Musical Merry-Go-Round

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Two HMV LPs from 1960 & 1961 have just made a welcome reappearance on Vocalion

Sinfonia of London conducted by ROBERT IRVING and DOUGLAS GAMLEY

Musical Merry-Go-Round CSD1333

1 The Carousel Waltz (Rodgers, arr. Gamley) b
2 Clowns’ Dance (Ibert) a
3 Visions d’Art (from ‘Les Forains’) (Sauguet) a
4 Circus Polka (Stravinsky) a
5 Waltz (from ‘Masquerade’) (Khachaturian) a
6 La Ronde (Oscar Straus, arr. Don Banks) b
7 Coney Island (Don Banks) b
8 Gopak (from ‘Sorchinski Fair’) (Mussorgsky, orch. Liadov) a
9 Prater Fest (Douglas Gamley) b
10 Dance of the Comedians (from ‘The Bartered Bride’) (Smetana) a

Famous Evergreens CSD1319

11 Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 (Liszt, arr. Sir Henry J. Wood) a
12 Ave Maria (Schubert, arr. Don Banks) a
13 Songs Without Words, Op. 67 No. 4 (‘Bees’ Wedding’)
(Mendelssohn, arr. Don Banks) a
14 Waltz in A Flat Major, Op. 39 No. 15 (Brahms, arr. Gamley) b
15 Santa Lucia* (Cottrau, arr. Gamley) a
16 Waltz (from ‘The Sleeping Beauty’ Ballet, Act 1) (Tchaikovsky) a
17 Jealousy (Gade, arr. Gamley) b
18 Clair de Lune (Debussy, arr. André Coplet) a
19 Moto Perpetuo (Nova?ek, arr. Gamley) b
20 Intermezzo (from ‘Cavalleria Rusticana’) (Mascagni) a
21 Dance of the Hours (from ‘La Gioconda’, Act 3) (Ponchielli) a

*with DOUGLAS GAMLEY, piano

conducted by

a Robert Irving

b Douglas Gamley

Vocalion CDLK4181

More than 50 years later, the Festival of Britain in 1951 has left us with a major concert hall on London’s South Bank – the Royal Festival Hall. When Musical Merry-Go-Round was released in 1961 another legacy of the Festival could still be enjoyed – the Fun Fair in Battersea Park. Stereo recordings were still something of a novelty to record buyers, and the original sleeve notes of this album went to great lengths to explain how the special effects had been achieved.

"The scheme for this record originated during a summer evening visit to London's Battersea Fun Fair. It was while watching the Merry-go-round that there came the idea of a unique stereo illusion. It was reasoned that if stereo could give precise location of Left and Right, why not also a revolving effect? - but how to achieve this? Various suggestions were made, including microphones mounted on a revolving spindle, and even placing the orchestra on a revolving platform. However, the solution came, as all scientific solutions must, by painstaking experimentation. A careful electronically synchronised manipulation of Left and Right tracks was found to provide the complete illusion of the music issuing from a Merry-go-round. The two pieces to receive this treatment suggested themselves immediately; the Carousel Waltz and La Ronde are ideally suitable, not only in their titles, but also for the nature of the melodies, and the scores were prepared in collaboration with the sound-technicians so that the shape of the music could match the period of revolution. The actual recording was made in a completely straightforward manner with the usual stereo distribution of the orchestra, e.g. trumpets on extreme right, horns on extreme left, upper strings left, lower strings right, woodwind located centrally, etc. Some of this stereo information was then reduced to provide one single revolving track. Incidentally, it will be noticed that the Merry-go-round stops occasionally to collect its passengers."

The world of the Circus and the Fairground provided the inspiration for all the music in this entertaining collection, ranging from the penetrating mind of Igor Stravinsky, to the unashamed melodic invention of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Straus.

Two new compositions were specially commissioned for this album. Coney Island is the work of Don Banks (1923-1980), which cleverly describes the brash artificial world in this famous American amusement park. Banks was an Australian composer and orchestrator, who was based in London in the 1950s and 1960s, working in many spheres including feature films, documentaries, television and the theatre (you can read more about him at the end of this feature). In complete contrast another new work Prater Fest, composed by Douglas Gamley, is far more genteel; it reflects Vienna in the days of its greatness, when the elite of Europe would wander along the long avenue of chestnut trees to the playground which has been immortalised through the big wheel sequence in the Harry Lime film "The Third Man".

Famous Evergreens provides a charming selection of classical melodies that will be instantly recognisable, even if some of the precise titles may be somewhat elusive.

Brahms is reported to have been a keen admirer of Johann Strauss, but his waltzes owed more to the influence of Schubert. Douglas Gamley interprets the normally serious composer in one of his lighter moods. His deft touch as a sensitive arranger is also evident in Santa Lucia, whose words express the beauty of the Bay of Naples, with never a hint of the constant threat imposed by Vesuvius, just waiting to erupt once again. Douglas Gamley also features on the piano in this number, which must have been dear to his heart because he loved to escape to his second home in Italy.

Further Gamley scores crop up in Gade’s Jealousy (many people are surprised to learn that Jacob Gade [1879-1963] came from Denmark), and Nova?ek’s Moto Perpetuo, sometimes called Perpetuum Mobile. The remaining works are all familiar ‘standards’ that music lovers have enjoyed for generations.

Robert Augustine Irving was born in Winchester on 28 August 1913, and his education took place at Winchester College, New College Oxford and the Royal College of Music in London. In 1936 he was engaged as répétiteur at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, and he was also a music master at Winchester College. He joined the Royal Air Force upon the outbreak of World War 2 in 1939, and after hostilities ceased he conducted the BBC Scottish Orchestra in Glasgow from 1945 until 1948. He was appointed musical director of the Sadlers Wells (later ‘Royal’) Ballet from 1949 to 1958. In 1958 he went to the New York City Ballet, and became recognised as one of the world’s leading ballet conductors, frequently invited as guest conductor in the USA and Europe.

John Douglas Gamley was born in Melbourne, Australia, on 23 September 1924. He came to England in the early 1950s, and his talents as a composer, arranger and pianist were soon in demand. He composed and scored the music for many films, and his credits include "Tom Thumb" (1958), "And Now The Screaming Starts!" (1973), "Madhouse" (1974), "The Beast Must Die" (1974), "The Land That Time Forgot" (1975) and "Enigma" (1982). He also worked alongside Henry Mancini for "Shot in the Dark" and "Charade". As many readers will already know, Douglas was a close musical associate of Robert Farnon, both in films and at recording sessions involving Tony Bennett, Lena Horne, George Shearing and numerous others. Douglas made many recordings with Joan Sutherland, and was active in both the classical and popular spheres – talents which made him particularly suitable for the repertoire on this compact disc. In his later life he tended to spend six months of the year in Australia, where he conducted the Australian Pops Orchestra. The rest of the time was divided between working in London, and relaxing in Italy, where the climate suited him better as an asthma sufferer. Douglas was a charming, gentle man who could always be relied upon in any musical situation. He died in London on 5 February 1998.

Don Banks (1923-1980)

One of the highlights of these releases was the involvement of Don Banks, who contributed several arrangements plus one superb original composition, Coney Island. This work described the famous American amusement park, and it opens with a kaleidoscopic impression of the brash, artificial world of the Fun Fair, as it seemed in the middle years of the last century. This leads into a gentle Carousel in 5/8 time, which asymmetrical rhythm corresponds to the movement of the carousel horses. This in turn leads to the Water-shoot – cleverly portrayed very literally – and then we are in the quiet atmosphere of the Tunnel of Love, where the languorous and seductive tones of three alto saxophones, placed in a perspective of depth, create the illusion of the long, echoing tunnel. The kaleidoscope turns again to reveal the Big Dipper careering past, and the work finishes with a return to the bustling jollity of the opening scene. The composer of this exhilarating number was Don Banks, who was born in Australia on 25 October 1923. Don Banks' studies in piano and musical theory commenced at the age of five. His father was a professional jazz musician who played trombone, alto saxophone and percussion, and who led his own band and Banks learned to play the various instruments that inevitably surrounded him in his early years. Often he would 'sit in' with his father's band, and later he earned his living as a jazz pianist and trombonist with bands such as that of Roger and Graeme Bell, where he gained valuable experience as an arranger and orchestrator. Jazz was Banks' earliest and strongest musical influence and his enthusiasm for it never waned. At various times throughout his life he gave broadcasts and lectured on jazz music, and in 1977 was co-adjudicator of the NSW State Government prize for a Jazz Composition. Between 1941 and 1946 Banks served with the Australian Army Medical Corps. He studied piano, harmony and counterpoint privately during the last two years of his service and on being discharged entered the University of Melbourne Conservatorium of Music. He majored in piano and composition, studying under Waldemar Seidel (piano), A.E.H. Nickson and Dorian Le Gallienne (composition), and was awarded a Diploma of Music with first class honours in 1949. In 1950 he left for Europe, and for the next two years studied composition privately with Matyas Seiber. Seiber placed great emphasis on intensive analysis, and this period of study was to be a decisive influence on Banks. In 1952, Banks co-founded (with Margaret Sutherland) the Australian Musical Association in London, which became a vital platform for Australian composition. Also in 1952, he attended the Seminar in American Studies Summer School in Salzburg, where he studied under Milton Babbitt, and then travelled to Florence on an Italian Government Scholarship to study composition and orchestration with Luigi Dallapiccola for a year. In 1956 Banks was selected by Youth and Music (London) to attend a Composers' Seminar in Switzerland, where he studied with Luigi Nono. Banks earned his living in London as a professional orchestrator and, from 1956, as a composer of commercial music, including music for feature films, documentaries, animated films, television, advertisements, record libraries and theatre. Notable among the film scores are those he wrote for some of the Hammer horror films, such as Hysteria, The Reptiles and Rasputin, The Mad Monk. Between 1960 and 1971 he also gave private lessons in composition, analysis and orchestration. Banks was active in many areas of music throughout his life, and in his last few years in Britain (1965-1971), held a number of positions. He guest-lectured on various subjects for educational establishments including universities, the Newport College of Art, and the Society for Musical Education of the Under Twelves, he broadcast for the BBC Third Programme, was three times an adjudicator for the Royal Amateur Orchestral Society Prize, and was an external examiner to the University of Wales. He was also chairman of the Society for the Promotion of New Music (SPNM) in 1967-68, and organised and co-directed their Composers' Seminars in 1967, 1968 and 1970. Appointed Music Director at the University of London Goldsmiths' College in 1969, Banks initiated new courses in conducting, guitar, folk music and jazz, and also developed an Electronic Music Studio. Following a brief visit in 1970, Don Banks returned to Australia in 1972 to take up a Fellowship in Creative Arts in Canberra. Throughout the year of the Fellowship he gave lectures, attended and directed seminars, adjudicated and involved himself in the activities of the International Society for Contemporary Music in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. He was also invited by the Prime Minister to chair the Music Board of the Australian Council for the Arts. In 1973 Banks, still in Australia, directed the Fourth National Young Composer's Seminar at the University of Western Australia's Department of Music and provided introductory sessions in Electronic Music for young composers at the Canberra School of Music's Electronic Music Studio. Having decided to settle permanently in Australia, Banks returned briefly to the UK to finalise his affairs before taking up the position of Head of Composition and Electronic Music Studies at the Canberra School of Music in October 1973. Apart from the administrative and lecturing duties of this position, Banks was also responsible for the development of the Canberra School of Music's Electronic Music Centre, which under his guidance became the most advanced studio complex in the southern hemisphere. He was also an 'ex-officio' consultant for the development of electronic music studios in high schools and tertiary institutions, and in May 1977 chaired the Electronic Music section of the ASME National Conference. In October 1977 Banks took up an appointment as Guest Composer at the NSW State Conservatorium of Music, and in 1978 became Head of the School of Composition Studies there. In 1980 he was made a Member of the Order of Australia for services to music and received an honorary doctorate from the University of Melbourne. Don Banks died of cancer on 5 September, 1980. His musical estate, consisting of papers, correspondence, manuscripts of almost all his works, scores, tapes, discs and books, is preserved in the National Library of Australia in Canberra. The instruments that constitute the electronic studio of Don Banks are preserved by the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney.

David Ades

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