By Robert Walton
Rawtenstall is the largest town at the centre of the Rossendale Valley in Lancashire, England. With a population of 22,000, it’s situated 15 miles north of Manchester in the ancient Forest of Rossendale.
Whenever I saw genial Rawtenstall-born Ernest at the Robert Farnon Society meetings, he always gave the impression of being a country person. He won a scholarship to Manchester Cathedral Choir School and Manchester University where he graduated in 1947. This solid musical
background paid off because the following year he was a staff arranger for a London firm of music publishers as well as becoming organist for a Mayfair church.
He was essentially a light music composer sometimes credited as ‘Alan Perry’. I first became aware of him through Little Serenade, a piece that was never off the air when I came to England in 1962. Because of that, I tended to associate Tomlinson with compositions of a rural nature perhaps relating to his roots.
Here’s one that is definitely not from that ilk but with an undeniably city feel about it - Sheerline. In fact it doesn’t sound typically Tomlinson at all but demonstrates he could turn his hand to any style should the mood or commission take him. If anything there’s a touch of Farnon about it. But it shows he’s right at home writing a busy rhythmic theme.
The introductory 4 bars don’t burst in like some compositions but sort of enter gently to join up with the waiting, catchy meandering melody. As well as being in a pleasant category it’s also ideal material for what it was designed for. Light orchestral music at its finest. There’s still so much of his music hidden away and demanding to be discovered.
The tune starts climbing immediately but not for long. With a mind of its own and sensing a journey ahead, it begins to dart about wherever the fancy takes it and keeps the listener on his/her toes. (Fred Astaire would be tempted). The harmonies are tailor made for the tune.
The middle 8 provides a perfect link, momentarily taking your eye off the ball. But it’s this constant caper as the melody twists and turns, creating one of the most perfect arrangements/compositions in this specialized art of production music. Ernest Tomlinson has created a classic, which would have been quite at home in the Chappell library.
And talking of libraries, when London publishing houses were throwing away skip loads of music, it was Tomlinson to the rescue as he saved tons of tunes for posterity. All devotees of light music owe him an incalculable debt of gratitude. As a footnote, actress Jane Horrocks (“Little Voice”) was also born in Rawtenstall. Guild GLCD 5232.
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