Britain, the guitar coda on "Garden in the Rain" and the trumpet obligato on "If I Had You" are worth the price of admission alone.
I felt rather depressed at the thought that "syrupy" should be my paper's final judgment on the greatest Canadian orchestrator of popular music ever, especially when you consider that "Now is the Hour" (the "Maori farewell song") was co-written by Clement Scott, the Telegraph's drama critic from 1872 to 1899.
It remains the only song by a Telegraph journalist ever recorded by Sinatra, at least until the lost tapes of Frank Sinatra Sings the Boris Johnson Songbook are discovered.
So I dusted off the Great Songs From Great Britain CD and was reassured to find the Farnon arrangements as ravishing as I remembered them. The key line is from "Garden in the Rain": "a touch of colour 'neath skies of grey." That's what Farnon's orchestrations brought to even the dullest material, like "We'll Meet Again", whose stiff-upper-lip sexless stoicism Sinatra can't get his head around at all.
We'll be hearing "We'll Meet Again" rather a lot this VE anniversary week. Looking back at that Sinatra/Farnon album, you're struck by how - in 1962 - so many of the numbers they chose are wartime songs, either from the Second War - "We'll Gather Lilacs" - or the First - "Roses of Picardy".
One of the reasons why it's effortlessly easy to "commemorate" the Second World War is that popular culture had signed up for the duration. It was the war that brought Robert Farnon to Britain, to lead the Allied Expeditionary Force's Canadian band, as Glenn Miller and George Melachrino led the American and British bands."
Bravo, Mark Steyn! We need more writers like you to bring some commonsense to the blinkered musical establishment.
■ Last Christmas a BBC-1 ident showed young children bouncing in the snow on Christmas puddings. Several British members contacted us to ask about the attractive music heard in the background. It sounded like vintage mood music, but no one could identify it. Eventually Ralph Thompsonmanaged to track down a lady at the BBC who said that it was simply called "BBC Ident" and was published by the BBC. It was specially written by Peter Lawlor; we wonder if any readers know of him – has he composed any other music like this?
■ Allan Bula tells us that Herbie Flowers says the Hastings Light Orchestra could rise again this Spring.
■ Thanks to Sigmund Groven, we can report that the ‘Warren’ who composed Martinique (the Ray Martin version on a Decca 78 was included on the Guild CD GLCD5101), is actually Norman Warren, an arranger and composer who was a backroom boy active on the London music scene from the 1940s to the 1960s. Martinique was also recorded by Tommy Reilly on Parlophone R3560. Warren and Reilly also co-composed Blow Man Blow and No Dice which Tommy recorded on a Philips single in 1962 (BF 326 543).
And on the subject of mysterious composers, Brian Reynolds has told us that the ‘Stewart’ who wroteThe Whistling Boy on the recent Mantovani Guild CD was not Ian Stewart as we had been informed, but a Colin Stewart (perhaps a pseudonym?).
■ The American record company Reference Recordings has experienced problems in recent years, partly due to a change in ownership. The Gramophone magazine has been listing some of their CDs among their details of new releases, including Robert Farnon’s ‘Concert Works’ (RR-47CD). Since this has deleted some while ago, we were hoping that it would be available once again, but so far it does not appear on any distributors’ lists.
■ The Royal Marines CTCRM Band are planning a disc of the Music of Ron Goodwin – expected release date August 2005 on their own ‘in house’ Chevron Label (writes Roger Hyslop).
■ Ena Reilly has recently launched The Tommy Reilly Appreciation Society in honour of her late husband, regarded by many as the finest harmonica player in the world. The special event took place towards the end of last September, involving performances at the local Royal British Legion and Tommy’s church at Frensham. Paul Lewis (who worked with Tommy for many years on the TV series "Woof!") acted as compere, and some of Tommy’s former pupils from as far afield as Japan attended a masterclass in his honour. If any readers would like more information, they are welcome to contact: Mrs. Ena Reilly, Hammonds Wood, Frensham, Farnham, Surrey, GU10 3EH, England – telephone 01252 792422.
■ Alan Bunting tells us that Quantegy, the world’s last remaining manufacturer of ¼" and professional recording tape, unexpectedly closed down over last Christmas and filed for Chapter 11 (in the USA this is often a prelude to a business ceasing trading).
■ Forthcoming Concert dates:
John Wilson conducts the BBC Concert Orchestra and the Crouch End Festival Chorus in "Cinema Classics" at the Royal Festival Hall on Thursday 12 May at 7.30pm. The concert will be recorded for BBC Radio-2’s "Friday Night is Music Night". Tickets from RFH box office 08703 800 400.
The following day (Friday 13 May), John Wilson will be at the Symphony Hall, Birmingham, withGary Williams and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra in a Tribute to Nat ‘King’ Cole. Box office 0121 780 3333.
Robert Farnon has decided to call his new Bassoon Concerto "Romancing The Phoenix". It is dedicated to the American virtuoso Daniel Smith (see page 5 in this issue).
As we went to press, we learned that the new work dedicated by John Fox to his dear wife Joy was due to be recorded at Whitfield Street Studios on 22 February. Gavin Sutherland conducted the Royal Ballet Sinfonia, and we will naturally give further details when the CD is released.
We were saddened to note the death of actress Virginian Mayo on 17 January aged 84. It was for her role as Lady Barbara in "Captain Horatio Hornblower" that Robert Farnon composed one of the most beautiful love themes ever heard in a film.
Finnish Television is making a documentary on the famous ‘Moomin’ cartoon character called "Moomin’s Memoirs", which will be shown in 2006. Robert Farnon has been invited to be interviewed for the programme; readers will recall that Bob composed the catchy Moomin back in the 1950s when the newspaper cartoons became popular in Britain. Bob often used to turn up at early RFS Meetings wearing a tie with little Moomins all over it!
Consuelo Velazquez, composer of the popular 1940s hit Besame Mucho died on 22 January in Mexico City, aged 88. She began her career as a classical concert pianist, but later became a singer and one of the best-known composers in Mexican history.
There will be an exhibition of works by Benedetto at the Catto Gallery, Heath Street, London from 5 to 24 April. The artist is better-known as Tony Bennett.
Universal has issued a 2-hour TV documentary featuring Bert Kaempfert on DVD. The film by Marc Boettcher is based on his biography on the bandleader, and includes rare footage and photographs from private archives, as well as interviews with friends, colleagues and musicians. There are also excerpts from Kaempfert’s stage and TV appearances. Also included is a special bonus CD with 20 complete tracks where the music in the film is only heard in part. There is an English soundtrack, as well as German. The DVD is called "Strangers In The Night: The Bert Kaempfert Story".
Sessions will take place this year towards a third Campion CD of original compositions by Matthew Curtis. Once again Gavin Sutherland will be conducting the Royal Ballet Sinfonia, A few tracks were actually recorded last July, and titles selected so far include On the Move, Flute Concerto (soloist Jennifer Stinton), Five Dances for String Orchestra, At Twilight (strings and harp), Partita andDivertimento Concertante for clarinet and small orchestra (soloist Verity Butler – who also happened to be Mrs. Gavin Sutherland!).
If you have one of the RFS pens that have been available at some of our recent London meetings, you may like to be reminded that standard rollerball refills from W H Smith will fit (make sure youonly buy the WHS own brand, not others such as Parker which are a different shape).
James Cahall (from Louisville, Kentuckey) sent us an amusing cutting from his local newspaper. It informs that "Westport Road is closed just east of Herr Lane, but motorists may detour via Bob Farnon Way and Lyndon Lane!
The March issue of ‘The Gramophone’ includes an article on Light Music by Andrew Lamb. The Guild ‘Golden Age of Light Music’ series is mentioned, along with some recent Vocalion CDs.
The next concert of The Edinburgh Light Orchestra will be on Saturday 28 May, at the Queen’s Hall Edinburgh as usual. Conductor James Beyer hopes that some RFS members will come along to join the capacity audience that these concerts now regularly attract. Further details from James at: 4 St John’s Gardens, Edinburgh, EH12 6NT.
Composer Adam Saunders was in Prague at the end of January, recording come of his latest works for a Chappell CD "Epic Choral" with the City of Prague Philharmonic. The choir is the Brighton Festival Chorus (overdubbed in England).
Philip Farlow is continuing to be involved in the regional BBC South, South East 'evening share' programme on Fridays that he instigated mid-1998 called 'Big Band & Swing'. Nowadays Philip mainly gets involved in ‘specials’; he ceased doing it regularly in December 1999 as all the time spent producing a 'proper' programme was de-focussing him from his Audio Services work. Philip’s ‘slot’ was admirably filled by Grant James, but Philip now goes into the studios to do 'specialised' presentations which he regards as being quite prestigious – especially as there is a large audience over the Solent, Southern Counties, Kent, Berkshire and Oxford transmitters area. Some while ago Philip interviewed John Wilson and he would like to discuss his career with him again – if he can be fitted in with John’s very busy work schedule. Just before last Christmas Philip compiled a 'Glenn Miller in England' documentary which he understands from the subsequent feedback was received very well. "Big Band and Swing" can be heard on Friday evenings between 9.00 and 10.00pm. For those who live outside the areas covered by the local transmitters the programme can, of course, he heard via the BBC website on the internet.
As usual, there will be many new CDs to tempt us to open our wallets during the coming months, but as we go to press we only have very sketchy details of some of them. No doubt we will be able to provide much fuller information in our next issue.
First of all, on the Film Music front we have heard whispers that we can expect collections featuring film scores by Stanley Black and Mischa Spoliansky.
Mike Dutton has many attractive new releases lined up for the Spring, among them a new CD from the John Wilson Orchestra called "Dance Date" featuring scores by Roland Shaw and Pete Moore. From the vaults of Decca and EMI, Mike promises vintage albums by Victor Silvester, Ray Martin, Guy Lombardo, Eric Jupp (including the often requested "Music for Sweethearts"), Mantovani, Frank Chacksfield, Stanley Black, Ronnie Aldrich and Winifred Atwell.
Mike Dutton is also planning a new series of single LP reissues from Decca Deram, and one of the first will be the Robert Farnon / Tony Coe collaboration "Pop Makes Progress" (originally on the Chapter One label).
In February, the Dutton Epoch label issued a second volume of "British Light Music Premieres and Arrangements" (CDLX 7151) with works by Philip Lane (Overture on French carols), John Field (Concertino for flute and small orchestra), Haydn Wood (British Rhapsody), Rimsky-Korsakov (Variations on a theme of Glinka), Anthony Hedges (Festival Dances), Richard Addinsell (Harmony for false lovers) and Carlo Martelli (Romance, Greensleeves, Aubade).
Other Epoch releases include the Royal Ballet Sinfonia conducted by Barry Wordsworth performing music from Ballets associated with Sir Frederick Ashton (CDLX 7149), and a notable premiere of Sir Edward Elgar’s Piano Concerto (CDLX 7148).
Mantovani fans should be in seventh heaven with a new 4-CD box set from Jasmine containing 99 tracks. The period covered is 1951-1954, and inevitably there will be many duplications with CDs already released by several other companies. There is not room for a tracklisting here, but no doubt we will have a review in our next issue. If you cannot wait that long, you can order direct from: Jazmail, Unit 8, Forest Hill Trading Estate, Perry Vale, London, SE23 2LX, England (major credit cards accepted). The set is reasonably priced at £17.99 and UK postage is £1.00; Europe £1.50; rest of the world £2.80. Coming soon from Guild is a second collection of Mantovani – By Request, but you will be glad to know that this should be all material not previously on CD. Another Spring release from Guild will feature a second helping of Great American Light Orchestras. Full details – of course – next time!
Paul Barnes hosts one of the best music programmes on BBC Eastern Counties radio stations. At the end of November he took his cue from the news in our last magazine and informed his listeners that Doris Day was now a member of the Robert Farnon Society. To celebrate, he didn’t play a Doris Day record – instead he chose "Great Day" by the Robert Farnon Orchestra and the George Mitchell Singers!
We are very sorry to have to report the death of our member Robert Rudhall last December, following a long illness. Only a year ago Robert contributed a special tribute to his friend Ron Goodwin in JIM 154 (page 15). Robert first met Ron back in 1995 when he was doing research for his book about the making of the film "Battle of Britain".
Another Tribute to Angela …
I doubt that there are many in the Robert Farnon Society that need convincing that the new Vocalion CD of Angela Morley’s compositions and arrangements is a ‘must buy’. When I wrote the articles on her career a few years ago she sent me a tape of some of the music now contained on the album. I am glad that every lover of true artistry can now share my pleasure in hearing this music as some of the work she wrote for American TV series did not get a showing in the UK. John Wilson and his producers deserve a vote of thanks for enriching the world of music.
Lucky Scots enjoy Light Music
"There’s something blissfully anachronistic about the Queen’s Hall. With its florid cornices and church-like pews, the venue has a certain timeless grandeur which lends itself well to feelings of nostalgia. And after a week of self-congratulation in the Capital in the shape of the MTV awards, the unashamedly backward looking sound of the Edinburgh Light Orchestra was the perfect antidote to contemporary clutter. While easy listening classical music may not exactly be in vogue, the soaring cadences of the glissando strings during the ELO’s opening tune, Journey Into Melody, was enough to uplift the spirits of even the most cynical heart."
Thus wrote Duncan Forgan in his review for the Edinburgh Evening News of James Beyer’s concert last November. No doubt the esteemed critic was impressed by the fact that the hall was filled to capacity (about 800 people), and the enthusiastic applause from the audience perhaps raised a question mark regarding his comment about this kind of music not being in vogue. It seems likely that many more people would welcome the opportunity to attend concerts like this, but few towns and cities have a James Beyer to organize and conduct them!
As usual the programme was well balanced between light music, popular songs and works from the worlds of stage and screen. The closing work was Robert Farnon’s Sounds Familiar which, although written around a quarter of a century ago, still contains many tunes that bring instant recognition.
James Beyer and the Edinburgh Light Orchestra will be back at the Queen’s Hall in Edinburgh for their next concert on Saturday 29 May – for more details telephone 0131 334 3140.
Ray Clark also writes enthusiastically about the Yesterday’s Britain YB30 spotlighting London buses (reviewed by Glynn D. Parry on page 51). Ray additionally tells us about two Classic Railway Newsreels from British Movietone News which contain many examples of mood music from Chappell, Charles Brull, De Wolfe and Paxton. They cost £12.95 each and are available from: The Signal Box, 1 Albion Street, Anstey, Leicestershire, LE7 7DD – telephone 0116 236 2091.
Must Close Saturday Records
What’s in a name? Often it can be a very important marketing tool, but we wonder how many readers will realise the kind of music that is the speciality of the above new record company! But when you think of it, the name is rather clever, because it conjures up images of countless ambitious little theatrical productions whose appeal to audiences has sometimes fallen short of the aspirations of the talented performers. And that is often the kind of music that Adrian Wright passionately believes deserves to be remembered.
His new company concentrates of British musicals from the 1950s onwards that have been largely forgotten. The major record companies have original cast recordings in their vaults, but it takes a real enthusiast like Adrian to license this material, repackage it attractively, and issue it on CD. So far the label has issued The Crooked Mile, Oh What a Lovely War and Tom Brown’s Schooldays. If you are interested in musical theatre from around 40/50 years ago, keep an eye open for these CDs.Thanks to Peter Worsley for this information.
As we went to press we learned that Tony Bennett had been nominated in two categories for this year’s Grammy Awards in New York. Let’s hope he was successful!
Jack Docherty has drawn our attention to a section about Albert Ketèlbey on his home-town Birmingham Council’s website: www.birmingham.gov.uk/ketelbey
Musicians’ Union Election Success
RFS member Tony Whittaker has just been elected onto the Executive Committee. "I am delighted to have won the election" says Tony, who lives in Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, "and I look forward to representing the Midlands area for the next two years". Members who attend our London meetings will know that Tony is a keen supporter of RFS activities, and we are pleased to congratulate him on winning the confidence of his musical colleagues.
"Inside Antiques" on BBC4 (Friday 23 January) was devoted entirely to the subject of the collectors’ market and interest in railway travel posters, in the context of popular seaside destinations of the 1930s and 1940s. Several pieces of light music were heard in the programme:Coronation Scot was used for the opening titles and also the end credits. At other points we heardRhythm on Rails, Jumping Bean and Will o’ the Wisp. No other light music was used, and it added even more interest to a fascinating programme. Report from Peter Luck
The Robert Farnon Society has issued a CD featuring two important Farnon compositions, first released in 1960. For more details please visit the "Robert Farnon Society Compact Discs" page.
SUPERB NEW ROBERT FARNON CD FROM JOHN WILSON AND THE BBC CONCERT ORCHESTRA
A new CD of Robert Farnon compositions was recorded at The Colosseum (formerly known as Watford Town Hall) on 1 & 2 June 2006. The highlight is the premiere recording of Robert Farnon's Second Symphony which is a magnificent work, and it is difficult to understand why the composer declined attempts to get it performed and recorded during his lifetime.
Robert Farnon admirers are in for a real treat when this CD is released on Michael Dutton’s Epoch label this autumn. Precise details were not available as we went to press, but it is likely that this CD will reach the shops during September or October at the latest.
Originally it had been intended that the CD would contain all three of Farnon's symphonies, but it emerged that they last too long to fit on to one disc.
When the first symphony was examined in detail it was discovered that many of the themes were later used by the composer in other compositions. However the scherzo can be enjoyed as a 'stand alone' work, so this has been included.
The decision was taken not to record Symphony No. 3 on this occasion; this was premiered by Iain Sutherland in Edinburgh on 14 May 2005 and he has expressed the wish to record it himself.
Several other Farnon compositions will complete the CD, some of them receiving their first commercial recordings in stereo.
Particularly welcome will be the suite "Captain Horatio Hornblower" which Farnon based on his score for the 1951 Warner Bros film starring Gregory Peck and Virginia Mayo. This has not been available in Britain for some years, and Wilson's version is suitably stirring in the exciting action sequences, and deliciously romantic in the majestic "Lady Barbara Theme" which surely remains among the finest love themes ever composed for the cinema.
The pictures opposite were taken during breaks in the sessions. At the top we see the Leader of the BBC Concert Orchestra, Cynthia Fleming with conductor John Wilson. The lower picture features the team in the control room: John Wilson, Michael Ponder, Neil Varley (BBC Radio-3), Michael Dutton and Dillon Gallagher. Over the page the BBC Concert Orchestra is being rehearsed by John Wilson.
It took four three-hour sessions to complete the CD, following some rehearsals the previous day when the microphones were set up in readiness.
Thursday 1 June : 10.30 – 1.30
Symphony No. 2 – first and second movements
Thursday 1 June : 2.30 – 5.30
Symphony No. 2 – completion of second movement and third movement
Symphony No. 1 – third movement (scherzo)
The Frontiersmen – full concert version
Friday 2 June : 10.30 – 1.30
Captain Horatio Hornblower – suite based on the film score
Friday 2 June : 2.30 – 5.30
In a Calm
From the above details it will be observed that several works are receiving their first commercial releases in stereo.
The Colosseum at Watford is the present home of the BBC Concert Orchestra, and a close working relationship has been established with Michael Dutton, whose recording company is also based in Watford.
EXCITING NEWS OF NEW ROBERT FARNON RECORDINGS!
David Farnon has recently been involved in checking and cataloguing all of his late father’s musical works, and a number of unpublished compositions have been discovered. But the most exciting news concerns the first two symphonies composed by Robert Farnon when he was a young man, back in Canada. They received several performances in North America at the time, but have been ignored for over sixty years.
It seems that Robert Farnon did not wish them to be performed again during his lifetime, because he always replied to enquiries by saying that the scores had been ‘lost’. Happily this is not true, and when the discovery of Bob’s first and second symphonies was announced to RFS members at our meeting last November, Michael Dutton immediately said that he was willing to try and arrange for all three Robert Farnon symphonies to be recorded later this year, for release on a Vocalion CD.
Since then the wheels have been set in motion to get scores prepared, and the latest news we have as we go to press is that the sessions are likely to take place this summer, with the BBC Concert Orchestra conducted by John Wilson.
No doubt we will have further details to report in our June magazine.
It is with the deepest regret that we have to announce that Robert Farnon passed away peacefully in his sleep during the early hours of Saturday morning, 23 April 2005. A private family funeral took place on Friday 29 April on the Channel Island of Guernsey where he had lived for the past 46 years.
A Memorial Service was held in London on Sunday 24 July at St. Paul's Church (known as the Actors Church), Covent Garden, London. This was attended by family members and many friends and colleagues of Robert Farnon, including some of the top musicians who were regular players in his orchestra for recording sessions in recent years. The speakers included BBC radio personalities Brian Kay and Malcolm Laycock, conductors Iain Sutherland and James Beyer, together with Robert Farnon's manager for 60 years Derek Boulton, and David Ades, secretary of the Robert Farnon Society. In between the speeches the congregation heard many of Robert Farnon's best loved melodies.
The entries that follow on this page are taken from recent issues of our magazine "Journal Into Melody". They illustrate vividly the fact that Robert Farnon was still enthusiastically composing and arranging right up to the end of his life, and his final works will probably prove to be as highly regarded as the many other notable landmarks in his illustrious career.
We continued to receive many heartfelt messages in memory of Bob, long after the deadline for our June/July issue had passed, and the following appeared in Journal Into Melody, September 2005.
What a shock to read of dear Robert’s passing. I am privileged to have worked with him and recall his lovely warm nature – what a man! Rosemary Squires, MBE
Over the years Mr. Farnon’s music has, and still does, give me endless pleasure. I was lucky enough to be present at a live relay from Norwich of "Journey Into Melody", the Sunday afternoon programme on the old BBC Light Programme, in which Robert conducted the BBC Midland Light Orchestra. After this hour we were invited to stay for another concert which was recorded for transmission on the BBC Overseas Service. For me, Bob Farnon was a lost link with a musical world which – alas – is no more. He will forever be associated with the great light music masters, David Rose, Andre Kostelanetz, Arthur Fiedler and our own Eric Coates. Thanks to record labels such as Vocalion and the Guild ‘Golden Age of Light Music’ series, I can still enjoy the music of the masters, of which Robert Farnon must rank as one of the finest. R.C. Wilkinson
On behalf of all the members of the West Midlands Branch of the Sinatra Music Society, I would like to offer our condolences to Pat and all the family of Robert Farnon on their sad loss. If it is any consolation, we will have the wonderful legacy of music and recordings to enjoy and remember Robert. Phil Suffolk
I was saddened and shocked to hear of Robert Farnon's passing. The ABC's (Australia) "Classic FM" station mentioned it today (30/04/05) on the "Scene" programme and played two of his best known compositions "Westminster Waltz" and "Jumping Bean". In a way, here was a background to my youth, it was only much later that I found out who had penned the melodies. His work will live on. Rick Ashworth
I, too, was saddened to learn of Robert Farnon's recent passing. I only became aware of his music recently when his brother, Brian, and wife, Gloria, moved to our community and became active in our local music scene. Brian has lent me numerous recordings of Robert's music, and I have been delighted by it. As director of the College of Southern Idaho Wind Ensemble, I am happy to report that we were able to program two of Robert's pieces, Westminster Waltz and Derby Day, on our March 2005 concert, with Brian joining us in the clarinet section. Both the audience and the band members thoroughly enjoyed these pieces, and I am anxious to program more of his music on our concerts. I offer my deepest and sincerest condolences to Robert's family. George K. Halsell, Professor of Music, College of Southern Idaho
The wonderful work of the RFS has been crucial in securing the future, not only of Robert Farnon’s name and reputation, but of all the many recordings that have now become an historic and enduringly valuable and valued archive. It is very sad to bid mortal farewells to distinguished figures and close friends, but it is wonderful when they leave a great legacy of creations and recreations. We are very fortunate and must guard and foster it well. Long may the RFS flourish! Terence Gilmore-James
For lovers of light music Robert Farnon’s passing is a great loss, however we have the consolation that ‘the melodies linger on’. Olga and Norman Jackson
I just have no words that can describe what this sad news brings. One of the true greatest arranger of all times has left us... he was the foundation, the path to which every major arranger followed. He was a cathedral, he was the most innovative and daring arranger of his time and beyond. I send my warmest condolences to the Farnon family and to all of us, the Farnon musical family... I shall never forget him and he'll continue to be a huge part of my life. Jorge Estrada
Thank goodness for the medium of recorded sound, ensuring that the music of our all-time great Robert Farnon will live on forever. At Bob’s passing the world will never seem quite the same. Bill Watts
So sad to hear about Robert Farnon. It’s now up to all of us to conserve the musical legacy he has left to history. Robin King
I met Bob in the Golders Green Hippodrome in 1974 when he conducted the BBC Concert Orchestra. I was a musician in the army at that time and I had to play a bassoon Solo. He came up to me after the performance and said how much he liked it. It was an arrangement of a piece by Gilbert Vinter, also a bassoonist. Alan Rutherford
As an early founding Member in the 50's when my friend Ken Head formed the Robert Farnon Appreciation Society, it is hard to accept that our Icon Bob as we knew him, has left us aged 87 years leaving behind many happy memories of those meetings held in London sharing his and our love of Light Music. In those early years he always left us with a 78rpm Vinyl record with two of his latest compositions of light music. How we treasured these records. Having left England to live in Australia in 1969, I sadly missed those RFAS meetings in London with fellow music lovers. Gladly I learnt that the Society still flourished and had grown and renamed the ROBERT FARNON SOCIETY which appreciates all light music.
' If Music be the Food of Love play on '
As Bob died on the eve of Shakespeare's death on 24th April I think the above quotation is a fitting epitaph for Bob. He gave us the food and love of his music and we his admirers will continue to play it. As Shakespeare gave so much to England and the World through his literature, so has Robert Farnon given so much to England and the World through his music. May Shakespeare have the last word as we bid farewell to a much loved friend and talented musician.
'Our revels now are ended: these our actors (As I foretold you) were all spirits, and Are melted into air, thin air, And like the baseless fabric of this vision, The cloud - capped Towers, the gorgeous Palaces, The solemn Temples, The great Globe itself, Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve, And like this insubstantial pageant faded Leave not a rack behind : we are such stuff As dreams are made on ; and our little life Is rounded with a sleep.'
Bob may you REST IN PEACE. May flights of angels sing thee to thy rest. ALLELUIA.
I am sure Ken Head will be waiting for you to form the Robert Farnon Society in Heaven !
Deepest Sympathy on the loss of Robert Farnon. He was a distant cousin of mine. I have an extensive Farnon Family tree. I was the youngest of 5 Farnons born in 1943 in Dublin, Ireland. I live in Georgia now. Good Luck with keeping his music with us. I hear his music frequently on 904 channel on TV while we are playing cards. Dianne nee Farnon Kenny
I received my copy of the special edition. I didn't know Robert as many of you did of course but after years and years of loving his music I feel the loss, I really do. I was listening this morning to "The wide world of Robert Farnon". I love the whole thing but I especially love "I Saw My Lady Weep" it's so exquisitely beautiful, there is a poignancy to it that really moves me. I'm so sad on the one hand but so glad that I managed to find the society before he left us. I was reading the lovely articles that had been written in remembrance of him, and it is amazing to me that nearly everyone remembers the first time they heard "Portrait of a Flirt"; it seems the lights went on for all of us with that particular joyous piece. I had high hopes of being able to find out whether or not he remembered my Uncle Leonard doing session work with him. Doubtful really when he knew so many fine musicians. Not to worry that wasn't meant to be, I don't believe that death is the end anyway and who knows we might all meet up one lovely day by "Lake Louise", or on "The Magic Island." Until then, I'll continue to add to my collection, my life will be the better for it. Hope you don't mind me sharing a few thoughts with you here and there I haven't got any one else to talk to about it, it's frustrating. There is a community radio Station here and there's a nice English announcer on there once a week and I know by his selection, (Nostalgia and light Music) that he would probably play some of my RF CD's if I asked him really nicely. He has his programme on Thursday and I spoke to the Station Manager and he has agreed that it's a good idea. So who knows. Cathy Frank
I was saddened to learn of Robert Farnon's passing as I had hoped to meet him when my wife and I visit England in a few years time. My great love and appreciation of his music and that of his contemporaries has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. As Philip Brady reminded us in his tribute "the melody lingers on" and such beautiful melodies they are too. From all accounts Robert was a truly wonderful man who enjoyed bringing happiness into the lives of others through his music. A life of great fulfilment. Chris Guy
With great emotion I received the sad news of Robert Farnon; he was a genius of wonderful British music. Roland Buchholz
What a shock when I returned from holiday! We left on April 22nd and returned to a full-on computer crash on May 10th, so I did not know the bad news until I opened the special magazine. What a terrible thing to happen, especially as the report from Daniel Smith at the April meeting indicated that he was reasonably O.K. Please accept our condolences, and trust that everything goes OK with the Farnon Family. At least we have a wonderful legacy that we can continue to enjoy until our day arrives. The very first LP that I bought with Birthday money was "Something to Remember you by", and that got me started, first into buying records, and then into the Music business with the dance-band, and then my own band up here in Skegness - 38 years in all.
Bev Mastin It has long seemed remiss of me as a proud member of The Robert Farnon Society, not to express my appreciation of what being a member of the Society has meant to me. Along with most of the members listening to Robert's music now, reminds me vividly of my teenage years when, according to my state of mind, my sadness, happiness, joy or aspirations, his music painted pictures which have stayed in my mind ever since and I know always will. He has, for sixty years been MY COMPOSER and (and this may sound opinionated) I am proud to have been blessed with such good taste in music at so early an age. Robert, somehow, along with other great men, seemed indestructible. Surely God would not rob us of so great and ongoing a talent. Yet God gave us the pleasures of that talent and I reckon He thought that it was about time that Robert composed some music for him - that, I am sure, is happening. Along with the sad news of Robert's death, I must admit there came an apprehension that the Society might now fold. How pleased I am to know that this will not happen. Thank you for the Special Tribute Edition, which I will treasure. Until things find a level there will be difficult times ahead but I am sure that Robert's musical legacy is too great for his Appreciation Society not to continue to thrive. Terry Stowe I was saddened to read of the death of Robert Franon. I am sure he will be greatly missed by all music lovers. He has left us with a great legacy of beautiful music and wonderful memories. John Woodland Robert Farnon was the best composer and arranger of light music ever. Richard Crew I feel very saddened by Robert's passing. His compositions and performances introduced me to the joys of light music while I was in my teens. John Leeming I would like to send my condolences. I am sure that Robert Farnon’s spirit will live on through his music for many years to come. Michael J. Comley I was very saddened to hear of the passing of Robert Farnon. The news was still sinking in, days after I received the Special Tribute Issue of ‘Journal Into Melody’. I cannot add to the sentiments already expressed, except to say how proud I feel to be a member of the Society that bears his name. I never met him in person, but I feel I’ve always known him through his wonderful and unique music and from the warm and endearing portraits of him painted by contributors to JIM over the years. Gordon Moritz Receiving the Special Tribute Issue of JIM made me think back to the days of the wireless, when I heard Robert Farnon’s music for the first time – like ‘Jumping Bean’ and ‘Portrait of a Flirt’. In those days money was hard to save, but I did and bought the 78. Today I am still collecting his music, which to me paints pictures – such as ‘A La Claire Fontaine’ which reminds me of the New Forest. He had a rare gift to transmit lovely music and arrangements. John R. Harrison I suppose we all knew that we would hear the sad news one day, but always hoped it would be well into the future. Bob has left behind a most remarkable treasury of compositions, arrangements and recordings. Jerry Hicken I have known Robert Farnon’s music since the days when he appeared on "Friday Night is Music Night". I love his music, which I find so relaxing. Colin J. Fairbairn Although Bob Farnon was a good age, I was naturally very sorry to hear that he would be writing and composing no more. As an international statesman of western music, he was unique, as was the year he first came to my attention, 1944, when the formation of the Allied Expeditionary Force signalled that the end of the European part of World War 2 was in sight. That brightening time, as yet still free of commercial pressures, also gave a wonderful showcase and opportunity to the other two AEF bandleaders and musical statesmen, Glenn Miller and George Melachrino. We didn’t foresee then that the end of the war would soon mean the end of both big bands and light orchestras as main providers of the music of the day. Looking back, Bob had the stature of a musical Churchill, and Miller the magic of a Tuneful Roosevelt. Our own Melachrino was more of a melodious Atlee – big at the time, but not destined to be remembered so long. Allan Bula I cannot claim this great privilege in the normally accepted sense, yet Bob spoke directly to me through his music for the first time when I would have been about six or seven years old – and he has done so scores of times since then. Some composers grab one by the scruff (musically speaking) and shake hard; others ingratiate; others hold one at arm’s length, or put up rolls of barbed wire or build impenetrable stone walls. Robert Farnon held out his hand to me through his sparkling cameos – ‘Portrait of a Flirt’ and ‘Jumping Bean’ – all those years ago and said, as so often since: "Here I am. Here you are. Good to know you. I’m your friend." John Govier It seemed as if Robert Farnon would always be there. The world has lost a musical giant, but we are fortunate to have his great legacy of music to enjoy. Pierre de Bie The Special Tribute Edition of ‘Journal Into Melody’ was very much appreciated. The tribute in the weekly ‘The Stage’ included a very nice photo of Robert, just as we remember him. Robert Brown The tributes to Bob in the Special Issue of the magazine were wonderful. I think the word ‘approachable’ is just so right. I remember when I met him that he really made me feel that he enjoyed meeting me, and having his photo taken. It is so important that his music will be with us forever, and I hope that in due course he will have a fitting memorial to his long lifetime and the legacy which he has given to the world of music. Jennifer Cundall Like so many, I loved Robert Farnon`s music from a very early age. I heard it used on "Dick Barton" when the plot moved to Canada ("Jumping Bean" & "Canadian Caravan") and "Portrait of a Flirt", "Manhattan Playboy" etc.,were, as you well know, used on so many occasions on radio and at the cinema on newsreels and documentaries. I don`t think his music will ever date or cease to please. I’m sad that, unlike some other members of the RFS I never met him but the love and respect felt by so many gives me a very good word-painting of a great composer and a lovely person. My gratitude once again to everyone who works so hard in running a wonderful society and make great music available to us. Alec Adcock It was with great sorrow that I heard of the death of Robert Farnon. Without knowing it, Bob Farnon has played a very important role in my life. I was called up in 1946 and in '48 was posted to the British Forces Network in Hamburg, Germany as a trainee announcer. I eventually ended up presenting the BBC's "Two-Way Family Favourites" with Jean Metcalfe. It wasn't long before I realised that there was no DJ on German radio so I applied for the job and got it. The first show in '53 was a sensation - partly because of the music and partly because of my horrific British accent. I didn't have a theme tune, however, so when a copy of "Melody Fair" arrived (from Decca, I believe) it was love at first hear. By this time (1954) I was broadcasting in German from Cologne and Robert Farnon introduced every show until 1961 when I transferred to television. Of course, he came along too and stayed with me until 1970. In the years that followed, he also accompanied me to Mallorca, to Kiel, to Berlin and now, fifty years after his first play in '54, we're back on WDR Cologne radio again. It's been quite a long ride. I love his music and the Germans love "Melody Fair" too. Unfortunately it's pretty difficult to get CDs of his work over here which is one of the reasons I'm writing to you. I'd love a copy of "Journey into Melody" and assume that it will contain details of how I can obtain some more of his work. He was a great composer and arranger and his brilliance has always inspired me. He will, I'm sure, be sorely missed as a person but I reckon his music will go on for ever. Chris Howland The greatest musician of all time, Bob Farnon, has left us a magnificent library of music that will live forever. Music (and I mean real music) is to the mind what water is to the body. Bob’s music cleans and refreshes and just makes you feel Great. Bob’s gift – and what a gift it is – that made so many people happy, and will continue to do so. I feel so proud and humble to be part of any organisation that will ensure his music takes its place in history. John Strange I first encountered Bob’s music when I listened to "In Town Tonight" on Saturday evenings. I was later to hear his compositions in full in "Music While You Work" and was impressed and interested further. Bob’s music has always had different effects on me. It has been relaxing, stimulating and even surprising. Many other composers have tried to imitate his style. Some have got very close, but did not quite equal the Great Man. The world of music has suffered a great loss in his passing. I always found Bob to be so approachable, pleasant and placid in his manner, and ever the gentleman and a gentle man. A great musical light has been extinguished. Heaven now has the pleasure and benefit of his talents. Brian Coleman On behalf of my family I would like to say how sorry we were to hear of the death of Robert Farnon. Our thoughts and prayers go to his family. It is wonderful to know that writers and broadcasters will always keep his wonderful music alive. The likes of Robert Farnon and Nelson Riddle will be with us forever. Tony Webb Fortunately we in the USA were exposed to the beautiful and moving music of Robert Farnon. It was over the radio, primarily WQXR in New York City. "Journey Into Melody" was a theme used for some time for their ‘Dinner Concert’. Robert Farnon wrote melodies that were memorable – not just good tunes. My sincere condolences to his family and all you good people in the RFS. With our Society, Bob will always live. Herbert George An important light music link for me in New Zealand is Brian Kay’s weekly BBC Radio-3 programme, via the internet. It was from there on a Friday evening in May that I learned the sad news of Bob’s passing the previous weekend. For the past ten years, I’ve also had a weekly music programme – ‘Sounds Easy’. It goes out live for three hours on a Saturday, so I quickly ‘re-jigged’ things to arrange a short tribute for the following morning. Listeners would certainly have recognised the name since I regularly play light music, much of it with a Farnon connection. As well as the tribute pieces, the 9am ‘Saturday March’ spot provided an opportunity for ‘Derby Day’. In the early 1960s, I met Bob a couple of times at London meetings, and was relieved to find a relaxed, affable personality who perfectly matched the music I’d grown to love. I intend to write more about light music in my life, but for now, simply join with everyone in lamenting the loss of a quiet but towering personality in the world of fine music. Peter Richardson To my mind Robert Farnon was a musical genius, and it’s difficult to think of anyone who could match him for being so prolific. He had such a fertile musical brain which was always ready to commit pen to paper. What a vast treasure-trove of material in terms of film scores, compositions, arrangements, symphonic works, radio and television themes – no wonder he was so revered. R.W. Bartlett First of all, let me offer my condolences to everyone for the loss of a great man, Robert Farnon. As the saying points out that one man's death diminishes everyone else's life... I enjoyed his music and will use his recordings as a benchmark of what truly great music can do for all of us. Richard Jessen The sad news of Robert Farnon's passing was announced soon after my arrival in England on holiday on 23 April, the day he died. This date is also, of course, St George's Day, so I certainly won't forget the date. Although I never met Robert Farnon personally, I felt I knew him thanks to the RFS, of which I have been a member for many years. His name and music always conjure up happy thoughts of times gone by when his music was played and he conducted orchestras on the many BBC Light Programme radio sessions, particularly on Sunday afternoons. His recorded legacy means I can enjoy much of his music whenever I want to and I am particularly grateful to the record companies who have reissued so much of his work, particularly the classic Decca LPs, on CD over the last few years. The emotions the music evokes are sometimes extremely intense. As time goes by, all too quickly, more and more of the talented composers/arrangers/orchestra leaders and musicians pass on so it was inevitable that, one day, Robert Farnon would join them. Although sad that Robert Farnon has gone, I am grateful and feel so lucky that I lived in an era when his music attained the recognition and popularity it deserved. Long may his reputation be perpetuated through the continuation of the Robert Farnon Society. Michael Beaumont I was so sorry to hear of Bob’s passing…. In Hull, in 1944, at the age of 17 I heard the Canadian Band of the AEF for the first time, and have been a fan of Robert Farnon’s music and arrangements ever since. In 1944/45 they were wonderful years for music, together with the British and American bands, despite the war. I was so pleased to meet Bob for few minutes in Brentford, Ontario when he visited Canada a few years ago, and he told me that his mother also came from Hull. Thank-you for the Special Issue in May – a wonderful tribute. Norman Leisk I was deeply honoured that Robert Farnon chose me for what is now his final musical composition. Over the past months, we had been in touch frequently as the music took shape. Robert expressed often to me his enthusiasm and excitement about his new bassoon concerto and for him it represented a new lease on life and renewed purpose at a time when he took ill. I flew twice to Guernsey to discuss and go over the music with him, and along with working on the music, we spoke of many other things; his friends and colleagues over the years, his beloved wife, children and grandchildren, the importance of music and the arts, my own life experiences and along the way had a lot of good laughs. To me he seemed like someone 87 years old going on 35, full of enthusiasm and hope. There was never a moment of pessimism or negativity, just a great need to move forward and create something beautiful for the world to experience. Daniel Smith On behalf of the Sinatra Music Society, the national committee of same send their condolences on the recent death of Robert Farnon. Because of your appreciation of Robert Farnon’s life, work and career, we feel sure that your society will continue to flourish and give pleasure to your many members, as the SMS has done, since Sinatra’s death. Margaret Cummings, secretary Whe I was given the new that Bob had passed away, I was left with a feeling of dismay and utter disbelief, and that I had lost a dear friend. Bob was truly a gentle gentleman – an absolute musical genius, and we shall never see his like again. He has left us a wonderful legacy, and his music will live on and remain in all our hearts for ever. Thank you Bo, rest in peace. Edna Foster As a comparative newcomer to the Robert Farnon Society, and also one of the younger members, it was such a shock to hear of Bob’s passing. I only met and spoke with him once, at a meeting a few years ago, but I soon realised what a genuinely friendly and sincere person he was, and he really made me feel sat ease. In the eight years that I have attended the meetings at the Bonnington Hotel, I have come to both learn more about his music, and love those lush orchestral sounds, more so each time I listen to them. What a legacy he has left to us all, and indeed the world. He will be sorely missed. Tony Foster I would like to add my deep sorrow at the passing of Bob Farnon. Although I never had the good fortune to meet the man I feel through the pages of JIM I had come to learn a tremendous amount about his life and music. We are lucky to have so much of his wonderful music on disc. The one thing that must continue is the ‘Journal Into Melody’ magazine. The capable team is providing an immense service for us all. Long may it continue. Colin A. Adamson
MESSAGES OF CONDOLENCE
Below we include just a small selection of the many messages we received as news of Bob’s passing reached music lovers around the world. Some are from non-members of our Society, who simply wanted to express their sorrow. Others preferred to remain anonymous. All of them reflect the sadness we all feel, yet there is also a strong sense of gratitude towards Robert Farnon for the legacy of wonderful music that he has left to us all.
The best music I ever heard from Great Britain was composed by Robert Farnon. Tony Bennett, speaking to Derek Boulton as soon as he heard the sad news
We’re devastated to hear the very sad news about Bob. He hadn’t yet heard a performance of his new symphony. I'm still trying to take in that Bob is no longer with us. I always thought that he and I would live for ever! Angela Morley
I am still in shock. I had just finished practicing his bassoon concerto and was taking a break when I saw the heading of your email and knew right away what had happened. When I spoke to him two days ago, he was extremely enthused about the piece and looking forward to seeing it being premiered next year. If I was back in the UK I would want to show up at any memorial service but I am here in Brooklyn right now. Please add my name to anything in print if this is to be part of a testimonial to his memory. Very sad and unexpected. Daniel Smith
Robert made laugh many times over the years, but this is the only time he made me cry. He told me that one of the greatest honours in his life was the creation of the Robert Farnon Society. He will be sadly missed. Dorothy Head
Sad news - regarding dear Bob. I first knew him in 1967 when I used to collect music from the Mayfair Hotel, London for his BBC Radio Orchestra sessions at the Camden Theatre. John Dunn was the announcer, I seem to remember. Tony Bennett was a guest singer. I remember the sessions well - everything was magic with these superb arrangements he did for his BBC recordings. Collectors’ items. Only yesterday I received a PRS Distribution payment - with details of a Library CD I produced for Amphonic Music Ltd. - which included titles by Bob. Indeed, his music will linger on. Indeed, his music will linger on. A great and kind person. Tim Wills
Robert Farnon was one of my two greatest musical influences. The other was Serge Rachmaninov, who once said "Music is enough for a lifetime but a lifetime is not enough for music". I know Bob would have agreed. Tony Osborne
I was so very sorry to learn that Bob Farnon had passed away. Please convey my condolences to his family. Robert Farnon was a giant of the 20th and 21st Century. It was a great privilege to have known him. His Music will remain with us throughout the present Century and beyond. He was such a multi-talented human being, a kind gentleman and master of his profession. He will be sorely missed by all who had the good fortune to know him. May he rest in peace. Cyril Ornadel
What a shock to hear of the passing of our beloved Robert Farnon. He was a giant of the genre, and will live always in our memories, and in the wonderful recordings he has left us. Rest in Peace, dear Robert. Neil
I cannot tell you how saddened I am to hear the news of Robert's passing. I have sent the news direct to Mr. Bennett's NYNY office even though I am sure they will have the news. Our thoughts are with 'The Guvnor's' Family at this time. Condolences, Mark & Margaret Fox [Tony Bennett Society]
Words cannot express my sorrow at the passing of our beloved friend and mentor. Robert Farnon was our inspiration; we have lost our most cherished Patron. He was treasured like family. Philip Brady
I am very sorry to hear the sad news. Robert Farnon's passing is indeed the end of an era. I will pass on the news to Reuben and Gary Haberman. Please convey the condolences of all the South Afrcan members to Mrs Farnon. Sydney Becker
Yes it is a sad time, but his music lives on. My own knowledge and appreciation of light music has increased tremendously thanks to the compositions of Robert Farnon and the work of the Robert Farnon Society. I wish that Robert Farnon's work will continue to become more widely known and appreciated around the World. I pass on my condolences to his family and friends, and to the society. Tommy Wylie
Sorry to learn of the sad news. The end of a 'Legend'. Gareth Bramley
So sorry to hear this sad news - the end of an era indeed. Also, particularly sad that Bob passed away before the premiere of his new symphony. At least he knew it was going to take place, but very upsetting nonetheless. Things won't be the same for the society, but I'm sure you'll go from strength to strength promoting light music and keeping Bob's name in the public eye. Adam Saunders
I have just seen the announcement about Robert Farnon on the BBC website. I am very sorry indeed. Sincerest condolences, Noel Kent
Just learnt the sad news....now I appreciate more than ever what a great privilege it was to be there and meet "The Guv'nor" on his 80th birthday at the Bonnington. Nigel Burlinson
I have just read on the "beautifulinstrumentals" newsgroup, that Bob has passed on. I am deeply saddened at this news, and I called Philip Brady to let him know. It is Saturday night here and Phil told me that he will fax you overnight. Would you please pass on my sincere condolences to Bobs' family and to all members of the RFS at this sad time. Tomorrow night I will have a small tribute to Bob and his life in music. Alex Hehr (Golden Days Radio) Melbourne
Viens d'apprendre la triste nouvelle du décès de robert farnon. Veuillez transmettre mes sincères condoléances à sa famille et à vos amis de la société Robert Farnon. Hélàs encore un grand musicien du siècle passé qui disparaît! On se sent orphelin. pour vous et les vôtres toute ma sympathie en ce moment de tristesse et de deuil. Madame Roger Roger, Eva Rehfuss
So sorry to hear of the passing of Mr Farnon at age 87 - a musical genius. Anthony Wills, former BBC Producer
I have just read your email, and naturally I feel so dreadfully sad to learn of Robert Farnon's passing. Thank you so very much for letting me know so quickly. Once again, I am naturally immensely saddened by this news. Geoffrey Cross
Everything has been said about the great Robert Farnon. The only new thing to say today is the thing we all secretly hoped to postpone for years to come: he is no more with us. But he still is and we will stay close to this most gifted and gentle man by performing his superb music. Did he speak to us last night, Montreal time ? We were watching a non-scheduled movie with another Canadian, Donald Sutherland and we waited till the very end to know who had composed the music. It was Robert Farnon. The title : The Disappearance. Understand that we are in a state of shock. Our prayers are with you, the immediate family and the international family who loved the Guv. Marc Fortier et Hélène Fortier
He will never be replaced as the finest writer for strings in the world of popular and light music. I like many others in the Society,grew up with his unique sound.May I add my sympathy to his wife and family. Phil Napier
Very sad news indeed. I am sorry for the community's loss. Please try not to let this stop you from continuing to document his legacy. Tim Weston
Just to say how sad I was to learn of Robert's death and I offer condolences to his family. He was widely respected and leaves a legacy of wonderful music which will live forever and his memory will also be perpetuated through the Society. David Nathan, National Jazz Archive
What a tragic loss. Our sincerest sympathy. Bob and Pam Haber
I must express my personal deep sorrow at dear Bob's passing. I will never forget that one solitary day with him, when I played (with the dear old BBC Midland Light Orchestra, with Bob conducting) Douglas Gamley's "Summer Festival Waltz". That day will stay in my memory forever.... as will a note which Bob wrote to me, later, and I will always treasure the recording of it. Harold Rich
Very sad for us all. I spoke to David Jacobs today who had already written a letter to the family. Gary Williams
Oh what a sad day! Every once in awhile I would give Robert a call, hating to bother him in case he was writing but aching to have even a short chat. He was always go gracious and honestly seemed pleased that I called. He has long been one of my special heroes and his contribution to the wonderful world of music is endless and untouchable. I won't be making those phone calls anymore but I have his music to listen to for now and forever. Marlene joins me in extending our deepest regrets to you, the society, and all the world. J. Billy VerPlanck
It was such a shock to see the notice of Bob's death. There was a full page article on his life and his great achievements in one of our national newspapers - but it was with a very heavy heart that I read the news. Am so grateful we were able to make even that small connection again through your Society - it meant such a lot to know he still remembered those days with affection. What a full and productive life he lived, doing what he was born to do, and the wonderful music will be such a legacy for future generations. I know a light will have gone out for so many of you and do send my deep condolences. Alixe Wallis (Kathran Oldfield)
Thank you for letting me know the very sad news, it was quite a shock especially as I just discovered that Sir John Mills had also passed on, another favourite of mine. Adam Endacott
Thank you so much, David, for including me on the mailing list reporting this very sad news. I immediately wrote a brief obit which I've placed on the Message Board of the 1950s Nostalgia website Whirligig - http://www.whirligig-tv.co.uk/index.htm as follows:
I have sad news to report, that Robert Farnon died today. The RF Society has announced that he passed away peacefully in the early hours of this morning. Captain Bob Farnon came to England with the Canadian Band of the AEF, along with his American counterpart, Glenn Miller. After the war he stayed in the UK and embarked on what would be a most distinguished career in music, composing, arranging and conducting his own orchestra on countless albums. Early assignments were writing the scores for films, such as the Herbert Wilcox productions starring Anna Neagle & Michael Wilding (Spring In Park Lane etc), 'Just William' films - and in later years 'Shalako', 'Road To Hong Kong' and 'Captain Horatio Hornblower'. In the 1940s and 1950s he arranged and conducted for the Decca label, accompanying artistes such as Gracie Fields, Anne Shelton, Denny Denis and Vera Lynn, and in the album era his orchestrations would be in demand by a number of great American vocalists, including Frank Sinatra, Lena Horne, Tony Bennett & Sarah Vaughan - and he also arranged and conducted albums by 'Singers Unlimited', George Shearing, Rawicz & Landauer and Jose Carreras. Farnon composed many light music cameos for Chappell Music Publishers, primarily for use as background music in newsreels etc, but many of these pieces were recorded by Bob's and other orchestras, and often became familiar through their use as radio and TV signature tunes. Among his compositions that will be well known to many of us on Whirligig are 'Portrait Of A Flirt', 'Jumping Bean', 'Journey Into Melody', 'Melody Fair', 'Westminster Waltz' and 'Manhattan Playboy'. He won a Grammy Award in 1996 for an arrangement recorded by jazz trombonist J.J.Johnson, and was also the recipient of several Ivor Novello Awards - including the theme for the TV series, 'Colditz'. Many of Robert Farnon's Decca albums are currently available on CD from Vocalion Records. A sad loss to the world of music. Brian Henson
You can imagine what sad news for me was the passing away of our dear Robert Farnon. I send to you, and his family, my condolences. Serge Elhaik
What sad news to wake up to here on a Sunday morning. I was alerted to the news by email from Jeff Sultanof, via John Pickworth, the text of which I have attached [Editor – see message below]. Although, of course, I never knew Mr. Farnon personally, I have been a devotee of his music since my earliest days in radio (1957) when I became aware of, and had access to, the great Chappell mood music library at 3AW. I hope and trust the Robert Farnon Society will go on and continue to flourish in memory of a great man. In the meantime, it is only appropriate to send condolences to you, your colleagues in the Society and to the members of Mr. Farnon's family. The music world is a much better place because of the contribution of Robert Farnon over many years. Graham Miles
I have just received word that Robert Farnon has passed away in Guernsey at the age of 87. Several of us have had threads on Farnon, so I won't repeat what was already written. I will say that in many ways, because I got to work intimately with his music in creating over 50 new corrected scores, that it was like an advanced degree in arranging. I got to study with a master, and this will always be an important part of my life. My anger and frustration are that his work never was properly engraved and published in his lifetime, because I could never get the funding to complete this phase of the project. Perhaps this can still be done. I'm too emotional to write anymore, especially since we've covered this ground elsewhere. Jeff Sultanof
I am so sorry to hear of Robert's passing today. It must be a very sad day for you, personally and all friends and members of the Society. Please accept my sincere condolences. Although I did not know Robert, his music and memories will live in my mind forever. My very best wishes to you, at this sad time. Paul Durston
Just received the bad news - Please Relay my Deepest Sympathy to Bob's Family. - It is a most sad time. Mike Redstone
Sad news, indeed, but for us, not for him, now that he is liberated from this world of pain and darkness. I know nothing about his personal life, but there is no doubt that it was well fulfilled in his art. We may mourn his loss, the lack of his physical presence, but he will live in our hearts forever through his magnificent music. Enrique Renard
Thank you for the message I least wanted to hear. A great light has been extinguished in Bob's passing. My thoughts and prayers are with his family at this sad time. Geoffrey Lord
Robert Farnon was a wonderful master of melody and one of the all time greats of light music. He is simply irreplaceable. I have loved his music for over fifty years since first I heard him on the old BBC Home Service in about 1952. R.I.P. William Brown
I am so sorry to learn of his passing. The last of the great light orchestral personalities has left us, but has left behind a wonderful legacy. We shall always be grateful to Bob Farnon and others of his kind who have given us so much pleasure down the years. Colin Mackenzie
Very sad indeed to hear this unwelcome news. As you know, via my father I knew Bob well and have particularly treasured the memory of a short holiday I spent at La Falaise in 1964 during which he was kindness and understanding personified. Clearly he was also one of the finest composers of the modern age and I take pride in the fact that his music has enriched the lives of arguably many millions of music lovers the world over, and increasingly is likely to do so for generations hence. A very sad event has occurred as we have all lost a good friend who was also one of the giants of really beautiful music. Paddy Dunn
What sad news. My Father (Tony Osborne) and Uncle Bob are both very saddened by the news. Gary Osborne
Our mutual friend, Peter Appleyard, called me yesterday morning to tell me of the death of Robert. My wife, Barbara, and I were shocked and greatly saddened by the tragic loss of such a great musician, and such a dear friend. An incredible loss to the world of music, and to so many people. Robert and I have had regular communication - mainly telephone calls and facsimiles - over the last decade that has been personal and musical. We have had regular discussions regarding one of his last compositions, Wind Symphony: "The Gaels," that I have been contracted to conduct at the Performing Arts Centre, Newark, New Jersey, USA in the Spring of 2006. I was greatly honoured and moved when Robert called me on Monday, August 14th 2004 to tell me that he was dedicating the work to me. Barbara, whom Robert frequently addressed affectionately as 'Lady Barbara,' joins me in sending our sympathy and condolences to you on the loss of your dear friend and colleague. Incidentally, the very last work that I programmed and conducted in my twenty-seven year tenure as Musical Director and Conductor of the Brantford Symphony Orchestra was Robert's Suite, "Captain Horatio Hornblower, R.N." that I dedicated to Robert, and the third movement of the Suite, "Lady Barbara,' to my wife. Dr. Stanley Saunders
I was deeply saddened to learn about the passing of Robert Farnon. It is a great loss to the world of music, and to all of us who had the privilege to know him personally. He was a wonderful man and his contribution to music was unique – the world will be a poorer place without him.
Sigmund Groven What a sad loss to music this is, it seems as if all the greats are departing this world one by one these days. One thing we do have though is the marvellous recordings of his works and our memories of the great man. Steven Wills I need hardly tell you how sad I feel at the moment to be informed of Robert's passing. His gift of music and conducting was masterful and he will be missed by the many that appreciated his beautiful and tuneful music. Ron & Tammy Mace I was grieved to hear of the death of Mr. Robert Farnon. He was a very important and well loved person. He will be missed by many. I would like to know you have my deepest sympathy in your bereavement. Yoshiki Nakano As I've stated previously in the RFS journal, Bob virtually taught me everything I know about writing for strings by his example. As such, He will greatly missed my me personally. There'll never be another one like Bob. My sincere condolences to the entire Farnon family.
RIP [Billy May once said: nobody ever got fired for writing something pretty]. Phil Kelly I have just learnt of the passing away of my uncle from my father, and I am saddened I never got to know my uncle in person. I adored his work immensely, something I only came to realise over the last decade. I'd like to thank the Robert Farnon Society and their members, for the kind words expressed on these pages during our time of grief. God Bless. Christopher Farnon Robert Farnon was without doubt one of the greats of light music and his passing is an immense loss not just to the music world but to everyone who enjoys 'our' kind of music. Luckily, this great man's music legacy lives on as, in recent years, there have been quite a few CDs released of Robert Farnon music. Chris Landor We were all so saddened to hear of Bob's passing. Without doubt, he was the greatest Composer/Arranger ever, and I will treasure his talent and his memory forever.
Les Reed OBE Ever since I became a great enthusiast of the music of Percy Faith, and started collecting his music with the help of friends worldwide, the name of Robert Farnon was always mentioned as one of THE masters of the wonderful music we enjoy, "popular music for orchestra." In many respects, I have thought of them as equals - bringing rich orchestral sounds to radio and records, one in the US, one in the UK! Both of them knew a magic time where the orchestra reigned supreme over the radio waves and both went on to bring us many hours of wonderful music on records. Percy Faith and Robert Farnon studied in Canada, Faith going to the United States for fame and fortune, and Robert Farnon to the UK. There can be little doubt that they are GIANTS in the wonderful musical world they created for us, and that the news of Robert Farnon's death is a reminder that these giants of the light music world have left us no heirs with their musical capabilities; it is a changed world, not for the better, where large orchestras dominated by strings have essentially vanished - however, Faith and Farnon left us with their rich recorded legacies - and we will always be grateful for that. My condolences go out to the family of Mr. Farnon, as well as to his very loyal enthusiasts who have maintained a wonderful Society over the years that celebrates his life and his music. Bill Halvorsen Robert Farnon was the doyen of composers of light music. The master craftsman not only of his genre of music but also the wider field of composition. Robert Farnon's melodies will continue to delight and bring pleasure to future generations and this music is his public legacy. Vale Robert Farnon. Rob Blackmore All the great ones are leaving us, sad to say. Paul Snook I visited Bob at the nursing home in Guernsey a month ago (March 2005) and made the trip for that purpose. I am an arranger who adores Bob's work and eventually got up the courage to call him after admiring his work for years and longing to see his scores to unveil the magic of his beautiful writing. I could not have been prepared for the kindness I received. That phone call was the beginning of a friendship that grew and grew, and I feel grateful to have the experience of knowing such a special human being. Bob talked me through various aspects of writing for strings that one day I will describe in more detail, in short, the effect it had was to have me write more true to my instinct and not hold back fearing outside elements like limited available rehearsal time and therefore the need to write 'easier' charts. He talked me through each interval for double stops and multiple stops. He once phoned me and said "Any music questions?" That day, I knew I was the luckiest guy in the world. Once I asked him if I could send him something from here (I wanted to show my appreciation for all his kindness). Bob told me he had no score paper. Long story short, I shipped some to him and after what seemed like only a week, he was well into writing a bassoon concerto, that as it turns out will be premiered by bassoonist Daniel Smith. Bob was proofreading the computer engraved score when we visited him. I am so happy that a man whose love for music never seemed to have waned continued to write up to his passing. Condolences to Pat and his family from me and my wife Jennifer (who also visited Bob & Pat).
David O'Rourke Most saddened at the news of Robert Farnon's passing. What a great pity he did not live to hear his Edinburgh Symphony performed. Jack Docherty The sad news about Bob is a terrible blow to all of us who new and loved him. Many, many people will be stunned by the news. In any informal communication with the family please add my name - as one of many - whose thoughts go out to his family at this time. David Turner I came online this evening (25 April) after taking three days holiday for Passover, and found the sad news of Mr. Farnon's passing, relayed through the 78 RPM Collectors list courtesy of David Lennick of Canada. I was saddened to hear the news, but I believe it comforting that his final years were spent in great acclaim, with the Society fostering worldwide awareness of his music and Light Music in general; and with listeners and devotees of his compositions and performances better able to send their regards and admirations to him personally. One could probably safely presume that few composers of music were so able to see the effect that their life's work had upon the public, which must have been a satisfying tribute for him to have seen. Michael Shoshani Just heard the sad news about Bob. It just seems to be all doom and gloom everywhere these days. Jeff Hall What truly sad news... I do hope it wasn’t too traumatic for Robert at the end. How sad that someone who had the power to give such joy couldn’t live forever. Cathy Franks As a fan of the 1960s TV Series "The Prisoner", in which much of Mr Farnon's Chappell work appears, I was most saddened to hear of his death this weekend. I know I speak for many "Prisoner" fans around the world when I say that without his musical genius, the series would not have achieved the same level of unique atmosphere for which it has become famous. I am only sorry that such sad news has led me only now to look deeper into his other work and to this Society for the first time. With sincere condolences to his family, friends, and colleagues.
Rick Davy,on behalf of "The Unmutual" Prisoner Website Quite by accident I saw the obit this morning (26 April) on the Internet. I was and am devastated by the news. My condolences go to you and other friends and family. Even though I never knew Bob, his music has become an important part of my life as of late, and will continue through the rest of my life. I had talked at length and enthusiastically with David O'Rourke who had spent some time in Guernsey with him. David relayed to me stories of his encouragement to David and his warmth. I know through David that he was hoping to make a US visit some time in the next year. David was very excited about that (as was I) and I had thought we might begin planning an event to celebrate Bob's upcoming 90th with a New York concert, perhaps to be repeated in Canada (or vice-versa). This is still a good idea! Today is a day for tears for me, prayers for his family. I feel very grateful to have had even the minimal contact with the RFS. My biggest regret is to have come close to communicating with him, but not quite close enough. I wanted to thank him for his music, for his amazing creativity, unparalleled in our time, and how much joy this has brought to me. Tom Fay This is a very sad time for Bob’s family, friends and the Society. But he left a great legacy of music and recordings. Ken Wilkins I, and countless others will have many very fond memories of Bob - his kindness, his generosity and above all his unassuming manner, which made him a respected figure throughout the musical world. Latterly, telephone calls between us were frequent in an attempt to get his "Edinburgh" Symphony performed in the capital; and thanks to Iain Sutherland, this has become possible. I am only sorry that Bob has passed away before the "World Premiere" in the Usher Hall on 14th May - but, I'm sure that he will be there in spirit. Sadly, it is the end of an era. James Beyer, Conductor Edinburgh Light Orchestra I am sure I am one of many to receive the sad news of Bobs passing who find it difficult to know how to express our feelings. I know you will have, on behalf of the Society and its members, passed on condolances to the Farnon family to which I think all of us who gained so much pleasure from his music felt part of. I hope their will be an opportunity for all of us to pay homage in due course to one of the greatest musical influences of our generation. With deep sadness, Peter Capp I was very sorry to hear about Mr. Farnon. Now we have lost "The Great Canadian". A few days before we lost "The Great Dane", Niels Henning ØP, only 58. A shock to us all. He was such a nice and loving person. I will miss them both. Jørgen Borch Nielsen My brother, Joe told me over the weekend that Robert Farnon had died after spending time in hospice. A tragic loss. Nick Perito, arranger/conductor long time association with Perry Como, has written his autobiography and he mentions that Joe hired him to play accordian on a Tony Bennett recording date. "Thanks to Tony Tamburello, a dear friend and excellent pianist, we were introduced to the arranging and compositional genius of Robert Farnon". Another great loss. Jimmy Soldo I hear we have lost the Leader of the Band; a great loss. Robert Ing I was Eric Tomlinson's recording assistant on the "Bear Island" and "Disappearance" sessions for the film scores down at the Anvil Studios Denham in the late 1970's. I later recorded the Pia Zadora album with Bob at CTS in Wembley in 1984. Bob, you were the greatest arranger of all time; your works take my breath away and it has been a true honour to have worked with you. Alan Snelling How saddened I am to learn of the death of our esteemed President, Robert Farnon, CM. I know we will all miss Bob, but Thank God we still have all that lovely music he’s left behind for us. Jack Smith I talked to Robert Farnon on the telephone only two months ago (February) when he had returned from tests at the local hospital on Guernsey. He reassured me that all was OK at that time. It was ironic that I was working in France last week and thought of telephoning him since I was so close to the Channel Islands but did not have his number with me. I first met Mr Farnon when I played a concert of his music in Ottawa at the National Arts Center in '1971 with Mr. Robert Farnon conducting the National Arts Orchestra of which I was the first solo trumpet. I was in contact with him many times since. I was responsible for two commissioned works made by the Canadian Brass for his hand. The first, a "Farrago of British Folk Songs" for Brass Quintet and orchestra; the other was an Irish music suite titled " From the Emerald Isle" for Brass Quintet. The "Farrago" got 100s of performances while the "Emerald Isle" was never performed by the Canadian Brass during my 24 years with the CB, but I have performed the suite many times here in the USA, Europe and South America since 1996. Marvellous music! The day I arrived home from France (Sunday, April 24) I got the email and I also received the first shipment of my new CD called "Fred Mills and the Pentabrass Quintet" which has the new version of the Farnon "Scherzando" for solo trumpet but with Brass Quintet accompaniment rather than the original string orchestra accompaniment. Mr Farnon had given me his permission to rescore the "Scherzando" for this fourth combination as well as the other rescoring for solo trumpet with large Brass Ensemble and solo trumpet with Woodwind Choir. It was such a privilege to search his scores for the proper notes to rescore. I was very honoured, needless to say. All in all I have performed the "Scherzando" about 200 times with these four different orchestrations from 1996 to the present. Mr. Farnon was a most inspiring man. A generous man with always a cheery encouraging greetings even though I hadn't seen him in over 33 years. I was a small boy living in Guelph, Ontario when I first heard Mr. Farnon play the trumpet with the "Happy Gang" band on the noon hour CBC radio show. This is before I started to play the trumpet so it just occurs to me now that his influence had already started to point me to the trumpet in 1942. More recently, I had asked Mr. Farnon if he would mind my rescoring his "Tete a Tete", a duet of solo trumpet and solo flugelhorn with small orchestra to Brass Ensemble of 12 players which I have scheduled for concerts in St Peterburg, Russia (Festival of Romantic Trumpets) on May 24th and again in Calabria, Italy on June 3rd. I have already played the "Scherzando" in both those locations last year. Mr. Farnon has left us with so much music and the emptiness I feel will be removed when I realize the joy that his music brings will fill my glass very soon. Fred Mills The news of Robert Farnon’s death has touched me deeply and made me very sad. The music world has lost one of its greatest exponents of first-rate music in the light, film and jazz genre. His unique music was enjoyed by innumerable people around the world for more than half a century. There were also – and still are – many admirers of his music here in Germany. We are all mourning the passing of an ingenious musician and a gentle person, but we should console ourselves with the fact that Robert Farnon was blessed with a long life during which he never lost his creative power, and that his works will live on, not least because of the extraordinary commitment of the Robert Farnon Society. Alexander Schatte The death of Robert Farnon has left a great void in our musical lives, and we have lost a truew genius. I can never repay him for all the hours of musical pleasure I have had listening to his wonderful melodies and harmonies since, as an excited schoolboy in 1948 buying my first Farnon record of Jumping Bean (Decca F9038) at a shop in Chatham in Kent, where I was brought up. I was immediately ‘hooked’ and have everything made available since. I will now treasure my LP and CD collection even more, and whilst it is sad we have lost Bob it is a happy thought that we can still listen to his wonderful work at the touch of a button. I am also grateful that I was able to meet Bob at two meetings at the Bonnington Hotel in the early 1990s, and remember him as a very charming and friendly person. Bob will be irreplaceable for his wonderful compositions, harmonies and accompaniments to so many artists. I am looking forward to attending the premiere of Bob’s Edinburgh Symphony in the Usher Hall on 14 May. I am sure Bob would have been pleased that it was going to be performed. Terry Viner Over the years Mr. Farnon’s music has, and still does, give me endless pleasure. I was lucky enough to be present at a live relay from Norwich of "Journey Into Melody", the Sunday afternoon programme on the old BBC Light Programme, in which Robert conducted the BBC Midland Light Orchestra. After this hour we were invited to stay for another concert which was recorded for transmission on the BBC Overseas Service. For me, Bob Farnon was a lost link with a musical world which – alas – is no more. He will forever be associated with the great light music masters, David Rose, Andre Kostelanetz, Arthur Fiedler and our own Eric Coates. Thanks to record labels such as Vocalion and the Guild ‘Golden Age of Light Music’ series, I can still enjoy the music of the masters, of which Robert Farnon must rank as one of the finest. R.C. Wilkinson On behalf of all the members of the West Midlands Branch of the Sinatra Music Society, I would like to offer our condolences to Pat and all the family of Robert Farnon on their sad loss. If it is any consolation, we will have the wonderful legacy of music and recordings to enjoy and remember Robert. Phil Suffolk I was saddened and shocked to hear of Robert Farnon's passing. The ABC's (Australia) "Classic FM" station mentioned it today (30/04/05) on the "Scene" programme and played two of his best known compositions "Westminster Waltz" and "Jumping Bean". In a way, here was a background to my youth, it was only much later that I found out who had penned the melodies. His work will live on. Rick Ashworth I, too, was saddened to learn of Robert Farnon's recent passing. I only became aware of his music recently when his brother, Brian, and wife, Gloria, moved to our community and became active in our local music scene. Brian has lent me numerous recordings of Robert's music, and I have been delighted by it. As director of the College of Southern Idaho Wind Ensemble, I am happy to report that we were able to program two of Robert's pieces, Westminster Waltz and Derby Day, on our March 2005 concert, with Brian joining us in the clarinet section. Both the audience and the band members thoroughly enjoyed these pieces, and I am anxious to program more of his music on our concerts. I offer my deepest and sincerest condolences to Robert's family. George K. Halsell, Professor of Music, College of Southern Idaho I profoundly regret this very sad news. Enrique Klapp Our Gentle Giant may be gone, but his music will be with us forever. Please, please keep the Society going so that we’ll always have Bob’s music to live with. He has given the world nothing but the best sounds of his heart, and we owe it to him to keep his memory alive! Ralph Enriquez The wonderful work of the RFS has been crucial in securing the future, not only of Robert Farnon’s name and reputation, but of all the many recordings that have now become an historic and enduringly valuable and valued archive. It is very sad to bid mortal farewells to distinguished figures and close friends, but it is wonderful when they leave a great legacy of creations and recreations. We are very fortunate and must guard and foster it well. Long may the RFS flourish! Terence Gilmore-James For lovers of light music Robert Farnon’s passing is a great loss, however we have the consolation that ‘the melodies linger on’. Olga and Norman Jackson I just have no words that can describe what this sad news brings. One of the true greatest arranger of all times has left us... he was the foundation, the path to which every major arranger followed. He was a cathedral, he was the most innovative and daring arranger of his time and beyond. I send my warmest condolences to the Farnon family and to all of us, the Farnon musical family... I shall never forget him and he'll continue to be a huge part of my life. Jorge Estrada Thank goodness for the medium of recorded sound, ensuring that the music of our all-time great Robert Farnon will live on forever. At Bob’s passing the world will never seem quite the same. Bill Watts So sad to hear about Robert Farnon. It’s now up to all of us to conserve the musical legacy he has left to history. Robin King The above Condolences were received in time for inclusion in our June/July magazine. Further messages will appear in our September issue. The Guv'nor – the Robert Farnon Story
BBC Radio 2's tribute to Robert Farnon
Presented by David Jacobs, Sunday 5th June 2005 at 7pm Radio 2's Sunday slot between 7 and 8.30pm is usually taken by Sheridan Morley in Melodies for You. On this occasion, however, we had David Jacobs presenting a 1½ hour tribute to Robert Farnon. 'A great man of music', said David in his introduction as Gateway to the West was played. We couldn't agree more. The programme was an independent production by Associated Rediffusion for Radio 2, and paid a remarkably full tribute to this most diverse and individual of light music composers. There was a good selection of voices on offer in between the music (all Farnon arrangements and compositions), including some wonderful archive material of Farnon himself. For those who knew him, his wicked sense of humour together with his gentle manner and soft Canadian accent must have been captivating. Many of us, who best know Farnon for his orchestral music, would be surprised at the amount of work he did with singers, film makers and dance bands. He wrote in so many different styles, yet maintained an unmistakable sound which, though commonly imitated, was perhaps never equalled. First we heard John Wilson, a man well in tune with the Farnon manner of composition, and a great innovator in the world of light music. Bob had given a number of his original scores to John Wilson, who has subsequently done a huge amount of work with them. The singer Tony Bennett spoke sincerely of his love for Farnon's music, saying that the most important thing about it is that it is good music; it doesn't matter how popular something is, because, as Toscanini said, it is either good or it isn't. During the programme we heard Bennett's warm voice in two songs: Robert Farnon’s Country Girl and Ebb & Kander's Maybe This Time. Film composer Quincy Jones said a few words about his admiration for the man behind the music, and we heard an excerpt from Bob's favourite film score Captain Horatio Hornblower RN. Then followed a discussion with John Wilson about how difficult it is to bring off light music convincingly. Jumping Bean, still on record as the most used signature tune of all time, came up next, before a synopsis of Bob's early years. Apparently his parents wanted him to take up the violin, but as he was leaving the house to attend his lesson he would hide the instrument in the dustbin and go skating instead. Shocking! Later on he learnt the trumpet, an instrument perhaps better suited to his personality. Having said that, many would regard Farnon's string writing as the best of any light music composer. Before World War 2 Bob was one of the founder members of that Canadian radio institution "The Happy Gang", and we heard an excerpt from one of the RCA 78s they recorded (like much of the music used in the programme, it came from RFS archives). Then the civilian Bob became Captain Robert Farnon in charge of the Canadian Band of the Allied Expeditionary Forces, arriving in England in 1944. Continuing on the theme of the Second World War we heard Vera Lynn talking about Bob as the perfect gentleman and a wonderful musician with whom she loved to work – 'one of the best we've ever had in this country'. We heard Vera singing You Can't be True, Dear in a Farnon arrangement. He enjoyed many highly successful collaborations with the great British dance bands, notably Ted Heath and Geraldo. David Ades of the Robert Farnon Society spoke next, after Portrait of a Flirt was played – the flip side of the same record on which Jumping Bean was released in 1948. As David pointed out, this was really a double 'A' side – and possibly the finest light music 78 ever produced. John Wilson talked about the influence of Eric Coates on Robert Farnon, apparent in his mastering of the miniature form and impeccable orchestration. We heard light music classics Alcan Highway and A Star is Born and then John Wilson talked a little about Bob's love for quirky variety in his scores. One section of his arrangement of Mort Dixon's Flirtation Walk is almost atonal. Not what one might expect from a master of melody; very much tongue-in-cheek. Bob worked with Frank Sinatra on his only British album Great Songs from Great Britain, released in Britain (but not the USA) in 1962. It is now regarded as one of the finest albums Sinatra made. We heard Ted Shapiro's If I Had You followed by Haydn Wood's Roses of Picardy. Two major problems occurred during the recording: firstly Sinatra had a frog in his throat and couldn't quite make the top notes first time round – secondly the studio piano decided to give up the ghost near the start of the session, perhaps accounting for the large amount of celesta on this album. These things happen when real music is performed by real people. How refreshing! David Jacobs remarked that it is a shame Bob didn't write more ballads. His wistful How Beautiful is Night confirms this, and was sung here by Sarah Vaughan. An amazing personality, Bob said, "Did I give up or take up smoking when I met her? I can't remember!" We then heard the brilliant close harmony group, the Singers Unlimited, performing with Bob's orchestra in Herman Hupfeld's As Time Goes By, followed by Lena Horne singing Lerner & Loewe's I've Grown Accustomed to his Face. In his later years Robert Farnon turned his attention to larger scale orchestral works, many completed well into the 1980s and 90s. As David said, it is difficult to cover these in a tribute of this length, but then their quality is present within the miniature works anyway. However we did hear excerpts from Rhapsody for Violin and Orchestra and Lake of the Woods, the latter of which Bob likens to Debussy's Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune. Ronald Corp, conductor of the New London Orchestra, shared some memories of a childhood coloured by wonderful music, and introduced the piece he heard played on Saturday mornings at the cinema – Westminster Waltz. This accompanied the closing credits of what had been a heart-warming tribute to a great musical talent. Robert Farnon will be missed but his music and immeasurable influence lives on. Peter Edwards Editor: the above article has been slightly adapted from a feature which first appeared in the Light Music Society’s Newsletter – our grateful thanks to Peter and the LMS for kindly allowing us to reproduce it here. Regular JIM contributor Murray Ginsberg has known Bob Farnon since those far off days of wartime, and he also listened to the Radio-2 Tribute …. Bob’s early influences in Toronto by MURRAY GINSBERG I enjoyed David Jacobs' tribute to Bob Farnon on Radio 2 June 5 except that in my opinion it was far too short. There was so much important information omitted that I felt short changed. It was wonderful however, hearing Bob speak on a variety of topics, particularly when he mentioned the Toronto violinists, who because of a special teacher, had a "softer" sound than most other string players. That teacher was Luigi von Kunits, who came to Chicago from Vienna in 1898 to become the concertmaster of the Chicago Festival Orchestra. In 1912 he came to Toronto to head the Canadian Academy of Music, which went on to become locally celebrated for its string playing. In 1922 a group of Toronto musicians who wanted to perform symphonic music as a diversion from their regular employment as theatre pit players, persuaded von Kunits to organize a New Symphony Orchestra in the city. The musicians, a number of whom were students of von Kunits, knew he could train an orchestra. Von Kunits was confident that, especially with his students in tow, Toronto had enough skilled players for the New Symphony Orchestra. For the players it was a joyous time. At last they were able to play their beloved Mozart, Beethoven and Brahms. Playing accompaniment to vaudeville acts or music to the flickering images on the silent screen seemed less onerous, as long as they could spend some happy hours with von Kunits and the New Symphony Orchestra. And under von Kunits' influence, each player developed his or her artistry with a power and colour and authority seldom heard surpassed by the best touring orchestras. My own coming of age in the Canadian music business in Toronto, during the late 1930s and early 1940s, had almost everything to do with the strictly popular music of the time. I had never heard of Luigi von Kunits. But other students, those who played string instruments, were directed towards classical music, the music of the great composers. In the 1930s and 1940s there were many more fine violinists emerging in Toronto than a city of its size should normally produce. I often wondered what were the conditions during those early years that allowed the extraordinarily large number of top calibre violinists such as Albert Pratz, Hyman Goodman, Sam Hersenhorn and others to surface? Was it the fierce competition to be the first to reach the pinnacle of recognition? Or was it anxious insecurity to clamber over ghetto walls in order to earn society's respect? Whatever the reason, even though the New Symphony Orchestra, (whose title in 1926 was changed to Toronto Symphony Orchestra), was far from internationally famous, English-speaking Canada's largest big city was already becoming known in the world's musical communities for its excellent string players. TSO violinist Harold Sumberg who played in Percy Faith's CBC radio orchestra between 1938 and 1940, recalled: "I played on Percy's very first show. In fact, I did all his shows. His string writing was so spectacular that only the best violinists could play the parts. And he had the very best of Toronto's fiddlers, mostly from the Toronto Symphony." When Luigi von Kunits left Toronto in 1931 to bring his magic to other musical communities in the world, other teachers filled the gap left by the irrepressible giant from Vienna. The Toronto Symphony Orchestra, now under the baton of Ernest (later to become Sir Ernest) MacMillan, continued to flourish, especially the violinists. In fact, more than one internationally acclaimed guest conductor who appeared with the Toronto orchestra declared, "The first violin section of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra is one of the finest first violin sections in the world." Heady praise indeed. I think that's what Bob Farnon meant when he referred to their sound. Following receipt of the above letter, the Editor contacted Murray Ginsberg to ask about Louis Waizman. Over the years, Waizman has been mentioned on many occasions as having been involved in Robert Farnon’s early musical education. What did Murray recall about him? I first met Waizman (pronounced Wyzman) when I began to work at the CBC in 1949. I used to see this nice little man with white hair and a white moustache just as I came through the doors of the CBC building at 354 Jarvis Street in downtown Toronto. He was always smoking a cigarette whenever I saw him. He spoke with a German accent, and was a refugee from either Germany or Austria, I'm not sure which. When Geoffrey Waddington, the head of CBC music discovered him living in Toronto he immediately appointed him music librarian who could be called in at a moment's notice if an old score or a new arrangement being rehearsed needed correction. Originally a school for girls, the CBC building was taken over by the Canadian government in the 1930s and converted to a broadcasting and administration centre. I'm not certain if Waizman actually knew Luigi von Kunits, but I do know that a number of Toronto musicians, not only Bob Farnon but Percy Faith as well, and others, studied orchestration with him. An interesting story about Percy Faith: Percy had studied piano with Frank Welsman at the Toronto Conservatory of Music. In 1923 he was considered good enough to appear as soloist with the Conservatory orchestra, playing Lizst's Hungarian Fantasy at their annual concert in Massey Hall. An injury to his hands, which took place when he was a teenager when he rescued his sister from a fire (her apron had caught fire at the kitchen stove), had placed limitations on the ultimate future of his piano playing. Percy went on to study with Louis Waizman, and he patiently honed his arranging craft. Soon enough he was writing arrangements for anybody who was willing to pay for a magnificent orchestration by Faith. He conducted his first radio show in 1931, and he joined the CBC network in 1933, as conductor and arranger. Between 1938 and 1940 he arranged for and conducted "Music by Faith", which also went down to the USA on the Mutual Broadcasting System. (Some listeners in Canada who didn't have a clue as to who or what Faith was, thought "Music by Faith" was a religious show.) On David Jacobs' June 5 Radio Two show, Bob also mentioned Toronto-born Steven Staryk, one of the TSO's most illustrious alumni, whose brilliant career as concertmaster, soloist and teacher, for more than forty years prompted a generation of critics to sing his praises in major orchestras: the Royal Philharmonic of London, the Concertgebouw of Amsterdam, and the Chicago Symphony. Even more spectacularly, he had been successively recommended for these positions by such illustrious figures as Sir Thomas Beecham, Raphael Kubelik and George Szell. I knew Steve well. In fact I'd written an article about him for Air Canada's magazine (I forget its title) whose passengers might glean some interesting information about one of Canada's luminaries. The last time I heard from Steve, in his late seventies, he lives in semi-retirement in Scottsdale, Arizona. But what a legacy he left! Staryk has served on the faculties of ten universities and conservatories, and has received flattering praise from violinist/ colleagues David Oistrakh, Zino Francescatti and Henryk Szeryng for "his masterful playing and decisive and everlasting contribution to heighten pedagogic standards of today and tomorrow." He has also recorded a vast repertoire of violin literature. More than 190 entries listing Staryk are found in Creighton's Discopaedia of the Violin, including some forty-five LPs on twenty different labels, and no less than sixteen world premieres of new music: he ranks among the most prolific of recording violinists. His list of awards, medals and distinctions is endless. And to think of the reason he left the Toronto Symphony Orchestra! In 1953 during the Senator Joseph McCarthy hearings on rooting out communists in America, the Toronto Symphony was invited to perform in Detroit, just across the US-Canadian border, about 250 miles from Toronto. The US government appealed to Ottawa to help seek out any communist sympathizers in the orchestra. Would you believe they found six members who were deemed unworthy of entering the United States, and Steven Staryk was one of them. I wasn't in the orchestra at the time but I knew every one of the six. The fact that Canadian-born Staryk's parents came from the Ukraine was enough to seal his fate. I must say that Steve was as much a communist as you or I. His protestations fell on deaf years. When the Royal Canadian Mounted Police labelled him a pinko, he, along with the other five, beseeched conductor Sir Ernest MacMillan to support them. Even though music and performance was the only true religion of each member named, the orchestra still performed in Detroit, without the "Symphony Six" as the newspapers labelled them. Staryk was so disgusted with the treatment he'd received that he went to England where he wound up as the concertmaster of Sir Thomas Beecham's orchestra. The rest is history. Editor: it was pleasing to note that the respected Daily Telegraph writer Gillian Reynolds made the Radio-2 Tribute to Robert Farnon her ‘Pick Of The Day’. She wrote: "…. this is an affectionate 90-minute tribute by David Jacobs to the much loved Canadian composer and conductor who died recently. (Brian Kay’s, on Radio 3 a month ago, was a real treat.) Farnon’s music, I bet, will go on playing in many memories for a long time yet."
ROBERT FARNON – CURRENT NEWS
■We are very pleased to announce that there finally seems to be some positive news regarding the premiere performance of Robert Farnon's Symphony No. 3, which he has dedicated to the City of Edinburgh. Ever since Robert Farnon completed this major work early in 2004, it has been his wish that the first performance should take place in Edinburgh, and it now seems that this will finally be happening this May. Subject to any last-minute changes, we understand that the premiere of this important work will be heard on Saturday 14 May 2005 at the Usher Hall, Edinburgh, with the National Symphony Orchestra of Scotland conducted by Iain Sutherland. Unfortunately as this issue went to press we were not able to obtain any precise information about what else will be included in the concert, or how to book tickets and their prices.
James Beyer, conductor of the Edinburgh Light Orchestra, has very kindly offered to pass on up-to-date information in response to enquiries from members who might be wishing to attend the premiere. You can write to James at: 4 St John’s Gardens, Edinburgh, EH12 6NT, Scotland (please remember to enclose a stamped self-addressed envelope for your reply). James’ telephone number is 0131 334 3140. If you are on the internet, it would be preferable if you could send an e-mail to James at: (be sure to include ‘Robert Farnon Symphony’ in your message title). We will also give any new information we receive in the ‘Latest News’ section of the ‘RFS Information’ page on our website: www.rfsoc.org.uk so please look at it regularly.
Writing in the Edinburgh Evening News on 28 December 2004, Jason Cumming stated that the 17-year-old Scots violinist Nicola Benedetti, the BBC Young Musician of the Year for 2004, was being lined up as guest soloist at the event, although our latest available information is that she will not, after all, be playing. The concert is to be sponsored by the Royal Bank of Canada, and it is being hailed as one of the biggest artistic and social events in Edinburgh’s calendar of 2005.
¦ Another performance of Robert Farnon’s Edinburgh Symphony is scheduled to take place appropriately in Bob’s homeland, Canada. William Eddins will conduct the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra on Sunday 20 November 2005. The concert at the Francis Winspear Centre for Music commences at 2.00pm.
William Eddins is the Music Director of the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra. He is also the Principal Guest Conductor of the National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland and a frequent guest conductor of major orchestras throughout the world. He has served consecutively as Assistant, Associate and Resident Conductor of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra over the last ten seasons.
Recent engagements include the New York Philharmonic, St. Louis Symphony, Philadelphia Orchestra, as well as the symphony orchestras of San Francisco, Minnesota, Cincinnati, Atlanta, New Jersey, Detroit, Dallas, Baltimore, Indianapolis, Milwaukee, Houston, San Antonio, Colorado, as well as the Los Angeles, Jacksonville and Tulsa Philharmonics.
Although focusing on his career as a conductor, Mr. Eddins continues his work as a pianist and chamber musician. He regularly conducts from the piano in works by Mozart, Beethoven, Gershwin and Ravel.
In 2000 Mr. Eddins received the Seaver/NEA Conducting Award, a triennial grant of $50,000 awarded to exceptionally gifted young American conductors.
A native of Buffalo, NY, (born in December 1964) Mr. Eddins attended the Eastman School of Music, studying with David Effron and graduating at age eighteen, making him the youngest graduate in the history of the institution. Previous positions include the Associate Conductor of the Minnesota Orchestra and assistant to Daniel Barenboim at the Berlin State Opera. He also studied conducting with Daniel Lewis at the University of Southern California and was a founding member of the New World Symphony in Miami, FL.
■ Robert Farnon’s latest major work is a Bassoon Concerto, which will be premiered in Europe and North America by Daniel Smith. This concerto will feature Daniel on an amplified bassoon backed by a big band incorporated within a full symphony orchestra. Bob completed the work early this year, and he tells us that he is very excited with this project.
The three movement concerto is in a jazz style with symphonic overtones and includes a spectacular finale with an up-tempo blues featuring the bassoon along with a rhythm section. Bob hopes that one of the movements will be suitable for performance on its own, and he has been discussing this with Alan Boyd, producer of BBC Radio-2’s "Friday Night is Music Night". There is a possibility that a broadcast could be fixed by the time this issue is published.
American bassoon virtuoso Daniel Smith has been a musical pioneer in promoting the bassoon as an important and major solo instrument. He is the world's most recorded bassoon soloist, as well as the only one performing and recording in both the classical and jazz fields. Daniel Smith was designated in 2003 as the 'Ambassador for the Bassoon' by the National Foundation for Youth Music in the UK to help promote the instrument with young music students.
His unique career has been profiled in Gramophone, the New York Times, Fanfare, Classical Music, Musical Heritage Review, Music And Musicians, American Record Guide, Classic CD and leading British newspapers including The Times. His solo performances include classical recitals, jazz concerts with his quartet, concertos with orchestra and highly popular programmes divided between classical and jazz, with music that ranges from Vivaldi, Elgar, Mozart and Verdi to Duke Ellington, John Coltrane, Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie. Described as the ‘Rampal of the bassoon’ and ‘a phenomenon’, he brings his unique sound and style to concert series, festivals and jazz clubs.
His historic and unprecedented recording for ASVof the entire 37 Vivaldi bassoon concertos was chosen as ‘Best Concerto Recording Of The Year’ by the Music Industry Association and awarded the Penguin Guide’s coveted *** rosette rating as well as inclusion in Fanfare’s annual ‘Want List’. These concertos, recorded with the English Chamber Orchestra and I Solisti di Zagreb, firmly established Daniel Smith as a leading soloist on his instrument. His recordings with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and the Caravaggio Ensemble for theSanctuary White Line label produced innovative crossover music, with unique renditions of ragtime pieces, opera excerpts, and popular standards. His recordings include the historic and award winning set of the complete 37 Vivaldi bassoon concertos, jazz with his quartet 'Bassoon and Beyond', crossover and popular albums, and numerous recordings as a concerto and recital soloist with orchestras, ensembles, string quartets, and with piano.
Daniel Smith's concerto performances, recitals and jazz concerts, and especially his highly popular programmes divided between classical and jazz, have received outstanding reviews in the press. He has premiered several new works and presented the first ever solo bassoon concerts at New York's Lincoln Center and Tivoli Concert Hall in Copenhagen. In the world of jazz, Daniel Smith has performed at many festivals, concert series and jazz clubs world-wide. He has also presented the bassoon in concert on several cruise ship lines including Cunard, Seabourn and Royal Viking.
In Britain, the BBC's Radio 3 used one of his recordings as their signature tune for several months to begin their broadcast day. Recent recordings made with his acclaimed jazz quartet ‘Bassoon and Beyond’ - ‘Bebop Bassoon’ and ‘The Swinging Bassoon’ - have brought the bassoon into the world of jazz.
BBC Radio 4 will be presenting a programme featuring Daniel Smith in May. The likely dates are 24th and 28th May, the second being a repeat. No doubt Daniel will be mentioning the new Concerto composed by Robert Farnon.
When we learn some firm details regarding the premiere, the information will be given in the ‘Latest News’ section on our website – and, of course, in our next magazine.
■ By the time this issue reaches you, John Wilson will have been in the studios conducting the BBC Concert Orchestra for a special edition of Brian Kay’s BBC Radio 3 programme – "Brian Kay’s Light Programme". John is selecting many Robert Farnon compositions which have either never been recorded commercially, or else are only on disc in mono versions. One or two special exceptions may be made – for example, John is keen to record How Beautiful Is Night … "because it is such a lovely piece which I admire so much." If there is time, John may also conduct some music by Angela Morley, who is being invited to appear on Brian’s show later this year.
■ A leading record company, which specialises in band music, is keen to record a CD of Robert Farnon’s Military Band compositions. As well as works specially composed by Bob for bands (Un Vie de Matelot specially written for the National Brass Band Championships in 1975 is a good example), the CD may also include band arrangements of some of Bob’s best-known works. We may be able to give you some more information in our next issue.
■ Another project in the ‘pending’ file of a major recording company is the possibility of a CD of Film and Television music composed by Robert Farnon. Like so many new recordings these days, the money has to be found from somewhere, but if this can be sorted out then we could be in for some very special treats. Over the years Bob has composed a great deal of fine music for films which has never been recorded commercially.
■ Two recent CDs from Memoir include recordings made over 50 years ago where Robert Farnon has arranged and conducted 78s featuring leading singers of the day. On "The Great Dance Band Vocalists" (Memoir CDMOIR587) Robert Farnon accompanies Paul Carpenter in Maybe You’ll Be There, and Bob is also the conductor (uncredited) on Getting Nowhere featuring Carole Carr with the Geraldo Orchestra. A Vera Lynn collection – appropriately titled "Yours" - has seven Farnon tracks: You Can’t Be True Dear, My Thanks To You, Heartaches, Put Your Dreams Away, I Don’t See Me In Your Eyes Anymore, You’d Be Hard To Replace and Our Love Story (Memoir CDMOIR588). For more details please see ‘Keeping Track’ in this issue.
■ Thanks to some hard work by Adam Endacott, we should shortly be in a position to rectify a glaring omission on our website – namely a list of Robert Farnon’s compact discs. As you will know, our RF Discography only goes up to 1996, since when many CDs have been released. Details of most of them can be found in various parts of our website (and, of course, in our magazines) but it will be far more helpful and convenient to have them all listed in one place. We are most grateful to Adam, and Malcolm Powell who has also assisted, in getting this work brought to a satisfactory conclusion.
■ Finally this time, we have news of a talented young lady who is following in the Farnon family musical tradition. Nicola Farnon has just released a new CD, which has been highly praised by Robert Farnon. As Nicola says in her publicity: "When your Dad is the first cousin of the highly acclaimed arranger and composer Robert Farnon, you’d hope that some of that talent might brush off on you!"
Originally classically trained on the cello and piano, Nicola did a Performing Arts degree in London, and soon changed musical direction. She acquired a double bass and started learning her trade in the jazz pubs and clubs around London. Now Nicola sings and plays double bass with her own Quintet, which is quickly gaining a fine reputation. She is based in Sheffield, and together with her partner and co-rhythm section member, drummer Phil Johnson, is making a determined effort to get back to (jazz!) business, having recently concentrated more on bringing up her two daughters, Billie and Jodie.
Lately Nicola’s band has appeared at major clubs and festivals, and has become a regular feature at the Isle of Man Jazz Festival, alongside such jazz luminaries as Digby Fairweather, Jim Mullen, Bruce Adams and Alan Barnes. Her quintet includes international stars from Canada (Piero Tucci on piano) and Australia (Nigel McGill on tenor sax) and has supported class jazz acts as diverse as Courtney Pine, Georgie Fame and Acker Bilk.
Nicola originally got in touch with Robert Farnon when she cheekily asked him for a foreword for her first CD "Portrait Of A Farnon". Since then they are regularly in touch, and ‘Uncle Bob’ has overwhelmed Nicola with his warmth , encouragement and continued enthusiasm. Nicola says that he is truly a great inspiration to her, "and is such a lovely Uncle, too!"
Nicola’s influences are not only jazz; in fact she is just as likely to be listening to Stevie Wonder, Jimi Hendrix and Aretha Franklin. But she will always have a soft spot for the likes of Ella Fitzgerald, Chet Baker, Anita O’Day, Ray Charles and Count Basie. Her quintet performs material that is all her favourite jazzy, bluesy and Latin standards (arranged in her own inimitable fashion) to an ever increasing and enthusiastic fan base. As her esteemed ‘Uncle’, Robert Farnon, states: "what a great choice of songs. What a fine group of musicians … an absolute joy."
Nicola’s new CD is called "THAT’S THE BOTTOM LINE" A Beautiful Friendship, Four Brothers, Don’t Know Why, Teach Me Tonight, Show Me, On The Street Where You Live, Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man, Ain’t Necessarily So, Wouldn’t It Be Loverly, Time After Time, *Yes It Is, The Way You Look Tonight, *Don’t Know Why, The More I See You (*composed by Nicola, who also did all the arrangements).
This CD costs £10 (including post and packing). Please send a cheque payable to ‘Nicola Farnon’ at: 71 Burcot Road, Sheffield, S8 9FD, England – and mention that you are a member of the RFS.