05 May

Robert Farnon: The 'miniature marvels' man

By  Jim Palm
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by Jim Palm

It was 1948; I had been listening with the family to a radio programme - one of a series - called SEND FOR SHINER and the signature tune really made me sit up and take notice; I had heard nothing like it before. The bright, bouncy happy-go-lucky theme turned out to be something called Jumping Bean and its composer, one Robert Farnon. Brought up on a gramophone diet of George Formby, Gigli and Marek Weber, I had nonetheless sacrificed three weeks' pocket money a few years earlier by buying Holiday for Strings since this was the direction in which my musical tastes were leading me but here, with Jumping Bean, was something even more scintillating and I liked it. Somehow, the money was found for another purchase and I still have the record.

As the months passed, I began to realise that the work of four men in particular which popped up on the radio very frequently in those days never failed to excite me. Those men were Sidney Torch, Charles Williams, Clive Richardson and Robert Farnon. The last-named, I discovered, was Canadian and had settled in this country after the war. His talent shone like a beacon; everything he wrote seemed to be a winner. And it wasn't just Jumping Bean; I soon became aware of such delights as Portrait of a Flirt;Manhattan Playboy, High Street, Taj Mahal and Ottawa Heights, writing down the titles in a notebook in the hope that, one day, I might be able to obtain them all on records - if I had the money. Far too many of them weren't available anyway and soon I was just one of the many hammering on the door of Chappell’s to no avail!

But it was impossible to watch the old BBC Television Newsreel without being constantly aware of the genius of this young Canadian. I can remember that cavorting Bean being used to accompany the antics of a woman set on demolishing her old house so that the builders could move in to construct a new one. The infectious rolling rhythm of Canadian Caravan followed Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip on a visit to that country in October 1951 and as the 1953 Coronation grew nearer State Occasion came into its own. How I longed for someone to release it commercially! There was also, I recall, a television film about the work of missionaries in the Far East which used Bob's Oriental March to great effect. Heard frequently, too, were such gems as Mountain Grandeur, Pictures in the Fire. Journey into Melody, How Beautiful is Night, Tete a Tete and the scintillating All Sports March - the list is endless.

As far as I am concerned, Bob never managed to scale similar heights in his later years and neither, for that matter, did my other three 'heroes'. An era had passed; the world had moved on.

But never mind: he penned more than enough classics in the post-war period to ensure his immortality and his brilliance in the field of what is now called 'production music' cannot be questioned. He has left a remarkable legacy of miniature marvels which will continue to be heard and enjoyed for a great many years to come.

All I can say in the wake of so much wonderful music is: Thank you, Bob, and may you rest in peace.

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About Geoff 123
Geoff Leonard was born in Bristol. He spent much of his working career in banking but became an independent record producer in the early nineties, specialising in the works of John Barry and British TV theme compilations.
He also wrote liner notes for many soundtrack albums, including those by John Barry, Roy Budd, Ron Grainer, Maurice Jarre and Johnny Harris. He co-wrote two biographies of John Barry in 1998 and 2008, and is currently working on a biography of singer, actor, producer Adam Faith.
He joined the Internet Movie Data-base (www.imdb.com) as a data-manager in 2001 and looked after biographies, composers and the music-department, amongst other tasks. He retired after nine years loyal service in order to continue writing.