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.