Queen's Hall Light Orchestra Volume 4

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Click to enlargeSo far Vocalion’s releases of Queen’s Hall Light Orchestra recordings have concentrated mainly on the 1940s. This new collection takes us forward to the end of the 1950s, when the Musicians’ Union once again allowed this famous orchestra to make recordings for Chappell & Co.



Chappell Recordings from 1959-1961

2 THE FIRST WALTZ (Robert Farnon)
3 GIRL ON THE CALENDAR (Clive Richardson)
4 AFRICAN MOON (Robert Stolz)
5 FASHION SHOW (Angela Morley)
6 DOMINION DAY (Robert Farnon)
7 BY THE WILLOWS (Horace Shepherd)
8 THE WHITE KNIGHT (Charles Williams)
9 MR. PUNCH (Robert Farnon)
11 NEW HORIZONS (Robert Farnon)
12 LIFT GIRL (Bruce Campbell)
13 MORE COMIC CUTS (Sidney Torch)
14 DRUM MAJORETTE (Arnold Steck)
15 FUN IN THE SUN (Angela Morley)
17 RED SQUARE REVIEW (Denis Rycoth)
18 THE BIG NIGHT (Robert Farnon)
19 HYDRO PROJECT (Charles Williams)
21 HEADLAND COUNTRY (Robert Farnon)
22 MANNEQUIN MELODY (Clive Richardson)
23 SOFT MOMENT (Robert Mersey)
24 HOLIDAY FLIGHT (Robert Farnon)
25 PAPER CHASE (Cyril Watters)
28 CITY STREETS (Robert Farnon)
Conducted by ROBERT FARNON except
ANGELA MORLEY 5, 15, 23 & 27

Vocalion CDLK4274

Politics and music make uncomfortable bedfellows, and with hindsight it seems a great pity that Chappells, and many other London publishers, were forced to stop using British musicians for their library recordings around 1950. This didn’t stop the music being recorded, and the libraries continued to expand rapidly: the losers were British musicians, who saw their colleagues on the Continent of Europe being paid for numerous sessions in many different countries.

Towards the end of the 1950s the ban was removed, only to be reinstated a few years later. During this brief ‘window’, the name of the Queen’s Hall Light Orchestra’ was brought out of forced retirement, and a number of superb recordings were made featuring splendid new compositions by the top writers in the Chappell stable.If ever proof was needed that Light Music was continuing to thrive at the end of the 1950s, there is ample evidence on this CD.

Let’s consider some of the composers whose work is included here. Big names such as Haydn Wood (1882-1959) - a contemporary of the man who, in the 1930s, had been dubbed "The uncrowned King of Light Music" - Eric Coates (1886-1957). Both of them enjoyed similar successes - originally with ballads in the early years of the century, before concentrating more on full-scale orchestral works and suites. This native Yorkshireman (from the difficult-to-pronounce town of Slaithwaite) often dedicated such works to London, yet the opening track actually comes from his "Paris" Suite. Montmartre first became popular during the 1930s, since when it has remained a favourite for light music concerts, and still receives the occasional new recording. Chappell obviously thought that it should be available for their clients to license, hence this slightly shortened version (so that it would fit comfortably on to a 10" 78 disc) conducted by Robert Farnon, who arguably took over Coates’ ‘crown’ as the "Uncrowned King of Light Music" in the post World War II years.

Robert Farnon (b. 1917) remains on the podium, this time conducting one of his own works – First Waltz. This was actually the second time that he had composed a work with this title; on the first occasion his publishers wisely decided to rename his piece Westminster Waltz, and it became one of his greatest successes. But the title was too good to forget, hence its reappearance here. First Waltz didn’t achieve the success of Westminster Waltz, but it possesses considerable charm and deserves to be remembered. Other Farnon compositions in this collection include Dominion Day (written as a tribute to his homeland, Canada), Mr. Punch, New Horizons (based on a movement from his first symphony), The Big Night, Headland Country, Holiday Flight and City Streets (developed from a series of short pieces called Pulse of the City).

Clive Richardson (1909-1998) was part of ‘Four Hands in Harmony’ (with Tony Lowry), but that was just a small interlude in a long and successful career. He accompanied several artists on the piano, and was an early contributor of scores to British films (especially some of the Will Hay comedies, although he wasn’t credited on-screen). London Fantasia was a big success in the 1940s, when mini-piano concertos were all the rage (thanks to the ecstatic reception given to Richard Addinsell’s Warsaw Concerto in the 1941 film "Dangerous Moonlight"). Other well-known Richardson compositions to succeed were Melody on the Move and Holiday Spirit, that exuberant theme for BBC Children’s Television Newsreel. In similar vein we hear two works which each offer an instant ‘time capsule’ of a period when young ladies were usually portrayed as possessing charm and poise, even when being photographed and appearing on catwalks – Girl on the Calendar and Mannequin Melody.

Robert Stolz (1880-1975) was an acclaimed Austrian composer, extremely popular in his homeland until he went to Hollywood to escape the Nazis, where he enjoyed success writing music for films such as "Spring Parade" and "It Happened Tomorrow". African Moon seems to be a rare example of one of his shorter pieces being recorded for mood music purposes. (Robert Farnon recorded Stolz’s Persian Nocturne for Decca in 1949 to thank him for performing his works on the Continent.)

By the time that the recordings on this CD were made, Angela Morley (b. 1924) had already established a fine reputation for her work as a composer, arranger and conductor. Originally she played alto sax with bands such as Geraldo (under her former name, Wally Stott), and her orchestra was an essential ingredient in the overwhelming success of BBC Radio’s "Goon Show" starring Peter Sellers, Spike Milligan and Harry Secombe. Numbers such as Fashion Show and Commonwealth March give hints of her close association with Robert Farnon when she was perfecting her composing skills, but she quickly developed her own distinctive style which has won her so much praise, particularly in her later career writing for films. Also on this CD we hear Angela’s Fun in the Sun and Practice Makes Perfect. In 1953 Angela had joined the newly established Philips Records label in London, mainly accompanying their contract singers, but she was also allowed to make orchestral records in her own name. Some of these 78s are now reappearing on the Guild ‘Golden Age of Light Music’ series, and it is to be hoped that Angela’s LPs will soon be made available once again.

The world of mood music (or production music, to give it its current name) includes a number of talented composers who appear to have shunned publicity, being content to remain in the background and allowing their music to speak for itself. Horace Shepherd (here represented with By the Willows) also composed under the name ‘Escaro Pastore’ and is credited with writing the score for the 1941 film "Hatter’s Castle" starring Deborah Kerr, Robert Newton and James Mason. Robert Mersey (Soft Moment) used the pseudonym ‘Spencer Ross’, and presumably he is the same person as the staff composer and arranger for CBS Television and Columbia Records, born in New York in 1917, who is credited with writing incidental music for top TV shows such as "Route 66" and "Manhunt". He also worked with top singers such as Andy Williams and Barbra Streisand.

On the other hand, volumes could be written about Charles Williams (1893-1978) (real name Isaac Cozerbreit) who began his career accompanying silent films, then played violin under the batons of Beecham and Elgar. Right from the start of the ‘talkies’, he provided scores for numerous British films, and his Dream Of Olwen is still remembered long after the film in which it appeared – "While I Live". In 1960 he topped the American charts with his theme for the film "The Apartment", although in reality the producers had resurrected one of his earlier works Jealous Lover which itself originated in a British film "The Romantic Age" (1949) starring Mai Zetterling and Petula Clark. By far the greatest volume of his composing skills was employed in mood music, providing hundreds of works for Chappell alone, many of them also conducted by him. Devil’s Galop will forever remind schoolboys of the 1940s of "Dick Barton – Special Agent", while early television viewers became familiar with Girls in Grey, the theme for BBC newsreels; The Young Ballerina accompanied the famous ‘Potter’s Wheel’ TV interlude. The two titles featured here – The White Knight and Hydro Project were composed at a time when Charles Williams was gradually winding down his career, but they both prove that he still knew exactly what was needed by films and television at that time, and they remain perfect models of their genre.

Bruce Campbell was another writer who owed much to his association with Robert Farnon. He was a fellow Canadian, who actually came to Britain some years before Farnon, and played trombone with various British bands during the 1930s including Ambrose, Jack Harris, Jack Hylton, Sid Millward, Hugo Rignold and Lew Stone. Campbell assisted Farnon on his post-war BBC radio shows, and eventually became a frequent contributor to various mood music libraries. Lift Girl is a typical example of his gift for melody, and his ability to provide just what was being required by publishers.

Sidney Torch (1908-1990) composed mainly under his own name, but occasionally he used the anagram ‘Denis Rycoth’ as heard on Red Square Review in this collection. His ability to combine humour and music is well in evidence in More Comic Cuts – a popular sequel to his previous Comic Cuts (featured in Vocalion’s third volume of QHLO recordings, CDEA6094). This time the two movements are sub-titled Cockney Cameo and Busy Budgie. In his early career Sidney Torch became one of England’s foremost cinema organists, but after service in the Royal Air Force during World War II he concentrated on composing, arranging and conducting light music. He made numerous commercial recordings with his orchestra for EMI’s Parlophone label, and conducted a large amount of mood music for Chappell and Francis, Day & Hunter. He conducted the BBC Concert Orchestra for many years, and was closely associated with "Friday Night is Music Night", which he helped to devise in 1953.

Arnold Steck is a pseudonym used by Major Leslie Statham, conductor of the Band of the Welsh Guards, who retired from the regiment in 1962 to concentrate fully on composing. Not surprisingly he was a master of concert marches, and his two compositions on this CD both became familiar through their regular use on BBC Television – Drum Majorette as the original theme for "Match of the Day", and Sporting Occasion which can still be heard as the closing theme for broadcasts of Wimbledon tennis.

Peter Yorke (1902-1966) worked with many leading British bands during his formative years, some of the most notable being Percival Mackey, Jack Hylton and Henry Hall. In 1936 he began a fruitful collaboration as chief arranger with Louis Levy, one of the pioneers of music for British films, who employed several talented writers such as Clive Richardson, Charles Williams and Jack Beaver, but seldom gave them any credit on-screen. Later on Peter Yorke conducted one of Britain’s most popular broadcasting orchestras from the 1940s until the 1960s. He was also a gifted composer and he created many stunning arrangements that brought out some fine performances from the top musicians he always employed. As well as Chappell, several different London publishers were happy to accept his work for their background music libraries (Francis Day & Hunter, Bosworth, Harmonic, Conroy, Paxton, Southern and Josef Weinberger are some other examples), and Emeralds and Ermine reveals his ability to compose big numbers with a full, rich orchestral sound. In contrast Holiday Excursion finds him in lighter mood, and this is one of the few pieces he actually conducted himself for Chappell. Possibly Yorke’s best-known work was Silks and Satins which, for ten years from 1957, was heard on British television several nights each week as the closing theme for the popular soap-opera ‘Emergency Ward 10’.

Although not as well-known as Peter Yorke, Cyril Watters (1907-1984) was another composer, highly respected by music publishers, whose work was readily accepted for its unfailing high standards. At times he was employed as a staff arranger by Boosey & Hawkes and Chappell, and he willingly devoted some of his energies in running the Light Music Society for the benefit of his fellow musicians. He achieved a minor hit with his Willow Waltz when it was used as a television theme, but possibly the number on this CD – Paper Chase – is more typical of his bright and breezy melodies.

The QHLO was made up of the leading session players in the capital, and the same musicians also performed on various titles which were credited to ‘The Telecast Orchestra’ when issued on 78s. (The production music publishers continued to use 78s for several years after they had disappeared from the catalogues of commercial record companies. Like LPs they were pressed in vinyl, giving silent surfaces, and preferred by the professionals in the entertainment industry at the time for their easy access to the music. Of course, by then everything was first recorded on tape, and then transferred to disc).

Therefore a few of the tracks on this CD were actually shown on labels in the name ‘Telecast’ rather than ‘QHLO’, but there is no discernible difference between the performers and the repertoire. People involved at the time have supported the view that Chappell tended to use the tag ‘Telecast’ when a smaller number of musicians were engaged for works not requiring a full concert-size orchestra; there is also the observation that they simply wanted to introduce some variety in the names of the various ensembles on their releases – a trend which accelerated in later years. Chappell & Co. had their own studio in New Bond Street, but they also used other venues such as the original CTS studios in Westbourne Grove, and the Conway Hall in Red Lion Square.

Not long after these recordings were made, the dispute with the Musicians’ Union resurfaced, and once again London publishers were forced to employ orchestras on the mainland of Europe. Eventually after another decade or so differences were settled, but by then the nature of production music had undergone a significant change, and the style of music performed by the Queen’s Hall Light Orchestra was no longer in great demand from films and television. So the famous name was allowed to die gracefully, thus ending an era when QHLO had long been associated with some of the finest pieces of contemporary light music being composed by leading composers of the 20th century.

David Ades

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