(Robert Busby)
Queen’s Hall Light Orchestra
Analysed by Robert Walton

The Chappell recorded music library created quite a stir in the music business when it came into being in 1941 with a series of 78s specifically designed for the use of radio, films and especially newsreels. Not only were they perfect for the job but many of the compositions proved to be extremely popular in their own right with the public as well. Many were released as singles. In fact the whole world embraced them. Never in the history of music was there such a unique sound with the highest quality of original tunes, brilliant arrangements and outstanding performances. A Window of Wonder! If it hadn’t been for the requirement of background music, these sounds might never have seen the light of day.

Occasionally some films used them for their entire soundtracks. I forget the title of the first one I saw in 1957 but the music clearly made an impression on me. It became a sort of quiz when I kept guessing what the next title was. Mind you although it was a novel idea, the music was not really suitable for soundtracks. There’s still nothing that can beat commissioning an official composer for such an enterprise to have overall control over the music and dealing personally with each scene.

The second movie I saw which used Chappell mood music recordings was from 1948 entitled “It Happened in Soho” starring Richard Murdoch. It opened with Robert Busby’s “Big City”. I discovered it in the current television series “Talking Pictures”. It was like Charles Williams with a big difference - a touch of Farnon. Williams was the first composer selected for the series. He was very professional and a great craftsman and his style became the prototype for many of the tunes that followed, but sometimes he lacked the emotional input and modern harmonies that later writers wrote.

A thrilling opening quotes Gershwin’s I Got Rhythm, London Bridge is Falling Down and suitable fill-in music emanating from Busby’s pencil. The whole track might be only 1:27 but what a great introduction. After more movement, a gorgeous string melody assisted by flutes and bells gradually climbs the heights providing the necessary passion and intensity. We are now completely immersed into Busby country. The end is essentially the same as the start with a flourish, before the bells highlight a glorious finish.

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09 May

Pourcel Portraits

Written by

Instrumentals À La Française
Franck Pourcel And His Orchestra
Sepia 1352 (74:34)

This is the real deal. I was delighted when it eventually plopped through my letter box – thank you, Postie – as the French composer, arranger and conductor, who died 20 years ago, has long been my favourite continental purveyor of our kind of music. And by all accounts he was a perfectionist but a nice guy. The delightful photo of him on the front of the booklet is an indication of the delights on the CD.

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04 May

It’s A Lovely Day Tomorrow

Written by

(Irving Berlin)
Analysed by Robert Walton

This is a song written in 1939 by a certain Siberian weather forecaster named Irving Berlin. It was inspired by a conversation between him and the British/Hungarian film producer Alexander Korda in a New York taxicab.

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(Irving Berlin)
Analysed by Robert Walton

This is a song written in 1939 by a certain Siberian weather forecaster named Irving Berlin. It was inspired by a conversation between him and the British/Hungarian film producer Alexander Korda in a New York taxicab. The Munich agreement had just made both men momentarily miserable. The producer asked Berlin if he’d written a war song yet. A few blocks later the composer came up with a tune and lyrics. His head must have been swimming with tunes! (Perhaps something for Esther Williams was also brewing in the brain).

It’s A Lovely Day Tomorrow was first heard in the 1940 Broadway musical Louisiana Purchase introduced by Irene Bordoni. It was recorded by Bea Wain and Tommy Dorsey with vocal by Frank Sinatra. Another Berlin “day” tune was the more grammatically correct It’s A Lovely Day Today from his 1950 musical “Call Me Madam”.

Despite it being virtually forgotten, It’s A Lovely Day Tomorrow, a strongly optimistic melody in the key of C, still stands up well in the 21st century rather like a hymn. I remember it well. It was 1940 and I was at kindergarten. Come to think of it, it would have made an excellent national anthem. Most state-inspired tunes are pretty boring. Everyone remembers the strain but can’t actually place it. Like The Stars Will Remember the second 8 bar phrase suggests the song is about to finish but it’s only a false alarm. They both work. The melody of It’s A Lovely Day Tomorrow has Vera Lynn written all over it rather like We’ll Meet Again, which became her theme. A Berlin tune always seems to find its way to just the right artist and sounds like it wrote itself. Two other tunes that attached themselves to Lynn and were also all the rage at the time: There’ll Always Be An England and another American original The White Cliffs Of Dover.

However the sensational thing about It’s A Lovely Day Tomorrow was its perfect climax near the end on the word SAY (F minor). Very few songs have such a well placed summit with a large natural pause, giving the last few words “tomorrow is a lovely day” maximum emphasis. It’s as if the tune has been in a kind of knot and after direct contact with SAY has immediately untangled. I don’t know about you, but every time I land on something like this, I get a real feeling of peace and tranquility while wallowing in the wonderful sound it creates. It’s the greatest compliment a song can receive.

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23 Apr

Korngold Violin Concerto & String Sextet

Written by

Andrew Haveron, Sinfonia Of London Chamber
Ensemble, Rtế Concert Orchestra, Cond. John Wilson
Chandos CHAN20135 (56’)

I referred to this concerto in my previous Korngold review (CHSA5220) last year. It was written 30 years after the young composer had been lavishly praised by Richard Strauss, and who then forsook classical music to become the toast of Hollywood...

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16 Mar

Saint-Saëns Ascanio – Ballet

Written by

Malmö Symphony Orchestra / Jun Märkl
Naxos 8.574033 (73:38)

Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1921) – born in Paris: a composer, organist, conductor and pianist – is best known for his Carnival of the Animals (particularly ‘The Swan’), Danse Macabre and Third ‘Organ’ Symphony, but he wrote a lot more besides.

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29 Feb

Filarmonica Della a Scala / Riccardo Chailly

Written by

Decca 4831591 (74:22)

Celebrated Italian conductor, Riccardo Chailly – recently named Diapson D’Or magazine ‘Artist of the Year’ – and his Milanese opera house orchestra have already twice been enthusiastically reviewed on this website: firstly, when he became musical director in 2017 (Decca 4831148) and then for their lauded 2019 Fellini album (Decca 4832869). In this latest release they turn their attention to Luigi Cherubini (1760-1842), who Beethoven regarded as the greatest of his contemporaries.

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10 Feb

Limavady

Written by

By Robert Walton

One place my wife and I had always wanted to see was the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland. And conveniently now living in the Republic of Ireland, we were in the perfect position to visit this minor Wonder of the World.

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By Robert Walton

One place my wife and I had always wanted to see was the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland. And conveniently now living in the Republic of Ireland, we were in the perfect position to visit this minor Wonder of the World. When we eventually did get around to catching up with the famous formation near Portrush Co Antrim we weren’t disappointed. Associated with the opening of the Atlantic Ocean in the Tertiary Period about 60 million years ago, this mass of basalt columns caused by volcanic activity left a lasting impression on us.

So, stimulated by Ireland’s most distinctive geological creation, my wife suddenly had a bright idea. “Let’s go to Limavady while we are in the area”. What’s so speciaI about Limavady, I hear you cry? It only happens to be the home of Danny Boy, that’s all! Knowing we weren’t a million miles from the market town, we followed the map in a southwesterly direction towards the origin of a ‘musical’ Wonder of the World... the Londonderry Air, better known as Danny Boy. Many musicologists believe it’s the world’s most beautiful melody. I wouldn’t argue with that. Certainly Mozart or Beethoven couldn’t come up with such a perfect composition.

After we parked, we were welcomed by a smiling traffic warden who assured us she had already done her rounds for the day and after our free hour we could stay as long as we liked. We were beginning to warm to Limavady! At the tourist office we received yet another greeting from a charming girl who was clearly impressed with our prior knowledge and interest in the song.

Right opposite on a pub wall was a huge picture of schoolteacher Jane Ross who first heard the tune on a market day in 1851. It was played by local blind fiddler Jimmy McCurry who was more than happy to repeat it so that Jane could write it down. The violinist was a native of a rural townland called Myroe. He used to perform outside the Burns and Lairds Shipping Line Office opposite Jane Ross’s house. Some historians believe the tune was influenced by an ancient ditty known as O’Cahan’s Lament. Perhaps, said sceptics, Jane composed it herself in the same way that Fritz Kreisler had fooled everyone that some of his tunes were attributed to various 17th and 18th century composers. However the general consensus was that Jane was merely the annotator.

She apparently sent the manuscript to a music collector friend in Dublin, George Petrie, President of the Society and Publication of Irish Melodies who published it in 1855. Eventually it went viral as The Londonderry Air. The haunting tune remained wordless for many years despite attempts at finding the perfect match. The world would have to wait until 1913 when Bath lawyer Fred Weatherly wrote the definitive lyric to the tune sent from his sister-in-law in America. In fact it had been written in advance. Incredibly Fred had the title Danny Boy already in his files, whose words miraculously fitted the melody.

So if you ever find yourself in Limavady spare a thought for Jane Ross the true saviour of Danny Boy. To this day a Blue Plaque hangs on the wall of her home at 51 Main Street Limavady commemorating one of the world’s most sublime songs. Jane is buried in Christ Church graveyard just across the road. Over the years Danny Boy has been recorded by thousands of artists and orchestras from John McCormack to Elvis Presley.

But in my experience one of the most moving versions of Danny Boy was by a 90 year old resident of a Ballinrobe care home, Mary from the Irish village of Ballyfarnon. And talking of Farnon, the greatest orchestral arrangement just has to be that of Robert Farnon.

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06 Feb

Mademoiselle In New York

Written by

Lucienne Renaudin Vary (trumpet)
BBC Concert Orchestra, Bill Elliott
Warner Classics 9029540710 (59’)

Here’s a discovery – thank you Classic FM – a 21-year-old French trumpeter, who is also a siffleuse, and a singer of sorts...

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About Geoff 123
Geoff Leonard was born in Bristol. He spent much of his working career in banking but became an independent record producer in the early nineties, specialising in the works of John Barry and British TV theme compilations.
He also wrote liner notes for many soundtrack albums, including those by John Barry, Roy Budd, Ron Grainer, Maurice Jarre and Johnny Harris. He co-wrote two biographies of John Barry in 1998 and 2008, and is currently working on a biography of singer, actor, producer Adam Faith.
He joined the Internet Movie Data-base (www.imdb.com) as a data-manager in 2001 and looked after biographies, composers and the music-department, amongst other tasks. He retired after nine years loyal service in order to continue writing.