THE ROBERT FARNON SOCIETY SPRING 2013
MEETING reported by Brian Reynolds
It was time once again for the faithful to meet up for our bi-annual festival of melody at 'The Bonnington' - as we prefer to call it. Members and a few non-members trooped in, most of whom were blissfully unaware that this was to be our penultimate meeting! As mentioned elsewhere, David Ades is, for health reasons, having to relinquish his various roles in the Society, notably that of Editor of the magnificently presented Journal, a task which has taken up much of his waking hours over a good number of the last fifty years - a superb record. All of us have reason to be grateful to him for his enormous contribution, not only to the Society, but to light music in general.
In the absence of David, Albert Killman opened proceedings with Manhattan Playboy by Robert Farnon from a new CD conducted by Iain Sutherland
Albert then read out an apology for his absence from David, conveying his good wishes to the assembled multitude. We continued with a performance of I get a kick out of you (sounds painful!) conducted by Robert Farnon.
Paul Clatworthy then came to the top table and introduced Claire featuring the Metropole Orchestra conducted by Rob Pronk, followed by Slumbering Child and A piece of Cake.
Tony Clayden told the audience of the hard decisions that had been made regarding the Society. He explained that his announcement of the closure of the Society was one that he had hoped that he would never have to make. There was an audible gasp from members, followed by a stunned silence! Tony introduced Jan Mentha of the Light Music Society of which some of us are already members. It was suggested that with the demise of the Robert Farnon Society, members might wish to join this long-established society, which was formed in the mid-fifties to cater for lovers of melodious music. Sample magazines were provided to those who enquired and I understand that a considerable number of people expressed interest.
After this, it was time for my 'Radio Recollections' spot, which I have enjoyed presenting for many years. As usual, items were chosen from my large collection of vintage light music broadcasts. I began with a piece that would have been played at the previous meeting, had time permitted. This was 'Blackberry Pie' by Jean Harker, played by Reg Pursglove and the Albany Strings. I followed this with a lively joropo entitled Consuela by John Logan, played by Bernard Monshin and his Rio Tango Band. This gave me an opportunity to mention that, following receipt of some mint quality Bernard Monshin MWYW broadcasts, I had compiled them into a very full CD. Frank Bristow published these recordings in Australia and I had imported a batch so as to be able to sell them at the meeting. I'm pleased to say that all of them were purchased. The CD will be reviewed elsewhere in the journal.
I continued with a lovely Harold Geller arrangement of Annie Laurie, featuring the mandolin of Hugo D'Alton with the Harold Geller Orchestra. For my final item, I turned to the music of Jack Coles for a piece called Casbah played by the BBC Midland Light Orchestra under his direction.
Albert Killman then treated us to some music from David Rose and his Orchestra - Tiny Ballerina (who only danced in the key of C). We then turned to a recent Guild CD (Salon, Light and Novelty orchestras) for a terrific arrangement of 'Montague Ewing's Fairy on the Clock. This was followed by Roger Roger's 'Scenic Railway' from the Guild CD 'Fiddles and Bows'. The final CD to be represented was 'Cinema Classics' and we listened to part of 'Lady Barbara' (not sure which part!) from the Captain Hornblower music by Robert Farnon.
We then took our first interval.
After the interval Tony Clayden introduced our special guest for the afternoon, Sir Sydney Samuelson CBE, founder of the Filmharmonic concerts staged at the Royal Albert Hall in the seventies and eighties. Usually, at our meetings we interview our victim (sorry-guest!) but Sir Sydney (who is in his late eighties) chose to stand for an hour giving one of the most articulate and well-measured accounts that we have heard. He had also brought with him a number of special guests with whom he had worked over the years. These included 89 year old conductor John Gregory, a famous name from years gone by!
Apparently Sir Sydney had enjoyed a long friendship with film composer Nino Rota, and in 1969 had the idea of staging a big concert of film music conducted by several of the biggest names in the business, including Nino Rota, who it transpired was one of the least organised of those whom he invited!
The idea came to fruition in 1970, and Sir Sydney was surprised to find that each of his invited conductors were pleased to give their services free of charge - unfortunately that didn't apply to the large orchestra that was assembled, so it was a costly exercise. Nevertheless, every seat was sold and a follow-up concert was inevitable in 1971. I well remember attending it and enjoying the performances conducted by Frank Chacksfield, Nelson Riddle, David Rose, and Maurice Jarre. The concerts were staged for twelve years during the seventies and eighties.
Sir Sydney illustrated his talk with some video sequences taken at the concerts, the first of which was of Julie Andrews introducing Filmharmonic 74, followed by Toot,Toot, Tootsie, Goodbye and Mammyconducted by Ronnie Aldrich.
From the 1970 show we enjoyed the theme from Love Story conducted by its composer Francis Lai.
The final film sequence was of Henry Mancini. He opened with Moon River and was then featured at the piano in Charade, Dear Heart, The Sweetheart Tree, Days of Wine and Roses and concluding with a reprise of Moon River. The film sequences were a little jumpy in places, but it was wonderful that they existed at all, so they were much appreciated by everyone, as was Sir Sydney's very professional presentation.
Before taking our second break, we had the raffle, during which Sir Sydney was assisted by John Gregory's daughter.
We returned to our seats to the strains of The Best Things in Life are Free conducted by Robert Farnon.
Robert Habermann then came to the top table to talk to us about the recently deceased Edna Kaye and her husband, Stanley Black. We watched a short film sequence of Edna Kaye singing. She had worked with Carroll Gibbons whose orchestra was accompanying her in Darling. This was followed by Cole Porter's You'd we so nice to come home to.
Robert told us that Edna married Soloman Schwarz - whom we know better as Stanley Black. Stanley worked with a number of different bands over the years, and joined the Harry Roy band in 1936.
We then listened to Honeysuckle Rose which featured Coleman Hawkins with Stanley at the piano.
As those of us who are familiar with Stanley Black's music will be aware, he had a great love of Latin-American music, so by way of example, we listened to his recording of the Mexican Hat Dance from his LP 'Caribbean Carnival.'
This was followed by an excerpt from 'Friday Night is Music Night - The Nearness of You, featuring the trombone of Chris Smith with the BBC Concert Orchestra conducted by Stanley Black. In the final item in this sequence, Stanley accompanied Caterina Valente in Goodbye my Love.
Albert returned to talk about Richard Rodney Bennett, who had recently died. He played us Nicola's Theme (from 'Tender is the Night'). It so happens that John Wilson made one album with Richard Rodney Bennett, from which we heard Love. Then, perhaps inevitably, we were treated to an excerpt from the film 'Murder on the Orient Express', incorporating the famous waltz - which Bennett considered to be the best tune that he had ever written!
After listening to Robert Farnon conducting The Trolley Song from the film 'Meet Me at St. Louis' Tony reminded members of our final meeting on 13th October, when our guests will be The Aspidistra Drawing Room Orchestra.
Albert informed us that, sadly, Ralph Harvey (one of our members) had suffered a stroke, and expressed our wishes for his speedy recovery.
We played out with Robert Farnon's Melody Fair.
I should make the point that although this was the penultimate London meeting of the Robert Farnon Society, it does NOT have to mean the end of musical meetings of the little community that has developed over the years. Indeed, plans are in hand to continue with two London meetings a year under the auspices of a new group, affiliated to the 'Light Music Society' at a different, but equally suitable central London venue.
This report appeared in the August 2013 issue of ‘Journal Into Melody’.