Talking Point

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Vocalion releases the first volume of a new delve into the riches of the Boosey & Hawkes Recorded Music Library


2 ROMANTIC JOURNEY (Ernest Tomlinson)
3 THE BINGOLA (Vivian Ellis)
4 VIN ROSE (Frederic Curzon)
6 TALKING POINT (Cyril Watters)
7 GIRL BIRD (Dennis Farnon)
12 SONG OF THE WOODLANDS (Frederic Curzon)
13 EXUBERANT YOUTH (Ernest Tomlinson)
14 CELTIC MELODY (Cyril Watters)
15 ICICLE RIDE (Trevor Duncan)
16 THE BULLFIGHTER (Monia Liter)
18 BROAD REACH (Trevor Duncan)
19 PARIS TAXI (Vivian Ellis)
20 WATERSMEET (Cyril Watters)
21 HARVEST SUPPER (Trevor Duncan)
22 RIVERSIDE IDYLL (Frederic Curzon)
23 SPRING (Vivian Ellis)
25 LITTLE SUITE : FOLK TUNE (Trevor Duncan)

Vocalion CDLK4192

This CD is a celebration of the talents of a group of gifted composers who, between them, contributed hundreds of individual pieces of light music to the recorded music library operated by the famous London publishers, Boosey & Hawkes. The recordings date from the 1960s and 1970s, and the name on the original record labels (they first appeared on 78s and LPs) is ‘The New Concert Orchestra’. In actual fact the musicians were drawn from several different broadcasting orchestras, mostly on the continent of Europe, and for contractual reasons the true identities of the conductors could not always be revealed. However one thing remained constant: Boosey & Hawkes ensured that the recordings and performances were all of the highest quality.

Recorded Music Libraries were established by many of the top London publishers, providing films, radio and television companies with a readily accessible source of affordable recorded music that could be used as signature tunes, main themes or simply as backgrounds for every kind of use.

Competition was fierce, and each publisher developed its own style, backed up by top writers, many of them happy to specialise in this particular niche of the music industry.

During the 1950s the legendary Bassett Silver took over the day-to-day running of the B&H Recorded Music Library, and he remained at the helm until his sudden death in 1974. The music in this collection is a testament to his fine leadership which resulted in numerous talented composers contributing original works which demonstrate just how much splendid light music still remains undiscovered.

Dennis Farnon (b. 1923) is the younger brother of Robert Farnon, and he began composing for the Boosey & Hawkes Recorded Music Library in the late 1960s. Prior to that he had worked for ten years in Hollywood where his screen credits included the music for12 ‘Mr. Magoo’ cartoons, and four humorous animated ‘Art’ films. For three years he was Artist and West Coast Album Director for RCA Records, and was one of the five founders in 1957 of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, who present the annual Grammy awards. His conducting and arranging assignments included albums with Harry Belafonte, Tony Martin, Gogi Grant, George Shearing and the Four Freshmen. Among his own LPs are ‘Caution Men Swinging’, ‘Enchanted Woods’ and ‘Magoo in Hi-Fi’. He came to Europe in 1962, and worked on TV series such as ‘Bat Out Of Hell’, ‘Spy Trap’ and ‘Bouquet of Barbed Wire’. Dennis now lives in The Netherlands, where he continues to compose and teach. He admits that his composition in this collection – Girl Bird – is one of his own personal favourites.

Frederic Curzon (1899-1973) devoted his early career to working in the theatre and, like so many of his contemporaries, he gradually became involved in providing music for silent films. As well as being a fine pianist and a conductor, he also played the organ, and his first big success as a composer was his ‘Robin Hood Suite’ in 1937. This encouraged him to devote more of his time to writing and broadcasting, and several of his works have become light music ‘standards’, notably The Boulevardier, Dance of an Ostracised Imp and the miniature overture Punchinello. He was eventually appointed Head of Light Music at Boosey & Hawkes, and for a while was also President of the Light Music Society. Curzon was much liked and admired by fellow musicians and his colleagues in publishing, although he remained an essentially private man. He worked hard on behalf of other composers, and wrote a large amount of ‘mood music’ himself. The three examples in this collection reveal his great ability for pure melody and delicate scoring.

Vivian Ellis (1904-1996) was only 24 when he had his first big success in London’s West End with his show ‘Mr. Cinders’, from which came one of his best-remembered hits Spread a Little Happiness. He had started in the music business as a song-plugger with the famous publishers Francis, Day & Hunter, but thereafter it was his songs that would be sung and played by millions around the world. Many more shows were to follow, leading up to ‘Bless The Bride’ in 1947 which provided his greatest theatrical achievement. But Vivian Ellis did not confine his talents to musicals; he was equally at home composing melodies that became popular light orchestral works. His most famous was Coronation Scot (the signature tune of BBC Radio’s ‘Paul Temple’), closely followed by Alpine Pastures (the theme for ‘My Word’ – on Vocalion CDEA6061). In the 1960s he began composing regularly for Boosey & Hawkes, and three of his contrasting works are included on this CD. Like his contemporary Richard Addinsell, Vivian Ellis possessed the precious skill of being able to conjure up a strong melody, although he preferred to leave it to others to orchestrate his creations. Unfortunately those responsible were seldom credited, so researchers can only assume that the final polish was applied by people such as Cyril Watters, who were employed by his publishers to perform such tasks for their fellow writers.

Monia Liter (1906-1988) was born in Odessa, and left following the 1917 Russian revolution. He worked as a pianist in a cinema orchestra in China, and then moved on to many varied jobs in the Far East, finally ending up in Singapore where he spent seven years leading a dance band at the prestigious Raffles Hotel. While in Singapore he became a naturalised British subject, and came to Britain in 1933 where he worked with many of the top bands, including the famous vocalist Al Bowlly. In 1941 he joined the BBC as a composer, conductor and arranger, initially with the Twentieth Century Serenaders. After 10 years at the BBC, he left them to concentrate on concert work and composing. He was also in demand for films, recording and television, and later worked in the Light Music department at Boosey & Hawkes, writing many works for their Recorded Music Library.

Ernest Tomlinson (b.1924) is one of Britain’s most talented composers, working mainly in light music, but also highly regarded for his choral works and brass band pieces. During a very productive career, he has contributed numerous titles to the recorded music libraries of many different publishers, often under the pseudonym ‘Alan Perry’. One of his best-known numbers is Little Serenade, which he developed from a theme he wrote as incidental music for a radio production ‘The Story of Cinderella’ in 1955. His suites of English Folk Dances have also become part of the standard light music repertoire. In recent years Ernest has worked hard to preserve thousands of music manuscripts that would otherwise have been destroyed, and he is the Chairman of the Light Music Society.

Cyril Watters (1907-1984) was a backroom-boy in the music business in every sense of the word. From 1953 to 1961 he was chief arranger with Boosey & Hawkes, and worked in similar capacities with other publishers, including Chappells. His own compositions were willingly accepted for many mood music libraries, and his greatest success was his Willow Waltz which won him an Ivor Novello Award in 1960; it came to prominence through its use as the theme for the TV serial ‘The World of Tim Frazer’. During the 1960s he worked tirelessly on behalf of his fellow musicians as Secretary of the Light Music Society, and was a true gentleman highly respected and liked by all who came into contact with him.

Trevor Duncan (b. 1924) – real name Leonard Charles Trebilco - is one of Britain’s finest composers of light music during the second half of the last century. In the 1940s he worked at the BBC as a sound engineer, but a conflict of interests arose when his compositions became very popular and BBC rules limited the amount that their own employees’ works could be broadcast. His first big success for Boosey & Hawkes was High Heels, soon followed by other delightful cameos such as Tomboy, Twentieth Century Express and The Girl From Corsica. By the end of the 1950s his output was so prolific that B&H were unable to handle everything that he was writing so, with their blessing, he placed some of his numbers with other publishers. Television used his music for programmes such as The Quatermass Experiment, Dr. Finlay’s Casebook and The Planemakers (the first track on this CD). One of his passions was sailing, and many of his works seem to pay homage to the sea in all its moods. The music for Dr. Finlay’s Casebook is the March from Trevor Duncan’s ‘Little Suite’. This, and two other movements, are already available on various recordings, but a fourth movement from the suite – Folk Tune – has been unfairly neglected. This CD now makes it available for the first time on a commercial release.

The other composer represented in this collection, Sam Fonteyn (real name Sam Soden), was an accomplished writer who may not have achieved the same recognition as the afore-mentioned, but nevertheless produced some very pleasing melodies. There are countless others like him in the world of light music, who often prefer to preserve their anonymity, happy in the knowledge that their work gives pleasure to unsuspecting millions.

David Ades (July 2003)

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