During the course of my travels over the light music segment of the music repertoire, through various selections, some familiar, others less so, I came upon a rather unique situation upon revisiting a piece that I've known for the longest time.

That piece is David Rose's "Gay Spirits," which was one of the earliest light music selections that I acquainted myself with, and incidentally, even before encountering the composer's "Holiday for Strings" which would inevitably remind me of "Gay Spirits," as these two pieces are remarkably similar in their bearings. But I didn't know the name of the selection due to its manner of usage as accompanying music in what they refer to in the UK as a test card and in the USA as a test pattern. As hours of daily broadcasting have considerably expanded over the years, one is much less likely to encounter these intervals between live broadcasts, at least here in the USA. But due to the circumstances of my initial exposure to this piece, I was not to obtain the much desired particulars about it - the title and composer - until a few more years had passed. And this latter took place on a radio show entitled, "The Charlie Stark Music Shop" which I had occasion to refer to when commenting on Bob Walton's analysis of "Frenesi."

In one of my earliest articles on this site, "Differing Versions of the Same Set Light Music Selections," I compared differing versions of the same pieces as presented by different conductors. In some cases, the versions were identical though by diverse conductors who adopted different tempos or emphasized different facets of the piece. In others, the orchestration was noticeably different or perhaps the piece was in some manner abridged or extended, either by revision or by the necessity of fitting the selection on a single 78/45 RPM side. But in all these cases, the piece still remained essentially recognizable and thus easily identifiable as such.

In the case of "Gay Spirits" I have noted a situation that is totally different from anything I referred to above, as here we have a transmogrification of a piece that is utterly different from the original presentation of it, though still bearing the same title. It uses only one small feature of the original and then proceeds along quite its own lines. Those who are expecting to hear an updated version of the original will likely emerge from it quite disappointed, at least if they have a special affection for the original version, as I have.

To be sure, the so-called original version I refer to that came out on disc in the early 1950s was preceded by an earlier version, evidenced by comparing this with the piano sheet music publication of the piece. In this latter, the introduction to the main idea is slightly longer by a few bars and the reprise section is given in its entirety. More than likely, Mr. Rose felt compelled to make these very slight abridgements out of concern whether the complete version could be handily fit on the side of a single disc.

In 1964, in the process of scoring for a film entitled "Quick before it Melts," he used a small portion of this material in this film, and subsequently, in a desire to preserve some of this on disc, created a boiled down version of it, not necessarily in the same order as appearing in the film, and not necessarily in the identical arrangement. This result was released on disc under the same title, "Gay Spirits," as the one that appeared years before, although to all intents and purposes this was an entirely different piece and should clearly not have borne the same title as the earlier one.

Upon listening to it, I heard a rather hard introductory gesture which eventually leads into the lyrical middle section of the earlier piece, in the version that it first appears (with strings) but not identically - I have noted some very slight changes in the melody. This leads to its own middle section - somewhat engaging as to specific material but still difficult for me to relate to the other main idea that was formerly the middle section.

Eventually, this is reprised, and at the end of the statement there is a move that almost suggests that we will next hear the flute version of this melody as in the original, but this does not occur; very soon after, the piece abruptly ends.

One may regard it as a reminiscence of a moment from the film, as obviously Mr. Rose desired to preserve it for some reason, but as an independent movement, for me it simply does not work, although I have already encountered opinions to the contrary, favoring this piece over the original "Gay Spirits." In any event, I would invite debate on this issue.

I should point out that the sister piece, the far better known "Holiday for Strings," has similarly been knocked around for all sorts of usage - I recently watched a choreographic sequence with Cyd Charisse using a version that had a few deviations - with such frequent re-usage, this is bound to occur. But I have encountered nothing with this piece such as I have with "Gay Spirits" and I would hope that the newer piece bearing that title but sharing little in common will never come to supplant the earlier one which I continue to regard as one of David Rose's most quintessential creations.

And I will add that in 1955, Mr. Rose made some changes in regard to "Holiday for Strings," regarding the reprise which was somewhat expanded, and a completely different ending, featuring a slight allusion to the middle section idea. It is still recognizably the same piece, with none of the total overhaul that occurred with "Gay Spirits." But in general, I prefer the more straightforward reprise of the earlier version.

William Zucker

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09 Sep

Next London Light Music Meetings Group meeting on October 9, 2016

Written by

  llmmg1

llmmg2

Our next Spring meeting will take place on Sunday 7th May 2017
and our special guest will be Sigmund Groven,
world famous virtuoso Norwegian harmonica player.

 

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06 Sep

Lap of Luxury

Written by

(Wally Stott)
Analysed by Robert Walton
[Written before the composer underwent a change of identity to Angela Morley]

Just mention the name Wally Stott/Angela Morley and that’s your guarantee of the highest quality music.

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(Wally Stott)
Analysed by Robert Walton
[Written before the composer underwent a change of identity to Angela Morley]

Just mention the name Wally Stott/Angela Morley and that’s your guarantee of the highest quality music. And that’s not just in the orchestration department that was this composer’s first forte. Once ‘up and running’ with compositions for the Chappell Library, all Stott’s tunes just oozed with class from the word go. There was no stopping him after the first effort A Canadian in Mayfair inspired by his great hero Robert Farnon’s Portrait of a Flirt. Although unquestionably influenced by Farnon, Stott went on to develop a very personal style that became quickly established in the world of light music.

Take Lap of Luxury, for example, written in 1957. It might not have been immediately obvious but the model for this composition was Farnon’s Westminster Waltz even though Lap of Luxury was in 4/4 time. I must admit I never noticed this until I took a closer listen. The harmonies might have been more complex but there was no denying the spell of Farnon isn’t far away.

After a brief mysterious introduction and not wasting any time getting down to business, we go straight into the ravishing Lap of Luxury, effectively Westminster Waltz as a foxtrot. But not for long. The melody soon goes off on its own tangent aided by some rich chords giving the feeling of absolute opulence. One might say from ‘lush’ to plush! If this tune doesn’t give you goose pimples I don’t know what will. After two gorgeous jazzy chords we’re back to Westminster Waltz territory again with an oboe solo and much less tension. Completing the first chorus the strings in close harmony produce another dazzling display of pure diamond-studded glitz.

Taking a leaf out of Stott’s Tinkerbell, two bars of playful warm-up woodwind continue to play when the tune restarts enriching the proceedings. Climbing to a new key the final 16 bars only confirm his arranging prowess with his love of strings shining through.

The lack of a bridge doesn’t seem to matter, as some compositions just don’t need one. And the fact that there are virtually no filler passages is a tribute to such a strong tune that just playing it through does it full justice.

The Chappell recording of Lap of Luxury is available on the Guild CD “The Show Goes On” (GLCD 5149)

Robert Walton

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06 Sep

Tony Clayden acquires the record collection of the late Alan Bunting

Written by

Alan Bunting, who passed away in January 2016, amassed a huge collection of CDs, LPs, ‘45’ and ‘78’ rpm records, all of which have now been purchased from Alan’s family by Tony Clayden.

Amongst several thousand items are a great number of light-orchestral recordings by Percy Faith, Ray Conniff, David Rose, David Carroll and many others. Some are in mint, unused condition, whilst many others had been pre-owned and were obtained by Alan from all over the world.

Also included is a very large collection of record catalogues, many dating-back to well before WW2, and a selection of music reference books.

These will all require a great deal of sorting-out, but eventually it is hoped to produce a definitive list.

In the meantime Tony invites preliminary enquiries from serious enthusiasts who are potentially interested in this material. He may be contacted as follows:-

by email - Send Tony an email
by telephone - 020-8449 5559 (from outside the UK +44 20 8449 5559)
by post - 49 Alexandra Road, Well End, BOREHAMWOOD, Hertfordshire, WD6 5PB, England.

 

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01 Sep

Wagner - 'The Ring' Without Words

Written by

ORCHESTRAL HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE RING CYCLE

Berlin Philhamoniker / Lorin Maazel
Telarc CD80154

Richard Wagner (1813-83) is a “Marmite” musician –

Review by © Peter Burt 2016.

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26 Aug

Silent Night played by The Queens Hall Light Orchestra

Written by

To celebrate STUDIOCANAL's 40th Anniversary 4K release of Nicolas Roeg's 'The Man Who Fell To Earth', starring David Bowie, UMC will be releasing for the first time in any format the original soundtrack, containing seminal pieces by Stomu Yamash'ta and John Phillips, who composed specifically for the film.

This long-awaited release is significant for the Robert Farnon Society only because it includes Silent Night played by The Queens Hall Light Orchestra, conducted by Robert Farnon.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Man-Who-Fell-Earth/dp/B01J71M76C/ref=sr_1_1_twi_aud_2?s=music&ie=UTF8&qid=1472160225&sr=1-1&keywords=The+Man+Who+Fell+To+Earth+Soundtrack

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23 Aug

Frenesi

Written by

(Alberto Dominguez)
Artie Shaw version analysed by Robert Walton

Whenever I play Frenesi in public, I normally get absolutely no reaction whatsoever from anyone in the audience. I don’t know what that says about my playing or indeed about one of the catchiest Latin American melodies ever.


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(Alberto Dominguez)
Artie Shaw version analysed by Robert Walton

Whenever I play Frenesi in public, I normally get absolutely no reaction whatsoever from anyone in the audience. I don’t know what that says about my playing or indeed about one of the catchiest Latin American melodies ever. Surely you would think Artie Shaw’s fifth million seller of 1940 would have left some sort of impression. The problem could be that the actual tune is not exposed enough in the William Grant Still arrangement but gets drowned in too much improvisation. So if you weren’t a big band fan, it wouldn’t mean a thing. Mind you, Latin tunes have always tended to appeal to the jazz fraternity. You hardly ever hear Frenesi these days on radio but when you do it’s often mispronounced as “Fren-acey”. Just to set the record straight the correct pronunciation rhymes with “Tennessee”.

Here in Galway in the Republic of Ireland there are two recent exceptions to the lack of response I was experiencing, proving that multiculturalism is alive and well. The first at this year’s Claregalway Garden Festival occurred while I was playing a piano purposefully left out to encourage people of all ages and standards to tickle and tackle the ivories. As I went into Frenesi out from the crowd popped a Spanish lady who immediately began singing this classic in her own language. I couldn’t believe my ears! After so many years of silence I was completely bowled over and thrilled by this unexpected turn of events and welcome intrusion. And luckily the key of C seemed to suit her perfectly. I demanded a rerun and without hesitation she instantly obliged. I was in heaven. Now I understood why Frenesi meant “frenzy” in Spanish!

The second occasion was in Ballinrobe at a local care home when I got the shock of my life on hearing someone whistling Frenesi as I was playing it. He turned out to be a Cuban and a new member of staff - not a million miles from Mexico where it was originally composed for the marimba. Must be something to do with the genes or DNA. Again I was totally taken aback. Reveling in the opportunity of having a soloist I continued forth in my new found role as accompanist. Incredibly not one person seemed to notice this unusual musical partnership!

If it hadn’t been for Shaw’s health problems caused by pressure of work, Frenesi might never have surfaced. For it was while recovering in Mexico that Shaw, looking for new material, heard the song played by a mariachi band. It proved to be one of his biggest hits.

So let’s take a closer look at this million selling record that most of the world has apparently never heard of. Basically it’s a series of improvisations by various members of the orchestra with very little Shaw. In 1940, Artie returned with a brand new 33-piece band including 13 strings that were still something of a novelty in the world of swing. The touch of a light orchestra with a dance band was irresistible. Farnon in embryo. If an introduction makes me smile like this one does, I know I’m in for something really special.

Lovely soothing strings lead straight into Shaw’s gorgeous clarinet tone and unique vibrato. The first 8 bars are played straight enough but thereafter Artie goes his own way. So if you were interested in the tune for its own sake, now’s the time to digest it before it gets lost in the rainforest of the arrangement. At least the middle 8 is played straight by Jack Cave on flugelhorn. Clearly swing is now the name of the game, as Shaw proceeds to jazz-up the melody, although to be fair you can still make out the tune. At the end of the first chorus there’s a delightful string quote from the 91-year-old Manhattan sounding as fresh as the day it was born.

The brass swing along nicely for 8 bars, changing key and leading to a 16 bar section featuring strings and flugelhorn. A bar of woodwind decoration harks back to the musical style of Laurel & Hardy, while in the next break we get two bars of Latin American rhythm sounding like Spike Jones invading the middle of a foxtrot. Then a whole chorus is delivered by a tenor sax, followed by a piano playing the middle 8 with flute support. Manny Klein gives us a classy 8 bars of muted trumpet as only he can. Then the band takes us back to Shaw for his final fling for one of the most sudden endings in Big Bandom. The quiet tune descends six notes down the scale to a tango-like finish featuring the single note of the flugelhorn dying away.

Could it be possible that the arranger had a mental block and ran out of ideas? Maybe there was a deadline for getting Frenesi finished? Perhaps the copyist had been screaming for the score? Or even more bizarre, could the time limit on the actual making of the recording in the studio have run out? Whatever the reason, I have to say against all odds it somehow comes off. And after all this analysing, I have to admit it’s beginning to grow on me.

Starting with the sensational Begin The Beguine in 1938, Shaw’s discs sold like hot cakes clocking up eight million by 1941. Surely this must have constituted some sort of record!

My father had the opportunity of actually seeing Artie Shaw’s US Navy Band live in New Zealand during WW2. Before that the band had seen plenty of action in the Pacific Theatre playing jungles, aeroplane hangers, ship decks and even in remote areas camouflaged for protection from enemy attack. My father’s verdict on the music - absolute bilge! Obviously Dad didn’t dig these newer fellas!

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17 Aug

By The Sleepy Lagoon

Written by

(Eric Coates)
LSO version conducted by Sir Charles Mackerras
Analysed by Robert Walton

By The Sleepy Lagoon was written in 1930. Selsey has a lot to answer for, because Coates’ most famous composition was inspired by the view on a warm summer’s evening looking across the “lagoon” from the east beach at Selsey towards Bognor Regis. The sea at that time of day is an incredibly deep Pacific blue, but it appeared pink like an enchanted city with the blue of the Downs behind it. Who needs to go halfway around the world for inspiration, when you’ve got everything in your own backyard?

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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.