ANDRE KOSTELANETZ, THE MAN WHO STARTED IT ALL By Enrique Renard
In one of the countless catalogues I receive that peddle music and movies from the 40s and 50s, I found advertised a George Melachrino Orchestra CD. In fact there are many ads that include The George Melachrino Orchestra in those magazines, except that in the brief text accompanying the one I saw there I read: "If you have ever wondered who’s responsible for starting Easy Listening music, here’s the guy: George Melachrino". And then the text went on to describe the reasons why we should buy the record.( "Easy Listening" is the classification that has been given in the USA as of the 70s, to what in Britain and Europe is known, way more appropriately I think, as "Light Orchestral Music"). Inaccuracies are continually found in the music industry when someone is trying to sell something. Sometimes is just ignorance; others, a selling gimmick.
It’s quite difficult to pinpoint a name that may have started the genre in Britain, or when. Here in the United States, however, the matter is indisputable: the man was Andre Kostelanetz. Vituperated as of the mid-sixties by so called "critics", his work was labeled "elevator music" and consistently disparaged by ignorant rock-and-roll age commentators or by effete snobs who wished to sound "advanced" and who abhorred sentiment and romance as something ludicrous. But history will show, probably much to their displeasure, that Kostelanetz was instrumental in awaking dormant American ears to popular music properly executed. The problem is that that happened by the mid 30s, when these "advanced" critics hadn’t even been born. By the 1970s the disdain and even contempt for Kostelanetz reached its peak when in a mediocre film, Goodbye Columbus, the script calls one of the actors that play a superficial idiot to say: "Oh, yeah…I’m crazy about the semi-classics. I got a whole collection of Andre Kostelanetz records…" After which he slaps his interlocutor buttocks in the typical fashion of a dumb American. The producers of the film had it so clear about the disparaging intention of the remark, that they called Kostelanetz and asked him whether he would object to it. Its not that they cared, but they were afraid of the possibility of a lawsuit. But Kosty, in typical fashion also, smiled and told them "go ahead".
Born in St. Petersburg, Russia, in 1901, to an affluent Jewish family, Andre showed a remarkable musical inclination since childhood. His biographer, Gloria Hammond, has written a very affectionate prose in her book Echoes: Memories of André Kostelanetz, where, surprisingly, very little is said about his music and recording career. The book is full of references aboutKostelanetz personal trips and adventures, but it tells very little of what we, those who followed his music for decades, would really want to know. Still, there are pieces and small narratives from other sources, liner notes, and other bits of information that hopefully will help these lines.
Kostelanetz divided his life in two periods: the first one from the day he was born up to age 21. The second from that age up to his transition at age 79. Why? Simply because he was a happy Russian kid surrounded by the gentle, refined ambiance radiated by his family, which provided for him the opportunity to study and learn music with the best professors available. As a child, his mother took him to the St. Petersburg Conservatory, and he was placed under the training of Madame Koskova, who had been a pupil of its founder, Anton Rubinstein. A few years later, when Kostelanetz was 16, the Bolshevik Revolution started with all the concomitant brutalities and persecutions. And in a city essentially anti-Semitic as the St. Petersburg of those days was, the family saw the need to migrate. His mother and sisters went first to the Caucasus. His father went to Helsinki. But due to several reasons Andre stayed in St. Petersburg. He intended to join his mother, and his sisters later on with a view to finally migrate to the USA. Things didn’t work out as easily though. The family managed to get to the USA but he couldn’t do it until 1922, when he was 21. Those four years starting 1917 in Russia were difficult and dangerous for him, but they contributed to shape the man when faced with the adversities he had to endure.
His family having been pretty fond of opera had him continually exposed to the sound of the operatic human voice, which gave him a good ear for opera singers. Hence he earned his living as a voice coach in his first years in the USA. His ability was soon noticed and it was discovered he could conduct quite effectively. He then became a fixture as opera conductor en New York, and there are no clear indications as to when did he move into symphonic orchestra conducting. In all likelihood it was a gradual thing. But then Kosty eventually became aware of something few had bothered to notice before in the music scene: that classical music was for the very few only, especially in the United States, a relatively new country with none of the European charm and cultural refinement at massive level, music included.
By the mid 30s, technological advances in sound were beginning to appear, and jazz was moving from small brothels in New Orleans into the main stream. Big Bands were starting to appear everywhere, and swing entered the musical consciousness of a nation which, up to that moment, knew very little concerning music beyond country folk tunes. Kosty felt that he could perhaps contribute to somehow raise the musical consciousness of the people of his country of adoption by presenting them popular songs, mainly Tin Pan Alley and Broadway shows numbers, in a symphonic orchestral setting. He had been participating in several radio programs, but mainly accompanying classical singers. Columbia Records somehow got a glimpse of what he could do, and placed him under contract.
At Columbia, the A & R people didn’t take well to Kosty’s idea of recording popular melodies with a symphonic outfit. The cost would be stratospheric, they assumed. But Kostelanetz had an ace in his sleeve. He had fallen in love with Jazz, a musical expression that gave birth to Swing. With bands such as those of Louis Armstrong and Benny Goodman invading radio waves and hitting unsurpassed levels of popularity, Kostelanetz started to incorporate elements of jazz, swing and blues in his arrangements for large orchestra. His best programs and recordings were done at Liederkrantz Hall, a remarkable studio with splendid acoustics, situated in 58th. Street, in New York City. With its rich wood paneling, the place provided a particularly natural sound. In 1931 he headed the radio Pontiac Radio Programs; in 1934, the Chesterfield Radio Programs, from the Hudson Theater, three times a week; and from 1938 to 1943, the Coca-Cola programs, from the Liederkrantz, all of them quite successful. In those days when sound technology and electronics were just beginning to emerge, to have a hall with appropriate acoustic resonance was essential, but not easy to find. Liederkrantz was ideal in that sense, and when years later Columbia turned it into a television studio, Kostelanetz was dismayed. In his biography he is quoted as saying he was "mystified" by the decision. Sound technology advances during the 50s somewhat compensated for the loss, but electronics can never replace the legitimate quality of the natural sounds obtained in a room with proper acoustics, hence Kosty’s displeasure.
If there was something that distinguished Kostelanetz sound was the strings. Sweeping, powerful, at times tender and subtle, no one, as far as this writer is concerned, has ever been able to duplicate them among the splendid orchestras that arose on both sides of the Atlantic later on. It was a sound in which he harmonized violins, violas and celli in several "voices" pretty much in the fashion of Ravel in his Daphnis & Chloe ballet music. It was a sound that gave you goose bumps, and which evidently reached the ears of the public-at-large, which was exactly what he had in mind. As his popularity rose and sales increased, Columbia gave him a free hand not only to pick the best musicians from the NY Philharmonic, but also any number of musicians he wanted, and his sound went from great to glorious.
Kostelanetz was instrumental in increasing the popularity of songs written by numerous composers of popular tunes in those days. The decades of the 20s and 30s saw the emergence of composers such as Irving Berlin, Jerome Kern, Cole Porter, Vincent Youmans, Harold Arlen, George Gershwin, Richard Rodgers, and others who, it must be said, composed at the behest and upon request of Broadway producers. When producers had a Musical Show in mind, they would call Cole Porter, for instance, describe the plot, and ask for, say, ten songs. Now most of those songs the composers had already in their desks, ready for use; but on other occasions they just had to invent them. Songs like Night & Day, Begin the Beguine, White Christmas, What’ll I Do, Poinciana, The Man I Love, Tea for Two, Long Ago & Far Away, became the source from where Kostelanetz drew to realize his dream of bringing symphonic sounds to the general public, and much to the delight of the composers proper, who saw tunes they had written for the stage turn into hits by themselves with the concomitant and unexpected economic windfall, popularity and prestige.
His output was prodigious. He was a dynamic, enthusiastic, charming man, with a great disposition for everyone. At the end of the 50s he had sold over 53 million records for Columbia, invariably using musicians from the NY Philharmonic, and rarely les that 60 or seventy of them. He recorded gorgeous, elegant arrangements that played close to the melody, but with varied colors, always original and sometimes right out spectacular. His arrangement of "Back Magic", the Arlen song, recorded in 1953, has never been topped. His "Night and Day" (both the first recording, Jan. 1942 and the second in the early 50s) became seminal pieces for arrangers of that type of music. The music had a sentimental tone (coma out) without being mushy, and, quite cleverly, in 90% of the cases with a dancing tempo. During the forties and fifties, if you had a small – or even a big – party at home, Kostelanetz records were a must because one could dance to them. There was a romantic content that made them quite desirable for those interested in the art of seducing… But above all, there was taste, exquisite taste and remarkable ability to use every available resource contained in a symphonic structure. His use of harmonized reeds, celesta and French horns for instance, was lovely, and there were some swing numbers too, magnificently executed. Very few musicians of the genre were able to make a symphonic outfit swing. Robert Farnon was one. Andre Kostelanetz and Morton Gould were the others. Any doubts on Kostelanetz ability to swing will be dispelled by listening to his version of "I Got Rhythm" (CD COL-CD-5886), the Gershwin tune, or "Johnny One Note" (Vocalion CDUS 3015), by Richard Rodgers, both digitally re-mastered from the original Columbia LP’s.
In the opinion of this Latin American writer, he was the only American musician of that time that could play Latin American melodies the way they should be played. His recording of "Adios" (Farewell) from Latin American composer Eric Madriguera, remains the best version ever of that song. No one played Lecuona like he did. He understood the soul of Latin American music, and it showed in his arrangements of many other tunes from south of the border. Kosty had no problems in that area. To him all men were his brothers, no matter where they came from. His being a victim of discrimination and persecution at one time never embittered him. Quite the contrary, it awoke in him a love for his fellow men that clearly shines through the love and sympathy that permeated his arrangements of songs from composers the world over.
It has sometimes been asked whether he wrote his own arrangements. At first he did, and brilliantly enough to set his own marvelous, particular sound, especially with strings. But then he was too busy, and needed assistance in that area. He once stated that his fantastic album of Cole Porter tunes, done in the early fifties, was arranged by Carroll Huxley. Van Cleave, Claude Thornhill, David Terry and George Bassman, have been also mentioned as his arrangers, but the fact that the sound was always unmistakably Kostelanetz, clearly attests that he never recorded an arrangement before checking it out carefully and introducing the elements that would conform to his well recognized style.
As to the impact his music had on the song writers, there are several stories. After listening to a broadcast featuring the first performance of his song "All the Things You Are", Jerome Kern, who was a close friend of his, wired Kostelanetz the following: "Your amazing work has been a constant source of inspiration to me, as well as to other younger and abler men. Tears of happiness and joy are in our eyes from your beautiful, tender and understanding performance". He was profoundly moved and remembered the experience as one of the greatest in his life. Cole Porter was another composer who was ecstatic when he heard the Kostelanetz interpretation of his songs. In his case it was perfectly fitting, because Kostelanetz had an elegant evening sound that went well with a party in a mansion with invitees in tuxedos and women in long gowns dancing on a terrace by moonlight. And Porter was precisely that: sophistication, elegance and romance that frequently bordered on the erotic. The Kostelanetz sound was tailor made for him. Both had excellent taste, and Porter never had a better orchestral interpreter.
His personal life was another story. When serving as an orchestra conductor for opera and opera singers, he met Lily Pons, splendid coloratura soprano. Lily was French, young and attractive, everything Andre wasn’t then, but the attraction was mutual and they eventually married. They did work together continually both in live presentations and recordings, but after years the marriage dissolved as she expressed a wish to retire, something he was very far from wanting. He remarried in 1960, again to a much younger woman, Sarah Gene. That union lasted 10 years, and suddenly one day she left him without any explanations. Upon reflection, trying to understand, he realized the difference in age had taken its toll, plus the strains that inevitably accompany the life of an artist and especially a traveling musician. Not everyone is suited for that.
As the thunderous avalanche of rock-and-roll and other similar atrocities started to invade the musical markets by the mid 50s, a shift in popular music tastes was inevitable, and like the Big Bands, the great orchestras started to ebb away. Columbia Records then came up with a gimmick. It was called "Wonderland of Sound", and it used, we were told, the latest in stereo technologies. The Kostelanetz orchestra was reduced to one third in order to keep up with the currents trends of the times and of course its commercial viability as well; arrangers were replaced by those who could write "for the young", and the beautiful, full sound that characterized his previous output disappeared completely replaced by something trivial and boring. Listening to his "Black Magic" recording of that period, will send a Kostelanetz fan right up the wall. There can be no comparison with his recording of the same song in 1953. There was no "Wonderland" in that new sound at all, and most certainly no stereo excellence of any kind. It was all just a publicity gimmick by Columbia, using Kosty’s name popularity, and some of the public got fooled into buying records with arrangements which were unrecognizable as Kostelanetz music. His sales plummeted but the series were continued until 1979. Up to this day, it remains puzzling that a man of his stature and financial position would go along with the wishes of a recording company which compromised the quality standards that made him famous and his sound unforgettable. In all probability it was a contractual situation from which he found it impossible to extricate himself.
But popular music was not Kostelanetz’s only concern despite his huge success with it. He was also a respected and talented conductor of classical music who had an almost permanent association with the New York Philharmonic. I had a chance to see him conduct some Ravel works at NY Lincoln Center around 1976 with that orchestra, and his performance was nothing short of superb.
In August 1979, after a very successful outdoor concert series in New York at Central Park, performances at the White House for President Carter and several other presentations, he decided to take a vacation in Haiti. It was probably one of the only spots in the planet he had never visited during his frequent travels. He went there in January 1980, and it was there that he suffered the heart attack that took his life.
He left behind a beautiful body of musical work expressed in unforgettable recordings. But his most significant and successful effort was to awaken American ears to symphonic sounds. It is indeed a pity that today’s generations should remain aloof from such a noble effort, but it is hardly something to be surprised about. Observing today’s trends in that which passes for popular music, no one with Kosty’s taste, refinement and musical elegance, can be successful. These are times of rap, hip-hop, harsh words and loudness. No doubt he is now in a world where his sensitivity, both musical and human, can be better appreciated.
This article appeared in ‘Journal Into Melody’ September 2007
The Edinburgh Light Orchestra celebrates its 30th Anniversary Year!
Conductor James Beyer recalls 30 years of Light Music in the Capital
2007 marks the 30th Anniversary of The Edinburgh Light Orchestra. Performing for the past 28 years at The Queen’s Hall (in fact, they were one of the first amateur groups to play there), The Edinburgh Light Orchestra has come to affectionately regard the Queen’s Hall as its ‘home’.
"The Queen’s Hall is our ideal venue", says Orchestra Founder and Conductor James Beyer. "Not only is it the right size for our audiences, but it also has an intimate ‘homely’ atmosphere - and that’s just what our followers want. They come along to our Concerts because they want a good night out in the company of their favourite music. They’re there to be entertained and to enjoy themselves. Recently one of our regular supporters described our Concerts as having a ‘party atmosphere’ - and that is true. A large proportion of our audiences attend our Concerts regularly, and it’s just like meeting up with friends twice a year!"
During the past 30 years, along with a team of willing helpers, James has organised a grand total of 53 concerts. The end result of all this organisation not only gives him and his players much enjoyment in performing the music; but more importantly, it provides a great deal of pleasure to their loyal supporters. The Orchestra continues to play regularly to audiences in excess of 700 at The Queen’s Hall.
"Therefore it’s with no exaggeration that I refer to The Edinburgh Light Orchestra as ‘Edinburgh’s most popular orchestra’. And we are the only orchestra north of the Border specialising in light-music," adds Beyer. "The basic programme format over the years hasn’t really changed very much. The ‘tried and tested’ formula of light orchestral music, music from stage and screen, with a Leader’s solo item and two spots with a guest singer is still the format we prefer, and remains as popular as ever."
The initial concert on 7 October 1977 was a charity event, and it addressed the City’s need for an orchestra specialising in music of a lighter nature. Recognising this, Beyer set up the necessary organisation to achieve this goal and to build on the success of that opening night.
The triumph of that evening proved that there was indeed a need for this genre of music in Edinburgh. Increasing its forces to 26, the Orchestra’s second concert took place the following May - this time in the Reid Concert Hall (University of Edinburgh) with new leader Miles Baster, who was principally Leader of the internationally acclaimed Edinburgh Quartet and one of Scotland’s foremost violin soloists. He remained with The Edinburgh Light Orchestra for sixteen years, until his retirement in 1995. Following another concert in the Reid in 1979, the Edinburgh Light Orchestra once again broke new ground later that year by moving to the newly opened Queen’s Hall.
Since its inception, the Orchestra has expanded to a full-sized concert orchestra of between 50 and 60 players and over the years has attracted the attention and support of a number of internationally recognised composers and arrangers of light-music - notably, Robert Farnon, Ernest Tomlinson, Angela Morley, Arthur Blake, Clive Richardson and Iain Sutherland.
Beyer again: "They have all given me a great deal of encouragement, and have granted me the benefit of their vast experience and knowledge of the ‘light-music’ genre. But above all, I will always treasure my friendship and association with Robert Farnon - one of the greatest ever composers, arrangers and conductors of light-music."
During the Second World War, Toronto born Captain Robert Farnon came to Britain with the Canadian Band of the Allied Expeditionary Forces and worked alongside Glenn Miller and George Melachrino, who conducted the American and British bands respectively. After the war, Farnon became aware of the genre of British Light-Music - in particular the works of Eric Coates, Haydn Wood and Charles Williams; and realised that his own composing talents lay in that direction. He decided to remain in Britain, and by the end of the forties his name had become well established in this country as an arranger and composer. Farnon wrote numerous pieces of ‘mood Music’ for the Chappell Recorded Music Library and arrangements and backings for many leading singers and stars of the day, such as Vera Lynn, Gracie Fields, Donald Peers, Norman Wisdom, Ronnie Ronald, Anne Shelton, Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra. In all, Robert Farnon wrote over forty film scores – ‘Spring in Park Lane’, ‘Maytime in Mayfair’, ‘Captain Horatio Hornblower RN’ and ‘Shalako’ to name but a few. Television themes are also to be found in the Farnon repertoire, with fine examples as ‘Colditz’ and ‘The Secret Army’. In addition to lighter works, he turned to more serious compositions. Included in this genre are ‘Rhapsody for Violin and Orchestra’, ‘A la claire fontaine’, ‘Lake of the Woods’ and his Symphony No 3 in F (‘Edinburgh’) which was performed posthumously on 14th May 2005 in The Usher Hall by The National Symphony Orchestra of Scotland under their conductor, Iain Sutherland.
"Following Robert Farnon’s death in April 2005, I was given the very great honour of being invited to speak at his Memorial Service, in St Paul’s Church, Covent Garden."
The Edinburgh Light Orchestra continues to go from strength to strength, and to mark its 30th Anniversary, there will be a special Concert in The Queen’s Hall on Saturday 10th November. For further information readers should telephone 0131 334 3140.[This article has been adapted by the Editor from a prominent feature which appeared in the April issue of Southside & Newington Gazette.]
Footnote: James Beyer’s standing in Scottish orchestral circles was confirmed on 18 May when he was invited to conduct the Edinburgh Symphony Orchestra at a special Pixar event at the National Museum of Scotland.
This article appeared in ‘Journal Into Melody’ September 2007
Tony Clayden reports on a long overdue tribute to one of the last century’s greatest Light Music Composers
PLAQUE IS UNVEILED IN HONOUR OF HAYDN WOOD
The Lissenden Gardens Estate is situated at the foot of Highgate West Hill, North London and adjoins Parliament Hill Fields, which is an extension of Hampstead Heath. In May, the Lissenden Gardens Community Association held a celebration of "100 Years of Heritage".
The development comprises 25 blocks of mansion flats in the famous "Arts & Crafts" style and, over the years, a number of notable residents (including the family of John Betjeman) have made their homes there. The Association has in the past erected several commemorative plaques. Saturday May 12th saw three more inaugurated, including one for a certain composer by the name of Haydn Wood, who lived there with his wife from around 1908-1918. During this period he wrote his greatest hit – Roses of Picardy to words by Frederick Wetherley.
Earlier in the year, the organisers approached David Ades to take part in the unveiling ceremony; due to distance and family commitments he regretfully had to decline and asked me if I would stand-in, which I was delighted to do, on behalf of both the Robert Farnon Society and the Light Music Society. It was particularly appropriate because I grew up about a mile away in Highgate and attended school just around the corner from the Estate.
It was fortunate that Carys Blackburn, one of Haydn Wood’s great-nieces, was able to be present and after a few words from myself, she pulled the strings to unveil the plaque.
I was able to be of further assistance, firstly in the provision of a microphone system (of course!) and also took part in the Centenary Social and Cultural Event, which was held after luncheon for invited guests in a nearby school hall.
Tributes were paid to the three dedicatees and once again it fell to me to give a talk for about 15 minutes on Haydn Wood. I must acknowledge the help I received in this regard from Marjorie Cullerne, another of Haydn Wood’s great-nieces, who spent a long time during several phone calls from her home in Canada filling me in all sorts of details about the composer and his life.
A highlight of the afternoon was the performance of a couple of Haydn Wood’s best-loved songs by the Lissenden Centenary Singers – a rendition of Brown Bird Singing for solo soprano and piano, followed by Roses of Picardy sung by the ad hoc choir (including myself!) and the audience, which were led by RFS member Robert Habermann, who gallantly stepped in at the last minute due to the indisposition of the original lead singer.
To bring the afternoon to a fitting conclusion, there followed tea and cakes baked from old style recipes. Other RFS members attending included Ann Adams and Andre Leon, also Adam Bakker, the Leader of the Aspidistra Drawing Room Orchestra.
This article appeared in ‘Journal Into Melody’ September 2007.
ROBERT FARNON ON "DESERT ISLAND DISCS" IN CANADA Researched by PAUL CLATWORTHY
We have all done it at some time: you make a list of your favourite tunes then return to it in later years and make alterations.
While Robert Farnon was in Canada in Spring 1983 conducting at the National Arts Centre, lan Alexander was in the Toronto CBC studio talking to Robert in the Ottawa studio about his choice of music and his career. The interview (broadcast on 12 August 1983) started with a short burst of "The Happy Gang".
IAN. Your name is not mentioned in that list but you spent some years working on that show for CBC.
BOB. Yes I was one of the beginners, we started around 1938 I stayed until joining the army in 1941. I was expecting to hear my voice there but didn’t hear it.
IAN. What was the experience like - live radio I guess.
BOB. Absolutely marvellous anything went, we could do absolutely anything we liked and sometimes did. It was just a joy five days a week going down there; it was a shame to take the money.
IAN. I get the feeling that work like that and a lot of the other work that you’ve done - studio work with people like Percy Faith, can we call it "commercial work", hones a musician’s craft.
BOB. Yes that’s quite true. I must confess I enjoyed doing "The Happy Gang" but was set on writing serious music and in those days no one could make a living writing classical music so I joined the Gang and earned my bread and butter. I really enjoyed it of course but in my spare time I wrote more serious music.
IAN. Now back before even the "Happy Gang" I believe you put in a stint with the orchestra I’ve just mentioned, Percy Faith, I remember back in the sixties I was working as music director of an "Easy Listening" station on the West coast and the Canadian content regulations had just come in. We did try for a while to justify Percy Faith’s music as Canadian but really he did leave this country in mid-career didn’t he?
BOB. He did, as a matter of fact I played with Percy on trumpet at the same period I was working with "The Happy Gang"; it all happened around the same period.
IAN. A hectic sort of schedule then.
BOB. Oh but great fun!
IAN. Now we are calling this a kind of "Desert Island Discs" with Robert Farnon; Bob has indicated some of the music he likes to listen to and he would like to share with our national radio audience this evening. Bob I am interested in your first choice because it’s one that I enjoy very much, a classic piece of music.
BOB. It most certainly is lan and there’s a little story attached to that, I was introduced to the song by Canadian soprano named Doreen Hume who became very famous in Britain and we worked together many times over there. Before she returned to Canada she presented me with this recording by Madeline Gray of "Bailero" from "Songs of the Auvergne"; this is my favourite tune and the most familiar.
IAN. Let’s listen now to "Bailero" by Joseph Cantaloube.
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IAN. The passage of time has not sullied the beauty of that performance, a recording made more than half a Century ago as you can hear from the surface noise in 1930. Bob you worked with a number of singers over the years and one in particular Tony Bennett.
BOB. Yes I have done a lot with Tony - radio, television and a few concerts; he’s an absolute delight to work with, beautiful chap!
IAN. He’s strikes me as a musicians’ musician impeccable in terms of everything being in its place, everything happening just right.
BOB. Yes that’s exactly what happens. He is wonderful in that way when rehearsing a new arrangement he listens to it and doesn’t interrupt in the wrong places. He sings the song and appreciates the arrangement, especially if it’s a good one, Sinatra is exactly the same.
IAN. You have not only conducted for these gentlemen you have also recorded with them and other singers, Cleo Laine for example.
BOB. Yes I have done albums with Sinatra, Lena Home, Sarah Vaughan and Tony, They have asked me to provide the arrangements.
IAN. We have an album here which was not on your list but I have put it on mine, I thought it would be fun to sample, It’s an album made in concert on the 100th anniversary of the Royal Albert Hall. Tony Bennett the featured vocalist, a picture on the back with you conducting a large symphonic orchestra.
BOB. Yes I remember that.
IAN. Quite an occasion that must have been, What was the year?
BOB. In the early seventies I think.
IAN. Just looking at the sleeve - 1971 in fact.
BOB. That’s right.
IAN. A decade ago, there’s a poster here, sold out of course I thought we might sample it, was there a favourite?
BOB. I wondered what you have chosen?
IAN. I like "Get Happy".
BOB. Yes super.
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IAN. The London Philharmonic Orchestra really swinging to the tasty baton of Robert Farnon. That really does swing and jump. Was it hard to make a symphony orchestra sound like a show band?
BOB. Normally it is but Tony adds that little extra magic; he’s the one who made it swing, one way or another.
IAN. Now your career took a turn to England during the war years, in fact it was the war that took you to England first.
BOB. Yes I went over with the Canadian Army in 1944.
IAN. You worked with the BBC as well as concerts.
BOB. Yes but mostly broadcasting. There were three AEF orchestras, Glenn Miller with the American band, George Melachrino with the British and myself with the Canadian. We shared concerts for the troops throughout the country and eventually on the Continent.
IAN. Bringing things up to date I know that in more recent times the BBC has found it uneconomical to have as many orchestras on the payroll as it has in the past, a situation that probably did not make you too happy.
BOB. Unfortunately they disbanded five or six orchestras just a couple of years ago. Fortunately for me light music is very popular on the Continent in Holland, Belgium, France, Scandinavia and that has replaced the loss of performances in Britain for me and other light music composers.
IAN. Of course listeners across the country will know we are happy that Robert Farnon is back with some regularity to conduct concerts with Canadian orchestras. You are in Ottawa with the N.A.C.O. and as I am a former Vancouverite I know you have been out to Vancouver to conduct the V.S.O. many times.
BOB. That’s right I have.
IAN. One of the Desert Island discs you picked is a recording by the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra.
BOB. Yes I am very fond of Respighi’s music. This is quite a coincidence: coming over to Vancouver last May in-flight music was playing a record of "Pines of Rome". I thought what a beautiful performance that is, I looked up the in-flight magazine and lo and behold it was the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra.
IAN. Why don’t we listen to part of that performance now, it’s from a CBC recording, I wondered if it would be appropriate to play the showiest part.
BOB. Yes delightful.
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IAN The fourth and last section. Bob talking about great orchestras, you are very kind and generous about Canadian orchestras but certainly one of the lushest sounds of North American orchestras has to be that created by The Philadelphia Orchestra, honed over many years under Eugene Ormandy.
BOB, That’s quite true lan, I had the experience of providing a piece of music for them just before the beginning of the war, I had written my first Symphony and it had been played by The Toronto Symphony Orchestra. It was recommended to Eugene, he performed it in 1941.
IAN. I wonder that would not have been the complete programme, you were keeping some very good company.
BOB. Very good: one was Debussy a very good composer and I was very proud of my work; his "Afternoon of a Faun" was much better, which I would like to chose as my next selection.
IAN. A tender age to write a symphony.
BOB. It took me three years but I was so busy trying to make money to devote all my time to it. I finished it when I was about twenty two.
IAN. In terms of your musical taste you enjoy light music as well as what we call serious music.
BOB. Yes with the stress on romance, I am a romantic old trout.
IAN. That’s the thread that combines the two. We are also talking about the people you have worked with over the years. We heard from Tony Bennett, working with Frank Sinatra and many others and someone I think you got to know quite well, George Shearing - a great pianist.
BOB. Yes we first met when he was still in Britain working with Stephane Grappelli in a club in London.
IAN. Someone who went the opposite way to you across the Atlantic!
BOB. He went west and I went east to Britain. We did not meet again until two years ago when we made a recording with his trio and a large orchestra. My favourite is "A nightingale sang in Berkeley Square".
IAN. A wonderful tune; let’s hear it now. It comes from an album called "On Target".
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IAN. I am very interested in your next choice from the original cast recording of "Carousel"; how did it manage to slip in here?
BOB. Well I am a romantic and also a family man and they go together. The "Soliloquy" from "Carousel" is such a beautiful tale, first the girl and then the boy, very close to my heart, I have a tear or two each time I hear it.
IAN. John Raitt performing, one of the things one always thinks of with Rodgers and Hammerstein especially with the show that preceded "Oklahoma"; they created a seamless interwoven kind of musical theatre.
BOB. Yes they most certainly, my goodness all of their music is so delightful, I have arranged an awful lot of it.
IAN. When you talk about music for the Broadway stage the role of the arranger is a crucial one, maybe we could talk about that. A score comes from a team such as Rodgers and Hammerstein - it’s really the arranger who lifts it off the page and makes it work in the theatre.
BOB. In most cases I think the arranger was Robert Russell Bennett who did a wonderful job of scoring for them.
IAN. What kinds of things are involved, what kind of challenges, for the arranger in this kind of music.
BOB. The worst thing Ian is we are the last ones to get at it. They have made all the changes then they throw it at us and say arrange it. We go ahead and sure enough at rehearsals one of the singers finds parts are a little too high for her. We go back to the drawing board, not a very pleasant task but usually rewarding in the end.
IAN. You arranged a symphonic version of "Porgy and Bess" at one point in your career.
BOB. Yes that was a recording with The London Philharmonic Orchestra.
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IAN. We want to move back to the more serious side of the repertoire for our next music and I am interested in your choice here. We are going to hear "Nimrod" from "The Enigma Variations" by Sir Edward Elgar. I am interested in the performance you have chosen, the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Andre Previn. A couple of things strike me about this: one is that with Previn we have someone who very much straddles the "Pop" as well as the "Classical" world. I have also found a quote from Previn talking about you. He says you are the greatest string writer in the world.
BOB. Well that was an overstatement, very kind of him to say but that’s not the reason why I chose the record.
IAN. Interesting to hear Previn because his career has really gone into serious music but that’s not how he began.
BOB. No it is not; he has done an awful lot for both Light music and Classical in Britain. Changed the scene entirely in many ways, brought visual to shows on television and presented them so beautifully making it very interesting to look at an orchestra, even though there were a few bald heads in view. Beautiful to watch the way he managed it.
IAN. Why "Nimrod"?
BOB. I think it has a tune all of its own. After he wrote it he said "Have I got a tune?" Indeed he had.
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IAN. We are coming to a pair of twentieth century composers who I believe have had an influence on your own musical career.
BOB. Very much indeed, you are referring to Stravinsky and Bartok.
IAN. Let’s start with Bartok, a personal connection there as well as a musical one.
BOB. Well not truly a personal one but I had the opportunity of meeting him in New York very shortly before he died. He was doing a concert in the McDowell Hall in New York with his wife and one or two instrumentalists. During the interval I went back stage and met my idol. I must say I found his music very positive since first hearing it. He walked up to the stage - it was like God walking I was so impressed by him.
IAN. In what way was he an influence… how important to your own compositional style?
BOB. Not composition wise, I suppose it was in his colour variation and his daring from time to time. Although I went in other directions when writing daring music, he gave me the courage to experiment.
IAN. You have chosen "Divertimento for strings". Let’s hear it now from a 1970 recording, Neville Marriner conducting The Academy of St Martin in the Fields.
+++ +++ +++
IAN. I guess it must be wonderful to be in London and hear all those fine orchestras.
BOB. A pleasure and a joy. From time to time we have the pleasure of working with them as session players, they love to come and do a recording with a singer or an instrumentalist.
IAN. Interesting because did not The Academy first sort of grow up with people who had other principal jobs. Now The Academy has become their main occupying work.
BOB. As you say they are now fully employed.
IAN. Now Stravinsky.
BOB. Ever since the age of twelve I have loved his music especially his Ballet music. In fact he once inspired me to write a ballet. It was not very good. I put it under the piano.
IAN. Don’t slide over it that way - tell us more!
BOB. It was not completely lost; I used lots of themes from it in later works when I took up writing "Light" music. One of the pieces I called "Jumping Bean". That will give you some idea of its content.
IAN. I hope your biographer is listening and will use that information.
IAN. The score still exists.
BOB. It does.
IAN. Back to Stravinsky.
BOB. It concerns a broadcast he did on the BBC. He could not let the conductor alone, keen that it would be right he would appear on his hands and knees pointing out parts of the score… "No not that way, this way", glasses perched on his forehead, it was a lovely scene. After the session I was introduced to him.
IAN. What age was he then?
IAN. Still very active
BOB. Oh yes I saw him nearly ten years later conducting at The Royal Festival Hall.
IAN, Now for his "Firebird" - Stravinsky conducting The Columbia Symphony Orchestra.
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IAN. Going over this list your modesty has omitted a single piece of your own for us to play.
BOB. I do not enjoy listening to my music that much.
IAN. Can I impose on you and play a little anyway.
BOB. Oh yes of course.
IAN. You are a trumpet player yourself.
BOB. Yes, but I started on violin when very young, at the age of fifteen I switched to percussion. I joined my brother’s college orchestra, they were very short of brass so I decided to take up trumpet. It remained with me until I gave it up.
IAN. A kind of pragmatic choice then?
IAN. You say you did not like playing violin but you do enjoy writing for it.
BOB. I love the sound but found it too difficult to play.
IAN. I mentioned the trumpet because I want to play a piece of your own titled "Scherzando for Trumpet and Orchestra" played by the CBC Winnipeg Orchestra conducted by Eric Wilde. The soloist is Raymond Parcells.
BOB. I have not heard this performance. It was originally written for the trumpet player in The Chapel Royal Orchestra in Copenhagen, commissioned in 1953. He did not record it, just played it from time to time with various orchestras. Then it was taken up by Mel Broiles, first trumpet of the Metropolitan Orchestra who did record it.
IAN. Let’s hear it now.
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IAN. You had not heard that before.
BOB. No but a very good version.
IAN. You show no mercy on the soloist.
BOB. I believe some ended up with lips bleeding!
IAN. I wonder if you have done much work on a specific player… does it help to know who you are writing for?
BOB. Yes it does help a lot. I wrote a piece for trumpet player Mel Broiles who plays for the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra. I recently wrote a Concerto for him that he has played several times. It is in three movements that again is a tour de force, he said "Why do you do this to me, a fellow trumpet player?"
IAN. He thought you should have more sympathy.
BOB. He is such a fantastic player he had no trouble with it at all.
IAN. I know someone else you have written for is Harmonica virtuoso Tommy Reilly who, like yourself, is originally from Canada but now lives in England. Do you see much of him.
BOB. Yes we work quite a lot together, a lot of broadcasts on the Continent, television in Britain, and we made a recording of "Prelude and Dance" which I wrote for him many years ago.
IAN. I want to hear that because I believe while in a concentration camp he honed his skill as a harmonica player?
BOB. I think it was because he was originally a violin player. He said there were so many good violinists around he decided to take up harmonica instead, in 1935 or 36. He is now the world’s number one in the opinion of a lot of other people besides myself, a fine player.
I AN. He has made the harmonica a legitimate concert instrument.
BOB. I am sure he has; he is greatly respected and has had so many good composers write for him - Jacobs, Malcolm Arnold and others.
IAN. And yourself of course.
BOB. May I tell you a little fun joke regarding that. He was after me for years to write something as he is with other composers, providing he does not have to pay us. He was in Australia when I sent him a first draft, and when he got back to England he rang me and said the only difficult part is the last section, I will play a little over the phone. I said that’s absolutely perfect, but it goes twice as fast as that. He hung up.
IAN. Did you change it?
BOB. No I didn’t.
IAN. We will now hear that music, two men intimately involved in its construction.
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IAN. Next you have chosen the last part of Joseph Poulenc’s Concerto in "G" for organ and orchestra.
BOB. That choice came about because my son David studied organ about ten years ago coming to me with all sorts of material asking for my criticism. He brought the record to me and we both agreed that the last part was the most beautiful writing for the organ that we had ever heard. I said I would like that played at my funeral although I would not be able to hear it.
IAN. The soloist E. Power Biggs, the Philadelphia Orchestra conducted by Eugene Ormandy. Let’s hope that will not happen for very many years.
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BOB. Thank you Ian - you are going to end with that are you?
IAN. Certainly not - in fact I want to throw a few names at you because you have met with so interesting musicians in your long and distinguished career; perhaps if I mention a few of them you can say what they bring to mind.
IAN. Sarah Vaughan.
BOB. She was a joy to work with. On first hearing I did not like her voice, her vibrato was too wide, she shouted, very peculiar sound. When working with her rather than listening to recordings I fell in love with her singing. We did a record in Copenhagen that was an experience for both of us; she sang with a young Danish choir who sang better in English than most choirs in Britain, absolutely super. Sarah was a "doll" to work with - I have worked with her since on radio and television, we are great friends now, we smoke the same brand of cigarettes.
IAN. We won’t mention the brand, this is non-commercial radio. Now another great lady of popular song who has been back in the limelight lately due to her one woman show, did you catch it?
BOB. Lena Horne - no I did not, but I have the recording.
IAN. The great stories she told coupled with her sheer energy, well over two hours carrying the whole ball along.
BOB. Remarkable I saw a sort of junior version in person. Not just music, she talked about everything, a "sweety" to work with too.
IAN. Finally let’s talk about two other orchestra leaders, arrangers and people who you have associated with. One name springs to mind, Henry Mancini.
BOB. Oh yes, I have met him once or twice, I am a great admirer of his music; there’s a chap who knows how to write a tune, my goodness, I hate him.
IAN. Like yourself he has written much for the screen, big and small. We were talking earlier about the challenge as an arranger for Broadway I suppose there are many problems when you have to synchronise your score to the action.
BOB. It’s just a craft that you learn, not that difficult really. In musicals it’s even simpler because we record all the music before the film is shot. Sometimes we are the last to get at it - Henry would tell you they want everything yesterday - you have thirty or forty minutes of music to write, which can be a bit of a bind although enjoyable. It’s up on the screen not just a one-off and will last if it’s a good score.
IAN. You don’t feel compromised musically.
BOB. Not at all; when doing a dramatic film it can inspire you because you have a chance to see the product before writing. That’s a joy to have the inspiration.
IAN. Remind us of some of the scores you have written.
BOB. "Captain Horatio Hornblower" comes to mind, one of the swashbuckling sea stories I did. A case in point because they brought certain sections to have a look at so I could go home filled with ideas of what to write, so not difficult at all. I did the last Hope & Crosby film "The Road to Hong Kong" - I killed the series, but it was fun to do! I did "Gentlemen Marry Brunettes" where I sang in place of Scott Brady who did not have a voice; no one else was available so I was drafted in. They did not pay me.
IAN. Was that the start of a whole new career or a one-off?
BOB. No I sounded no better than in "Happy Gang".
IAN. One more classical choice: you talk about good tunes and enjoy the virtuoso show piece - this is Ravel’s "Daphnis and Chloe".
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IAN. It’s been great fun talking with you. Wonderful stories and anecdotes - a wonderful career and by no means over; what are working on at the moment?
BOB. I am writing a piece for The Canadian Brass, pushing the pencil as hard as I can. I wrote something about five years ago played here in Ottawa with a full orchestra but they wanted something for just the quintet.
IAN. Will this reflect the light hearted music you sometimes write?
BOB. No this is a serious piece.
IAN. When can we hear it.?
BOB. I have not finished writing. They are very kind… "whenever you can get around to it", not a good thing to tell a composer.
IAN. We look forward to hearing it, in the mean time my sincere thanks. I wish it had been face to face. We are glad you are back in Canada and hope to see much of you in the near future.
BOB. Thank you it has been an absolute pleasure.
Footnote from Paul Clatworthy : When this project was first mooted I had it in my mind that Farnon had earlier been featured on "Desert Island Discs" whilst living in England and it would be interesting comparing the selection. With the help of Vernon Anderson I received a list: "Soliloquy" John Raitt; "The Kid from Red Bank" (Hefti) Count Basie’s orchestra; "Music for strings Percussion and Celesta" (Bartok) The LPO; "Daphnis and Chloe suite No 2" (Ravel) French National Radio Orchestra; "My Man’s gone now" (Gershwin) sung by Anne Brown; "Iberia" (Images no 2) (Debussy) Paris Conservatoire Orchestra; "Thank heaven for little girls" (Lerner and Loewe) Andre Previn and pals; "Nimrod" (from Enigma variations) (Elgar) LPO. Bob made this selection on the first of June 1959.
MAJOR EUROPEAN STUDY REJECTS CALL FOR AN EXTENSION OF THE 50-YEAR PERIOD OF SOUND COPYRIGHT
In 2005 the European Union commissioned the University of Amsterdam to undertake a thorough investigation of the vexed question of copyright. This study has proceeded at the same time as, and quite independently of, the British review by the Gowers committee whose recommendations were given in our last issue. Although both investigations covered many aspects of copyright, the area which has been of specific interest and concern to us has been the period of copyright on sound recordings. Readers will recall that the music industry in Britain was clamouring for an extension of the copyright period way beyond the present 50 years. This would have had the effect of halting the release of hundreds of CDs by independent companies of recordings over 50 years old, thereby depriving the general public of a source of music that has been virtually ignored by the major record companies.
The Gowers Review came down firmly against any extension, and we are pleased to report that the exhaustive study by the University of Amsterdam has reached the same conclusion. Both reports have been made available in full on the internet; in our last issue we published extracts from the Gowers Review: below you will find short extracts from the Amsterdam report.
"The Recasting of Copyright & Related Rights for the Knowledge Economy
Institute for Information Law
University of Amsterdam
This study on the ‘Recasting of copyright and related rights for the knowledge economy’ was carried out by the Institute for Information Law* on commission by the European Commission. As does the call for tender that inspired it, the study covers extensive ground. Chapters 1 and 2 describe and examine the existing ‘acquis communautaire’ in the field of copyright and related (neighbouring) rights, with special focus on inconsistencies and unclarities, while Chapters 3-6 deal with distinct issues that were identified a priori by the European Commission as meriting special attention: possible extension of the term of protection of phonograms (Editor – this means gramophone recordings) (Chapter 3), possible alignment of the term of protection of co-written musical works (Chapter 4), the problems connected to multiple copyright ownership, including the issue of ‘orphan works’ (Chapter 5), and copyright awareness among consumers (Chapter 6). Finally, Chapter 7 provides an overall assessment of the benefits and drawbacks of the fifteen years of harmonisation of copyright and related rights in the EU and dwells on regulatory alternatives.
Chapter 1: Introduction Chapter 1 commences with an overall description of the process of harmonisation that has brought, in the course of 15 years, seven directives in the field of copyright and related rights. It goes on to discuss various institutional and exogenous issues relevant to the process of harmonisation Europe. The main focus here is on the question of competence of the EC legislature in the field of copyright and related rights.
Chapter 2: Consistency & clarity: consolidating the acquis? Chapter 2 examines the ‘acquis communautaire’ in the field of copyright and related rights, and identifies the main inconsistencies and unclarities. This chapter follows traditional categories: subject matter of protection; economic rights; exceptions and limitations; and collective rights management.
Chapter 3: Extending the term of protection for related (neighbouring) rights
Holders of neighbouring rights in performances and phonograms have expressed concern that the existing term of protection of 50 years puts them and the European creative industries, in particular the music industry, at a disadvantage, as compared to the longer protection provided for in the United States. Chapter 3 examines these concerns, first by describing and comparing the terms in the EU in the light of the existing international framework and existing terms in countries outside the EU, secondly by examining the rationales underlying related (neighbouring) rights protection and finally by applying economic analysis.
The authors of this study are not convinced by the arguments made in favour of a term extension. The term of protection currently laid down in the Term Directive (50 years from fixation or other triggering event) is already well above the minimum standard of the Rome Convention (20 years), and substantially longer than the terms that previously existed in many Member States. Stakeholders have based their claim mainly on a comparison with the law of the United States, where sound recordings are protected under copyright law for exceptionally long terms (life plus 70 years or, in case of works for hire, 95 years from publication or 120 years from creation). Perceived from an international perspective the American terms are anomalous and cannot serve as a legal justification for extending the terms of related rights in the EU.
An examination of the underpinnings of existing neighbouring rights regimes does not lend support to claims for term extension. Whereas copyright (author’s right) protects creative authorship, the rights of phonogram (record) producers are meant to protect economic investment in producing sound recordings. The related rights of phonogram producers have thus more in common with rights of industrial property, such as design rights, semiconductor topography rights, plant variety rights and the sui generis database right. Whereas all these rights share the same ‘investment’ rationale, their terms are considerably shorter, while setting higher threshold requirements. For example, whereas the database right requires ‘substantial investment’ in a database, the phonographic right requires no more than the making of a sound recording, be it a complex studio production or simply a matter of ‘pushing a button’ on a recording device.
Indeed, a good argument could be made for shortening the term of protection for phonogram producers. Given that the legal protection of phonogram producers is based on an investment rationale, it is important to note that the costs of owning and operating professional recording equipment has substantially decreased in recent years due to digitalisation. On the other hand, the costs of marketing recordings has apparently gone up. These costs now make up the largest part of the total investment in producing a phonogram. However, it is doubtful whether these costs may be taken into account as investment justifying legal protection of phonogram producers.
Insofar as marketing costs accrue in the goodwill of trademarks or trade names, phonogram producers or performing artists may already derive perpetual protection therefore under the law of trademarks. For the large majority of sound recordings the producers are likely to either recoup their investment within the first years, if not months, following their release, or never. If a recording has not recouped its investment after 50 years, it is very questionable that it ever will. On the basis of this finding it can be assumed that a term of protection of 50 years offers phonogram producers more than enough time to recoup their investment.
As the rights expire, recordings falling into the public domain will become subject to competition and falling prices, which will lead to a loss of income for the former right holders. Stakeholders argue that this will negatively affect future investment in A&R. However, it appears that only limited shares of phonogram producers’ overall revenues are currently invested in A&R, so the predicted negative effect on investment in new talent is likely to be limited.
Another argument that stakeholders have advanced in favour of term extension refers to the so-called ‘long tail’ (i.e. the reduced costs of digital distribution has created new markets for low selling content). A term extension might indeed inspire phonogram producers to revitalise their back catalogues recordings, and make them available to a variety of digital distribution channels. On the other hand, the immense market potential of digital business models should already today have provided ample incentive to phonogram producers to exploit their back catalogues in new media. The recent history of the internet, however, indicates that these opportunities have not always been seized by those stakeholders now asking for a term extension.
Stakeholders have also posited that not granting a term extension would distort competition between right holders based in the EU and their competitors in non-EU countries, where right holders may enjoy longer terms. It has been argued that foreign countries would apply a ‘comparison of terms’ to the detriment of EU right holders. This argument is wholly unconvincing, for various reasons. In the first place, the Rome Convention probably requires full national treatment, which rules out a comparison of terms by those countries that are bound by the convention. Moreover, many countries not party to the Rome Convention, such as the United States, do not apply a comparison of terms at all.
Another argument advanced by stakeholders is that a failure to bring the term of protection in the EU in line with the US will negatively affect the competitiveness of the European music industry. However, the competitiveness of phonogram producers is based on a wide variety of factors, intellectual property protection in general and the term of protection in particular being just one of them. Moreover, the worldwide music market is dominated by only four multinational companies (the so-called ‘majors’), that can not be characterised as either ‘European’ or ‘American’. Juxtaposing the interests of the European and the American music industries, therefore, would be wholly artificial. Even so, the market dominance of the ‘majors’ is an economic factor to be taken into consideration. A term extension would in all likelihood strengthen and prolong this market dominance to the detriment of free competition.
A final argument sometimes advanced in favour of term extension comes from the world of accountancy. It assumes that a longer term of protection would increase the value of ‘intangible assets’ in the balance sheets of European record companies. Granting a shorter term of protection to record companies in the EU than their competitors in the US already receive, would arguably result in a comparatively lower valuation of assets of European companies. This argument, however, is largely without merit.
The value of a record company’s own recordings is not regularly recognised as intangible assets by the record labels, and not capitalised in the balance sheets. Acquired catalogues of recordings are usually capitalised, but routinely written off well before the existing terms of related rights protection expire. A term extension will perhaps play a minor role only in the valuation of the goodwill of a record company in the context of a merger or acquisition. Even then, its effect will be minimal.
The fact that some recordings still have economic value as rights therein expire, cannot in itself provide a justification for extending the term of protection. Related rights were designed as incentives to invest, without unduly restricting competition, not as full-fledged property rights aimed at preserving ‘value’ in perpetuity. The term of related rights must reflect a balance between incentive and market freedom. This balance will be upset when terms are extended for the mere reason that content subject to expiration still has market value. The public domain is not merely a graveyard of recordings that have lost all value in the market place. It is also an essential source of inspiration to subsequent creators, innovators and distributors. Without content that still triggers the public imagination a robust public domain cannot exist. Admittedly, an argument could be made in favour of extending the term of protection of performing artists, since the reasons for protecting artists are comparable to those underlying author’s rights. However, in the light of existing contractual practices, it is unlikely that performers would actually fully benefit from a term extension, since record companies routinely require a broad assignment of the rights of the performing artists.
Therefore, extending the term of protection of performing artists should be considered only in connection with the harmonisation of statutory measures that protect the artists against overbroad transfers of rights. Obviously, a term extension would benefit only those artists that are still popular after 50 years and continue to receive payments from collecting societies and phonogram producers. This however concerns only a small number of performing artists."
Anyone wishing to read the complete report on the internet should input the following: http://eu.europa.eu?internal_market/copyright/docs/studies/etd2005imd195recast_report_2006.pdf The report runs to 305 pages on the website. To save you spending too much time finding what you want, it is suggested that you look from page 83 onwards of the document (which begins on page 103 of the computer file).
Now that two major reviews have rejected the call to increase the term for sound copyright, it is surely inconceivable that politicians will dare to ignore the findings. On a positive note it is important to remember the great benefits of the 50-year sound copyright rule:
1 recordings can be made available by independent companies if the original company that recorded them is no longer willing to keep them in its catalogue
2 when reissued, the career of the artist may well receive a welcome boost (there are several examples of this in recent years)
3 composers start receiving royalties once again
4 and most importantly: music lovers have the chance to hear and own music that might otherwise have been completely forgotten and lost to future generations.
SOUND COPYRIGHT : THE SAGA RUMBLES ON!
At the end of the Editor’s report on the findings of the European Study on Sound Copyright Extension in our last issue (page 16), the following words appeared: "…surely [it is] inconceivable that politicians will dare to ignore the findings". Well, they have!
In May the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee of the House of Commons published a report disagreeing with the findings of the Gowers Review and recommended that the government should negotiate a period of 70 years for sound copyright to apply throughout Europe.
Upon investigation it transpired that this committee had not sought the views of interested parties, but had merely been influenced by pressure exerted upon it by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI). MPs had been lobbied with CDs purporting to illustrate the musical riches that would be ‘lost’ to the nation (and presumably its musical heritage) if the 50 year rule remains when all the wonderful and glorious pop music recordings from the 1960s start to fall out of copyright.
Letters were sent to the chairman of the committee, John Whittingdale MP, by Alan Bunting and David Ades, but as we go to press no acknowledgements had been received. In his letter Alan stated:
"The issue which concerns me is the extension of copyright in sound recordings and I was most perturbed to read that the Committee has disagreed with the recommendations of The Gowers Review Of Intellectual Property and suggested that a term of 70 years be negotiated throughout Europe.
My initial surprise when I read the summary became concern when I read the minutes of the meetings and studied the written submissions to the Committee. I failed to find any submission which supported the retention of the 50 year copyright, despite the fact that over 90% of the submissions to the Gowers Review did. Virtually all of the submissions to your committee came from organisations, many of them with vested interests in copyright extension. I suspect the main reason for this is that, although the Gowers review was widely publicised and called for evidence from all quarters, there was no such publicity given to your investigation. Indeed, I was not aware that it was happening nor, I have now discovered, were several of my contacts who, like me, had submitted evidence to the Gowers Review.
When I went on to read the sometimes inaccurate and misleading answers given by representatives of the BPI and others to the questions posed, it became clear why you came to the conclusion you did.
It would also appear (unless I have missed it in the minutes) that the Committee was not made aware of an investigation commissioned and published by The European Union - "The Recasting of Copyright & Related Rights for the Knowledge Economy". This, like Gowers, investigated sound recording copyright extension and came to the same conclusions but expressed them in much stronger terms – indeed, this report made a good case for actually reducing the copyright term.
The full text of this report is, of course, readily available but for your convenience I have attached an excellent summary of it by David Ades of the Robert Farnon Society (which is also opposed to any extension of copyright) which will be published in the next issue of their magazine "Journal Into Melody".
I wasn’t sure from either your report, or the minutes, if the Gowers Review and, more importantly, the many submissions to it, were studied in depth by all of the committee. If they were, it should have been clear to anyone reading them carefully that virtually no one except the record industry supported a copyright extension and also that the arguments put forward by the industry were not only flimsy but, in some instances, dishonest.
I appreciate that the Committee’s report cannot now be changed but I am most concerned that MPs and others will read it and accept it without appreciating the damage to Britain’s culture that a copyright extension would bring about.
This concern was heightened when, just as I was preparing the final version of this letter I learned that, under the Ten Minute Rule, a Labour MP is planning to introduce a bill calling for an extension."
This bill received (and passed) its first reading on 8 May with virtually no prior warning to the public at large. The MP in question is Michael Connarty, who happens to be the MP for a constituency adjacent to Alan’s. However, when Alan asked if they could meet to discuss it, he declined on the grounds that Alan was not one of his constituents. In written replies to criticism of his stance he defended it on the grounds that "it is what the artists I know want". The second reading of the bill was scheduled for 29 June, but didn’t take place due to the fact that there was neither sufficient time nor enough MPs present to vote on it. It is currently listed in Hansard as both "not printed" and "lapsed" which hopefully means that it has died – at least for the time being.
But just as we were hoping that common sense might have finally prevailed, on 4 July a wannabe future prime minister, in other words Conservative leader, David Cameron, gets to his feet and makes a fool of himself. He said a future Conservative Government would bow to the record industry’s wishes and increase the sound copyright term to 70 years. The London Times reported:
"Addressing the British Phonographic Industry annual meeting, Mr Cameron said: ‘Most people think these are all multimillionaires living in some penthouse flat. The reality is that many of these are low-earning session musicians who will be losing a vital pension.’
Rejecting a report commissioned by Gordon Brown, which said that there was no case for extending copyright, Mr Cameron quoted research which found that the change could boost the music industry by £3.3 billion over the next 50 years.
He argued that extending the term would give an ‘incentive to the music industry to digitise both older and niche repertoire which more people can enjoy at no extra cost’."
The Times report on their internet website invited comments, and Messrs Bunting and Ades were quick to point out the weaknesses in Cameron’s position. Many other Times readers also added their opinions; no one supported Cameron’s stance on this matter. E-mails were sent to him at the House of Commons and, in response to messages received, David Cameron's office insultingly issued a standard reply which made no attempt whatsoever to answer any of the valid points raised.
Further potentially "bad news" is the fact that back in the new cabinet as Culture Minister is James Purnell who, when he previously occupied the post, was firmly committed to bowing to the BPI’s demands to extend copyright.
It should be emphasised that the RFS is not alone in opposing an increase in the sound copyright term from 50 to 70 years. The internet is buzzing with many other ‘freedom of speech’ organisations who take a similar view.
RFS member Terry Charlton recently sent us a cutting from the April 2007 issue of the American magazine "Jazz Times". Columnist Gary Giddins contributed a thoughtful piece on the problems facing the music industry in the USA, with regard to downloads from the internet and more pressing problems such as the sound copyright situation across the Atlantic. Giddins pointed out that the foreign-owned music giants in the USA have no interest in making the nation’s cultural heritage available. He concluded: "If Sony/BMG feels no obligation toward its archival history, the least it could do is open its vaults for fire-sale leasing. It’s undoubtedly too much to ask the Supreme Court to examine its foul copyright extensions. The fact that this Japanese-German holding company can insist that it continues to own 1923 classic American records, which it has no interest in marketing, is obscene."
We must not allow this situation to arise in Britain and Europe. We urge all RFS members and readers who agree that the sound opyright term should not be increased beyond the present 50 years to make their feelings known to their MPs. Write to them at House of Commons, Westminster, London, SW1A 0AA or send an e-mail direct to your MP: (name plus initial, such as)
Footnote Literally as this issue closed for press we were made aware of a new paper on the economically optimal term of copyright presented to a Berlin conference in July by Rufus Pollock, a PhD candidate in economics at Cambridge University. After extensive study he has come to the conclusion that, using a combination of new and existing data on recordings and books, the evidence strongly reveals that the optimal term is around fourteen years. This is substantially shorter than any current copyright term and implies that existing copyright terms are too long. This should give the record industry, and some gullible politicians, a few things to think about!
This article appeared in ‘Journal Into Melody’ September 2007. Just before publication date the UK Government announced that it was not proposing to alter the current 50-year period for the copyright on sound recordings.
GOWERS REVIEW OF INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY
CALL FOR EXTENSION OF SOUND COPYRIGHT TERM IN UK IS REJECTED
The timing could hardly have been better. On the day of our last London Meeting (26 November) the press reported that the Gowers Review had rejected the call by major record companies to increase the present term of sound copyright in Britain from 50 to 95 years, and that this should apply retrospectively. This news was announced at our meeting, and it was greeted with cheers and sustained applause. The immediate threat to many of our independent record companies had been removed.
The music industry had mounted a national campaign, with extensive coverage in the press and on radio and television, and it seemed that their arguments were going to persuade the Government to act in their favour. Reporting by the media had been biased and one-sided, with the strong arguments against such a move receiving scant or no attention.
Our concerns were heightened by the fact that the Government was believed to be in favour of giving in to the record companies. One of the singers clamouring for change was Cliff Richard, and the Prime Minister had enjoyed holidays at his villa in the West Indies.
There is no point in going back over old ground once again, but if any readers would like to refresh their memories on the issues involved they are invited to refer to the article in Journal Into Melody for June 2006 (JIM 168). This is also posted on our website.
The Gowers team took each of the record industry’s submission point by point, and found that most of their arguments were unfounded. Their deliberations are available for everyone to read free of charge on the internet (just type in "Gowers Review of Intellectual Property" on a search engine). The Review covers many aspects of copyright, but the part that is of particular interest to us commences on page 48, and some of the main findings are given below.
"Sound recording term
The European Commission is reviewing the length of copyright protection for sound recordings in 2007 as part of the review of the body of Community copyright law. Some members of the UK record industry have called for the Commission to increase retrospectively the term of copyright from the current 50 years to 95 years. That is, that the term of protection should be extended for existing works that are already in copyright as well as future works. This extension would also apply to works that have fallen out of copyright, but which would still be in copyright if the longer term existed when they were created (the ‘retroactive’ revival of copyright). Some companies and trade bodies in the UK record industry have called for the UK Government to support their submission to the Commission that copyright term on sound recordings should be extended.
The Review consulted widely and has considered this proposal in some detail, both for a retrospective change in copyright term and for a prospective change in term that would only affect future recordings rather than those already in existence. As part of its research into the question of term extension the Review commissioned an economic analysis from the Centre for Intellectual Property and Information Law (CIPIL) at Cambridge University.
A number of reasons were advanced in the Call for Evidence from some groups in favour of extending the term of protection: (1) parity with other countries; in the USA, sound recordings are protected for 95 years. In Australia and Brazil the term of protection is 70 years; (2) fairness; currently composers have copyright protection for life plus 70 years, whereas performers and producers only have rights for 50 years. Such a disparity is unfair; (3) extension of term would increase the incentives to invest in new music; the ‘incentives argument’ claims that increasing term would encourage more investment, as there would be longer to recoup any initial outlay; (4) extension of term would increase number of works available; copyright provides incentives for rights holders to make works available to the public as it gives rights holders a financial incentive to keep work commercially available; and (5) maintain the positive trade balance; the UK has an extremely successful music industry. The UK industry has between a 10 per cent and 15 per cent share of the global market. In 2004, the UK sector showed a trade surplus of £83.4 million, earning £238.9 million in export incomes. The Review has carefully considered each of these arguments in turn.
Extension achieves parity with other countries It is important to note that the term of protection is only one factor determining the royalties that artists and recording companies receive. The breadth of protection is also important. In the EU, the term of protection for sound recordings and performers’ rights is harmonised at 50 years. During this period, rights holders receive royalties for almost all public performances of their work. In the USA, the term of protection is 95 years, but under the Bars and Grills Exception around 70 per cent of eating and drinking establishments, and 45 per cent of shops, do not have to pay royalties to performers. In the USA, performers only receive royalty payments when their music is played on digital radio, while in the UK all radio performances carry royalties. If the system in the USA was the same as that in the EU, estimates suggest that European rights holders would receive royalties of $25.5 million per annum for the broadcasting of their recordings in the USA. It is therefore possible that the total royalties received in the EU is no less than, and may even be more than, those received in the USA. The argument has also been put forward that the longer length of term in the USA encourages artists from the UK to sign to US recording companies, thereby remitting profits to the USA. However, the Review has seen no evidence of UK bands choosing to sign to US labels based on copyright term. If musicians are indeed signing to labels in the USA, there may well be other reasons for doing so, such as the size of the market. In fact, there is anecdotal evidence that bands from the USA are signing to UK labels to develop in a vibrant music scene.
Performers and composers should have equal protection Performers argue that the incentives to perform are no less than those required to write lyrics or compose a score, and that the performance itself is a work of art. The distinctive voice and aesthetic of the performer adds value to the composition and is vital to making a song a commercial success. But the fairness argument applies to society as a whole. Copyright can be viewed as a ‘contract’ between rights owners and society for the purpose of incentivising creativity. As MacCauley argued in 1841, "it is good that authors should be remunerated; and the least exceptionable way of remunerating them is by a monopoly. Yet monopoly is an evil. For the sake of the good we must submit to the evil; but the evil ought not to last a day longer than is necessary for the purpose of securing the good". If the exclusive right granted by copyright (or indeed any other form of IP right) lasts longer than it needs to, unnecessary costs will be imposed on consumers. Economic evidence indicates that the length of protection for copyright works already far exceeds the incentives required to invest in new works. Boldrin and Levine estimate that the optimal length of copyright is at most seven years. Posner and Landes, eminent legal economists in the field, argue that the extra incentives to create as a result of term extension are likely to be very small beyond a term of 25 years. Furthermore, it is not clear that extending term from 50 years to 70 or 95 years would remedy the unequal treatment of performers and producers from composers, who benefit from life plus 70 years protection. This is because it is not clear that extension of term would benefit musicians and performers very much in practice. The CIPIL report that the Review commissioned states that: "most people seem to assume that any extended term would go to record companies rather than performers: either because the record company already owns the copyright or because the performer will, as a standard term of a recording agreement, have purported to assign any extended term that might be created to the copyright holder". The British Phonographic Industry (BPI) submitted a report by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) to the Review. Using the maximum revenues predicted in the PWC report, CIPIL estimated that the net present value (NPV) of a prospective change in term would be 1 per cent or lower for performers. The report noted that distribution of income would be highly skewed, with most income going to the relatively small number of highly successful artists whose work is still commercially available after 50 years.
Extension will increase the supply of new music Investment decisions are typically based on the expectations of future returns. Therefore, in order for the incentive argument to hold, it must be shown that prospective extension of copyright term for sound recordings would increase the incentives for record companies to invest in new acts. In an amicus brief to the Supreme Court in the challenge to the Copyright Term Extension Act, seventeen economists, including five Nobel Prize winners, estimate that extension for new works creates at most 1 per cent value for a twenty year prospective extension (using NPV calculation) and they conclude therefore that extension of term has negligible effect on investment decisions. Furthermore, they noted that the then term of protection in the USA had nearly the same present value as perpetual copyright term. As such, many economists suggest that increasing copyright term beyond 50 years does not provide additional incentives to invest, as monies earned so far in the future fail to impact on current spending decisions. The incentives argument is sometimes applied to artists as well as to record companies. That is, if musicians were to receive royalties for an additional period of time, they would have more incentives to make music. This seems highly unlikely given there are a large number of bands already creating music without any hope of a financial return. Dave Rowntree, drummer with Blur and The Ailerons, commented that: "I have never heard of a single one [band] deciding not to record a song because it will fall out of copyright in ‘only’ fifty years. The idea is laughable." Evidence suggests that most sound recordings sell in the ten years after release, and only a very small percentage continue to generate income, both from sales and royalty payments, for the entire duration of copyright.
More music would be available to consumers Extension would impact on all recordings. It would keep works in copyright even when they are not generating any income for rights owners. One study found that parties without legal rights have made more historic US recordings available than have rights holders. Furthermore, rights holders reissue recent works while largely ignoring earlier music. Of the sound recordings published between 1890 and 1964, an average of 14 per cent had been reissued by the copyright owner, and 22 per cent by other parties. These statistics suggest that the costs of renewing copyright, or reissuing copyrighted material are greater than the potential private return, but that these works may have enduring social and cultural value. The lack of commercial availability impacts upon consumers and users, but it is also worth noting the impact this has for all creators and musicians. Chapter 2 noted the increasing prevalance of licensing and the complexity of rights clearance. If works are protected for a longer period of time, follow-on creators in the future would have to negotiate licences to use the work during that extended period. This has two potential implications: first, the estates and heirs of performers would potentially be able to block usage rights, which may affect future creativity and innovation; and second, this would make tracing rights holders more difficult. Thus extending term may have negative implications for all creators.
The UK’s trade balance would improve The argument that the balance of trade would improve makes two assumptions; first, that increasing term is necessary to receive longer terms in other countries; and second, that because the UK is a net exporter of music, more money will flow in from foreign markets. The CIPIL report argues that this is not the case. Firstly, the term of protection depends on where a recording is played, not on where it was produced; therefore term extension would only be beneficial to the balance of trade if UK copyright owners were able to benefit from longer terms in other countries. However, most countries outside Europe, including the largest foreign markets for international repertoire – the US and Australia – do not apply a ‘comparison of terms’ to the protection granted to sound recordings. This means that the term of protection offered in a foreign country is not dependent on the country of origin of the sound recording. UK copyright owners already benefit from the longer term offered in the USA and Australia where royalties are collected from those countries, and the CIPIL report notes that changes in British law would not now affect the term granted to British phonograms. Secondly, the CIPIL report show that the US market, which is worth $12,153 million, comprises only 5 per cent of international repertoire. In comparison, the UK market, worth $3,508.7 million includes 43 per cent of international repertoire. Thus whilst the UK music industry is extremely successful, the UK is a substantial importer of sound recordings, and therefore the extra revenue from 43 per cent of international sound recordings sold would be remitted overseas. In combination, extension to UK sound term would cause little additional in-flows, but would increase remittances abroad. Therefore, as the CIPIL report concludes, "increasing copyright term at home from 50 to 70 or 95 years is likely to have a disproportionate, negative effect on the balance of trade." Increasing the length of sound term increases the length of time during which royalties accrue. Once copyright in a sound recording ends, no royalties are due for that recording, and fewer licences are required to play those songs (copyright in the composition would continue, and therefore would continue to require a licence). PPL collects monies to remunerate rights holders whenever their sound recordings are played. In 2005 PPL collected £86.5 million from venues, premises and broadcasters to remunerate rights holders. The majority of this was collected from UK organisations and broadcasters. Because the cost of the licences reflects the royalties payable on the copyrights, as those copyrights expire, so the cost of the licences will fall. Term extension would keep the cost of sound recording licences higher for longer. Extension would increase costs for all businesses that play music, for example hairdressers, old people’s homes, local radio and internet service providers (ISPs). The impact of extension would therefore be felt throughout the economy.
In conclusion, the Review finds the arguments in favour of term extension unconvincing. The evidence suggests that extending the term of protection for sound recordings or performers’ rights prospectively would not increase the incentives to invest, would not increase the number of works created or made available, and would negatively impact upon consumers and industry. Furthermore, by increasing the period of protection, future creators would have to wait an additional length of time to build upon past works to create new products and those wishing to revive protected but forgotten material would be unable to do so for a longer period of time. The CIPIL report indicates that the overall impact of term extension on welfare would be a net loss in present value terms of 7.8 per cent of current revenue, approximately £155 million.
Retrospective changes to sound recording term As discussed above, changes to the length of IP protection can be made retrospectively or prospectively, and the Review has considered the evidence for both forms of extension. The principal argument that is put forward to increase sound term retrospectively is that many recordings from the 1950s are beginning to fall out of copyright and that this will lead to a loss of revenue, therefore impacting on the incentives to invest in newer artists. As discussed earlier, investment decisions are made on the basis of expected future returns rather than those already received. Furthermore, if music companies have access to capital markets future investment decisions will be entirely unaffected by the length of protection of current works.
Recommendation: Policy makers should adopt the principle that the term and scope of protection for IP rights should not be altered retrospectively."
Apparently the UK Government’s original call for submissions to the Gowers committee resulted in a far greater response from the public than any similar proposal in the past. All of the submissions are included in the report, and they reveal that the messages sent by individuals (as opposed to the vested interests in the music industry) were almost 100% against a change in the existing term of 50 years.
We have to await the outcome of the European Commission’s investigation into the question of copyright, but it is believed that they are not sympathetic to an extension of the current period. There are even suggestions that the USA may have a rethink on its own decision around ten years ago to raise their copyright period to 95 years.
The conclusion reached by Gowers is good for composers whose works are reissued by the small labels because royalties will start flowing again after 50 years, and not have to wait for considerably longer.
It has been argued that the record industry’s case was weakened by the experience in the USA where very few historical recordings have been reissued. In fact some US collectors rely upon the independent British companies to make their older recordings available to them.
A few days after the Gowers Review was published, the record industry placed an advertisement in the press supposedly signed by thousands of its artists pleading for the findings of the review to be ignored. One reporter dryly commented that at least two of the ‘signatories’ had died several years ago.
This article appeared in ‘Journal Into Melody’ March 2007
The demise of Brian Kay’s Light Programme has once again focussed attention on the sorry state of Light Music broadcasting in Britain. We pay the piper – it is now time that we called the tune, argues David Ades.
BBC RADIO : TIME FOR A RADICAL RETHINK
Early last November rumours started circulating that BBC Radio 3 would be axing Brian Kay’s Light Programme in February. This is the only national programme which Light Music admirers can rely upon to let them hear recordings of the kind of music they enjoy, so the thought that it was to disappear from the schedules filled many of us with alarm.
Letters, telephone calls and e-mails started to reach me even before I had alerted members as to what might happen through our website, and it was clear that you were all concerned at the news. I say ‘might’ deliberately, because for many weeks the BBC fended off letters of complaint saying that a final decision had not been taken.
Of course, this was far from the truth. Having already decided on a big reorganisation of the afternoon schedules it would be naïve to expect the Controller of Radio 3 to make a U-turn and bow to public pressure. Such things don’t happen at the BBC.
The national press quickly picked up on the story. Paul Donovan in the Sunday Times urged readers to complain to Michael Grade about Brian Kay’s departure. Roger Wright (Radio 3 Controller) told The Guardian that concerts lasting from 2.00 to 5.00pm introduced by ‘consistent voices’ would fill the time vacated by the programmes being cancelled – presumably this means that money would be saved replacing presenters with staff announcers. Gillian Reynolds in the Daily Telegraph said that she loved Brian Kay’s programme and would miss it.
Our last London meeting was held shortly after the news had broken, and by then a number of members had asked us to organise a petition against the decision to end Brian Kay’s show. This was duly signed by most people present, and forwarded to the BBC; it was never even acknowledged.
Just as the groundswell of anger was steadily building the BBC’s boss Michael Grade defected to ITV, leaving the Corporation with other matters to contend with. A separate letter I had sent to Michael Grade a few days previously (in my private capacity) made the point that many of us have grown up enjoying light music provided on the old Home Service and Light Programme which is now almost completely ignored by today’s programme makers. Millions of pensioners find little to interest them on the radio, and turn to their CDs for their musical entertainment. Radio 2 is hailed as a great success, yet it is merely a carbon copy of countless commercial stations around the country. I further suggested that present Radio 1 and Radio 2 should be merged, and that a completely new Radio 2 should be aimed at over 55s.
No one of importance would ever have seen the letter. The reply from BBC Information in Glasgow merely said that it noted my comments and that it appreciated feedback from listeners.
Other RFS members were also not slow in writing to the BBC. Alan Bunting (a retired BBC employee) told Michael Grade that he was very disappointed at losing the 4.00pm programmes on Radio 3, and bemoaned the fact that Radio 2 had completely deserted the over-55s.
James Cahall e-mailed the BBC from the USA saying that one hour per week devoted to light music out of total broadcasting time of 168 hours was hardly greedy. James also emphasised how many people overseas listen via the internet – something that the BBC is unable to measure.
In a separate letter to me as secretary of the RFS, Roger Wright admitted that "Brian Kay's Light Programme has been a splendid part of our programming but we are responding to other listeners who want to hear more classical music, rather than a dedicated light music programme. I realise, frustratingly, that pleasing one group of listeners potentially disturbs others. There will still be some light music included in our other programmes but not a dedicated focus as in Brian Kay’s Light Programme." Personally I think that very few of us will want to endure the majority of Radio 3’s usual output in the hope of occasionally hearing a piece of light music.
David Daniels began his letter to Roger Wright with the words: "what the hell is happening at the BBC? I cannot believe that practically the only programme on the national network devoted to quality light music is to be axed. Once upon a time this material formed the largest part of the BBC’s output, indeed many pieces of light orchestral music formed the top selling recordings in the 50s and 60s and the generation who bought these still enjoy it given the chance." David’s letter went on to denigrate two particular "complete morons" who appear on Radio 2, and ended by saying that the BBC has a duty to serve the nation as a whole, not just the under 50s. This letter prompted the standard response from the BBC in Glasgow – in other words, no one cares what the audience thinks or wants.
Steve Fish also wrote in similar terms. He received the usual BBC reply, but in his case from the Managing Editor of Radio 3 rather than the ‘anonymous’ BBC Information. One suspects that there is a standard letter on a BBC computer which can be readily accessed to deal with complaints from the public.
Which leads us on to the important question: what can be done to persuade the BBC to respect the musical preferences of millions of potential listeners, and reconsider the structure of its national radio stations?
First of all let’s consider the shortcomings and the problems from the point of view of the licence payers.
1 BBC Radio does not fully reflect the wishes of the population when it comes to the music played. There is too much pop and plenty of classical music, with all kinds of ethnic preferences receiving attention. But over 55s are almost totally ignored.
2 There are too many radio stations playing the same kind of pop music that broadcasters admit is aimed at the 25-35 year old audience. What they seem unable to grasp is that more of these people are at work during the daytime, leaving the vast majority of the available audience aged over 55.
3 Britain has never had more radio stations, yet we are only too aware that ‘more’ means simply more of the same – not a wider choice (just like television, but let’s not get on to that!). Next time you take a long car journey press the ‘search’ button on your car radio. How many stations will it pick up all sounding the same?
4 BBC Local radio stations have a few interesting programmes, but these seem to be under threat from trendy young station controllers. A lot of presenters seem to think they are auditioning for Radio 1 most of the time, playing music which is unsuited to the kind of people who might otherwise enjoy listening to a magazine-type programme concentrating on local news and events.
5 Radio 2 is generally regarded by most RFS members as a great disappointment 90% of the time, and judging by comments in other music magazines we are not alone in our views. The BBC maintains that it is the nation’s most popular station with the biggest audience, yet this is only because it broadcasts over the entire country. Within radio circles it is known (but not admitted in public) that in cities and large towns where there is strong competition from a local commercial station, Radio 2 does not win the battle for listeners.
Britain badly needs a national radio station that can be enjoyed by people over 55 – and that means around 20 million of us! Presenters should be freed of the restrictions imposed by the wretched playlists (these are the recordings placed on computer from which programme makers have to choose) and be encouraged to share their knowledge and enthusiasms with their audience. Of course, it does still occasionally happen today (Russell Davies and Malcolm Laycock are two prime examples) but one wonders how a new generation of Alan Dells is ever going to surface amidst the mire of mediocrity that suffocates and stifles any hint of quality among younger presenters.
And the up and coming presenters have to be made to realise that they should be choosing and playing music to suit their audience, not simply spin their own particular favourites. The culture within the BBC must also change. It must be a brave person in Broadcasting House who would admit to enjoying Mantovani, and Bill Cotton jnr summed up the cloistered BBC mentality in a recent excellent TV documentary on Vera Lynn. Back in the early days of BBC 2, Bill decided that they should present a major series of programmes starring Vera, and he asked his best music producer to be in charge. His response was: "what have I done wrong?"
If the BBC decided today to give 20 million listeners what they wanted, and turn Radio 2 into a station playing quality popular vocal and light music, interspersed with intelligent spoken word programmes, one can imagine the problem in finding a Controller who would be willing to stand up to the snide remarks of fellow broadcasters and executives. Perhaps the listening figures would eventually silence the critics.
Of course one must acknowledge that the BBC does have its own problems. Although it is supposed to be free of any political interference, it is the politicians who have the last say regarding the level of the licence fee. If the BBC does not have a large audience some politicians (usually those with small majorities) are going to get their names in the press by complaining that the BBC does not deserve the money we all give it.
But the BBC is a public service broadcaster – something that its critics (and even some of its own staff) seem to fail to appreciate. We pay our licence fee so that the BBC can broadcast programmes that commercial broadcasters will avoid because advertisers dislike them. We do not pay our licence fee so that the BBC can duplicate the kind of programmes readily available elsewhere, which is why Radio 2 must undergo a serious rethink.
Which brings us back to the reason for this article: the termination of Brian Kay’s Light Programme. The Controller of BBC Radio 3 does not deserve to be made a scapegoat over this matter. It is his responsibility to keep his schedule looking fresh, and it does appear that the classical lobbyists have been putting pressure on him. If we are honest we have to say that Brian Kay should have been on Radio 2, along with the film, show and jazz programmes that are also being axed from Radio 3. Of course, we are very sorry that Brian’s programme has ended, but we should be grateful that Roger Wright commissioned it over five years ago. It was originally broadcast at an ideal time on Sunday afternoons and then shifted to Thursdays when its audience must have suffered. However the availability of the programme for seven days on the internet helped to compensate, and we know that many RFS members outside Britain have listened in this way.
Time will tell whether Radio 3 has lost listeners as a result, and it may be pertinent to mention that the only time in the week when Classic FM experiences a noticeable dip in its audience is on Friday evenings while "Friday Night Is Music Night" is on Radio 2. Someone still enjoys light music.
What of the future? Clearly we cannot sit back and admit defeat. The time has surely come when the BBC must be put under pressure to introduce more enjoyable music on Radio 2, especially during the daytime. If you share this opinion, please write to the BBC and the national press. It is probably a waste of time to write to the Controller of Radio 2, who will be under pressure from above to keep the status quo. So your comments would be better addressed to the new Chairman (when announced) or the BBC Director General, Mark Thompson. It seems that a new Trust has taken over from the former Governors, so the members should also be made aware of your feelings. However one recent letter from the BBC stated that it is the Executive Board which is responsible for implementation of strategy and for the BBC’s day-to-day operations and editorial decisions, so maybe the Chair of that committee should be approached (at BBC, Broadcasting House, London, W1A 1AA).
Your own comments will also be welcome for publication in our next issue.
David Ades - from ‘Journal Into Melody’ March 2007.
Peter Appleyard Wizard of the Vibraphone
by Murray Ginsberg
The career of legendary jazz artist Peter Appleyard spans more than five decades. He has performed with some of the world's greatest musicians, among them Benny Goodman, Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Tony Bennett, Duke Ellington and Oscar Peterson. He was the most played artist on FM radio in the 70s and 80s, while his award-winning TV jazz series, 'Peter Appleyard Presents' was broadcast across Canada from 1978 to 1981.
Peter Appleyard is an enthusiastic showstopper, all jazz and mallet work, dazzling melodic improvisation and breath-taking harmonic variations. Since Lionel Hampton, with few peers in the vibraphone world, he's the greatest jazz vibraphonist on the planet.
Born August 28, 1928, in Cleethorpes, England, he studied piano at age 14 and began learning drums on his own. "At 16 I was playing with various dance bands. I had a bicycle with a trailer behind it and would ride 10 to 15 miles just to play a gig," he recalls. He began his performance career with Felix Mendlessohn's Hawaiian Serenaders, the most popular dance band in England and the first to appear on British television. During this same period, he was conscripted into the Royal Air Force where he played dozens of drumming engagements with the RAF band.
After 18 months with the RAF, Appleyard performed with various leading British orchestras. In December 1949 he accepted an 18-month contract to play in Bermuda. Then in 1951 a vacation trip to Canada led him to move to Toronto. Hearing Red Norvo's trio with Charles Mingus and Tal Farlow inspired him to switch to vibes and form a trio that also used bass and guitar. They played the Colonial Tavern, the most important jazz mecca in Canada's largest city. At the Colonial he also heard and met Artie Shaw, Errol Gamer, Count Basie, Muggsy Spanier, and others. His Toronto reputation grew as he was featured vibes soloist with the Calvin Jackson Quartet at the Park Plaza Hotel, and eventually formed his own quartet.
Somewhere along the way Peter took a trip to New York City, which created a new musical focus for him. "I headed down Broadway and heard George Shearing and his quintet and Lionel Hampton's big band at Bop City. That was the thrill of a lifetime," he says. The extraordinary influences of piano great Shearing and vibraphone colossus Hampton changed his life forever.
By 1956 Appleyard was taking his quartet on tours and club dates. He has also enjoyed a long standing association with CBS Radio and Television which led to him winning the Arthur Godfrey Showtalent contest, and appearances on the Andy Williams Show, the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson and the Today Show with David Garroway. His busy schedule in New York in the late 1950s included months-long engagements at the Embers and Round Table. The Dukes of Dixieland, Steve AlIen and Andre Previn also played there and helped him get a contract that resulted in three Audio Fidelity albums. Throughout his long and prestigious career Peter has appeared in virtually all jazz venues in the USA, Asia, Europe and Canada.
At the Embers Appleyard met Benny Goodman, who hired him for a concert in Hackensack, New Jersey. In the sextet were Hank Jones, piano; Milt Hinton, bass; Bobby Rosengarden, drums, and Bucky Pizzarelli, guitar. A few months later, Appleyard joined Goodman's group, which turned out to be the beginning of an eight-year relationship and friendship. The Goodman band, including Appleyard, was later formed to open the Rainbow Grill in New York City.
Highlights of tours with Goodman from 1972 to 1980 included a 1972 recording On Stage, Live at the Tivoli Gardens, Copenhagen (Time Life Recordings); Benny Goodman All Stars with Zoot Sims, George Benson, Hank Jones, Slam Stewart, and Joe Venuti (Columbia Records).
In 1976, Frank Sinatra invited Peter Appleyard to appear with him, Ella Fitzgerald and the Count Basie Orchestra for a two-week engagement at the Uris Theatre in New York City. In the '80s he appeared with Sinatra again in an Ottawa fundraiser organised by Canadian comic Rich Little, which raised over $500,000 for the Ottawa Civic Hospital.
On July 24, 2005, I was happy to meet Peter at the Robert Farnon Memorial Tribute at St. Paul's (the Actors') Church in Covent Garden, London, which was packed with friends and colleagues who came to pay their respects to their late hero. I knew that Peter had been a member of the Robert Farnon Appreciation Society for years.
In early April of this year some friends and I travelled to Rockwood, a pleasant village 50 miles west of Toronto to hear Peter and Friends at La Vi//e Auberge, a lovely restaurant that was sold out for the concert. Peter lives on a 31-acre farm in Rockwood, from where he tours the world. The concert included jazz pianist John Sherwood and super bassist Neil Swainson. Although I've known and worked alongside Peter on various TV shows and live concerts for years, it wasn't until that Rockwood afternoon when I was astonished to hear him play drums (while pianist Sherwood soloed on various standards,) then actually play the piano with his right hand while Sherwood backed him with his left. On one ferociously high-speed tempo tune, Peter's million-note-per-bar variations rivalled the great Oscar Peterson.
On 30 June 2006, Peter was invited to the UK by Guy Saint-Jacques, acting Canadian High Commissioner in London to help celebrate Canada Day (July 1), Canada's 139th birthday. The programme, Canada On Stage, in Trafalgar Square, began at 5pm and presented not only Peter Appleyard but also a diverse range of talent from across the country that entertained a lively crowd of listeners until 9pm.
At 9pm, my partner and I were fortunate to be invited to Canada House where Peter and Friends entertained some 300 guests from 9 until 11pm. Peter brought pianist John Sherwood from Canada and added two of Britain's finest musicians to complete the group - bassist Paul Morgan and drummer Bob Worth. To say the least, Peter and Friends had the audience whistling and applauding until the show ended.
Peter Appleyard is considered, by fans everywhere, to be one of the leading jazz percussionists in the world today, and certainly a Canadian national treasure. He is the proud recipient of the Scarborough, Ontario "Civic Award of Merit" for his outstanding contributions to the international and Canadian music scene. He has also been honoured to receive The Order of Canada in recognition of his international stature as a musician and "Good Will Ambassador".
He is undoubtedly the greatest jazz vibraphonist alive.
Earlier this year Dr. Stanley Saunders conducted the premiere performance of Robert Farnon’s penultimate composition, which he dedicated to Dr. Saunders. Hopefully one day we will all have the opportunity of hearing this work, described in detail in Dr. Saunders’ programme notes which he has kindly allowed us to publish in ‘Journal Into Melody’.
Programme Notes :
"American Wind Symphony: The Gaels"
by Robert Farnon
Nowadays, the collective term ‘Gaels’ is often used in reference to a Gaelic speaking Celt in Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Cornwall, and the Isle of Man. Historical records show the evolution of the Gaels from very early times to the present. Records copied by the monks in monasteries for over 2,000 years and other accounts show that bagpipes were documented in Egypt back in 1500BC. Indeed, the cultural evolution shows that the Gaels enjoyed singing triumphant hymns and songs in their native language, beating with their feet in rhythmic jigs and other dances, clapping, and playing ‘caetras’ [bagpipes].
While many of the Gaelic words have been lost, derivatives of the original can be seen in such words as the term ‘Gael’ itself, which comes from ‘gaedel’ that has strong links to the Welsh word, ‘gwydel,’ which means foreigner, or raider. The military history of the Gaels show that they were among the best soldiers in the world, and the term ‘Gael’ designates a Highlander or Warrior. The Warriors often celebrated their military victories with bagpipe music.
The composition "American Wind Symphony: The Gaels" is dedicated by the composer to Dr. Stanley Saunders. The work was commissioned by the Roxbury High School Honors Wind Symphony, Roxbury High School, Succasunna, New Jersey, USA, Director, Mr. Todd Nichols. The arrangements were made by Professor Darryl Bott, Former Director, who now teaches at Rutgers University, New Jersey.
The work, which receives its premiere this evening, not only reflects the stirring and moving history of the Celts but also aurally depicts in a musical fashion the inhabitants of the British Isles with such sections as ‘The Warriors,’ ‘Battle Cry,’ ‘The Lassie,’ ‘The Bluebells of Scotland,’ the Lament ‘Emerald Isle,’ and ‘Scotland the Brave.’ In certain cases — programme music — the composer intends to convey specific images through music but often the composer intends the music to be nothing but — what is called absolute — music. This composition is a combination of both concepts.
The structure of The Gae!s is based on seven, continuous yet contrasting musical sections. The opening section of the composition, Introduction, starts with a crescendo roll throughout the percussion section heralding a spirited and delineated fanfare-like section in the brass that is based on a phrase from Scotland the Brave A lyrical, flowing melody is then announced by the low reed and brass instruments above which a florid woodwind counterpoint is woven that is complimented by percussion colourations.
A ‘lento’ section, featuring the keyboards and mallet instruments along with solo flute and bassoon, leads to the second section, The Warriors. A quiet, solo timpani roll introduces this ‘Allegro’ section with pyramid-like entries in the muted brass in triple metre. This triple metre passage increases in volume and intensity as other instruments make their entries. This portion of the work subsides both in tempo and dynamics with a flute solo followed by a keyboard link that transforms the mood from one of tension to a feeling of peace that continues throughout section three, The Lament: Emerald Isle. This moving melody is presented in antiphonal four-bar phrases throughout the wind ensemble. The modulating sequences played by the clarinets and saxophones continue with a quickening of pace.
This passage is followed by a sudden change of mood that illumes Farnon’ s great skill and ingenuity in orchestration as the high woodwinds float breezily along while the whole percussion section provides shimmering and scintillating contrapuntal embellishments. The whole ensemble then makes a spirited entry with staccato utterances from the low brass and tam tam [gong] leading into section four, Battle Cry. This rousing ‘presto’ section, which presents many challenges to all sections of the ensemble, depicts the Warriors as they prepare for action.
A soft roll in the percussion followed by a sustained tone in the French horns and low reeds introduces section five, The Lassie. In this part of the composition one can almost see and smell the heather of the Highlands as the solo piccolo quietly plays the main theme in brisk fashion accompanied by the rhythmic Scottish side drum. This part of the work increases in excitement and intensity as other sections of the wind ensemble join in.
At this point, section six, Bluebells, is announced but in an unusual 5/4 metre, while the contrasting The Lassie theme is continued in the piccolo, flutes, oboe, and keyboards as dancing filigree counterpoint. The main theme, Bluebells, continues but has now reverted to its more familiar quadruple metre. The Introduction music now reappears in full dress and section seven, Scotland the Brave, is announced in ‘vivace’ fashion by the trumpet section against an invigorating triplet figure in the high woodwinds, mallet, and keyboard instruments. The dance like figure makes its final, furious appearance at a ‘presto’ tempo and the thrilling build up concludes in stirring fashion with solo timpani and full ensemble in a dramatic climax.
Robert Farnon’s composition is a perfect symphonic wind ensemble setting that reflects the history of The Gaels both at Roxbury High School and throughout the ages. While the composition has programmatic aspects that are reflected in the Celtic melodies upon which the work is based, it still retains an overriding sense of formal splendour and majesty.
Programme Notes by Dr. Stanley Saunders
In JIM165 (September 2005) Dr. Saunders writes about the background to this major work in his article "Robert Farnon: Genius and Humility".