■ The eagerly awaited new CD of Robert Farnon compositions and arrangements, featuring the flautist Jane Pickles is now scheduled for recording next January. Readers will recall that the original sessions planned for last summer were delayed. For more information see page 3 of JIM 155 (June 2003).
■ Chris Laurence is one of the most in-demand double bass players in the country, and his range encompasses classical, jazz and studio work. It is hardly surprising that he chose the music profession, because his grandmother was the internationally renowned harpist Marie Goosens, for many years a familiar member of the Robert Farnon Orchestra. The Goosens family was famous on the English musical scene, and their descendants seem to be keeping up the tradition. Chris’s father, Tony, is a pianist, and his brother, Patrick (also a double bassist) is a member of the London Symphony Orchestra. Whenever a major film score is recorded in London, there is a good chance that Chris will be there (he was on the soundtrack of Leaving Las Vegas) and he frequently tours with guitarist John Williams. ‘Musician’ (the magazine of the Musicians’ Union) recently asked Chris with whom he would most like to collaborate on a musical project. His reply was: Robert Farnon. (with thanks to Paul Lewis for supplying this information)
■ The talented British flautist Arthur Gleghorn gave a virtuoso performance of Robert Farnon’s arrangement of Chopin’s Fantasie Impromptu in C Sharp Minor, on a Decca 78 (F 8885) recorded by the Kingsway Symphony Orchestra conducted by ‘Toots’ Camarata. Leonard Statkin recently revealed on television that Gleghorn had been featured in the 1946 film Deception, which boasted a fine score by Erich Wolfgang Korngold. In one scene an orchestra was rehearsing, and the conductor chided the flute player for making a mistake. The player (who was not at fault) was Arthur Gleghorn, who apparently played in the studio orchestra for a number of Hollywood film soundtracks around that time.
■ Marco Polo have recently deleted the CD of Robert Farnon compositions played by the Czecho-Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra (Bratislava) conducted by Adrian Leaper (8223401) This was issued in 1992, so it has been in the catalogue for a longer time than most releases these days. In 1993 this album was awarded the prestigious Acadamie Charles Gros award in Paris. Fortunately all the compositions in this collection are available on other CDs, but if any members are anxious to get this particular CD please contact the RFS Record Service immediately – we only have a few copies left!
■ Several new Robert Farnon CDs are in the pipeline, so you can expect to read some good news in our next issue!
THE ROBERT FARNON SOCIETY SPRING 2013
MEETING reported by Brian Reynolds
It was time once again for the faithful to meet up for our bi-annual festival of melody at 'The Bonnington' - as we prefer to call it. Members and a few non-members trooped in, most of whom were blissfully unaware that this was to be our penultimate meeting! As mentioned elsewhere, David Ades is, for health reasons, having to relinquish his various roles in the Society, notably that of Editor of the magnificently presented Journal, a task which has taken up much of his waking hours over a good number of the last fifty years - a superb record. All of us have reason to be grateful to him for his enormous contribution, not only to the Society, but to light music in general.
In the absence of David, Albert Killman opened proceedings with Manhattan Playboy by Robert Farnon from a new CD conducted by Iain Sutherland
Albert then read out an apology for his absence from David, conveying his good wishes to the assembled multitude. We continued with a performance of I get a kick out of you (sounds painful!) conducted by Robert Farnon.
Paul Clatworthy then came to the top table and introduced Claire featuring the Metropole Orchestra conducted by Rob Pronk, followed by Slumbering Child and A piece of Cake.
Tony Clayden told the audience of the hard decisions that had been made regarding the Society. He explained that his announcement of the closure of the Society was one that he had hoped that he would never have to make. There was an audible gasp from members, followed by a stunned silence! Tony introduced Jan Mentha of the Light Music Society of which some of us are already members. It was suggested that with the demise of the Robert Farnon Society, members might wish to join this long-established society, which was formed in the mid-fifties to cater for lovers of melodious music. Sample magazines were provided to those who enquired and I understand that a considerable number of people expressed interest.
After this, it was time for my 'Radio Recollections' spot, which I have enjoyed presenting for many years. As usual, items were chosen from my large collection of vintage light music broadcasts. I began with a piece that would have been played at the previous meeting, had time permitted. This was 'Blackberry Pie' by Jean Harker, played by Reg Pursglove and the Albany Strings. I followed this with a lively joropo entitled Consuela by John Logan, played by Bernard Monshin and his Rio Tango Band. This gave me an opportunity to mention that, following receipt of some mint quality Bernard Monshin MWYW broadcasts, I had compiled them into a very full CD. Frank Bristow published these recordings in Australia and I had imported a batch so as to be able to sell them at the meeting. I'm pleased to say that all of them were purchased. The CD will be reviewed elsewhere in the journal.
I continued with a lovely Harold Geller arrangement of Annie Laurie, featuring the mandolin of Hugo D'Alton with the Harold Geller Orchestra. For my final item, I turned to the music of Jack Coles for a piece called Casbah played by the BBC Midland Light Orchestra under his direction.
Albert Killman then treated us to some music from David Rose and his Orchestra - Tiny Ballerina (who only danced in the key of C). We then turned to a recent Guild CD (Salon, Light and Novelty orchestras) for a terrific arrangement of 'Montague Ewing's Fairy on the Clock. This was followed by Roger Roger's 'Scenic Railway' from the Guild CD 'Fiddles and Bows'. The final CD to be represented was 'Cinema Classics' and we listened to part of 'Lady Barbara' (not sure which part!) from the Captain Hornblower music by Robert Farnon.
We then took our first interval.
After the interval Tony Clayden introduced our special guest for the afternoon, Sir Sydney Samuelson CBE, founder of the Filmharmonic concerts staged at the Royal Albert Hall in the seventies and eighties. Usually, at our meetings we interview our victim (sorry-guest!) but Sir Sydney (who is in his late eighties) chose to stand for an hour giving one of the most articulate and well-measured accounts that we have heard. He had also brought with him a number of special guests with whom he had worked over the years. These included 89 year old conductor John Gregory, a famous name from years gone by!
Apparently Sir Sydney had enjoyed a long friendship with film composer Nino Rota, and in 1969 had the idea of staging a big concert of film music conducted by several of the biggest names in the business, including Nino Rota, who it transpired was one of the least organised of those whom he invited!
The idea came to fruition in 1970, and Sir Sydney was surprised to find that each of his invited conductors were pleased to give their services free of charge - unfortunately that didn't apply to the large orchestra that was assembled, so it was a costly exercise. Nevertheless, every seat was sold and a follow-up concert was inevitable in 1971. I well remember attending it and enjoying the performances conducted by Frank Chacksfield, Nelson Riddle, David Rose, and Maurice Jarre. The concerts were staged for twelve years during the seventies and eighties.
Sir Sydney illustrated his talk with some video sequences taken at the concerts, the first of which was of Julie Andrews introducing Filmharmonic 74, followed by Toot,Toot, Tootsie, Goodbye and Mammyconducted by Ronnie Aldrich.
From the 1970 show we enjoyed the theme from Love Story conducted by its composer Francis Lai.
The final film sequence was of Henry Mancini. He opened with Moon River and was then featured at the piano in Charade, Dear Heart, The Sweetheart Tree, Days of Wine and Roses and concluding with a reprise of Moon River. The film sequences were a little jumpy in places, but it was wonderful that they existed at all, so they were much appreciated by everyone, as was Sir Sydney's very professional presentation.
Before taking our second break, we had the raffle, during which Sir Sydney was assisted by John Gregory's daughter.
We returned to our seats to the strains of The Best Things in Life are Free conducted by Robert Farnon.
Robert Habermann then came to the top table to talk to us about the recently deceased Edna Kaye and her husband, Stanley Black. We watched a short film sequence of Edna Kaye singing. She had worked with Carroll Gibbons whose orchestra was accompanying her in Darling. This was followed by Cole Porter's You'd we so nice to come home to.
Robert told us that Edna married Soloman Schwarz - whom we know better as Stanley Black. Stanley worked with a number of different bands over the years, and joined the Harry Roy band in 1936.
We then listened to Honeysuckle Rose which featured Coleman Hawkins with Stanley at the piano.
As those of us who are familiar with Stanley Black's music will be aware, he had a great love of Latin-American music, so by way of example, we listened to his recording of the Mexican Hat Dance from his LP 'Caribbean Carnival.'
This was followed by an excerpt from 'Friday Night is Music Night - The Nearness of You, featuring the trombone of Chris Smith with the BBC Concert Orchestra conducted by Stanley Black. In the final item in this sequence, Stanley accompanied Caterina Valente in Goodbye my Love.
Albert returned to talk about Richard Rodney Bennett, who had recently died. He played us Nicola's Theme (from 'Tender is the Night'). It so happens that John Wilson made one album with Richard Rodney Bennett, from which we heard Love. Then, perhaps inevitably, we were treated to an excerpt from the film 'Murder on the Orient Express', incorporating the famous waltz - which Bennett considered to be the best tune that he had ever written!
After listening to Robert Farnon conducting The Trolley Song from the film 'Meet Me at St. Louis' Tony reminded members of our final meeting on 13th October, when our guests will be The Aspidistra Drawing Room Orchestra.
Albert informed us that, sadly, Ralph Harvey (one of our members) had suffered a stroke, and expressed our wishes for his speedy recovery.
We played out with Robert Farnon's Melody Fair.
I should make the point that although this was the penultimate London meeting of the Robert Farnon Society, it does NOT have to mean the end of musical meetings of the little community that has developed over the years. Indeed, plans are in hand to continue with two London meetings a year under the auspices of a new group, affiliated to the 'Light Music Society' at a different, but equally suitable central London venue.
This report appeared in the August 2013 issue of ‘Journal Into Melody’.
Robert Farnon Society Spring Meeting 2012
By Brian Reynolds
May 13th was a lovely day - just right for our Spring Journey Into Melody and it was one to which I had been particularly looking forward - a really special day, with the promise of some live music from the London Salon Ensemble.
Some time before the music was due to start I spotted a piano on stage - and when I see a piano I can't resist playing it! So I serenaded the incoming multitude (whether they wanted it or not!) Fortunately, most had brought their earplugs just in case!
A gentleman called Howard Del Monte (son of composer and guitarist Sydney Del Monte) introduced himself to me, so this gave me an excuse (not that I needed it,) to play his father's often broadcastBows and Bells. Then David Ades and Albert Killman took the stage to present the first part of the programme.
We opened with Robert Farnon's Portrait of a Flirt. Nothing particularly surprising in that you may say, but this version featured David Farnon at the piano - an arrangement which was recently broadcast when the BBC aired some vintage editions of Friday Night is Music Night earlier in the year.
We then listened to the trombone of the late Don Lusher, accompanied by Bob's orchestra in the title tune of that delightful film Young at Heart. This was followed by Wouldn't it be lovely from 'My Fair Lady'. This featured the flugelhorn of Shake Keane. Bob was once again at the helm.
By way of a tribute to one of our members, Sylvia Rix who had recently passed away, David played us one of her favourite pieces Let's Dream of Tomorrow, written by our good friend John Fox and performed by the John Fox Orchestra.
We continued with the Frank Cordell Orchestra playing June is Busting out All Over in the style ofPlayful Pizzicato.
Next came a tribute to an RFS member, the late Uan Rasey (trumpet) with a performance featuring the MGM Symphony Orchestra, of the blues sequence from 'An American in Paris'. Bess, You is My Woman - (George Gershwin's bad grammar, not mine!)
A complete contrast next, as we listened to the Royal Ballet Symphonia playing The Little Dress, this being the first movement of The Breton Suite by Mansel Thomas, a musician whom many older readers will associate with the BBC Welsh Orchestra. This was followed by a Chappell library recording - Sports Flash by Charles Williams, played by the Queen's Hall Light Orchestra.
We always sample some new releases at our meetings and our next item came from a new Guild CD 'Stereo into the Sixties'. We heard Johnny Douglas and the Living Strings play Pedro the Fishermanfrom the film 'The Lisbon Story'. This was followed by Tony Bennett singing Remind Me, accompanied by the Robert Farnon Orchestra.
Malcolm Lockyer was the composer of Stranger than Fiction (originally titled The Big Guitar) and we listened to the recently-departed Bert Weedon playing this very successful number, accompanied by Sidney Torch and his orchestra. This was followed by a track from a forthcoming Guild CD 'The Art of the Arranger Vol 2'. The piece selected was These Foolish Things featuring the Angela Morley Orchestra.
From the album 'A Portrait of Johnny Mathis', Erroll Garner's Misty almost brought Part One to a conclusion. But to whet our appetite for part two, we went to tea to the accompaniment of the BBC Northern Dance Orchestra and Dominique.
Returning, suitably refreshed, we were entertained by The Snake Charmer from Old Bagdad. No - it wasn't a special guest, it was the title of another track from the BBC Northern Dance Orchestra's new double CD 'Diamonds'. Next came a piece which I know very well from listening to military bands:Gee Whizz played by the Bournemouth Municipal Orchestra under Sir Dan Godfrey with Matt King playing the xylophone solo.
This was followed by Once Upon a Time sung by Patricia Lambert with the BBC Midland Light Orchestra conducted by our old friend Harold Rich. This came from a recording of a radio series which Harold did with the orchestra entitled 'Barry Kent Sings'.
It was then time for my 'Radio Recollections' and I began with two pieces from Bernard Monshin and his Rio Tango Band. The first was an exciting paso doble by Jose Mendoza entitled Festa Valesta and that was followed by Wynford Reynolds's concert waltz Morning Glory. I then turned to Maurice Arnold and his Sextet (three violins, piano, bass, guitar and percussion) for a sparkling Latin number calledLavoona, featuring the nimble fingers of Maurice Arnold at the piano, He was also the composer. Taking the tempo down a little, a relaxing beguine by James Warr (Peter Haysom Craddy) entitledBlue Waters played by Raymond Agoult and his Players. Next we heard from violin virtuoso Ralph Elman and his Bohemian Players. As Ralph was Ron Goodwin's leader, it was appropriate that he played a Goodwin original - Messenger Boy. Finally I turned to Reg Pursglove and the Albany Strings for Fredric Bayco's Lady Beautiful.
The programme continued with Haydn Wood's Roses of Picardy which was performed by Frank Sinatra. However this was from a selection of outakes. So we heard Frank's attempts to get it right and, so it seemed, giving up at the end!
Next came Stateside Stroll otherwise known as East of Fifth in a Bruce Campbell arrangement played by the Robert Farnon Orchestra.
To conclude Part two we had a 'mystery tune' - one of a number of Percy Faith recordings which Alan Bunting would dearly like include on a future Guild CD, if only he could identify it. Sadly, nobody could!
After the raffle, we took our second break whilst the stage was set for our very special guests
Now, the moment to which I had personally been looking forward for a long time. Some eighteen months ago I was sitting in the Royal Festival Hall listening to the London Salon Ensemble, something which I had done countless times during the last twenty years, and I turned to Tony Clayden, who was sitting next to me and said "we really have got to invite this orchestra to a Farnon Society meeting!"
Tony agreed and said that he would invite them, and here they were!
The line-up of the orchestra was as follows:
Michael Gray (Solo Violin), Megan Pound and Penelope Gee (violins), Lars Payne (cello), Steve Rossell (double bass), Daryl Griffith (celeste, percussion and occasionally violin), Kevin Darvas (piano) and Neil Varley (accordion).
As I have written an article about the ensemble, which appears following this report, I will simply tell you what they played. It included a number of requests mostly from Tony Clayden and myself!
Their first section came from their standard repertoire and was as follows
Gypsy Blood (March) (J.G. Renner)
Souvenir d'amour (Oliphant Chuckerbutty)
Pirouette (Oliphant Chuckerbutty)
Romany Serenade (Max Morelle)
Phantom of Salome(Waltz) (Archibald Joyce)
The Sirens of Southend (Alfred Reynolds)
At our suggestion the ensemble then played a group of pieces that were regularly heard on the old Light Programme during the sixties.
Hampden Roar (March) (Fred Hartley)
Edelma (Pasillo) (Tereg Tucci)
Heidelberg Polka (Cyril Watters)
Mexican Fire Dance (Albert Marland)
The Westminster Waltz (Robert Farnon)
We were grateful to Ann Adams for lending us the orchestral parts for Edelma and to Lars Payne for spending many hours adapting it for the ensemble - who continued with some more items from their concert repertoire.
In the Park Cafe (Kruger-Hanschmann)
Sunshine Over Capri (Hermann Krome)
Easter Parade in Vienna (Robert Stoltz)
Remembrance(Tango-fantasy) (Helmut Ritter)
Da Capo (Georges Boulanger)
Next, three compositions by the ensemble's self-effacing celeste player, Daryl Griffith who is responsible for composing and conducting much of the music heard in television and film drama.
The New Year Belle
Sunday on the Southbank
The ensemble concluded with three contrasting items
Reconciliation (Percy Fletcher)
Keep Moving (Frederick Charrosin)
Salut d'amour (Edward Elgar)
The final item was specifically requested by Tony as it is a favourite of his fiance Lyn, who was with us in the audience.
We are most grateful to the London Salon Ensemble for agreeing to play for us - and for giving such a superb performance! It brought to an end an afternoon's entertainment that will be difficult to top!
Editor: Brian Reynolds is far too modest about his piano playing. His repertoire covered a wide range of well-known light music pieces, all in very attractive arrangements and performed without any sheet music. Members thoroughly enjoyed his unexpected – and impromptu – recital!
THE LONDON SALON ENSEMBLE
By Brian Reynolds
I was first introduced to the delights of the London Salon Ensemble some twenty years ago, although it had already been in existence for some years. It soon became apparent to me that this was a virtuoso ensemble of classically trained musicians and their regular concerts of light music in the foyers of the National Theatre and the Royal Festival Hall have given me pleasure on countless occasions in subsequent years.
The ensemble usually comprises eight (occasionally nine) musicians and its instrumentation is similar to the BBC's Palm Court Orchestra, with the solo violinist standing out in front, in true Palm Court style.
However, unlike the BBC's 'Grand Hotel' broadcasts which were steeped in nostalgia, the ensemble tackle a broad range of British and Continental light music - some of it familiar, some of it unfamiliar or forgotten.
Many of the personel have remained the same over the years, notably cellist Lars Payne who founded the group, pianist Kevin Darvas, and Daryll Griffith who plays celesta, harmonium, occasionally violin and any percussion effects that may be required. An unassuming man, his listeners are probably unaware that as a composer and conductor he is responsible for much of the incidental music in television drama, as well as on 'the silver screen'. Some of his delightful light music miniatures are featured by the ensemble.
For many years, the solo violin was played by the late Donald Weekes. Nowadays, Michael Gray assumes this role, usually supported by Megan Pound and Penelope Gee, who has also played at 'The Bonnington' when Ann Adams has provided our music. Typically, for a Salon or Palm Court orchestra, an accordion is included and this is expertly played by Neil Varley, who is also a BBC producer for Radio Three and was responsible for the special edition of 'Friday Night is Music Night' broadcast in 2011 on both Radios Two and Three, as part of 'Light Fantastic'.
In recent years, the ensemble has played many times at the Royal Festival Hall and often gives a concert on or near New Year's Day. Until a change of music policy a few years ago, they also played regularly at the National Theatre foyer. They have performed at many prestigious locations in London, including the British Museum, National Portrait Gallery, Barbican Centre, Lambeth Palace and 11 Downing Street. Members of the Royal Family have been entertained by the ensemble at private receptions at St.James's and Kensington Palaces. The ensemble also recorded the incidental music for an ITV production of 'Oliver Twist' - Alan Bleasedale's adaptation of the Dickens novel. The music was nominated for a BAFTA award.
They have twice broadcast live in Brian Kay's Radio Three show and have been the subject of Radio Four's 'Richard Baker Compares Notes' .
They have made a number of CDs which are available through their website. There are quite a number of tracks from these CDs on SPOTIFY www.spotify.com should you require a 'taster' before purchasing.
The available CDs are as follows:
ORIENT-EXPRESS (MeridianCDE 84466)
THE CLASSIC SALON
with Charlotte Page (Meridian CDE84416)
THE ART DECO CAFE (Meridian CDE84361)
THE PALM COURT (Meridian CDE84264)
LOVE'S DREAM (Meridian CDE 84307)
with Miranda Keys and Donald Maxwell
ALFRED REYNOLDS Music from the Theatre
with Miranda Keys/Donald Maxwell (Meridian CDE84308)
The London Salon Ensemble, with their superb performances, have for the last twenty five years, played a major part in keeping light music alive - at a time when others have been trying to bury it. Long may they continue to do so.
Meeting of the Robert Farnon Society – Sunday 8th May 2011
Reported by Brian Reynolds
The day was May 8th and time once again for all lovers of melodic music to enjoy what might be described as the antidote to pop music - quality light and popular music by Robert Farnon and his contemporaries. For us, our Spring meeting was a little late this year, as this was the first time that we were gathering in May and, as hoped, a warm sun shone on us as we entered what we still affectionately call 'The Bonnington'. Well, let's face it - 'DoubleTree by Hilton London West End Hotel' doesn't exactly roll off the tongue! Whoever thought that title up is probably sitting comfortably in his padded cell. Once again our meeting was in what David Ades called 'the corridor', but we have been assured that our usual room will be refurbished in time for the October meeting.
As usual, David gave the opening address before handing over to Albert Killman who introduced the fabulous John Wilson Orchestra (on video) in an excerpt from their stunning Christmas Day television show 'A Swinging Christmas'. The excerpt chosen was Andrew Cottee's arrangement of A Tribute to the Big Bands.
This was followed by the BBC Midland Radio Orchestra playing Douglas Gamley's Summer Festival Waltz. This featured their wonderful pianist Harold Rich, who we were very pleased to welcome to our meeting.
Then, as a tribute to the late Jane Russell, we enjoyed watching her on screen and hearing I've got Five Dollars from Gentlemen Marry Brunettes in which the voice of the male lead was dubbed by no less than Robert Farnon! Probably the nearest he got to being a screen lover!
It was then time for my 'Radio Recollections' spot and it occurred to me that as our special guest for the afternoon would be playing music from the BBC Midland RADIO orchestra, it would good to play a sequence from its predecessor the Midland LIGHT Orchestra. This orchestra had been one of my favourites in the sixties and was noted for its wide repertoire and the contrasting styles of its two conductors - Jack Coles and Gilbert Vinter.
I started with the orchestra's opening signature tune, Jack Coles' arrangement of Fred Hartley's Life is Nothing Without Music leading into their opening number (conducted by Gilbert Vinter) Alpine Ride by Malcolm Lockyer, whom many will remember for his work conducting the BBC Revue Orchestra and subsequently the Radio Orchestra. For the remainder of the sequence we turned to Jack Coles, conducting first, a favourite of David Ades - Coralita by James Warr (a pseudonym for MLO producer Peter Haysom Craddy). Funny how his compositions cropped up in so many MLO broadcasts! Under Jack Coles, the orchestra played a lot of rhythmic arrangements of popular songs and we heard one such arrangement in the shape of the old standard Peg o' My Heart. It's amazing that 'heart' is the chosen organ for so many song titles! You never hear You are my Spleen's delight or My Liver and I !!
I concluded my presentation with another James Warr composition, Safari Fiesta, an exciting number featuring the nimble fingers of virtuoso pianist Harold Rich, who also arranged the piece. He was rightly given a spontaneous ovation from the audience.
Next, we heard some jingles, written by Bob Farnon for the start of LBC radio. After this, Albert presented (on video) a montage of pictures representing fifty five years of the Society, to the accompaniment of 'The Way We Were'.
It was now time for our new releases, the first coming from a new Guild CD 'The Composer Conducts - Vol 2’. We listened to a recording of Philip Green conducting the Pinewood Studio Orchestra in his own march from the film 'League of Gentlemen'. This was followed by a Robert Farnon arrangement for his orchestra of One Night of Love by Victor Schertzinger. This was from the Guild CD 'Portrait of my Love'. We then listened to I'll See You in my Dreams from Ron Goodwin and his Orchestra, from a new Vocalion CD comprising Ron Goodwin's albums 'Gypsy' and 'Romance in Rhythm' We concluded the first part of our programme with the finale from Bob's Rhapsody for Violin and Orchestra played by Raymond Cohen with the London Festival Symphony Orchestra, conducted by the composer. This is from the new RFS CD celebrating the 55th anniversary of our Society. It also served as a tribute to Raymond Cohen, who died in February.
Prior to our breaking for tea, David read out apologies for absence from David Farnon, also from Malcolm Powell, Cab Smith and John Fox, who were unwell.
Part two opened with Best Endeavours by Alan Hawkshaw. This tune is best known as the theme from Channel Four News.
It was now time to meet our special guest for the afternoon, distinguished oboist Paul Arden-Taylor.
Paul studied at the Royal Academy of Music and left with four diplomas (the police never caught him!) He was appointed principal oboe with Sadlers Wells Royal Ballet Orchestra, joining the BBC Midland Radio Orchestra in 1979, ironically just before the death of its conductor, Norrie Paramor. For his first musical excerpt by the MRO, Paul played Geoff Love's arrangement of Begin the Beguine.
As many members are aware, Paul has amassed a huge collection of recordings of the MRO which he is making available to our Society as well as to the Light Music Society membership. One of the reasons that there is only a limited amount of broadcast music in the BBC's Sound Archives was the Musicians' Union's requirement that all pre-recorded music broadcasts should be erased after transmission, to avoid the possibility of a rebroadcast for which musicians had not been paid! Never mind posterity! The sound engineers in Birmingham duly abided by this rule and erased the recordings - but not before they had made copies! Very enterprising!
When, in 1973, the Midland Radio Orchestra was formed, it replaced the Midland Light Orchestra. The idea was to have a modern style orchestra which would make a speciality of contemporary music. The change involved boosting the string section and dispensing with the brass - which could always be added when required by engaging session players. As the MRO was officially disbanded in 1981, Paul only had a couple of years with them, broadcasting under that name. However, the musicians in the various disbanded orchestras of which the MRO was just one, were given five year contracts giving them regular work under a variety of identities. You might hear them as the John Fox orchestra, the Iain Sutherland orchestra, and many other identities, sometimes augmented with brass, when required.
An example of this was Paul's next item, which was from 'Music While You Work' - a quickstep medley of popular tunes played by 'Pianorama' a two-piano team comprising Harold Rich and Colin Campbell, accompanied by musicians from the former MRO.
This was followed by Little Miss Molly by Robert Farnon and then Paul played Misty for us, the orchestra being conducted by John Fox and featuring Paul, himself - not on oboe, but on recorder! The recently deceased Johnny Pearson was featured next in I wish I knew (from television's 'Film 87'). After this we heard an arrangement of I Feel Pretty conducted by Jack Peberdy with featured flautist Colin Crabb-Smith and Betty Smith, forsaking her saxophone to sing! Incidentally, Betty (wife of Jack Peberdy) died recently, having sadly been ill for twenty-five years!
Next we heard My Father by Judy Collins in an arrangement by Pete Moore and featuring Peggy Lee with the MRO. Bernard Herrman (long associated with the Northern Dance Orchestra) was the soloist in Saint-Saens' 'Dance Macabre' and this was followed by Neil Richardson conducting his arrangement of Summertime by George Gershwin. Then the MRO rhythm section was heard in The Entertainer(Scott Joplin). The vibraphone soloist was Alan Randall, who is perhaps better remembered as a George Formby impersonator.
Next, a very enjoyable arrangement of Teddy Bears Picnic, performed by Paul on some unusual early instruments. To conclude his presentation, Paul played us a Reg Tilsley arrangement of Night and Dayplayed by the BBC Midland Radio Orchestra, conducted by Iain Sutherland.
Paul Arden-Taylor's articulate and amiable presentation was well-received by all present, and we hope that he will visit us again. As this is a report not a review, I won't attempt to polish his ego, but it was apparent, that in common with most really talented people, that he hasn't even got one!
Suitably refreshed we returned to 'the corridor' for part three of our extravaganza and to a presentation by our good friend Vernon Anderson on Sir George Shearing, who had recently left us at the age of 91!
Naturally, we were treated to 'Lullaby of Birdland', surely Sir George's most famous recording, featuring the Quintet, followed by an arrangement of ‘Autumn Leaves' - again played by the quintet, but with the addition of Dennis Farnon and the orchestra.
Next, from the album 'A Vintage Year', we heard The Way you Look Tonight featuring Mel Torme. The Quintet were then joined by the Robert Farnon Orchestra for an unusual arrangement in waltztime of the classic 'Lady Be Good'. Vernon concluded with Robert Farnon's In a Calm played by Sir George on his album 'Favourite Things'.
Next we heard the galop from The Little French Suite by Alan Langford (better known as BBC producer Alan Owen) who had recently died. This was played by Royal Philharmonic Orchestra under the direction of Gavin Sutherland.
Some more video of the John Wilson Orchestra followed, this time with Seth Macfarlane singing A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square (the beautiful arrangement by Robert Farnon for his 1962 LP with Frank Sinatra) after which we heard Roger Roger's Paris Pullman performed by the Paris Studio Orchestra conducted by Phillipe Pares. This served as a centenary tribute to Roger Roger.
After this, David and Albert shared some reminiscences of the early years of the Society and told us about the next meeting, in which we shall be welcoming the ever-youthful and delightful Rosemary Squires who will be singing for us. This was followed by the Robert Farnon Orchestra with En Routewhich was a gift to members back in 1957 – the first of eleven RFAS 78s, the last being in November 1968.
We try to observe as many anniversaries as possible during our programmes and also to play music associated with artists who have recently died, of which there have been all too many, of late. Both John Barry and Elizabeth Taylor have passed away in recent months so, in tribute to both of them we played John Barry's music for an Amercian TV special entitled 'Elizabeth Taylor in London.' This was performed by Johnny Spence and his Orchestra.
It was hoped to conclude with some more of the John Wilson Orchestra, on video. However, due to a technical hitch this was not possible. So David Ades wound up the show with Robert Farnon's Melody Fair and after thanking all who had taken part, not forgetting the indefatigable Tony Clayden whose electrical wizardry contributes so much to the success of our shows. We played out with a medley from Rosemary Squires with the Wally Stott orchestra, by way of a reminder to everyone to come back in October.
Meeting of the Robert Farnon Society at the Park Inn, London on 28th March 2010
reported by BRIAN REYNOLDS
Once again the months had rolled by, during which time we had experienced one of the coldest winters that many of us could remember - but it was now spring - but only by a week, as our meeting was taking place earlier to avoid Easter Sunday. As usual, an impressive number of people had decided that as there was nothing much on the telly, an afternoon wallowing in the glorious melodies of yesteryear would be worthwhile - and as usual, they were right!
We took our seats to Farnon Farrago played by the BBC Concert Orchestra, conducted by Robert Farnon.
Albert Killman welcomed us to the show and informed us that, once again, David Ades was unable to attend, as his younger grandson had been rushed to hospital for an emergency operation. Happily, the operation was a success and the boy has now recovered. I know that David was particularly disappointed to have missed two consecutive meetings, having formerly had an unblemished attendance record since the society was formed.
The show opened with The Trolley Song arranged and conducted by Robert Farnon - a recently discovered excerpt from the AEF "Canada Show" featuring the Canadian Band of the AEF. This was followed by 'Oh! What Love has Done to me' by Gershwin played by the John Wilson Orchestra and taken from the much acclaimed MGM Prom and was in fact, the second finale from the show - the piece that the BBC didn't broadcast! Next we were treated to an arrangement of the Black Bottom played by the Robert Farnon Orchestra.
We continued with a tribute to Sir John Dankworth, who died earlier in the year. First, we heard his Widespread World, composed for Associated-Rediffusion Opening Music and played by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra under the direction of Gavin Sutherland. Then followed Further Experiments With Mice in which the London Symphony Orchestra play 'Three Blind Mice' in the style of classical composers. The Dankworth tribute concluded with part of the theme from the film Sapphire composed by Phil Green and played by the Pinewood Studio orchestra, and featuring the saxophone of Johnny Dankworth.
Readers will recall that our previous meeting had taken the form of a tribute to Angela Morley. However, time did not permit us to include some pieces which she had sent to Paul Clatworthy. After a spoken introduction from Angela Morley we heard Mary's Theme from Summer Girl, Diana and Hillary from Emerald Point and At the Beach from Summer Girl.
Now it was time to take a look at the new releases and Albert commented on the new Sinatra re-releases and played us The Gypsy from the sessions with Bob Farnon. Next came a piece called Cecilia from the Dennis Farnon Orchestra, which is featured on the Guild CD 'Orchestral Gems in Stereo'. This piece is, incidentally, also featured on a new Vocalion re-issue of two Dennis Farnon albums 'Enchanted Woods/Caution Men Swingin'.
Next came a Stanley Black arrangement of I Love Paris featuring the BBC Concert Orchestra conducted by Roderick Dunk. This comes from the recent Dutton Epoch CD 'Showtime', sponsored by the BBC Concert Orchestra Supporters Club to celebrate their 25th anniversary. This was followed by Let's Beguine written by Otto Cesana and played by his orchestra. This is a track from a new 'Guild' CD called 'Strings in Rhythm' - a good title for a CD, as indeed it was a good title for a 1950s orchestra under the direction of Henry Croudson! Our final new release was Passepartout from the Victor Young film score for Around the World in Eighty days. It takes the form of a medley of familiar tunes, and was recently released on 'Vocalion'
It was now coming up to teatime and Albert drew our attention to a light music programme to be broadcast on Good Friday on Three Counties Radio, and presented by former Radio Two announcer, Colin Berry. This was to be the fifth in a series of occasional light music specials which has compered.
We broke for tea to the accompaniment of John Dankworth's theme for Tomorrow's World.
We returned to our seats to Robert Farnon's The Big Night played by the Queen's Hall Light Orchestra.
It was now time to meet our special guest for the afternoon, Iain Kerr, a pianist and organist who first came to my attention in the sixties, when Iain Kerr and his Keyboards were sometimes featured on 'Music While You Work'. I had discovered his extensive website whilst 'surfing the net' some months earlier and as it was apparent that he had enjoyed a long and varied career in the world of entertainment and knew Robert Farnon personally, I decided that he would make an ideal guest and invited him to address us. We are most grateful to him for agreeing to share his experiences with us.
Having 'found' Iain, it was felt that I should interview him. I'm no Jeremy Paxman (not that I want to be) so I confined myself to simply guiding Iain into the areas which would be of interest. Iain kindly provided a cue sheet, suggesting aspects of his career to be covered.
Iain Kerr, (pianist, organist, conductor, composer, writer, comedian, radio and television personality) told us that whilst he was born in Edinburgh, much of his early life was spent in New Zealand. A child prodigy, his first broadcast - a fifteen minute programme of Schumann, was at the age of four!
Iain told us how, in 1958, he went to Australia, chalking up hundreds of radio and television performances. Returning to the UK in 1962, Iain played piano and organ at the Mayfair Hotel; he is a Fellow of the Royal College of Organists and a Batchelor of Music. During this period he met many famous people, including Bob Hope, Tony Hancock, Errol Garner and Margaret Rutherford. BBC executive, Kenneth Baynes heard him and invited him to do 'Music While You Work' as 'Iain Kerr and his Keyboards' which consisted simply of Iain, seated at the Hammond Organ, with a piano keyboard to his right, accompanied by a drummer. All of the broadcasts were performed from memory, without a sheet of music in sight!
Iain told us that he was commissioned to write a piece of music to celebrate the launching of a new tractor, produced by Massey Ferguson, and a recording of the work was provided to the workers in their Coventry factory. When Iain subsequently played the piece on 'Music While You Work' all the factory workers downed tools and cheered! The Managing Director commented to the effect that he thought MWYW was intended to boost production not to stop it! Excerpts from one of Iain's broadcasts were interspersed throughout the presentation, as well as a recording of Iain playing at the Mayfair Hotel.
Iain told us how he toured the world for ten years, with his comedy partner Roy Cowen, with a double act called Goldberg and Solomon in a show called 'Gilbert and Sullivan go Kosher', depicting how G and S songs might have sounded, had their composers been Jewish.
Iain then went to the piano and played Misty for us. He followed this by singing a hilarious parody of My Way - well it certainly was Iain's way!
Sadly, Roy Cowen died in 1978 and Iain returned to the Mayfair Hotel in London, where he continued to entertain the likes of Debbie Reynolds, Larry Adler, Marlon Brando, Woody Herman, Phyllis Diller and Robert Farnon - who took a particular interest in Iain's compositions.
Just over an hour was not enough to fully cover Iain's long and fascinating career, but everybody seemed to really enjoy his presentation. We are most grateful to him for giving up a Sunday afternoon to come and talk to us. Full details of his career can be found on his website http://www.kerroy.com/
Following the raffle, it was now time for our second interval and we heard the Queen's Hall Light Orchestra playing Robert Farnon's 'Holiday Flight '.
We returned to our seats to the accompaniment of Robert Farnon's 'Huckle Buckle' from the QHLO followed by a member's request - April in Paris from the John Wilson Orchestra.
It was now time for an old friend of the Society to come to the top table - John Fox, who then proceeded to tell us about his newly published autobiography, which I am sure will interest many of our members. He also played us his arrangement of Day by Day played by the BBC Radio Orchestra, under his direction. Finally, he played us 'Morning Air' from his 'Countryside Suite'
Next, we heard a piece called 'Twinkletoes' by Don Gillis and featuring the Sinfonia Varsova conducted by Ian Hobson. This was played as a special request for our own Malcolm Osman and it was followed by the first movement of 'An American Wind Symphony:The Gaels' by Robert Farnon and played by the Roxbury High School Honors Wind Symphony (performed on May 26th 2006 under their conductor Stanley Saunders).
It was now time for my 'Radio Recollections' spot. I say 'my' with reservation because, although I chose most of the music, I did not present it on this occasion. It was felt that as I had been at the top table, talking to Iain Kerr for over an hour, members would have had quite enough of my ugly mug so I suggested that the more photogenic (but not much) Tony Clayden should take my place on this occasion - well, what do you expect for nine quid, Adonis?
Tony commenced with a rather uptempo arrangement of Toytown Trumpeters by the brilliant organist and pianist, William Davies. It was played by the BBC Midland Light Orchestra under their conductor Jack Coles. We then turned to Fredric Cooper and his Tipica Orchestra (a very popular broadcasting orchestra from Light Programme days) for a piece that is usually played as a samba - Cascade of Stars by Oscar Moderna. This tango arrangement seemed to suit the piece admirably. The next item was chosen by Tony and was Caprice for Strings by Edward White (of Runaway Rocking Horse fame) and was played by the orchestra of the British Forces Network in Germany. Back to my selection for a piece which Tony and I regard as one of the best light music pieces ever written - Edelma by the little-known Torag Tucci. This was played by pianist Maurice Arnold and his Sextet. Maurice Arnold had taken over this string ensemble from Norman Whiteley when he retired in 1959. To conclude Radio Recollections, Tony played us a samba by Ronald Binge - The Red Sombrero performed by Bernard Monshin and his Rio Tango Band. This gave Tony the opportunity to tell us that his late mother used to go out with Bernard Monshin when she was young, and had things turned out differently, he might have been Bernard's son!
Tony commented that it was unusual to hear Bernard Monshin play anything other than a tango - not so! Bernard rarely played more than three tangos in a broadcast, the other items were boleros, rumbas, pasodobles - indeed everything Latin with perhaps the odd waltz or novelty number for contrast.
That brought our afternoon of melody to a close, and it just remained for Albert (who did a splendid job, holding everything together) to thank all of those who took part and to wish us well until we next meet up in November.
Meeting of the Robert Farnon Society
at the Park Inn, London on the 5th April 2009
reported by BRIAN REYNOLDS
It was a beautiful, sunny Spring day in London - too good to be sitting indoors listening to music - but that is what a hundred or so people chose to do. After all, this was the Robert Farnon Society meeting, an all too infrequent opportunity in this day and age to hear some quality music in the lighter vein!
We took our seats to the accompaniment of some Robert Farnon pieces; then,at 2.00pm. David Ades welcomed the congregation and played I feel a song coming on - sung by Edmund Hockridge accompanied by the BBC Radio Orchestra conducted by Robert Farnon. This served as a tribute to Edmund, a vice-president of the RFS from its inception, who died on March 15th, aged 89.
We then heard the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Bob, playing his own composition A Promise of Spring.
It is the intention of the Society to do a full tribute to the late Angela Morley, who died in January, during our November meeting but in the meantime it was felt appropriate to do a short tribute to someone who, like Edmund Hockridge, had been a vice-president of the RFS. The tribute commenced with Noel Coward's famous London Pride from the Wally Stott Orchestra. This was followed by Leonard Bernstein's LonelyTown, arranged by Angela Morley and played by the John Wilson Orchestra. As members are aware, Angela's original fame was as Wally Stott and it was under this identity that our next recording was made - Cole Porter's I’ve got you under my skin - featuring the golden voice of another friend of the Society, Rosemary Squires. We concluded this short tribute to Angela Morley with her own composition Reverie played by Gavin Sutherland and the Royal Ballet Sinfonia - a private recording.
Tony Osborne (1922-2009) was the subject of our next tribute and we listened to one of his many catchy compositions Lights of Lisbon featuring Tony Osborne and his Dancing Strings. It does seem that we have lost rather too many of our favourite artists in recent months and we had one more tribute to include - bandleader Vic Lewis (1919-2009) who died on 9th February. For this we featured Vic Lewis conducting the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in Robert Farnon's composition Mauve (originally entitled Irina).
In our meetings we always make a point of remembering anniversaries, and Clive Richardson (1909-1998) was born one hundred years ago on 23rd June 2009. Clive, who was a member of the RFS for many years and who came to our meetings, was known as one of the finest composers of light music in the twentieth century as well as being an accomplished pianist - remember 'Four Hands In Harmony' with Tony Lowry? We listened to an excerpt from his London Fantasia in which Clive is featured at the piano with Charles Williams and his Concert Orchestra (from a Guild CD "Hall Of Fame Volume 1" GLCD5120).
George Melachrino (1909-1965) was born one hundred years ago on 1st.May 1909. He was a wartime colleague of Bob and they sometimes arranged each other’s compositions. In return for arrangingWinter Sunshine, George arranged Bob's My Song of Spring, otherwise known as The Sophistication Waltz to which we then listened, in a performance by the Melachrino Orchestra on HMV.
At this point, David introduced our special guests for the afternoon, Marjorie Cullerne (great-niece of Haydn Wood) and Gilles Gouset who had both come over from Canada to present the Haydn Wood extravaganza that was to occupy the second and third sections of our meeting. Giving us a taste of what was to come, David then played Haydn Wood's Soliloquy in a recording by the Queen's Hall Light Orchestra conducted by Robert Farnon (from the Guild CD of Haydn Wood's music GLCD5121)
Next we heard Sleepy Time Girl from Singers Unlimited accompanied by Robert Farnon and featuring the trumpet of Kenny Baker. This was followed by some 'parish notices' in which attention was drawn to forthcoming concerts by the Aspidistra Drawing Room Orchestra, The Ladies' Palm Court Orchestra and the Light Music Society's annual concert, held this year in Cheltenham on the August Bank Holiday.
2009 marks the fiftieth anniversary of the death of Billy Mayerl, one of the finest light music pianists of the twentieth century, and whose radio performances gave me much pleasure in my youth. So it was appropriate that we should play one of his compositions. Reno Runaway was the chosen item in a recording by the New Century Orchestra conducted by Eric Borshel - and which is included on a new Guild CD 'Light and Lively' (GLCD 5160). This was followed by Laurie Johnson conducting hisMasquerade from The Four Musketeers.
Drawing attention to the many CDs which could be purchased, David then played Could it be You?from another new Guild CD - 'Melodies for Romantics' (GLCD5155). This featured the orchestra of Robert Farnon - curiously credited as 'Jack Saunders' on the LP label!
David then gave us the good news that, following many adverse comments, the proposed extension to the sound copyright period had been 'put on a back-burner'. I wonder if that will still be the case when you read this report!
We were now approaching the end of part one, and we concluded with an Eric Coates composition from 1941 entitled Rhythm from his Four Centuries Suite. This was from a CD of Eric Coates's music compiled by Peter Dempsey for 'Bygone Days'. Albert Killman commented that this was probably the nearest Coates had ever come to writing jazz!
This concluded the first part of the afternoon's entertainment. What was to follow, after the interval, was to be very different from a normal RFS meeting, and quite ground-breaking for the Society!
Suitably refreshed, we took our seats for the next part of the afternoon's entertainment. The seating had been arranged in a different way on this occasion in order to accommodate the larger than usual congregation and also to incorporate a large platform which would be necessary for the live music in part three.
David then welcomed us to what had now become 'The Haydn Wood Society'. Discussions had taken place for some time with our special guests Marjorie Cullerne (Haydn Wood's great-niece) and Gilles Gouset as to the best way that we could mark the 50th Anniversary of Haydn Wood’s death, and make this an occasion to remember; it was decided that Gilles would give us an account of Haydn Wood's life, illustrated with pictures and musical extracts. We were shown some pictures of the sheet music and covers of some Haydn Wood pieces and photographs of several of his residences. At one such residence, we were told, a neighbour became so fed up with Wood's constant playing that she complained - however, she ended up marrying him!
The audio aspect of the presentation included the following pieces:
- The middle movement of Phantasy Concerto (1905)
- Serenade by Pierne (violin solo accompanied by Haydn Wood at the piano)
- First ever recording of Roses of Picardy
- A Brown Bird Singing sung by Ada Alsop with the Robert Farnon Orchestra
- A 1934 recording of Heather Bells (1923) - Reginald King Orchestra
- Excerpt from The Manx Rhapsody (1931) - Charles Williams with the Queen's Hall Light Orchestra
- A 1934 recording of Thorpe Bates singing The Sea Road
- Haydn Wood conducting The Doctor, this being the 2nd movement from his suite Three Famous Pictures
- The Little Ships (1941) - to reflect Haydn Wood's patriotic nature during the second world war
- Some archival film of Haydn Wood walking in a garden - accompanied by Bird of Love Divine
Gilles concluded his presentation with part of an interview (Haydn Wood with Peggy Cochrane) from 1954, during which she played part of Wood's piano concerto.
After a short break, we returned to our seats for a live concert. Whilst we have had live music for the occasional dinner, this was to be the first occasion for a long time that a live orchestra played during one of our meetings. At the request of Marjorie Cullerne, the Aspidistra Drawing Room Orchestra were invited to play for us, and we are grateful to Dr. Adam Bakker for providing their services. Quite a few members of the Society are familiar with this ensemble through their recordings as well as their concert appearances. Although technically an amateur group, 'Aspidistra's' standard of performance is comparable with a professional ensemble.
They began with Haydn Wood's Dreaming (1924) and were then joined by soprano, Camilla Cutts for a waltz entitled Love Me (1926) and then the orchestra played Thistledown (also from 1926). To conclude their first set, they were joined by Camilla for a song from 1919, I love your eyes of grey.We then welcomed the well-known David Snell to the platform to play the piano in a piece entitled A Bell for Andano (1945). He followed this with Humoreske from 'Three Cinema Stars' - this particular item being dedicated to Charles Chaplin. The orchestra's flautist, Roy Bell then took the stage for a flute solo Barcarolle (1912) in which he was accompanied by David Snell. Our special guest, Marjorie Cullerne was the composer of the next item, Casey the Fiddler, a song featuring Camilla Cutts with David Snell at the piano and Marjorie (violin obligato). This was followed by Haydn Wood's The Stars look down (1943) featuring Camilla and David.
The next four items featured the violin of Marjorie Cullerne, accompanied by David Snell. They werePrelude (1934) and Caprice (1917), followed by Melodie Plaintive (1918) and Elfin Dance (1911).
It was now time for the second and final set from the Aspidistra Drawing Room Orchestra and they played firstly a 1913 composition, Pleading after which they were joined by Camilla Cutts forPretending (1921). To conclude the programme, everybody took the stage for what is probably Haydn Wood's most famous composition Roses of Picardy, written in 1916.
We had overrun by at least a half hour but I didn't hear anybody complain. It only remained for David Ades to thank Marjorie and Gilles, Adam Bakker and the Aspidistra Drawing Room Orchestra, Camilla Cutts and David Snell, not forgetting Tony Clayden, who had introduced the items in the concert, and spent much of the day 'twiddling the knobs' to ensure that we had the best possible sound in this our tribute to Haydn Wood.
SPRING IN PARK INN
Meeting of the Robert Farnon Society
Sunday 6th April 2008 at the Park Inn London
by Brian Reynolds
Once again the time had come for our annual Springfest and the usual collection of dropouts, screwballs and crackheads were in attendance - but enough about the committee! We really had to look at the calendar to remind ourselves that it was Spring, because after several hours of heavy snow and temperatures barely above freezing, it sure didn't feel like it!
Outside central London snow was two or three inches thick and this fact undoubtedly put off a few of the regulars, nevertheless there was a good, healthy attendance. Because of the fact that the name-change of the hotel was known too late to be mentioned in the latest journal, some of those attending, unable to find the Bonnington Hotel, thought that they had gone the wrong way and had to ask directions. I must say that the new name seems more than a little strange as the establishment is certainly not an "inn" and is nowhere near a park! I'm sure that it is only a matter of time before the graffiti merchants insert the word NO in front of the sign outside!
Those present took their seats to the accompaniment of Here Comes the Band. As David Ades had chosen to take a less prominent part on this occasion due to pressure of other commitments, Albert Killman opened proceedings with a Robert Farnon 'lollipop'- Manhattan Playboy - played by the John Wilson orchestra - It is felt by the London Committee who plan these events that Farnon originals need to be featured more frequently.
This was followed by a tribute to the legendary pianist Oscar Peterson who had died recently. This took the form of the soundtrack of part of a 1969 television interview in which Robert Farnon talked with Peterson. We then heard Bob’s composition The Pleasure of your Company in which Oscar Peterson was accompanied by the Robert Farnon Orchestra.
My Radio Recoll-ections spot came next. At the risk of seeming to be biased, I feel that this is an important part of the programme as it enables listeners to once again enjoy the music of the many orchestras that used to be featured regularly on radio forty or fifty years ago but rarely visited the recording studios, and consequently have tended to be forgotten, despite having given hundreds of broadcasts.
As 2008 marks the centenary of the birth of Leroy Anderson, I decided that his music should feature prominently in my selection. So my first item was a medley consisting of Forgotten Dreams, Belle of the Ball, Blue Tango and Fiddle Faddle played by Ronnie Munro and his Orchestra. In an extremely varied career, Munro had led a dance band during the twenties and thirties, becoming the first conductor of the BBC Scottish Variety Orchestra in 1940. After a further spell with a dance band he formed his light orchestra for radio in the fifties, concluding his BBC career with a sextet which he led between 1962 and 1967. When radio broadcasts dried up, he emigrated to South Africa, where he reformed his orchestra, subsequently becoming Head of Light Music for S.A.B.C.
Next I played (as a request) Reginald Tilsley's novelty Young Dandy played by The Sidney Sax Strings. I met Sidney on several occasions and found him quite charming. But apparently those who worked for him in his capacity of a "fixer" soon found that he demanded the highest standards and there are many stories of quite notable musicians being 'given the boot' by him for the most trivial of reasons.
My next item was Fiesta in Brazil, an exciting Spanish waltz, played by Anton and his orchestra. Anton (real name Arthur Sweeting) had broadcast and recorded with the Paramount Theatre Orchestra in the thirties and had formed a smaller orchestra for broadcasting in the forties. For the next twenty odd years he gave hundreds of broadcasts, but sadly made no more records. He was a reserve conductor to the BBC Staff Orchestras.
To conclude my 'spot' I returned to the Ronnie Munro orchestra for another Leroy Anderson medley, this time including Serenata, Sleigh Ride and Plink,Plank,Plunk.
Ronnie Munro's string orchestra featured William Davies on electronic organ and it was he that played the pizzicato in the final item, probably because the BBC discouraged the use of plucked strings onMusic While You Work (from which the recording came) as they were considered inaudible in the factories.
I was asked to give some 'parish notices' whilst on stage and I drew particular attention to a concert by Ann Adams and the Ladies' Palm Court Orchestra at London's Kensington Gardens bandstand on 29th June (2.00pm to 3.30pm). This 22 piece orchestra's programmes are the highlight of the year for me, as they include so many of the neglected light pieces that were so much a feature of the old Light Programme. I also mentioned a concert on 26th May in Lauderdale House, Highgate Hill by the Aspidistra Drawing Room Orchestra. Both orchestras usually attract some RFS members.
There then followed our customary look at the new releases which, on this occasion, might have been subtitled the 'Peter and Albert show' as Peter Burt alternated with Albert in presenting a selection of newly available recordings. From a new recording of the BBC Concert Orchestra conducted by John Wilson, Albert played us Eric Coates' Sound and Vision, commissioned by ATV in 1955.
Peter then played Zip-a-dee-doo-dah from a new CD featuring Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops Orchestra, entitled Stars and Stripes - An American Concert. Next followed some TV nostalgia as Albert played 'Scherzetto for Children' by Fred Hartley from the new Guild CD Childrens' Memories Vol 2. This item consisted of lots of traditional tunes such as Polly put the Kettle on, Tom Tom, the Piper's Son, Bobby Shaftoe etc - played by Eric Robinson and his Orchestra. Peter's next contribution wasMephistopheles Serenade from The Damnation of Faust by Berlioz, played by Frank Chacksfield and his Orchestra on a new Vocalion CD Immortal Serenades.
Albert then played some music by Laurie Johnson, now 81 years old - the popular theme from the cult TV show The Avengers which comes from a new 3-CD set. Then came something rather unusual on the Naxos label as Peter played a previously unrecorded work by Leroy Anderson - The GovernorBradford March recorded by The BBC Concert Orchestra conducted by Leonard Slatkin. This came from the album Anderson Orchestral Music. Albert's next item was Robert Farnon's Scenic Grandeurplayed by the Danish State Radio Orchestra - again from a new Guild CD. Peter Burt's final contribution was Wunderbar from a Vocalion CD of Mantovani and his Orchestra entitled Song Hits of Theatreland.
Before his final item in this section, Albert conveyed to the congregation the good wishes of RFS President David Farnon and Alan Bunting. He then went on to play The Cat from Coos Bay which, I must confess, was a new one to me, but I am assured that it was a big hit in its day. It came from a recent Vocalion CD of the singles of Wally Stott.
It was now time for the first interval and we went to our refreshments to the accompaniment of Eric Coates' march Sound and Vision.
It was now time to meet our special guest for the afternoon and Robert Habermann introduced composer Nigel Hess. So as to remind the audience of his work our attention was directed to the video screen for a selection of opening titles from a host of television series for which he wrote the music. Many were astounded at his versatility, as a succession of pieces were played which we knew so well but had perhaps been unaware of their composer! Let's face it - most title sequences are confined to a quarter of the screen with a continuity announcer chattering about something totally irrelevant!
Featured were the following:
WYCLIFFE - HETTY WAINTHROP INVESTIGATES - SUMMERS LEASE - DANGERFIELD - JUST WILLIAM - MAIGRET starring Michael Gambon- A WOMAN OF SUBSTANCE - CAMPION - TESTAMENT and VANITY FAIR
During his conversation with Robert, Nigel Hess revealed a fact that was probably not known to many present - that the famous Dame Myra Hess was his great aunt. Nigel recounted to us that he took up the piano at the age of two and a half and that his first favourite piece of music as a child was The Dambusters March.
As a professional musician one of his first engagements was as Musical Director for the Lloyd Webber musical Jesus Christ Superstar. Subsequently he wrote the title music for Let's be Friends. He was also asked to write a piece of music for an up and coming comedy duo on the lines of Morecambe and Wise's Bring me Sunshine. These hitherto unknown entertainers were Cannon and Ball. Nigel Hess has written much music for Shakespearean plays and, as an example, he played music from the Coronation Scene from Henry VIII. Nigel has always had an interest in music for Concert Band - or Wind Band as it is called in America, which he illustrated with a movement from his East Coast Pictures.
We then turned to the big screen to see a clip from Ladies in Lavender, and the presentation was brought to a conclusion with part of a Concerto - a movement entitled The Love. In view of its regal connections this work involved discussions at Clarence House with Prince Charles no less!
Before thanking Nigel Hess for a very interesting presentation which, incidentally was very well received, Robert Habermann asked him who were his biggest influences. Perhaps not surprisingly he said: Korngold, Steiner and John Williams.
Following the raffle, the meeting paused for the second interval.
We returned to our seats to the accompaniment of Chopin's Les Sylphides. Albert opened proceedings with a tribute to the late Gene Puerling, who we heard in conversation with Robert Farnon, to the accompaniment of The More I See You.
It was then time for ‘Cab's Swing Session’. Cab Smith started with a Robert Farnon original: Johnny's Dive. His second item (also by the maestro) was a jazz piano feature from Bill McGuffie - Poodle Parade. It's amazing how this light orchestral piece adapts so easily to jazz piano! Cab concluded with Robert Farnon conducting his own arrangement of Sunny Side Up which also happens to be the title tune of a recent 'Guild' CD.
Albert then played us Happy Go Lively by Laurie Johnson.
At long last it was time to welcome David Ades to the top table. As mentioned earlier, David had chosen to adopt a lower profile on this occasion. For his first item, David played us David Rose'sDance of the Spanish Onion from a 1967 Columbia 'Studio Two' LP. This was included at the special request of Norman Grant. Then, from a Thames TV series recorded at the 'Talk of the Town' in 1972, we heard the opening titles and Tony Bennett with the Robert Farnon Orchestra in Baby Dream your Dream.
David then introduced us to something rather special and certainly unique. Alan Bunting, who is responsible for the excellent sound restorations for the 'Guild' recordings, had obtained (at considerable cost to himself) a film of a studio session by Percy Faith and his orchestra, performed supposedly in front of a small audience - they actually sounded like a huge audience, but in reality there was no audience and the applause was dubbed!
The video was all the more special because it featured Faith's recording orchestra rather than the session musicians which he used for most television shows. I gather from David that the musicians for his Best of Both Worlds shows for the BBC in the 1960s were largely drawn from the Robert Farnon Orchestra. Percy Faith was born 7th April 1908 and died 9th February 1976 aged 67 We then watched and listened to the following items: Mucho Gusto: Moulin Rouge: There's a boat that's leaving for New York: Tenderly:a samba La Mattchiche (Nazareth) and, finally, The Sound of Music.
This brought the meeting to a close and Albert conveyed his appreciation to Alan Bunting for making the Percy Faith material available to us; he also thanked all who had participated in the meeting - not forgetting Tony Clayden who brings a considerable amount of equipment with him and twiddles the knobs to ensure that we get the best sound. Albert also told us that next April we shall be having a Haydn Wood special, involving Wood's grand niece. It will also include some live performances of his works.
The next meeting is on November 30th when we shall be honoured with the presence of Iain Sutherland, one of the few remaining links with the 'Light Programme' who many of us remember for his conductorship of the BBC Scottish Radio Orchestra as well as many programmes with the Concert Orchestra and Radio Orchestra. It was Iain, incidentally, that said: "Light music isn't dead - the BBC are in the process of burying it alive!" The meeting closed with Robert Farnon's Melody Fair.
As the audience slowly dispersed we were serenaded with some Farnon arrangements played by the BBC Radio Orchestra.... Waltzing with Richard Rodgers; Dream Theme; As Time Goes By and from the George Mitchell Glee Club with the Robert Farnon Orchestra Love is Such a Cheat (Decca F9655).
"ON A SPRING NOTE"
Report of RFS London Meeting held at the Bonnington Hotel on Sunday, 1 April, 2007
by VERNON ANDERSON
As soon as one enters through the double doors of the Derby Suite, our venue for the afternoon’s entertainment, the senses are immediately alerted by the strains of a familiar piece of light music and the welcoming smiles of our three ladies on "reception", where we sign in, attend to the usual formalities and may be drawn by what’s on offer in the Raffle. For those arriving between 1.30 pm and 2.00 pm there is the added attraction of the musical gems available from the RFS Record Service.
But it’s rapidly approaching 2.00 pm and already the air is buzzing with animated conversation as friends greet each other, discuss new releases and exchange pleasantries as the strains of our "settling in" music is heard. Today it’s the Overture In My Memoirs from "Mike Todd’s Broadway" and already our programme presenters are settled at the top table.
At 2.00 pm precisely, Robert Farnon’s "Proscenium" announces the opening of the afternoon’s proceedings and David sets the scene by welcoming everybody to this, The Robert Farnon Society’s 100th Meeting, a milestone in the society’s history, and introduces fellow presenters Albert Killman and Andre Leon who we will be hearing from a little later.
David sets the pace with a selection from a Robert Farnon film score of the 1950s which, as most of us remember, was the last of the "Road" Films. Albert back announces "The Road to Hong Kong" by the Robert Farnon Orchestra. The film starred Bing Crosby, Bob Hope and Dorothy Lamour, with a young Joan Collins as the "love" interest and gave Robert Farnon just one word to "dubb in" as Bing and Joan went into that memorable embrace. (The Programme at this point has Albert remembering Don Lusher, but that is now held over to Part Three).
David now introduced Andre Leon who presented an Appreciation of Eric Coates who died 50 years ago this year (1886-1957).
Andre’s selection was taken from the following Eric Coates compositions/recordings available:-
- Halcyon Days from Pure Classics British Legion.
- Knightsbridge March played by Eric Johnson & His Orchestra.
- Sleepy Lagoon – Harry James
- By the Sleepy Lagoon by the East of England Orchestra
- The Dam Busters – March, by the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra
- Music While You Work (BBC Programme – Intro. 3.8.1963)
- Springtime (1) – by the Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra, conductor Andrew Penny
- At the Dance by the Light Symphony Orchestra
- Television March with the composer conducting the London Symphony Orchestra
- Sleepy Lagoon by Frank Chacksfield and His Orchestra
- Last Love by the Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted by Andrew Penny
- Music Everywhere by the Band of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines, and
- Eighth Army March by the Queen’s Hall Light Orchestra.
(It was here that your reporter made his entrance as Andre’s presentation came to an end). However, Andre acknowledged what a privilege it was to present his selection at the 100th RFS Meeting. Albert thanked Andre for his presentation which received a warm appreciation from the audience. Albert then introduced a glowing tribute to Bob Farnon from Vera Lynn, who celebrates her 90th birthday this year. It included Bob’s arrangement of Arthur Schwartz’s lovely Something to Remember You By (Vocalion CDLK 4108) which this writer found particularly poignant.
Next we came to Latest Releases in which David and Albert play some of the new Light Music CDs currently available through the RFS Record Service. Number one on the "turntable" was Frank Chackfield’s Singing Strings playing the McCann/Bolesworth collaboration Pulling Strings from the Living Era CD "Frank Chacksfield in the Limelight" – introduced by David who then handed over to Albert. He selected a highlight from the new Jasmine CD – Robert Farnon Orchestra with Beryl Davies singing You Keep Coming Back Like A Song. A lovely arrangement typical of Bob.
Next David introduced a piece by Trevor Duncan, here as our special guest 3 years ago and sadly no longer with us. We heard his A Waltz for Terry – a lovely reflective piece which (for some) had "Farnonesque" undertones. This comes from the Boosey & Hawkes 3 CD Digipack of 1950s 78s on the Polygon label. Albert then played an arrangement by Laurie Johnson of the Song of the Pearl Fishers in "beguine" rhythm by his orchestra, with the accent on bass, which became one of his trademarks. This comes from the new Guild Light Music Series, Volume 4 – Cornflakes. David commented that the sound quality is very good for that piece considering its age and noted on reflection that Laurie celebrates his 80th birthday this year.
David followed this with a piece from the new Naxos CD whose theme is Vintage TV and Radio Classics – Cyril Watters’ Willow Waltz – a particular favourite.
Albert – "And at only £6.00 it’s excellent value". He then went on to introduce the CD of Lena Horne’s "Lena – A New Album" recorded in 1976 with Robert Farnon and His Orchestra. David Snell also makes a contribution on this album together with (amongst others), Phil Woods on saxophone, adding some special touches to Bob’s great charts. From this recording Albert selected My Funny Valentine. The CD becomes available thanks to Mike Dutton in negotiations with RCA who recorded the original album. The CD also features the original artwork. David remarked that Lena was superb on this album and noted that Bob and Lena were born within a few months of each other (1917) so she’ll soon be 90, which is remarkable. There was a well deserved spontaneous response of appreciation from the audience.
Next David played the opening track from a new Guild CD titled Continental Flavour – Cole Porter’s The Last Time I Saw Paris arranged and played by Ron Goodwin and His Orchestra.
Albert’s next selection came from David Rose and His Orchestra playing Harold Arlen’s classic Last Night When We Were Young. This features on another new Guild CD called Amor Amor in the Music for Romance vein. The original title of the collection was Cocktails for Two, which is the opening track played by the Robert Farnon Orchestra. But we couldn’t find a suitable picture for the CD cover, so the name had to be changed!
David then introduced us to the latest release from Jasmine Records of Robert Farnon’s Orchestral and Film Music – They Wanted His Big Hits, so this CD, the first of two, includes four film sound tracks including Maytime in Mayfair which closes the album. And so we launched into that lovely Dream Dance sequence and closing titles music. A real joy to hear again. As this piece was playing we were graced by the arrival of harpist David Snell, who quietly found a seat and settled in to enjoy the rest of the programme.
The second CD in the collection includes Robert Farnon and his Orchestra accompanying singers on UK Decca. (A full list of the pieces on both these CDs appears in the review on pages 78 and 79 of JIM 171, March, 2007).
In giving the Parish Notices, David made an appeal to anyone who felt they would like to take over the responsibility of Magazine Editor as he felt, after many years in this capacity, he would like to stand down. Could they see him during the next interval.
Next came the matter of the increasing costs for the hire of the hotel room for our meetings. David asked for a show of hands for an agreement in principle to a minimal increase in members’/visitors’ contribution in the future, to enable us to continue our meetings at the Bonnington Hotel. This was greeted with almost total support for which David offered his special thanks to the meeting.
And last, (but by no means least) David announced that a special DVD would soon be available of Bob’s 1971 concert at the Royal Festival Hall. Derek Boulton has been the prime mover in obtaining the video recording in colour of Bob Farnon conducting the London Philharmonic Orchestra in a concert of his orchestral music and so is quite unique.
David also highlighted the special souvenir 2 DVD set celebrating the Society’s first 50 years, produced by Geoffrey Richardson (which every member should have in their collection). (These new DVDs were subsequently reviewed in JIM 172 June 2007).
David passed on a message received from fellow members Malcolm and Iris Frazer who are due to be grandparents again. And at this point David sent us off for a welcome Tea Break to the Thomson Holidays theme music.
During the interval the writer noted yet another celebrity quietly reading the latest copy of JIM, pianist/composer Eric Parkin, who amongst his other attributes has transcribed many of Bob’s pieces for pianoforte in his own inimitable style.
And so we were called back to our seats for the 3.30 pm kick-off for PART TWO with Albert at the helm (if you’ll pardon the mixed metaphors).
Albert back announced the Thomson Holiday Music which was a "35 second download", and set the ball rolling with Bob Farnon and the George Mitchell Glee Club’s rendition of The Village Fair (from Music in the Air).
Albert then handed over to fellow presenter Tony Clayden (who had left the control desk in the capable hands of Andre Leon) who now introduced our special guest of the afternoon, Matthew Curtis.
He began by noting that it was indeed a privilege to be a guest on the occasion of the 100th Meeting of the Robert Farnon Society. Unlike the Bank of England, who have elected to remove Edward Elgar from the £20.00 note in time for the 150th Anniversary of his birth (1857-1934). Matthew’s first piece was Tarantella (from the Little Dance Suite) played by the London Symphonia conducted by Gavin Sutherland, (Cameo 2035).
Matthew praised the society for supporting the work of living composers and noted that "Nostalgia" plays into the hands of those people who would destroy this "style of music". His next piece was called At Twilight for strings and harp and is his latest recording (on Cameo 2055). A very evocative and atmospheric piece (certainly for this writer). Matthew continued:- "An occasion like this presents a good cue for a reliable rant; and to define exactly what light music is. The key is that a lot of composers not here today would be able to show examples in many of their pieces – the likes of Shostakovich wrote some good examples, as did Franz Lehar. Programme makers on BBC Radio 2 and Radio 4 seemed to have subconscious prejudices as to choice of music, as does Classic FM". Matthew also cited Eric Coates’ and US composer Jessie Knight’s definitions of light music and orchestration.
His next selection was a miniature overture, composed for small orchestra titled On the Move (again from Cameo 2055). "The xylophone is painfully sharp, as the recording was made on a very hot day, but it can’t be helped". "One is always aware that one’s selection of pieces may be shorter than the booked time, which is tantamount to paying for the musicians to go home early".
Next followed Irish Lullaby. "This was played in New Zealand about 2 weeks ago for St. Patrick’s Day". (Cameo 2035). "Charity Butler (clarinet) is featured on these recordings, and is married to Gavin Sutherland".
Matthew’s next selection was Divertimento Concertante in three movements. We heard the last movement. (Cameo 2055). Matthew’s latest recording project is Cameo 2060 which he said "sounds like a brand of Mexican Lipstick". "It has Gavin Sutherland at Piano with vocal by Maria Vacsiliou (soprano). It’s a setting of poems by Ann Harriett, a friend of Matthew’s mother, who died about 20 years ago". The piece is titled Distant Memory and is very reflective and beautifully sung – "a glorious voice" (overheard). "And so it’s back to where it all started, with acknowledgements to Alan Langford and the BBC".
On introducing his last selection, Matthew said "this one was not commissioned – titled Festive March from a private recording of 1983 with Ashley Lawrence conducting the BBC Concert Orchestra". Tony confirmed that this is not available on CD at the moment.
In conclusion, Matthew said he was not involved with library music and prefers concert performances of his works. Of the composers who have influenced his music he exclaimed "You tell me", but in all conscience he acknowledged the works of Rossini, Eric Coates and last, but not least, Ron Goodwin, and thanked everyone for listening.
Albert thanked Matthew for a thought provoking and entertaining presentation which received a very warm appreciation from the audience.
Albert now introduced Tony Clayden for a review of recent reissues of note. Tony said he felt like the dust cart after the Lord Mayor’s Show and began with a:
- Guild CD – Track 9 – Harry Engleman’s Children’s Playtime Suite – Marbles – which he hadn’t heard for nearly 50 years.
- Homeward Bound by Adam Carse. Philip Lane recording of Gavin Sutherland conducting the Royal Ballet Symphonia. Winton Suite 3rd Movement. Tony noted that Lyrita, successor to Nimbus, back catalogue is being released.
- Ralph Vaughn Williams – Aristophonic Series – Suite The Wasps. March of the Kitchen Utensils. New Philharmonica conducted by Sir Adrian Bolt, and
- Guild Series – Soloists Supreme. Edward Rubach, piano. Last Rhapsody theme by Rena Reeford. Alassio Orchestra at a recent performance at Worthing.
Albert thanked Tony and then asked Matthew and Tony to engage in the "lucky dip" for the Raffle Draw. Then Come on In by Sid Dale Orchestra (John Dunn’s signature tune) took us into the next interval.
PART THREE: Back to seats music (not noted) and with everyone comfortably settled Albert paid tribute to the much regarded jazz trombonist Don Lusher who sadly died last year. Don is well remembered for his great playing with the Ted Heath Band which he later took over to much acclaim. He could also be found among the top session men on many of Robert Farnon’s recordings. To celebrate that association, Albert played Carlos Jobim’s Wave with Don soloing with the Robert Farnon Orchestra, conducted by Bob, which was much appreciated by the audience.
To present the selections for the last part of the Programme, Albert had been joined by Cab Smith and Brian Reynolds. And he now introduced Cab for his "Swing Session" which this time began with Bob’s From the Highlands suite; from which we heard Charlie is my Darling. (Sadly this was cut short due to a ‘technical hitch’) so we went straight into Globe Trotting, which Bob recorded in Hamburg in 1975. Cab closed his session with Hoagy Carmichael’s My Resistance is Low which Bob Farnon recorded at Kingsway Hall in May 1952 – Orchestra with the Johnston Singers. This one comes from the new Jasmine CD 2 (15).
Albert thanked Cab, to a round of applause and then handed over to Brian Reynolds and, in so doing, made an announcement concerning the BBC Trust (formerly the BBC Board of Governors) regarding consultation documents on the website. This is an opportunity to submit our views. Public consultations end on 10 April, 2007. Brian then introduced his first number in his "Radio Recollection" spot:
- Issy Geiger’s Jaywalker, orchestrated by Maurice Green.
- BBC London Studio Players – (augmented in 28 different aliases), playing L’ondell (The Swallow) by Henry Krein, conducted by Reginald Kilby.
- Baccia by Isabel Brandez orchestrated by Jack Salisbury and played by his orchestra.
- William Hill Bowen’s Chansonette played by the BBC Northern Light Orchestra conducted by Ian Lovatt, and
- Band of the Royal Artillery Regiment playing Marching Orders by Brian Reynolds, arranged by Cyril Watters, making a rousing close to Brian’s selection.
Albert thanked Brian for his contribution which was much appreciated.
Albert then drew our attention to the honour bestowed on George Shearing (the "Boy from Battersea") whose services to the field of jazz has now been recognised with a knighthood. Albert mentioned his long association with Bob Farnon and, as a tribute to Sir George, played a piece from their collaboration on the "How Beautiful is Night" album, recorded at CTS Wembley (9/92), George Gershwin’s Oh Lady be Good in a lilting waltz tempo, and ending with George’s little figure from Bob’s Portrait of a Flirt which brought a few appreciative smiles and a well deserved round of applause from the assembled company.
During the playing of this piece Cab and Brian left the top table and Albert was joined by David for the next presentation, who having been introduced by Albert led us into his final selection of music beginning with a Special Request from Norman Grant, for Clive Richardson’s Melody on the Move with the Queen’s Hall Light Orchestra conducted by Charles Williams. This comes from the Guild Light Music Series on which 1,000 pieces of music is now available (and increasing). David then made mention of John Fox’s latest composition with the title A Surrey Rhapsody which David allows Brian Kay to introduce (from his BBC3 Radio Programme). The piece opens with the rich sound of birdsong, a dawn chorus which leads into a reflective pastoral scene, played by the Royal Ballet Symphonia. As the composer was present with us today David invited him to stand for the ovation, especially as he is celebrating his 83rd birthday this month. John graciously acknowledged the warm response. David then introduced a gem from the past – Robert Farnon introducing his Mid Ocean arranged and played by Douglas Gamley (piano) and orchestra conducted by Bob, from the "Best of Both Worlds" Series on BBC2. Recorded at BBC Television Centre on 18 October, 1964, and transmitted on 20 December that year.
David’s closing piece was Pia Zadora with the London Philharmonic Orchestra arranged and conducted by Robert Farnon in End of a Love Affair/How about Me from the unreleased 3rd album (13-15/11/90, CTS Studios, Wembley) – from the RFS Archive.
And on that note David brought the Society’s 100th Meeting to a close, with thanks to our Guest of Honour, Matthew Curtis, to the Presenters, Andre Leon, Tony Clayden, Cab Smith and Brian Reynolds; all the helpers on reception and for arranging the Raffle. Everyone helping with the RFS Record Service and special thanks to Tony Clayden for all his technical support facilities. But, most important, the appreciative audience who came to today’s special meeting. "Wishing everyone a great summer and looking forward to seeing you in November".
Closing music – Robert Farnon’s evergreen Melody Fair etc.
In completing this Report I acknowledge with thanks the assistance I received from Malcolm Powell who kindly provided me with notes and additional material clarifying some aspects of the presentations but, more especially, the early part of the meeting, missed because I was unavoidably delayed.
The Robert Farnon Society celebrated its first 50 Years with a special meeting on 2 April 2006, followed by Dinner afterwards. Peter Burt looks back on that milestone in our Society’s history, which he simply calls …
A Memorable Afternoon
Around 40 members and friends attended the very first meeting of the Robert Farnon Appreciation Society, as it then was, on Sunday 15 April 1956 at the Bonnington Hotel. Three times as many of us made our way on 2 April 2006 to the same venue in London’s Bloomsbury, to celebrate the first 50 years of meetings. One thing I am sure of is that those pioneer members were not faced with such an array of sound and vision equipment that, courtesy of our technical wizard Tony Clayden, enhanced our afternoon’s enjoyment. And what an afternoon!
Bob’s High Street preceded the announcement summoning us to our seats, followed by his ‘The Road to Hong Kong’ Overture. It was then into the programme proper with another Farnon composition, Proscenium. David Ades welcomed us – especially "two very, very special guests", David and Patricia Farnon – before handing over to his co-host Albert Killman, who introduced ‘Farnon Fantasy’: a pot-pourri of A Star is Born, Peanut Polka, Jumping Bean, Westminster Waltz, Portrait of a Flirt and State Occasion. This had been recorded by the LPO at a Royal Festival Hall concert in 1974 conducted by Bob who, we were reminded, had fronted all of the four major London symphony orchestras.
There followed a particularly poignant part of the programme as David and Albert remembered RFS members and friends no longer with us. These were, naturally, Bob himself, Kenneth Head [one of our founders], Michael Maine, Don Furnell, Percy and Edna Foster, Jimmy Gibbs, George Collins, Peter Bunfield, Robert Rudhall, Joy Fox, Ron Goodwin, Clive Richardson, Sir Vivian Dunn, former British Prime Minister Sir Edward Heath [who wrote for this magazine], Trevor Duncan, Alan Dell, Adelaide Hall, Robin Boyle and Dame Anna Neagle [another JIM contributor]. Mention was also made of Dorothy Head who was unwell. [She sadly passed away a few days after the meeting, as reported in our last issue].
David next introduced the first video of the afternoon. This comprised short extracts from RFS meetings in November 1986, the first ever to be recorded on videotape, and May 1987 when Bob’s 70th birthday was prematurely celebrated and another special guest was a very amusing Alan Dell. It was great to hear that distinctive voice again. Fenella Ades had been behind the video recorder when it seemed The Bonnington was not quite as upmarket as it is nowadays.
We then had a few words from Brian Reynolds about his new book ‘Music While You Work – An Era in Broadcasting’ [Book Guild] which traces the story of the well-loved BBC radio programme from 23rd June 1940 to 29th September 1967 with revivals in 1982, ’83, ’91 and ‘95’. Albert followed by introducing recorded messages from Forrest Patten and Bob’s brother Brian in the USA, Alan Heinecke "Down Under" in Australia, and Pip Wedge in Canada. Brian told us that his favourite composition of all that Bob wrote was the first 8 or 10 bars of To A Young Lady.
David introduced Jan Eriksen from Norway who was with us in person to recall the time in 1991 when Bob conducted the Norwegian Radio Orchestra with George Shearing as the soloist. It was worth the price of admission to hear them playing A Nightingale Sang In Berkeley Square.
The "parish notices" brought us to the first interval and the cutting of Sylvia Rix’s wonderful presentation cake with its liberal infusion of sherry. David also passed on greetings from friends who could not be with us, including John Parry, Frank Comstock, Philip Lane, Peter Taylor in Spain, Horace Bennett, Malcolm Laycock, Brian Coleman and Rodney Greenberg.
It was back to our seats, accompanied by Bob’s recording of Varsity Drag,for David to announce and then introduce our new President, David Farnon. Before playing, with accompanying anecdotes, three of his favourite pieces recorded by Bob - Playtime, The Newsreel March and Country Girl, vocal by Tony Bennett - David told us that over the past year the family had been engaged in compiling a complete catalogue of Bob’s works from all sources with the intention of it going on the Internet. Then there was Bob’s personal library with previously unrecorded works which would be gradually released. There was also a hope that one of Bob’s works might be played at next year’s Proms to mark the 90th anniversary of his birth.
Next we heard an extract from Bob’s Symphony No. 3 [The Edinburgh], performed by The Edmonton Symphony Orchestra conduced by William Eddins, taken from a Canadian radio broadcast supplied by RFS member Graham Newton.
Albert recalled that TV cameras visited Bob at his home on Guernsey at least twice during the 1980s. From 11th December 1981 we saw an interview from BBC 1’s ‘Pebble Mill at One’; then from 10th April 1988 another with Harry Secombe in his long-running ‘Highway’ show on ITV. We learnt that Bob was a man of strong faith who both believed in the power of prayer and that any talent anyone has is God given. The extract concluded with one of Bob’s finest pieces, Proud Canvas. Albert remarked on the hours that David had spent in transcribing the afternoon’s videos from the Society’s archives onto DVDs.
The popular, witty and very personable Brian Kay was next on playing Ray Martin’s Once upon a Wintertime, featuring Bob’s "perfect" arrangement for Vera Lynn with the Robert Farnon Orchestra, and Horn-A-Plenty, with Bob conducting the Danish State Radio Orchestra in his own composition. After thanking Brian, David told us that also in our audience were the very first editor of JIM, John Costin, and the very first equipment controller, Jim Palm.
At this point Albert diverted from the script [at least, from David’s script] to thank David and Moira – "without them we would not have a Society" – and to show our appreciation by presenting them with the gifts you can read about elsewhere. After sustained applause and David’s brief word of thanks, we remembered "a great friend of the Society", Don Furnell, sometime Assistant Secretary, by listening to a recording of his voice from one of our meetings, and his beloved Metropole Orchestra playing Theme from ‘The Flintstones’,with Clark Terry on flugelhorn. Albert’s response was "Yaba Daba Doo!" John McGlynn conducting The London Sinfonietta in We’re in the Money brought us to the Brian drawn raffle and the second interval. The interval music was Bob’s City Streets.
We returned to our seats clutching our CD purchases to hear a piece especially composed by RFS member David Barton in honour of our 50 years: Nostalgic Journey. The final segment of the afternoon’s entertainment opened with Philip Farlow making a moving tribute to the fondly remembered BBC’s Michael Maine, who "from about 1974 for a good long period was magazine editor and cornerstone of the first properly formulated Farnon discography … as well as presenting pieces at the top table." He tragically died in April 1984 as the result of a road accident, aged 33. Happier times were recalled by hearing recordings of his voice on air.
A request from Norman Grant and several other members followed this with extracts from the film ‘Spring In Park Lane’ – music by you-know-who. Cab Smith had to be part of our special meeting and appeared briefly to bring us "The Guv’nor’s" arrangement of Victor Schertzinger’s The Fleet’s In – quality if not quantity. The last item was more video clips, this time from ‘Captain Horatio Hornblower RN’, preceded by an introduction from Bob talking about his work on the film – "the best score I’ve written."
David said how lovely it was to have a member from America, James Cahall in the audience again; and then closed the meeting with the usual thanks all round and, as Melody Fair and Manhattan Playboy came over the loudspeakers, 68 of us made our way downstairs to the Jubilee Suite for the evening’s celebrations.
There we shared in good food and friendship, seasoned by the humour never far from the surface at our gatherings, with music by Ann Adams and her Ladies’ Palm Court Quartet and speeches from David Ades, John Wilson, John Fox, Sigmund Groven, Brian Kay and Tony Clayden. Albert was our admirable Master of Ceremonies. It was a memorable evening to crown a memorable afternoon. And as our President had said earlier in the day and our Secretary had echoed at the end of the meeting: "Here’s to the next 50 years."
A Coda from our Secretary…
For once in my life I was really stumped for words. When Albert suddenly departed from our rough script, and asked Moira and myself to join him in front of the Presenters’ Table, I was completely unprepared for what was to follow. And my dear Moira was moved to tears!
After saying some very kind words about our involvement with the Society for the past 50 years, Albert presented Moira with a charming brooch which she will wear with pride at our future meetings.
My own presentation was a copy of Robert Farnon’s Decca 78 of Jumping Bean and Portrait of a Flirt inside a special case bearing the inscription:
"The Robert Farnon Society 50th Anniversary 1956-2006
Presented to David Ades in recognition and appreciation of his many years of loyal and devoted service to the Society and of his tireless support and promotion of Light Music"
This means more to be than any other award I have ever received, and it occupies a place of honour directly in front of the desk at which I do all my work. I will see it every time I look up and I can only express my sincere thanks to everyone involved in making this wonderful thing happen. It is something I will never forget.
Occasions such as this require a concerted effort from so many people, and the success of the Anniversary Meeting is due to willing contributions from so many. Members of both the main Committee, and the London Meetings Sub-Committee, assisted in numerous ways, and there were also other generous helpers who joined in on the day. I hope I remembered to thank you all during the meeting or at the Dinner, but if my memory failed me I hope you will forgive someone who was still so overwhelmed by the kindness shown to him.
The events were captured on video and even as this magazine is being prepared a souvenir DVD is being assembled by Geoffrey Richardson (much to his regret, Geoffrey was abroad at the time, so he missed the meeting). Ralph Thompson was in change of the cameras during the day, and he was ably assisted by Brian Joscelyne and Stephen Wright. To them all I extend my sincere thanks. There is still a lot of work to do but we are hoping that the finished DVD will be ready for members to buy before Christmas – watch out for details in the next magazine.
Once again I must say what a real delight it was to welcome Mrs. Patricia Farnon and her son David (our honoured new President) during the afternoon and evening. Their presence provided the real ‘icing on the cake’.
And talking of the cake (yes, I know it’s a very corny link!) we are so grateful to Sylvia Rix for providing such a delicious ‘special treat’ for all the members. Not only was it stunning in its clever design, but it also tasted even better than it looked!
Ann Adams and her Ladies provided us with some delightful music before, and during, the Dinner, and it was good to see several non-dining members occupying chairs near the musicians and enjoying the music.
Finally (for now!) I wish to thank Malcolm Powell for taking the excellent photographs which appear on the previous pages in this feature, and on the pages immediately following this report. If you would like copies you can contact Malcolm direct – details of his address etc. on the inside front cover. (The photo on page by Simon Mentha was kindly supplied by Ann Adams).
As Peter Burt said at the top of his report: it was a truly Memorable Afternoon!
Shortly after our Meeting, the following message was received from one of our honoured guests, BRIAN KAY
"Congratulations to you all for a splendid 50th Anniversary Celebration. I was so glad to be there, and to be made so welcome by everyone, and enjoyed the occasion enormously. It was fascinating to see those old videos and the excerpts from the two main films were terrific, as I’d never seen either of them!
With you guys around the name and the music of Robert Farnon will surely last forever – quite right, too!"
RFS LONDON MEETING – SUNDAY 3 APRIL 2005
A Report by Paul Clatworthy
RFS Secretary David Ades opened the meeting by welcoming our Membership Secretary Albert Killman back on board after a spell in hospital. He had missed our previous meeting, and it was good to see him back at his familiar place on the top table.
Before the meeting proper began, the ‘settling down’ music featured two titles from that rare Everest LP "Mike Todd’s Broadway", which Robert Farnon made ‘anonymously’ while still under contract elsewhere. Even more rare is the stereo version, never released in Britain, from which came Stay With The Happy People and Violins from Nowhere.
To get the meeting off to a rousing start we heard some of the themes composed by Robert Farnon for the TV mini-series "A Man Called Intrepid" starring David Niven. Bob Farnon provided the music from his own collection as it was never released commercially. Frenesi was played as a tribute to the late Artie Shaw, dear to many Farnon members as a string section was used, at the time quite an innovation.
Tony Bennett singing the late Cy Coleman's composition "The Riviera" showcased Farnon's skill as a Big Band arranger, exhilarating music yet to make it on to CD! Next André Leon did a presentation explaining the problems he had after being commissioned to resurrect the Boosey and Hawkes mood music library. One unlikely source - Australia! Luckily they were not so quick to use a skip as the London HQ! Alan Bunting has done a wonderful clean-up of the sound when transferring these vintage 78s to CD. Alan must spend 24 hours a day with this valuable restoration work, and several "snippets" of the music (now back in catalogue) were played to illustrate the scope of "mood" music recovered plus some words from Alan Bunting thanking those who had helped with rare missing tracks.
David and Albert played some new releases, including film music by Clifton Parker (from the Walt Disney film "Treasure Island"); Matthew Curtis’s Bon Voyage and the Percy Faith Orchestra with a spirited version of Leroy Anderson’s Pyramid Dance. Albert Killman gave the good news that Angela Morley is still composing and will be a guest on the Brian Kay programme in July – we heard her Adrift in a Dream from a new Guild CD. Part of Eric Rogers’ score for "Carry on Abroad" complete with some "earthy" humour followed - "great to listen to on a boring car journey" said David. Before the first interval David gave apologies for absence and welcomed some distinguished guests.
Part two opened with Cab Smith’s "Swing Session" which featured Bob Farnon's arrangements of Just in time, Come fly with me and Black Bottom. The first title was almost a certain choice if Sinatra had ever got to work with Bob again, sadly never to be!
Robert Habermann introduced our main Guest of the afternoon - David Snell, harpist, pianist, composer and conductor, all in one talented man! David talked of working with Tubby Hayes, Johnny Scott, Johnny Dankworth and Cleo Laine. Vocalion have just issued a CD version of his Decca L.P "The Subtle Sound of David Snell" (CDLF 8110) from which we heard his delightful version of The Surrey with the Fringe on Top and one from the KPM mood library International Flight. David also worked for the Bruton library and we heard the evocative Sleigh Ride.
The BBC Radio Orchestra also had the benefit of his talent until its untimely demise at the hands of the accountants! David played one of the pastoral pieces he was most pleased with, Evensong; I am sure everyone present agreed with his choice. David continued his illuminating spot with the end credit music for the story "Sun Child" one of his film soundtracks. Next the last part of his Divertimento for Strings recorded by the L.S.O. He ended with Walking Happy especially written for him by Bob Farnon.
Albert ushered all guests back to their seats for the last part of the proceedings, beginning with Brian Reynolds’ trawl through his archive of broadcast recordings, one a forty year old version of Robert Farnon's whimsical Moomin - good to hear it again! Next a jaunty tune The Green Cockatoo by the late Harold Geller and his Orchestra. Brian ended with Eric Jupp's "Beau Geste" with some sprightly string writing. All the music a trip down memory lane from the days of "Steam radio"!
Tony Foster presented The Sid Lawrence orchestra playing Caribbean Clipper with some neat answer and call brass work. Another inspired choice was Urbie Green leading a twenty piece trombone choir with a unique version of Stardust. Third choice André Previn backed by a rousing big band led by Johnny Williams steaming through I only have eyes for you. Tony ended with Robert Farnon's Canadian Caravan from the CD "Canadian impressions" I still treasure the letter Bob sent to me when I enquired where I could get a recording. Bob kindly wrote back saying it was a "Chappell" record not then available to the general public but that he intended to include it on a future Decca L.P. Ah these years later it still thrills!
Next guest was one of the world’s foremost bassoonists, Daniel Smith who told of his visit to Robert Farnon who had written a "Concerto for Bassoon" and needed a player who could improvise jazz on this most unwieldy of instruments! He said that Bob was having trouble with his legs and was very frustrated because he dearly wanted to conduct the composition himself. Daniel said the score was absolutely amazing! Twenty five minutes long in three parts. Bob considered the composition to be his best work ever! Something he had worked on for a long time in his mind.
David Ades played Farnon's version of "Song of Scandia" an arrangement Farnon had written for Bassoon exploring the instrument’s potential. We had a preview of John Wilson's new CD "Dance Date", the chosen tune being an Alan Roper arrangement of "The Lady in Red" which Stan Kenton had a minor hit with in the late fifties. Lastly we heard two from the latest "Guild" collection one being my favourite Harold Arlen tune What's Good about Good-bye played by the magnificent David Rose Orchestra.
The happy gathering dispersed to the sound of Melody Fair, all looking forward to the next meeting.