ROBERT FARNON SOCIETY 2013 AUTUMN MEETING
--- The Finale ---
Brian Reynolds Reports on a Memorable Afternoon
It was a wet and dismal day on the 13th October, but that didn't stop over 100 fans of civilised music coming to 'The Bonnington' for the last time and celebrating the music of Robert Farnon, as we have done for 57 years. As it was important to go out on a 'high' we invited the Aspidistra Drawing Room Orchestra to play some live music for us during the third part of the show.
After opening proceedings with Melody Fair, David Ades (who we were delighted to see back at the helm) welcomed us to the meeting and introduced Albert Killman (not that he really needed much introducing!)
We commenced with a video of the opening titles to the film Shalako - music by Robert Farnon and featuring the harmonica of Tommy Reilly. Following this, Albert introduced The Concorde March by Robert Farnon. It had been decided that, for this very special occasion, most of the recorded music would have a Farnon connection.
Albert then played us Vera Lynn's recording of Bob's beautiful arrangement of Through A Long And Sleepless Night - a recording that deserves to be heard more often. Next came four recordings by vocal artists who had associations with Farnon. Lena Horne sang I Have Dreamed, Frank Sinatra sang Carroll Gibbons' Garden in the Rain followed by Sarah Vaughn’s version of How Beautiful Is Night,concluding appropriately with Tony Bennett and At The End Of A Love Affair.
We continued with Robert Farnon’s love of traditional airs: firstly The Lincolnshire Poacher, followed by his Octet with Camptown Races from his Stephen Foster album.
Next, accompanied by Robert Farnon, we heard the trombone of J.J. Johnson in Lament (which won Bob his Grammy) followed by Lady be Good featuring George Shearing with Bob's orchestra.
We then turned to Robert Farnon the composer with Seventh Heaven (conducted by John Wilson) and a performance by Bob with the BBC Concert Orchestra (featuring Kenny Baker) of Scherzo for Trumpet. At the end of this was part of an interview with Bob, talking to announcer John Dunn.
The next item was in the form of a musical quiz in which four light pieces were woven together, namely 20th Century Express by Trevor Duncan, Paper Chase by Cyril Watters, Beachcomber by Clive Richardson and Practice makes Perfect by Wally Stott. These were a ‘taster’ for their forthcoming release on a new Guild CD "Bright Lights", due to be issued in November. For some strange reason a rumour had been circulating that the changes at the RFS would mean the ending of new Guild CDs. David pointed out that this was certainly not the case. His work producing the Guild Light Music CDs is entirely separate from his RFS duties, and he and Alan Bunting were already preparing new titles to be released in 2014.
To conclude the first part of our programme, Albert introduced part of a video compilation that was produced by Geoffrey Richardson for the Society's 50th anniversary. It included a long list of the light music composers, musicians, celebrities and broadcasters who had attended our London meetings over the years. What a testament to the influence the RFS has had in keeping the Light Music flag flying.
We commenced the second part of our programme with a video of part of the BBC television show of a few years back "A Little Light Music - Music for Everyone". This excerpt concentrated on Robert Farnon, and included items from RFS archives.
Tony Clayden then came forward to talk about the future of meetings for light music lovers - Yes! There is a future; not at the 'Bonnington' admittedly, but in cooperation with the Light Music Society, at the Lancaster Hall Hotel near Paddington Station. The first meeting has been arranged for Sunday, May11th 2014, when we hope to have, as our special guest, Brian Culverhouse, (former EMI light music record producer) in conversation with Malcolm Walker (former Editor of 'Gramophone' magazine). The phrase 'use it or lose it' comes to mind because if there is a good turn-out, meetings will continue, but if only a handful of people turn up then further meetings will not be financially viable. So it's up to you!
David Ades then introduced our President, David Farnon who presented a selection of recordings which had a special meaning for his father. The first was I Am What I Am recorded by Pia Zadora with the London Philharmonic Orchestra under Bob's direction. This was followed by I loved You (Klaus Oberman) featuring the Singers Unlimited. Then a piece which was very nostalgic for Bob as it was written by his brother Brian - Christmas Land (featuring Tony Bennett). David Farnon continued with a composition by his son Tom, which was entitled Handyman. We then heard Bob's Lady Barbara Theme from the album 'Lovers Love London' conducted by Jack Parnell. Finally, we listened toTrumpet Talk featuring the trumpets of Stan Roderick and Kenny Baker - who Robert Farnon once described as 'having the best chops in the business'!
David Farnon concluded by thanking everybody for their support over the years -support which meant a great deal to his father. Indeed, when the Society was first set up, Bob felt very flattered. David went on to thank David Ades, who was then given a standing ovation. David Farnon concluded by mentioning that the Society would live on in the form of the website, which is shortly to be re-vamped.
David Ades then thanked Malcolm Osman, Tony Clayden and Albert Killman with a personal gift in appreciation of the support they had given him over the years. I don't know what the gifts were, but at least they didn't explode!
We concluded the second part of our programme with a video of the London Philharmonic Orchestra under the direction of Robert Farnon playing A Farnon Fantasy.
We wanted our final meeting to really go out in style, so we were delighted that the Aspidistra Drawing Room Orchestra agreed to play for us once again. Many will recall their performance at the Haydn Wood concert a few years ago. They began with Fred Hartley's familiar Hampden Roar and this was followed by La Patrouilette (I think the composer's name is McKay). After Robert Farnon's familiarWestminster Waltz we listened to The Sparrow Concerto followed by the curiously-titled At the Codfish Ball by the appropriately-named Lew Pollack. Next we heard Robert Schumann's Slumber Song after which we were woken up by Whistling Rufus (Kerry Mills). Another unusual title followed - I've Joined The Squirrel Family by Helen Trix.
After a short break, the orchestra continued with You're Too Pretty To Be True by Peter Kreuger and two more Farnon favourites - Sea Shore and the catchy Moomin.
Then followed Drifting and Dreaming, (Alstyne and Schmidt) - one of several delightful duets from the orchestra's excellent singers, Liz Menezes and Camilla Cutts. Next, a request from me, Charles Williams's Rhythm On Rails which sounded really great. This was followed by I Don't Care If The Sun Don't Shine by Mack David,and a new piece to me called Obstinacy (I didn't catch the name of the composer - sorry!)
To conclude the programme, the orchestra played the most appropriate of pieces Journey Into Melodyby Robert Farnon. We are most grateful to them for providing a fitting finale to our last meeting at 'The Bonnington', for which there was a huge turn-out. Hope to see most of you again on May11th at the Lancaster Hall Hotel for another afternoon of Light Music.
This report appeared in the December 2013 issue of Journal Into Melody.