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.
■ We are accustomed to having many of Robert Farnon’s earlier recordings made available again on compact discs, but it is always a very special event when a brand new release reaches the catalogues! This month last January’s London sessions showcasing the talents of flautist Jane Pickles have appeared on a new Vocalion Digital CD of Farnon arrangements and compositions entitled "Hey There". Full details can be found in our ‘Light Music CDs’ section and, of course, this new CD is available from the RFS Record Service.
■ We are still waiting for some firm news regarding the premiere of Robert Farnon’s Symphony No. 3 – the ‘Edinburgh Symphony’. From recent issues of this magazine you will have grasped that it is Robert Farnon’s wish that the first performance should take place in the city to which the work is dedicated, but early indications suggested that orchestras in Montreal or Oslo might win the race. As we go to press, the latest news is that the Scottish conductor Iain Sutherland has appeared on the scene, and a recent Canadian newspaper report seems to suggest that the premiere now seems certain in Edinburgh next spring. After so many hopes have been dashed, we hesitate to get too optimistic, but as soon as a date is fixed we will tell the world in the ‘Latest News’ section of our website.
■ The first performance of Robert Farnon’s new arrangement of Song of Scandia for bassoon and strings took place on 27 August in "Friday Night is Music Night" on BBC Radio-2. Margaret Pollock was the soloist, and the BBC Concert Orchestra was conducted by John Wilson.
■ A new Frank Sinatra book has been widely praised by the press and Sinatra fans alike. Called "The Sinatra Treasures" it is written by Charles Pignon, and has forewords by Frank Sinatra jnr. and Quincy Jones. Naturally Sinatra’s album with Robert Farnon gets mentioned, and the accompanying CD includes Roses of Picardy from the ‘Great Songs From Great Britain’ album. The book (which doesn’t come cheap – the UK price seems to be around £35) contains 30 removable artefacts comprising expensively replicated items from Sinatra’s life.
■ Back in 1946, Robert Farnon was in charge of the Geraldo Orchestra while the boss was away on business in the USA. During October and November Bob conducted the orchestra on ten titles recorded at EMI’s Abbey Road studios for the Parlophone label (full details can be found in our Robert Farnon Discography: the printed version is no longer available, but the complete Discography is on our website). A new Living Era CD includes two of those numbers: Getting Nowhere (with a vocal by Carole Carr) and Sleepy Serenade (featuring Ivor Mairants on Guitar) – bother recorded on 4 October 1946.
■ The first item of Robert Farnon’s news in our last issue concerned a collection of string arrangements which Bob hopes will be recorded during the coming year. An extra title recently completed is called Un Place de mon Coeur and Bob has provisionally given this collection the title "Cameo For Strings". Naturally we’ll let you have more information as soon as a recording session is booked. Bob hopes that the Phoenix Studios in Wembley will be available, because he prefers the more intimate sound to larger venues such as Watford Town Hall.
■ Song of Scandia keeps reappearing on Bob’s music stand. The version for the above proposed CD is essentially for strings, and Bob has also written a new setting for bassoon. This is at the request of Margaret Pollock, the principal bassoon player with the BBC Concert Orchestra, and it may well be heard in a "Friday Night Is Music Night" before long. Originally this work featured the cello, and Bob explained to us that the cello and bassoon have many similar characteristics which suit this piece particularly well. If possible, Bob would like Margaret to perform some solos on the projected "Cameo for Strings" album (see our first paragraph). He has scored his new work A Place In My Heart (Une Place de mon Coeur) for bassoon; this is a slow blues number, and is in recognition of Margaret’s love of jazz. Please turn to page 47 to read more about Margaret Pollock.
■ Flautist Jane Pickles is adding a new Farnon composition to her repertoire. It is called Songbird and is a 10-minute work in two movements. Again it could be heard soon on "Friday Night Is Music Night".
■ Fred Mills, the trumpeter formerly with Canadian Brass, now has an active solo career which takes him to several countries for special concerts. Bob has composed Vivacity for him – a 5-minute work which is apparently not very easy to play!
■ Beloved is a recent Farnon work which is on the list for the "Cameos for Strings" collection. The vocal version is called This is my Beloved, and Brian Farnon is currently performing it with his band. Bob understands that Tony Bennett may also be interested, and there could be some positive news later in the year.
■ As we reported in our last issue, Marc Fortier in Montreal is working tirelessly to try and get a premiere performance of Robert Farnon’s Symphony No. 3 as soon as possible. Unfortunately he has recently received a letter from André Previn explaining that it will be difficult for him to conduct the symphony in Montreal, because he has no plans to be working there, at least in the next few years. However André is doing all he can to get it scheduled in to a programme in Norway, where he is currently working with the Oslo Philharmonic. We all remember the much quoted comment by André that he regards Robert Farnon as the greatest living writer for strings. In his latest letter to Marc Fortier he ends up: "I’m an enormous admirer of Mr. Farnon’s work and have been for a great many years. Please send him my warmest regards."
"Happy Birthday, Bob!" - on the Internet
FORREST PATTEN sent the following message to all his fellow-members of the ‘Beautiful Instrumentals’ web site in celebration of Bob’s 87th. We repeat his message in full, exactly as it was received around the world:
From: musicsfx [mailto:]
Sent: Friday, July 23, 2004 2:52 PM
Subject: [BeautifulInstrumentals] Happy 87th Birthday to Robert Farnon! Saturday, July 24 marks Canadian composer/arranger Robert Farnon's 87th birthday. The good news is that he's continuing to write with no signs of slowing down. From his home in Guernsey (in Britain's Channel Islands), the "Guv'nor", as he's affectionately known by his musical peers, is enjoying a renaissance in popularity. This is due, in no small part, to the availability of his vast Decca repertoire reissued on CD thanks to Michael Dutton's Vocalion label. There is also a thriving worldwide appreciation society dedicated to the works of Robert Farnon (and other composers/arrangers of light music) based in England. Their website (www.rfsoc.org.uk) is filled with all sorts of great information. On a personal note, it's been my pleasure to know Bob since the 1970's. We continue to stay in touch on a regular basis. His name alone has opened many doors and allowed me to meet and to interview a number of musical greats including Tony Bennett, John Williams, Henri Rene, Ron Goodwin, Dizzy Gillespie, Andre Previn, Frank Comstock, Henry Mancini, Peggy Lee, and Gene Puerling. They all have acknowledged Bob's influence on their respective careers. Listen to arrangements by Don Costa, Marty Paich and Johnny Mandel. You'll hear the "Farnon touch." Musically, he can write everything from classical to some of the hottest jazz you'll ever hear. But it is his "string" sound that captivates. When you listen to a Farnon recording, you'll end up asking yourself "how did he do that?" His arrangements are filled with so many surprises. His writing skills are all a very natural and flowing part of the genius of this man. While interviewing Bob back in the 1980's, I asked him why he wasn't as well known to the record buying public as the other conductors in the Decca stable like Stanley Black, Frank Chacksfield and Mantovani. His answer was that he simply didn't want to go through all of the promotional machinations that the others had to when selling their music to the public. His idea was to write, conduct and record the music, and to let the public react to it accordingly. It's safe to say that if the general public didn't initially embrace or respond, people in the music business certainly did! Today, Robert Farnon's music continues to be heard throughout the world. Besides the Vocalion CD releases, you can hear many of his Chappell Music Library pieces on the cult TV series 'The Prisoner.' Also from Chappell's is the haunting music box cue used for "Josette's music box" on early episodes of the ABC-TV gothic soap opera 'Dark Shadows.' His "Gateway ToThe West" will be remembered as the theme for the long running 'David Susskind Show'. And, of course, there are the movie scores for Gregory Peck's 'Captain Horatio Hornblower, R.N.', 'Shalako' with Sean Connery and Bridget Bardot, and the final "road picture" with Bing Crosby and Bob Hope, 'Road To Hong Kong'. Happy birthday to my friend Robert Farnon. Keep writing. We need your wonderful music in our world today.
‘Beautiful Instrumentals’ is the Number One Music Discussion Group Celebrating Beautiful Easy Listening Music Instrumentals and Vocals. For more information visit www.groups.yahoo.com/group/BeautifulInstrumentals/
Willi Tokarev is one of Russia’s top singers and entertainers, and he is a great fan of Robert Farnon. On Willi’s website (www.willitokarev.ru/robert_farnon.htm) you can read his tribute to Bob, but for those of you who might have difficulty in understanding Russian, Willi’s friend Alexander Korobko has kindly made the following translation for ‘Journal Into Melody’
If I was provided with something from God, then the rest I got from Tchaikovsky, Stravinsky and Robert Farnon.
Certainly, I marvel at Chopin, Rachmaninoff, Mussorgsky, Mozart, and Beethoven! Yes, needless to say, every well-known composer, beginning with Gluck, grasped my attention, making me admire his brilliant works. In the melodic sense I was influenced by Peter Tchaikovsky, in the harmonic - by Igor Stravinsky, but Robert Farnon has literally influenced my entire musical credo: the melody, the harmony, the arrangement.
He instilled in me the taste, which determines the quality of work in any genre. When a musician's erudition is filled with all that is beautiful, beginning with the folk music and concluding with the most complex symphonic works, the treatment of his own creations under the influence of this very erudition, acquires its own unique value. In the 1960s we acquired a radio receiver at home and I tuned into radio from London, discovering music arranged with such highest craftsmanship, that it immediately became the object of my admiration. That was the orchestra of Robert Farnon, his music and his arrangements.
Later, I also familiarised myself with other conductors and their orchestras, which were I found very interesting. These are the orchestras of Andre Kostelanetz, Percy Faith, George Melachrino, Mantovani and many others, but none of them has reached Robert Farnon's level when it comes to arrangements.
Robert Farnon focuses attention on many aspects of his works: the irreproachable selection of musicians, splendid instruments, amazing soloists, the striking cleanliness of the intonation of the orchestra, an infinite quantity of "colours" thanks to the unique combination of instruments, and the main thing - the soul and the heart of the conductor, his special, finesse and taste, which one can feel in any of his works.
This absolute harmonic and melodic texture can be created only by highest, perfect intellect. The intellect of Robert Farnon. For example, each of his introductions to any piece which he arranges - is a mini masterpiece, making you admire the limitless possibilities of this composer and master of orchestration. Because of his fantastic arrangements many works acquired a timeless quality.
As a conductor, the skill of Robert Farnon, in combination with the craftsmanship of his arrangements provides a kind of pleasure that is difficult to define. It is a balsam, which cleans your heart and soul, making a man more noble and much happier. It would be a very useful practice to listen to Robert Farnon's music before the beginning of lessons in schools. Fifteen minutes of his celestial music, would fine-tune the emotions of schoolboys to something very positive, making further learning that much more effective.
One can say that Robert Farnon's creativity - is virtually an unattainable art and skill. Robert Farnon is the apex of musical Everest. The Lord himself listens to his music with pleasure. Robert Farnon's music - this is the Milky Way, where the scales and logic – are amazing. His enormous orchestra is a magic rainbow of sounds.
When dressing up well-known melodies, Robert Farnon applies to them an unusual "make up", conveying feelings of amazing beauty. In their design these "dresses" do not have anything equal in terms of beauty. In the theatre there is the acknowledged Stanislavski system. It would be wonderful if the world's musical institutions would teach the system of Robert Farnon. That would change our world into a better place.
The Titanic ability of Robert Farnon is amazing. Being the conductor of three symphony orchestras in London, he also wrote music for films, arranging it with his usual lustre. Robert Farnon is a unique phenomenon who extends into the infinity. His music is eternal, thanks to his unique orchestra, in which as Perpetual Mobile his heart is beating. Thanks to you, celestial musical envoy, for making happy the millions of people on our planet.
■ In March Robert Farnon advised us that he had just completed working on several new arrangements for strings, harp, piano and percussion. These have been conceived with harpist Suzy Willison in mind, and include several brand new compositions as well as a few old favourites: Alto Vista, Infatuation for Harp, Song of Scandia, Hopscotch, Novelette Sentimental, Moonset, Timeless Rose, Indecision, Piano Strings, Walkin’ Happy, Sacree et Profane (Debussy), Intermezzo for Harp, La Douzieme Jardin (The Twelfth Garden) and Beloved. These pieces are being held in readiness for a future recording project, which it is planned that John Wilson will eventually conduct. In the meantime John will keep these new works in his library, and possibly use one or two in his public concerts.
■ Symphony orchestras have to plan their concerts well in advance, so it is hardly surprising that the premiere performance of Bob’s Symphony No. 3 is still awaited. However the omens are good: Andre Previn has spoken to Bob about conducting it in Oslo, and Marc Fortier is trying to get it scheduled in Montreal. Several other orchestras have also expressed keen interest in this work, so it is only a matter of time before the paying public gets to hear it! Meanwhile the amateur musicians in the Guernsey Symphony Orchestra have been rehearsing it for the benefit of the composer, so that any ‘glitches’ can be removed from the manuscripts.
■ Robert Farnon has been commissioned to compose a major new work lasting around 15 minutes for an American Wind Band, based in New Jersey. It is likely that it will be premiered by the Roxbury High School Honors Wind Band conducted by Stanley Saunders in January 2006. The instrumentation comprises just about every possible instrument, except strings, and the large ensemble (nine clarinets and seven percussionists are just two examples!) will allow Bob’s creativity full rein. His initial thoughts are to give the work a Scottish theme, and no doubt we will have more to report later this year.
■ Although it is disappointing that the album Robert Farnon recorded with George Benson has never appeared, George does use some of Bob’s charts in his public performances. He recently said that "… the entire orchestra is lifted up with enthusiasm…" when they see the arrangements on their music stands. "The morale of the orchestra improves significantly!" [note: one track from the Benson/Farnon sessions did appear on CD in 1990 – "Portrait of Jennie" on Warner Bros 926295-2.] Two other legendary performers whose cherished ambitions were to record with Bob were J.J. Johnson and Eileen Farrell. J.J. was unhappy following the death of his wife, and the sessions with Bob came at just the right time to lift his spirits. He was very nervous during the recordings, possibly because Bob’s scores were stretching his artistic talents to the limit. But as we all know the result was the award of a Grammy! Similarly Eileen Farrell (who had also lost her husband) had told friends for years that she wanted to work with Bob before she died: in the event they did four CDs together.
■ The recordings featuring Kathryn Oldfield on the recent Robert Farnon CD "A Portrait of Farnon" reminded Derek Boulton that she was the only singer – male or female – who had ever achieved the distinction of having two radio series on both the BBC and Radio Luxembourg. At the time, the BBC normally ‘black-listed’ any of their performers who had dared to go to the commercial rival, but somehow Kathryn slipped through the net! For the BBC Kathryn sang with Bob and Laurie Johnson. Her Radio Luxembourg shows were sponsored by football and hair products.
■ John Parry tells us that he is very pleased that Robert Farnon’s album "Showcase for Soloists has finally made it on to CD. John produced it while he was in charge of the Recorded Music Department at Chappells, and he regards it as one of the best things he did for them. He was involved in everything, from the original concept right through to the final mix. The reason why the commercial release on Invicta was delayed was through technical mistakes – nothing to do with John. Invicta could have used the same plates that produced the Chappell LP, but they insisted on re-cutting it. Unfortunately the engineer failed to read the tape box label, and didn’t realise that the master was in Dolby. The tape was played in non-Dolby, with the resultant unsatisfactory results, so the LP master had to be made again. The new Vocalion CD also includes some tracks that John can remember recording in Europe, such as Power and Glory, Winter Jasmine etc.
■ Just recently Robert Farnon confided in us that next month (July) marks the 50th anniversary of the date when he and his wife Pat fell in love. Bob had just returned from the USA to work on the film "Lilacs In The Spring" which was being made by Herbert Wilcox. Patricia Smith was the casting director on the film, although she and Bob had first met back in the 1940s on films such as "Spring In Park Lane" and "Maytime In Mayfair". Pat was a good friend of the publicity manager at Herbert Wilcox Productions, Jackie Ward (her father was the leader of the orchestra on the ‘Titanic’). Bob chuckled as he remembered that Jackie told Pat that her romance with Bob would never last! When Bob arrived at the studios that July (back in 1954) to start working on "Lilacs In The Spring", Pat had arranged for a sign on his office door to read "Sir Shottis Bolt". He wishes he had kept it! Bob and Pat eventually got married in his home town of Toronto.
Robert Farnon is praised in Review of Harold Arlen Tribute Concert in New York
Harold Arlen was the only composer from the golden age of Broadway who was primarily concerned with celebrating the African-American experience. The son of a cantor from Buffalo, he first became famous by writing the scores for the all-Black Cotton Club revues of the early 1930s, then went on to craft hundreds of classic songs for Broadway and Hollywood.
From Lena Horne's "Stormy Weather" to Judy Garland's "Over the Rainbow," to Ray Charles's "Come Rain or Come Shine" and Frank Sinatra's "One for My Baby (and One for the Road)," he provided many of America's greatest singers with their signature material.
On Friday 5th March the composer was the subject of a salute from Skitch Henderson and the New York Pops Orchestra at Carnegie Hall. The concert said a little about Harold Arlen but an awful lot more about the Pops form, illuminating both its strengths and weaknesses. The genre - most closely associated with the late Arthur Fielder of the Boston Pops - is a hybrid of classical music, show tunes, and jazz.
Pops orchestras generally start with familiar standard songs and set them in lush, semi symphonic arrangements, then spice them up with occasional jazz solos. At its worst, this music is pale and bloodless, a species of Muzak that differs from the kind heard in elevators only in the way it's presented: people actually listen to this in concert. But at its best, it's a wonderful vehicle for the Great American Songbook.
Certain composers - especially George Gershwin, Richard Rodgers, Jerome Kern, and Arlen himself - wrote with a classical sense of melody and form but also used harmonies and rhythms that never fail to inspire jazz musicians. Mr. Henderson, most famous from his celebrated stint on the original, New York-based edition of Johnny Carson's "Tonight Show," has been conducting Pops-style music for more than 60 years. In his time, he has been affiliated with great singers from Cliff Edwards to Sinatra and Bing Crosby (who gave him his nickname).
But the first half of the Pops Arlen presentation featured a vocal quartet known as Monday Off, who sing in roughly the same contortionist mode as the Manhattan Transfer and the New York Voices. As such, the first portion of the evening suffered from a distinct lack of soul - an ingredient essential to a proper presentation of Arlen's rich, jazz-inflected melodies.
The second half was a distinct improvement, and the reason was the fine singer Lillias White whose artistry, like Arlen's, is equally rooted in Broadway and the Blues. The second half's sole instrumental was also a highlight: the relatively rare "What's Good About Goodbye" (written for the 1948 film "Casbah" where it was sung by Tony Martin, and recorded by Sarah Vaughan, Eydie Gorme, and not many others) in a sumptuous orchestration by Robert Farnon and featuring Dianne Loesser on oboe. The Canadian-born, Britain-based Mr. Farnon, who at 86 is a year older than Mr. Henderson, is unchallenged as the greatest orchestrator of what the English call "light music." He weaves a stunning tapestry of sound with sumptuously rich harmonic voicings and a palette of tonal colours as distinctly idiosyncratic, in its own way, as Ravel or Ellington. His orchestrations make the point - too often unheeded - that light music doesn't have to sound like watered down classical music or jazz. His writing represents everything that's good about the genre. Would that every arrangement that Mr. Henderson's New York Pops Orchestra played was his.
Robert Farnon arranged "What’s Good About Goodbye" for the BBC Radio Orchestra in 1986. To date it has not been recorded commercially. The above report is adapted from Will Friedwald’s review of the concert in the New York Sun, 9 March 2004, with due acknowledgements. Our thanks to Malcolm Frazer for sending this to Journal Into Melody.
■ Robert Farnon completed his Symphony No. 3 in F major at the beginning of December. It lasts approximately 25 minutes, which Bob considers is quite long enough for him to be able to develop his ideas. He believes that so many symphonies last too long, allowing audiences to become bored with them before the end. As you will have seen on the opposite page (and later in this issue) the news of Bob’s new symphony has made the headlines in Edinburgh, and it is hoped that its premiere performance may take place in Scotland’s capital city later this year.
■ Once his symphony was completed, Bob began work on a new 2-part composition for flautist Jane Pickles entitled Songbird. It is not know whether this will be recorded in the near future, but she wanted a special work that she can perform at concerts with a fairly large orchestra. At the same time (unusually for Bob, since he rarely moves on to another piece of music until the work in hand is fully completed) he began sketching out a semi-classical work for the Canadian Brass trumpet player Fred Mills, which will be called Veracity. Fred has been performing Bob’s Schertzando for Trumpet regularly in his concerts, and he said it would be nice to have something else as well!
■ The latest Robert Farnon CD of new recordings with flautist Jane Pickles took place in January, and Bob told us that he was delighted with the work Jack Parnell did in conducting the orchestra. We hope to allow RFS members to hear a preview at our next London meeting on 4 April, and we will have further details of this new release in our June magazine.
■ Robert Farnon’s latest composition (as we went to press at the end of January) is a piece for full string orchestra (ten first violins, 8 second violins, 6 violas, 6 cellos and 4 double basses – plus harp and keyboards) entitled This Is My Beloved. Bob couldn’t say how long it would be: "It all depends where the inspiration will take me!" he explained.
■ Last November, the US President George W. Bush made a State Visit to Britain, and he was the Guest of Honour at a State Banquet at Buckingham Palace on 19 November, hosted by HM Queen Elizabeth II. The following day the London Times gave full details of the guest list, and what they had to eat and drink. The music performed by the Band of the Scots Guards, directed by Major R.J. Owen was also listed (16 pieces), and we were pleased to see that the third item was Westminster Waltz by Robert Farnon. Other featured composers and arrangers included Richard Rodgers, Michael Kamen, Sousa, Leroy Anderson and Charles Ancliffe.
■ Robert Farnon has contributed the foreword to Laurie Johnson’s new autobiography "Noises in the Head". Reproduced in his own handwriting, Bob writes: Whenever friends wish to know the name of my favourite British film composer, the answer has remained the same since I first listened to the brilliant underscoring by the true musician and gentleman who is responsible for this book of rich and varied musical tales, Laurie Johnson.
► The recording sessions for the latest Robert Farnon CD did not take place in July as originally expected (see page 3 of our last issue), but it is now hoped that they can be slotted in soon. The titles will be almost the same as previously listed, with the possible addition of Tete a Tete (solos on flute and oboe), and The Nearness of You (for bass flute).
► Robert Farnon gave us the exciting news in July that he had started work on his Symphony No. 3. Subtitled "I Love Life", the opening theme is based upon his recent composition of that name. Bob told us that he simply felt the urge to be creative, hence the decision to commence this major project. Does this mean that we may eventually hear the first two symphonies – are there any plans to revise them for public performance? Sadly, no. "I’ve already used many of the themes in them for other works!" confessed Bob.
► Robert Farnon’s Lake of the Woods was played by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra conducted by John Wilson, in a recorded concert that was broadcast on BBC Radio 3 on Wednesday 14 May.
► Richard Jenkinson performed Robert Farnon’s Pictures in the Fire at a concert at the Gatehouse, Barston, West Midlands on 28 June. This was a special evening of music for cello and piano, and Richard was pleased to have the opportunity to play this piece once again, shortly after he performed it in Canterbury on 10 May, alongside works by Bach, Beethoven, Brahms and Debussy. Bob made this cello/piano arrangement for Richard last year, and he first played it in a recital at St. Paul’s, Covent Garden, London.
► As we went to press, Brian Farnon and his Orchestra were due to play a special piece by his brother Bob – "Idaho Opening" – at an event in Idaho on 7 August. No doubt Forrest Patten will be able to fill in the details in his News from The States in our December issue.
► ENSA Complete Concerts is the title of a new 2-CD set from a new label – Rex. A Forces Broadcasting Service programme by the Bob Farnon Orchestra is included: Journey Into Melody, Begin the Beguine, All Through the Day (Dick James, vocal), What is this Thing Called Love, The Nearness of You (Carole Carr, vocal), Oh Susannah, Love Walked In, The Stars will Remember (Dick James), Getting Nowhere (Carole Carr), South American Way, Journey Into Melody. Colin Brown has compiled this collection, and he was also responsible for the 1997 President CD "Journey Into Melody" featuring Robert Farnon and the same soloists (PLCD564). In fact all the titles on this new CD are also on the earlier CD, although the introductions to each number were edited out of the President CD. Also the President CD includes many more titles, so it would appear that Colin Brown has access to more than one of these broadcasts. On Rex we seem to have everything as it originally was, with producer Arthur Adair also making the introductions. CD1 in this set features a "Break For Music" with Henry Hall and his Orchestra; "Over to You" Geraldo; and "Top Of The List" RAOC Blue Rockets Dance Orchestra. CD2 begins with the Bob Farnon programme, then moves on to "Break for Music" Lou Preager and his Orchestra with Edna Kaye (alias Mrs. Stanley Black); and finally another "Top of the List" with the RAOC Blue Rockets Dance Orchestra. Unfortunately no recording dates are given, but these shows must date from around 1946/47 – maybe slightly earlier. The sound quality is reasonable, and the catalogue number of this Rex 2-CD set is REXX300 (the retail price is around £10). The RFS Record Service can still supply copies of the earlier President CD for £7.50 [US $15].
During the Spring Robert Farnon was busy working on new arrangements and compositions for a CD which is scheduled for recording this summer – possibly in July. Once again Jack Parnell will be conducting, with Rolph Wilson leading the orchestra. The CD is a showcase for flautist Jane Pickles, for whom Bob has been adapting some earlier scores, such as Hey There, In a Calm, When I Fall in Love and Can I Forget You. Jane also wishes to record La Casita Mia and she is keen to tackle that 1940s ‘tour de force’ Chopin’s Fantasie Impromptu which readers will recall that Camarata recorded for a Decca 78. Other titles provisionally selected are Little Miss Megan (Molly), Piccolo Flight, Flute Fantasy, Girl With The Flaxen Hair, I Dream of Jeannie and Magic Island. Another new work by Bob is called I Love Life for which he has also written the lyrics.
► As we went to press, we learned that the vocal version of "I Love Life" was due to be recorded in May by Jose Maria and the RPO at Studio Phoenix – the old CTS Studios in Wembley.
► French lyrics have been written for Robert Farnon’s "How Beautiful is Night" by Pascale Martin. This is also scheduled to be recorded by Jose Maria, but probably with only a piano backing.
► Two other projects, which have been in preparation for some while, are currently ‘on hold’ while Bob tackles other commitments, but he hopes that one day the projected ablums with Gordon Campbell and Peter Appleyard will emerge from the studios.
► Robert Farnon often receives kind messages from admirers, but it is not every day that one so perfectly sums up the feelings of many of us:
"This is a note of appreciation to a genius: Robert Farnon. I was introduced to his exquisite, imaginative arrangements through my musician sister, 40+ years ago and still cherish my mono LP’s: Melody Fair, Pictures in the Fire, Flirtation Walk, Two Cigarettes in the Dark [and the stereo LP] The Sensuous Strings of R.F. which were hers’. Since then, I have also feasted aurally on Sentimental Journey with the Singers Unlimited and Sketches of F. Sinatra & T. Bennett with the wonderful CD sound and bonus of selections with the London Philharmonic. Please tell Mr. Farnon that year in and year out, his music has been marvellously enjoyable, even therapeutic, for me. I know of none other whose works remain fresh with every hearing.
My thanks to RFS for the sample copy of your excellent journal [Issue 153]. One question: on p.9 of that issue, Andre Previn is quoted as saying RF is ‘the greatest living writer for strings.’ In the liner notes for Sketches, Previn is said to have written ‘Very few things remain a constant in the music world; however, Robert Farnon was the world’s greatest arranger many decades ago and he holds the same position today. The very best things never change.’ I heartily agree with both quotes, but prefer the greater accolade. Dr. G.G. Phillips".
► Richard Jenkinson performed Robert Farnon’s Pictures in the Fire at a concert in Canterbury on 10 May, alongside works by Bach, Beethoven, Brahms and Debussy. Bob made this cello/piano arrangement for Richard last year, and he first played it in a recital at St. Paul’s, Covent Garden, London.
► Judging by the favourable press comments, Charles Job conducted the Palm Court Orchestra in two excellent concerts of Robert Farnon’s music for Canadian audiences in British Columbia last March. The programme included Journey Into Melody, Lazy Day, Swing Hoe, Mr. Punch, The First Waltz, Dominion Day, Seashore, A Promise of Spring, Jumping Bean, Holiday Flight, Peanut Polka, Westminster Waltz and Goodwood Galop. Among other works (featuring Philip Dyson, piano) were Nino Rota’s Legend of the Glass Mountain, Charles Williams’s Dream of Olwen and two Billy Mayerl numbers – Autumn Crocus and Marigold. Next year Charles and his fine musicians will be paying tribute to Ernest Tomlinson in his 80th birthday year, and we understand that Gavin Sutherland will be a guest conductor of the Palm Court Orchestra. We look forward to giving further details of these important events nearer the time.
► Larry Paikin recently contacted us about the reference to Canadian Brass in our last issue.He wrote: "Your news item about my friend and retired Canadian Brass trumpet soloist, Fred Mills, was a joy to read. This brilliant player/arranger made his fellow Canadians so proud, as far back as his days with the Guelph (Ontario) Police Boys’ Band. Fred is currently a professor at the University of Georgia. No need for sadness about the Canadian Brass. Any rumours about their demise are somewhat exaggerated! They are alive and well and proudly performing Robert Farnon’s works with regularity. In late March they played RF’s Jerome Kern Arrangements (Fred Mills commissioned this for the CB) to three sold out houses in Edmonton, Alberta, home-town of CB hornist Jeff Nelsen. They also recently performed RF’s Farrago of British Folk Songs which Fred commissioned for the CB. Fred and RF go way back!" And Fred Mills himself sent the following message: "My memories of Mr Farnon go back to when he was the trumpeter on the old radio shows of ‘Happy Gang’ which I believe was a noon hour radio show out of Toronto. Robert Farnon also wrote a Brass Quintet Songs of the Emerald Islands which is a medley of Irish Tunes. Since I have left the Canadian Brass I have played this marvellous piece on two St Patrick’s Day celebrations. I have also performed Mr Farnon’s Scherzando for Trumpet about 100 times since 1996 when I left the CB. Mr Farnon also gave me permission to make a new set of finalized parts for the original Scherzando which I believe are for rental from Chappell who is the publisher of the Scherzardo for trumpet and strings and percussion, harp and piano/guitar. With Mr Farnon’s permission I have also rescored the Scherzando for Brass Sextet and another version for trumpet and woodwinds. The Farrago of British Folk Songs is a marvellous collection or Medley and while I was with the CB played that collection many times with many American Orchestras. I have also performed the Farrago many times since 1996 with Tim Morrison, David Ohanian, Marty Hackleman, Sam Pilafian, Dan Perantoni, Scott Hartman and Larry Zalkind. These fine musicians are ex-CB, Empire Brass and St Louis BQ alumni. Wherever I have performed, Mr Farnon’s music and orchestrations are played and they are finely received.
► In our last issued we mentioned that Bob has recently composed a special piece for flute, which he has dedicated to his 10-year old granddaughter, Megan Walsh. She has recently taken up the flute (at her grandfather’s suggestion!), and she is the daughter of Bob’s own daughter Judith – the original ‘young lady’ to whom Bob dedicated To a Young Lady way back in the 1950s. Judith is married to a schoolmaster, and the family lives in Essex. The completed work was sent to Megan in mid-February. Bob explained that he had based it on Little Miss Molly, so the title he chose (most appropriately) was Little Miss Megan!
This new Vocalion CD completes the major project to reissue Robert Farnon’s great Decca albums from the 1950s
"The Songs of Britain" and "Stephen Foster Melodies"
The Songs of Britain Decca LF1123
THE BRITISH GRENADIERS (Trad.)
DRINK TO ME ONLY WITH THINE EYES (Trad.)
THE LINCOLNSHIRE POACHER (Trad.)
THE LONDONDERRY AIR (Trad.)
STRAWBERRY FAIR (Trad.)
ANNIE LAURIE (Lady Scott)
ALL THROUGH THE NIGHT (Trad.)
EARLY ONE MORNING (Trad.)
Stephen Foster Melodies [The Robert Farnon Octet] Decca LF1034
JEANIE WITH THE LIGHT BROWN HAIR
DEEP RIVER (Trad.)
COME WHERE MY LOVE LIES DREAMING
SWEET AND LOW (Tennyson, Barnby)
17 APRIL IN PARIS (Vernon Duke) LF1020
18 INVITATION WALTZ (Richard Addinsell) LF1020 F9530
19 JUST ONE OF THOSE THINGS (Cole Porter) LF1020 F9530
20 KISS ME AGAIN (Victor Herbert) LF1020
21 SHADOW WALTZ (Harry Warren, Al Dubin) LF1020
22 DONKEY SERENADE (Friml, Stothart, Wright) LM4509 F9185
23 PERSIAN NOCTURNE (Robert Stolz) LM4509 F9264
24 THE WALTZING CAT (Leroy Anderson) F10005
25 PROUD CANVAS (Robert Farnon) DFE6470
26 BIRD CHARMER (Robert Farnon) DFE6470
27 JOCKEY ON THE CAROUSEL (Farnon, Buchel) DFE6470
28 WESTMINSTER WALTZ (Robert Farnon) F10818 45-F10818
DFE series Decca 7" EP 45
F series Decca 10" 78 45-F 7" 45
LF series Decca 10" LP
LM series Decca 10" LP
28.1.49 Donkey Serenade
18.5.49 Persian Nocturne
27.10.49 Swannee River, Deep River, Camptown Races
28.10.49 Come Where My Love Lies Dreaming, Sweet and Low, Beautiful Dreamer
4.5.50 Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair, Oh! Susanna
9.5.50 Just One of Those Things, Invitation Waltz
10.5.50 April in Paris, Kiss Me Again, Shadow Waltz
2.10.52 Waltzing Cat
27.4.53 ‘The Songs of Britain’ – all tracks
2.7.56 Westminster Waltz
12.2.58 Proud Canvas, Bird Charmer, Jockey on the Carousel – these three tracks were recorded in stereo, but originally issued on the EP only in mono
It is likely that the Stephen Foster tracks, and the 1958 sessions, were recorded at Broadhurst Gardens in London. The other tracks were probably recorded at Kingsway Hall.
Robert Farnon and his Orchestra
As many members of the Robert Farnon Society already know, Robert Farnon is a self-confessed lover of folk music, so when Decca asked him to arrange and conduct a selection of famous airs associated with the British Isles in honour of the Coronation of H.M Queen Elizabeth II in 1953, it was like being let loose in a sweet shop and told to savour all the goodies on the shelves.
It was perhaps a pity that he was only allowed a 10" LP, but it has to be remembered that long-playing records were expensive luxuries in the early 1950s, and the smaller discs (the same size as the familiar 78s they were gradually replacing) were considerably cheaper than the 12" ‘big brothers’ that would eventually become the standard format of sound reproduction.
Nevertheless in his album The Songs of Britain Bob Farnon managed to create eight brilliant orchestrations that cleverly captured, in turn, the majesty, romance, humour, sentimentality and sense of tradition that are intrinsic values inherent in the finest folk melodies that have been handed down through many generations.
The selection opens quietly with the fife and drums announcing the approach of a military band, which soon turns out to be a full concert orchestra. The British Grenadiers is probably the most famous march associated with the British Army, and Farnon’s clever score gives the impression of a band marching by on parade, finally moving on into the distance – until the final chords! Delicate strings support a solo viola in an unusual setting of Drink to me only with thine eyes. This is a very old song: Ben Jonson’s lyric dates from the 17th century, with the melody originally published as a glee around one hundred years later. The idea of lapsing into a 20th century slow foxtrot might alarm purists, but in the skilful hands of Farnon it works admirably. (It is not always easy to distinguish between the viola and a cello. Bob assures us that he used a viola in this arrangement; as he put it to us just recently – "Thanks to William Walton, the viola became a respectable instrument!")
The Lincolnshire Poacher is a carefree vagabond, who may be the scourge of local landowners, but is regarded as a popular hero for his harmless lawbreaking. Robert Farnon is a master at portraying humour in music, and his witty arrangement also suggests that the poacher enjoys the occasional drink as the climax to his escapades. In complete contrast the focus shifts across the Irish Sea from England to the Emerald Isle, for perhaps the most famous of all the folk melodies to emanate from that mystical realm. The strings predominate in Farnon’s affectionate and sensitive setting of The Londonderry Air, a work that has achieved popularity throughout the world. It is regarded as a genuine folk melody, having been handed down through many generations until it was eventually published in the middle of the nineteenth century.
It’s back to England where rustic merry-making is the order of the day in Strawberry Fair, with the muted brass, wood-winds, perky strings, and xylophone all clamouring for attention. After a brief pause to restore their energy levels, the dancers regroup for one final major burst of merrymaking. Robert Farnon next takes us north of the border to Scotland for Annie Laurie, the only non-traditional work in this collection, although Lady Scott’s melody has long achieved the status of a national air. It is introduced by the oboe, leading to a big swell of strings that dwells and lingers upon the passionate melody, subsequently taken up by the full orchestra.
The remaining area of Britain to be represented is Wales, and Farnon’s gift of being able to conjure up a serene, pastoral mood is perfectly suited to All Through The Night. Solo violin and harp set the tender scene right from the start, with the strings of the orchestra soon surging to embrace this ethereal melody.
To conclude this journey around the British Isles, we return to England for Early One Morning. Farnon originally orchestrated this bouncy folk song when he was musical director for the film "Spring in Park Lane" (1948). He re-worked his score for this album, using as the opening passage the sequence where Anna Neagle is seen walking along a fashionable Mayfair Street, only to be somewhat surprised when her front door is opened by Michael Wilding, instead of her usual butler. Such things used to happen in films light years ago! In one of his typical scores like this, Farnon employs the whole orchestra, so we hear the wood-winds almost in a question and answer session with the strings and muted brass. The melody happily flits around until it is finally, and firmly, grasped by the full orchestra which majestically builds into one of the finest musical climaxes that Robert Farnon has ever created.
The second 10" LP featured on this CD is Stephen Foster Melodies played by The Robert Farnon Octet (as opposed to the full orchestra, on all the other tracks). The smaller instrumentation allowed for a kind of chamber music quality which certainly suits some of the numbers, which were mostly composed in the middle of the 19th century, and would therefore have been played at the time by similar sized ensembles, both professional and amateur.
Stephen Collins Foster was born in Lawrenceville (now part of Pittsburgh), Pennsylvania on 4 July 1826, the ninth in a family of ten children. He died in New York on 13 January 1864, and during his 37 years he became America’s first professional popular songwriter, with more than 200 songs to his credit. Reports suggest that he received a basic formal musical training from a German immigrant, Henry Kleber, and he started writing songs when he was only 14; his first big success was Oh! Susanna, published in 1848. His inspiration seems to have been the singing and dancing of negroes he heard as a child on the wharves of the Ohio River, and he was profoundly affected by the traditional minstrel shows. Occasionally he employed lyric writers, but most of his best-known works featured his own words and music.
He married Jane McDowell in 1850, and composed Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair for her in 1854 when they were separated. (Way Down Upon the) Swanee River is also known as The Old Folks at Home and it appeared in 1851 which seems to have been one of Foster’s busiest years for new works. He wrote it for the famous Christy Minstrels, and Foster apparently permitted E.P. Christy to name himself as the composer. Camptown Races had been published the year before, and it became very popular with children; its alternative title was Gwine to Rune All Night - an unusual line to the ears of the many singers who have performed it over the years.
Come Where my Love Lies Dreaming was probably another tribute to his lost love. It comes from 1855 at the start of a five year period which saw far fewer new songs than previously. By the time Foster wrote Beautiful Dreamer in 1862 he was again producing numerous works at an increasing rate. But when he died from a fall induced by a fever that would have been easily curable today, he had just 37 cents in his pocket. His lack of riches can be blamed on the absence of enforceable copyright laws, and the impracticality of collecting performing rights fees at that time.
Two numbers in this collection are apparently not the original works of Foster. Sweet and Low surely evolved as a spiritual, with lyrics ‘borrowed’ from Alfred Tennyson. It would seem that a Joseph Barnby published it in 1863, claiming it as his own. Deep River also appears in reference books as a traditional black spiritual, published in 1917, but who is to say that many years before it had not reached the ears of Foster and his contemporaries?
Over the years, within the RFS there have occasionally been conflicting views about whether or not Bob actually conducted – or indeed arranged – the tracks on this LP. Your Editor discussed this with Bob at some length when writing the notes for this CD, and the explanation that follows will hopefully settle any friendly arguments once and for all! Bob clearly remembers conducting the sessions, but Bruce Campbell probably assisted with some of the scores. It was still a case of a ‘master and pupil’ relationship, with Campbell gradually learning more about the skills of arranging and composing. Farnon’s own busy schedule meant that he would occasionally sketch out the bones of a score, which Campbell would embellish before handing it back to the maestro for the final finishing touches.
Bruce Campbell was a fellow Canadian who had come to Britain in the 1930s to play trombone with various dance bands including Jack Hylton, Jack Harris, Sid Millward and Hugo Rignold. Eventually he developed into a talented light music composer in his own right.
‘Stephen Foster Melodies’ was recorded mainly for the American market, and it provides some interesting contrasts with the big orchestral sounds that had been associated with Farnon up to that time.
The remaining tracks in this collection come from various 78s, 45s and LPs that have escaped the net so far in Vocalion’s major project to reissue the vast majority of Robert Farnon’s orchestral recordings for Decca. In the early days of LPs, a few releases were made up of 78s, rather than special projects purely for LPs. Some of Bob’s 10" albums fall into this category, and because of the contents they have not been suitable for reissue on CD as individual albums, in the same way as major projects such as "From the Highlands" or "Canadian Impressions". Now those remaining tracks have been assembled, the only few exceptions being well-known numbers ("Comedians’ Galop" and "Huckle-Buckle" are two examples) which are already available elsewhere on recently released CDs.
The Vernon Duke song April In Paris hardly needs any introduction. At one time it was in the repertoire of almost every band and orchestra, and Robert Farnon often included it in his radio programmes. Richard Addinsell’s charming Invitation Waltz is also known as ‘Ring Round The Moon’ - the title of Christopher Fry’s play, produced in 1950, for which this haunting piece was specially composed.
Robert Farnon never actually got around to making an LP of Cole Porter’s music, although he featured the works of this American genius on many occasions. Just One Of Those Things finds the orchestra on top form, with brief solos from Sidney Bright (piano – brother of the famous bandleader Geraldo) and Dave Goldberg (guitar). Kiss Me Again, Shadow Waltz and Donkey Serenade were all popular songs from 1930s film musicals, suitably dressed up to date in Farnon’s own stunning orchestrations. However the next item, Persian Nocturne, is the one track on this CD where the Farnon touch is missing as arranger. Just after the war he got to know the famous Austrian composer Robert Stolz very well, and they both admired each other’s music-making. Stolz had taken some of Farnon’s early compositions to perform in Germany, so Bob returned the compliment by recording one of his own Stolz favourites. The arranger is unknown – maybe the composer himself?
While Robert Farnon was making a name for himself in Britain as one of the leading light music composers, Leroy Anderson was doing the same in North America. He had a string of big successes, such as Sleigh Ride, Blue Tango and Belle Of The Ball. When Waltzing Cat came out, Decca asked Bob to record it, and it is interesting that his arrangement is unlike any of the other 78s of this tune that were around at the same time.
To complete this compilation we have four Robert Farnon compositions. Proud Canvas is simply a wonderful piece of ‘sea music’, conjuring up the great days of sail. Not long after he composed it, Farnon was signed to score the seafaring epic "Captain Horatio Hornblower". The eldest son of Pat and Bob Farnon is David, himself a successful musician with many fine compositions to his credit. When he was very young, one day his mother made the comment that he could "charm the birds out of the trees". At the time his father was just finishing a new piece which lacked a title: Bird Charmer provided the answer.
During his time working on films produced by Herbert Wilcox (such as "Spring in Park Lane" and "Maytime in Mayfair"), Bob found himself scoring for dance routines dreamed up by Philip and Betty Buchel. Philip liked to write the odd tune, but he always needed help in finishing it. So from the few brief notes of one of Philip’s sketchy melodies, Bob createdThe Jockey On The Carousel.
Our final track introduces again one of the most successful numbers that Robert Farnon has composed. Like so many of his works, it was originally written as background music for Chappell’s Record Music Library, and started appearing in newsreels and radio programmes. The public quickly took note, and Bob made a commercial recording for Decca. The melody won him his first Ivor Novello Award, as the best piece of Light Orchestral Music in 1956. Perhaps some of its charm lies in the opening chimes. Originally Bob had been using a working title "The First Waltz", but his publishers suggested incorporating the famous Westminster chimes which naturally meant a change of name. Some years later Bob did compose another "First Waltz" which is a delightful melody, but it hasn’t achieved the same fame.
As stated at the top of this feature, the major project to reissue Robert Farnon’s Decca albums from the 1950s is virtually complete. However, readers will be aware that he continued to be active in the recording studios long after his ‘salad days’ with Decca came to an end. There are still many fine Farnon treasures patiently waiting to be rediscovered for a new lease of life on CD!
1 THE WIDE WORLD 2 OLYMPIAN MARCH Michael Hankinson and his Orchestra 3 RHAPSODY FOR VIOLIN AND ORCHESTRA Robert Farnon and his Orchestra Steven Staryk - violin soloist 4 SCENIC WONDERS Bratislava Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted by Peter Breiner 5 I SAW MY LADY WEEP Robert Farnon and his Orchestra 6 SWALLOW FLIGHT 7 LAKE LOUISE 8 THE MAGIC ISLAND Paul Zaza and his Orchestra 9 CASCADES TO THE SEA – CONCERTO FOR PIANO AND ORCHESTRA Bratislava Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted by David Farnon Peter Breiner - piano soloist 10 HOW BEAUTIFUL IS NIGHT Robert Farnon and his Orchestra 11 CRUISE WORLD Bratislava Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted by David Farnon 12 HOLLYWOOD STARS Bratislava Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted by Peter Breiner 13 SPORTS ARENA 14 HOCKEY NIGHT Stateside Marching Band conducted by Charles Yates
All compositions by Robert Farnon
While still in his teens, back home in Canada, Robert Farnon had a yearning to compose classical music. He recently said: "At that time I thought of nothing else but writing serious music. And my teacher encouraged me to just start and see what would happen. I had a lot of ideas in my head, from which my Symphony No. 1 in D Flat Major was born. I wrote it during two summer holidays: one, in 1939, in northern Ontario, and the following summer out in Vancouver on Grouse Mountain. When I finished the score, I presented it to Sir Ernest MacMillan to get his opinion of it. He liked it very much, and decided to perform it with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra."
MacMillan conducted the first performance in January 1941, and it soon came to the attention of Eugene Ormandy who introduced it to American audiences with his famous Philadelphia Orchestra during a week of concerts in April 1942.
Elated by the reception to his first symphony, Farnon composed a second – in B Major (the ‘Ottawa Symphony’) – which was also conducted by MacMillan in a CBC broadcast.
This promising career was cut short when World War 2 intervened, and Captain Robert Farnon was posted to Britain with his Canadian Army Band. Serious music had to be forgotten, at least temporarily. The troops wanted popular music, and Bob and his musicians duly obliged.
Over the years admirers of Farnon’s more serious works have yearned to hear these symphonies, but the Maestro has always politely resisted all attempts to persuade him to release them for further public performances. True there are problems with missing scores (some of Farnon’s works were lost at sea en route from Canada to Britain during the war), but Farnon admits that the main reason is that he doesn’t consider that they had sufficient merit. In practice, these works have not been completely ‘lost’, because several of the themes have appeared in later compositions.
Fortunately Farnon’s army service proved to be not the end of his musical aspirations, but the launch of his multi-talented career on to an international stage. His talent for composing light orchestral cameos resulted in hundreds of delightful works for Chappells, and proved to be the basis of his successful career for decades.
Now in his mid-eighties, Robert Farnon is still composing and arranging from the serenity of his home on the beautiful Channel Island of Guernsey. Today he tends to concentrate more on delicate tone poems, rather than the bright, bouncy numbers which established his fame over half a century ago. Whatever he chooses to write, he knows that a loyal army of admirers across the world is waiting to marvel at the rich orchestrations which have become his trademark.
Many of the recordings on this CD are being released commercially for the first time. Composed in 1983, the opening number The Wide World presents the traditional rich sound of a Farnon composition extolling the virtues of nature in its finest form. Many of his works have a scenic feel, no doubt influenced by his upbringing in Canada.
Olympian March was written for a British Press Association Centenary Concert in June 1983, where it was performed by the Grimethorpe Colliery Band conducted by Ray Parr; this version, for full orchestra, was scored at the request of Farnon’s publishers. Concert marches are another of Farnon’s specialities, and his catchy themes have enlivened many reports of sporting events in television and cinema newsreels.
There are two major works in this collection, revealing the more serious side of Farnon’s composing aspirations. In 1958 the BBC commissioned him to write a new work for its annual Light Music Festival, and he chose to compose a Rhapsody for Violin and Orchestra, being a showpiece for the famous violinist Raymond Cohen, for many years the leader of the Robert Farnon Orchestra. Initially the work was heard in a shorter form, but soon afterwards Farnon expanded it to its present length, and its premiere recording (with Raymond Cohen) was made in September 1959 at Walthamstow Town Hall. The work soon attracted the attention of other violinists, notably the Canadian Steven Staryk, heard on this CD. Once again Walthamstow Town Hall was the choice of venue (its ideal acoustics were much favoured by record companies at the time) and the session took place just over a year later, on 3 December 1960. Comparisons between the Cohen and Staryk versions are fascinating: as the first performer of the work, Cohen’s interpretation was regarded as definitive, but the speed at which Staryk handles some of the solo passages (particularly the scherzando section) left many listeners gasping in admiration.
Born in Toronto in 1932, Staryk first came to prominence aged only 24 when chosen by Sir Thomas Beecham as concertmaster and soloist of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. After three successful years he resigned to take up a similar position with the Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam, and as Professor at the Amsterdam Conservatorium. Later he moved to the Chicago and Toronto symphonies. His career as a leading international artist was probably hampered by his aversion to publicity, and his air of detachment on stage. Injuries forced him to retire from active playing in 1986, and for the next decade he taught at the University of Washington in Seattle.
Comparing the two interpretations of his work, Robert Farnon recalls how the technical brilliance of Steven Staryk contrasted with the romantic feel of Cohen’s interpretation; he regards both performances as being equally valid.
Steven Staryk’s version of Farnon’s Rhapsody was previously only available on LPs with limited distribution, so this is the first opportunity for many music lovers to hear this virtuoso performance.
Scenic Wonders was composed and recorded in 1999. As the title aptly suggests, it gives Farnon the opportunity to indulge his passion for the spectacular beauty of his homeland.
I Saw My Lady Weep was originally called Blue Moment, but a change of title was considered desirable for this April 1966 recording.
Canada is again the inspiration for the next three works – Swallow Flight, Lake Louiseand The Magic Island, which were commissioned in 1984 for a selection of works with a summery, outdoor feel.
The second important work on this CD is Farnon’s latest major composition. This is the premiere commercial release of Cascades To The Sea – Tone Poem For Piano And Orchestra, with Peter Breiner as solo pianist. Robert Farnon’s son David is conducting the Bratislava Radio Symphony Orchestra in this recording made in March 1998. The work was commissioned in October 1997 by Mrs. Donna Grescoe Dojack in celebration of the 80th birthday of her husband, Charles E. Dojack. A short poem on the title page of the score reads: "Music is like painting in Sound. You take it into your inner heart and never lose it. It is eternally mysterious. Anon. "
In the early 1940s Robert Farnon wrote another work which he also called Cascades To The Sea. Although it was performed during the war, he felt that he never fully completed it, and he only retained the middle theme which he eventually developed into In a Calm. The two ‘Cascades’ – composed more than half a century apart - bear little resemblance to each other.
This new work is outlined in Farnon’s own programme note: "A descriptive composition in one movement for piano and orchestra, the music commences at the source of a mountain stream which wends its way, increasing in volume and speed, to the brink of a waterfall, descending to the river below and joining its path of adventure through the beauties of countryside, the excitement of rapids, the fluvial activities of a delta, eventually reaching the grandeur of the open sea where it meets a receding tide and joins the flow to the calm of a distant horizon."
Commenting upon the actual task of composing Cascades, Farnon said that the work flowed naturally, and was virtually completed by Christmas 1997. "It was as if it was something I had been waiting to compose all my life."
The piano soloist, Peter Breiner, was born in 1957 in Humenne, now part of Slovakia. His involvement in a wide variety of musical styles finds him recording jazz and pop, as well as symphonic music; he writes for films, is a musical journalist and also hosts television programmes. Since March 1992 he has been based in Toronto, and he travels the world conducting and playing the piano.
At the same April 1966 session for I Saw My Lady Weep, Farnon decided to record again How Beautiful Is Night, since his original version was in mono. This has become one of his most popular tone poems, made recognisable worldwide thanks to recordings by Sarah Vaughan, Tony Bennett and George Shearing. The inspiration was a poem of the same name by Robert Southey.
Two recent works illustrate Farnon’s penchant for full-blown glamorous numbers: Cruise World (1998) and Hollywood Stars (1999) remind us that this is the same composer who gave us Journey Into Melody and A Star Is Born.
The mood changes for the final two numbers in this collection. Marching bands are a popular feature at many sporting and outdoor events in North America, and it was almost inevitable that Robert Farnon would be persuaded to score something for this musical phenomenon that attracts so many amateur enthusiasts. Sports Arena was actually written as the signature tune for a TVS television series in 1983, but Hockey Night is purely a tribute to a game which still enjoys strong support across the Atlantic – both on grass and ice. The six main notes of the melody are based on the famous ‘charge’ theme which is always used in ice hockey games in North America, usually played live in the arena by a resident electric organist.
Although his work can be readily identified by his many admirers, Robert Farnon is far from a typical composer. He loves both jazz and the classics, and has worked with opera singers and top popular crooners. Jumping Bean is vastly different from Gateway To The West; it is hard to believe that the composer of the theme music for Colditz was also responsible for Peanut Polka. Such diversity, and mastery of so many varied styles of music, is represented in this latest collection of Farnon’s composing skills. It makes a truly valuable, and essential, addition to the existing vast repertoire of his recorded works.