About this Recording
8.223515 - BINGE: Watermill (The) / Scottish Rhapsody
English 

Ronald Binge (1910-1979)

One of the most highly respected and successful English composers of his generation, Ronald Binge was born in Derby on 15th July 1910, the eldest of three children. His father was no mean pianist, but any influence he might have had on young Ronnie came to an abrupt halt when he left home to join the army in 1914. He served throughout the Great War and did not return home until 1919. As a result of his wounds he died in 1920. This left the Binge family in poor financial circumstances, and though mother went out to work there was no spare money for music lessons for the children.

Fortunately for Ronnie, relatives and friends rallied round, his maternal grandmother helped financially, and at the age of seven he became a chorister in St. Andrew's Church, Derby. Ronnie (everyone knew him as Ronnie, itself a sign of his endearing ability to be a friend to all) paid generous tribute to the organist and choirmaster of that church, William James Baker, from whom he took his first piano lessons and who gave him so much more than technique, his first insight into the art of music.

Setting his heart on a musical career, Ronald Binge's development followed a promising pattern: another teacher for organ and another for harmony and counterpoint. But no funds were available for completing his studies at a music college. Being the eldest, it was up to him to find a job to help his hard-working mother raise her growing family, so at the age of seventeen he obtained employment as organist in a local cinema.

Those were the days of silent films. The image usually presented of those days is of the ubiquitous pianist improvising away to capture the mood of the images on screen. In reality it was normal for cinemas to offer live orchestral incidental music. Even a small-town cinema would have a little orchestra, using organ or harmonium to fill in for any missing instruments. The library of such an orchestra would cover everything from symphony movements to fox-trots; selections from operas were fertile ground for snippets of this and that. In addition, special music of the "Dramatic Agitato", "Heartbreak Melody" type was published in great quantities.

The practicalities of jumping from one piece of sheet music to another the moment the mood changed called for the greatest ingenuity and sleight-of-hand on the part of the players. Sight-reading was developed to a high degree. After that kind of learning-process, challenges of film sessions and recording and broadcasting must have held few fears for Ronald Binge in his later career.

For an aspiring composer, having a real orchestra to write for, small though it was, offered a great incentive, and from this time came Ronnie's fascination with orchestration. His instrumental colleagues were not slow to come forward with frank criticism, bringing home to him the need to have detailed knowledge of every instrument, and, a particular interest of Ronnie's, the different techniques and styles of individual players.

The arrival of talking pictures made orchestras redundant. Only the organist survived, and Ronnie was left alone to play in the intervals. He was also much in demand playing for various local functions in restaurants, at dances and as a pianist and accompanist at concerts of all kinds.

In 1931 Ronald Binge moved farther a field, his first job being as pianist in the orchestra at the East coast resort of Great Yarmouth, under the baton of John Russell. This was a time when light orchestras were an essential attraction of all seaside resorts. Such orchestras were of the highest calibre, attracting musicians from London and other centres, where concerts in summer months were few and far between. Players were expected to be versatile. Flute, oboe, clarinet and bassoon would double on saxophones, so they were equally at home playing for concerts during the day and for dancing during the evening. Ronnie learned that he was expected to double too, and he took up the piano accordion, an instrument just beginning to grow in popularity as the advantages of having a 'normal' keyboard for the right hand melodies, rather than buttons, were quickly recognised.

As an experienced organist, he was soon able to do splendid things with his right hand, despite the narrower keys, but he had difficulties with the buttons for the left hand, some for bass notes, some for chords. Still, anyone with the right kind of adaptability can make things work and Ronnie managed pretty well after a few week's practice. Then disaster struck. Ronnie awoke one day to learn that the pier had burned down. The concert hall and all the orchestral instruments in it had simply gone up in smoke. Only the two trumpet players had insured their instruments, and Ronnie hadn't even paid for his.

The people of Great Yarmouth came to the rescue of the orchestra, lending the players instruments of all kinds so they could continue their work in another hall - but no piano-accordion. In due course Ronnie obtained another one, but it took him a long time to pay for it as he was still having to pay for his first instrument too. At the end of this season he was encouraged by the conductor and members of the orchestra to try his luck in London. It took time and a great deal of persistence on his part to find work, enough, eventually, for him to earn a reasonable living.

Ronald Binge was in fact a very fine player of the piano-accordion, an instrument much prone to maltreatment at the hands of less than adequate performers. In the hands of a true musician it is an attractive and versatile solo instrument. In his twenties Ronnie won several awards for his prowess on that instrument. The accordion is also extremely useful in very small orchestras, able to take over the rôle previously allotted to harmonium or organ, covering for missing solo instruments, providing handfuls of chords to simulate the absent brass and so on. On accordion or piano he had a wide and varied experience playing with orchestral combinations of many kinds. He always took every opportunity that offered for orchestrating and composing.

It was in 1935 that Ronald Binge's association with Mantovani began. Mantovani, of Italian birth, started his professional career as a violinist, playing the Bruch First Violin Concerto at the age of sixteen. By the 1930s his interest in light music found him playing in the theatre pit and elsewhere, and soon conducting. Mantovani's Tipica Orchestra was formed and from 1935 Ronald Binge did all the arrangements. He also composed a good deal of music in this period, some of which was recorded and broadcast, and eventually wrote his first film score. This was a picture called Thirteen Men and a Gun, originally made in Austria, with English dialogue dubbed in afterwards.

On September 1st, 1939, Binge was working with Mantovani on a television production at Alexandra Palace, London. They had finished rehearsal and were about to start the transmission when the fateful news came through: Hitler had invaded Poland. War was now inevitable and all television ceased from that moment until the war was over.

In 1940, at the age of thirty, Ronald Binge joined the Royal Air Force, and was soon posted to Blackpool, the Lancashire seaside resort. There were always enough personnel to provide the players for a fine orchestra. The conductor was Sidney Torch, at that time best known to the general public by his brilliant recordings on the cinema organ, but destined to become one of the great light-music composer-conductors. A lifelong friendship began and Aircraftsman Binge was asked to take charge of the station choir, also formed from recruits, which included airwomen as well as men, and he directed this for the next two years, with fortnightly joint concerts with Sidney Torch's orchestra. Around this time he wrote a piece called Spitfire, after the famous fighter plane of that name.

At Blackpool, with much spare time at his disposal, he studied German, having come across some music books in that language. He had the good fortune to meet up with an Austrian refugee called Maryan Friedman, who became his first teacher. In the end Ronnie found the life not quite what he wanted, and eventually became an instructor of aircrew at Boulmer, then Eshott, in Northumberland.

In any RAF camp regular entertainments were put on, and a man of Sergeant Binge's abilities was much in demand, but there was still not enough to occupy his mind, and no opportunity of working with an orchestra, his first love. He therefore continued his study of German as and when he could. Fluency in German was to prove most valuable in his future career. Quite apart from the conducting invitations he would eventually receive from Germany itself, British publishers from 1950 onwards made many recordings in Germany which the composers were often invited to conduct.

In 1944 he decided to try for a Royal Society of Arts examination in German which was to be held in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Arriving in the examination room Ronnie was struck by two facts. One was that he was the only candidate, and the other that the invigilator for that examination was an attractive young brunette. What neither of them knew - and the careless head of faculty had overlooked - was that a strict rule of the society insisted that when there was only one candidate for an examination the invigilator must be of the same sex. "You see why!" said Vera Binge with a chuckle fifty years later. Ronnie fell in love with the invigilator and they were married a year later. Incidentally, he also passed the examination. This partnership was outstandingly successful and they worked together as a great team, Vera running the business affairs, leaving Ronnie to devote himself to music.

The war over, and on the first-in first-out principle Sergeant Binge was demobilised in 1945. Music publishers were looking to the future with renewed confidence and there was plenty of work around for skilled orchestrators. At that time a major part of a publisher's promotion process was providing special arrangements for the numerous broadcasting orchestras and combinations there were, of all shapes and sizes, each of which aimed to offer their own 'style' and 'sound'. How well publishers produced distinctive arrangements for such broadcasters was a key factor in their marketing success. There were piano pieces to be orchestrated - John Ireland was one who expressed his appreciation of Binge's work, as did Noel Coward when Binge scored Pacific 1860, a musical starring Mary Martin, staged at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane in December 1946. This was at the behest of Mantovani, who played in the orchestra pit, and with whom Binge had renewed his association after the war. It was from this time that some of his most successful pieces were published and broadcast. In 1951 he had the honour to be elected a member of the Royal Philharmonic Society, whose membership is strictly limited to 150 musicians.

In 1951 Henry Sarton of Decca Recording Company gave Ronald Binge a free hand to write for a Mantovani session, Mantovani himself being on tour with the Victoria Palace Crazy Gang Show. Binge devised quite a new orchestral set-up using only a few wind instruments, but a large string section. With this he created the 'cascading strings' effect soon to become world-famous as the Mantovani sound.

The germ of this idea came from an unlikely source. Ronald Binge loved classical music and was much attracted to the music of Monteverdi. He was intrigued by the rich intermingling of sounds that occur naturally when music is performed in a great cathedral such as St. Mark's, Venice. Composers of sacred music took the long reverberation, inevitable in such vast auditoria, into account in the way they wrote. Binge had for some time mused over the possibilities of doing something of the same in popular music. Not that cathedral-like reverberation wasn't already part of the recording scene, in the use by studios of various electrophonic devices usually called echo-chambers. The trouble is, reverberation-chambers are indiscriminate in their effect. Overapplied and the magic soon palls; and what enhances melody can spell death to rhythm and harmonic clarity. Ronnie decided to dispense with artificial devices and simulate the reverberation effect within the orchestra itself. This could then be used selectively when and where it would be at its most effective. Reverberation is simulated by dividing the violins into several parts each allotted a different melody-note in turn, which they sustain and let die away, until called upon to move elsewhere. Using studio ambience normal for his basic lush scoring for the orchestra as a whole, he used his simulated reverberation to highlight those sections of melody where it would be most effective.

The song which best showed off this effect was of course Charmaine. The 'clash' of notes being sustained against each other as they walk down the scale brings only enchantment when the harmony and rhythm that propels it is clearly defined. The new sound was an immediate success.

Binge always hoped people would forget about his Mantovani success. This was a technical job he had been asked to do and for which he had been well paid; it was not in the same league as his composing achievements. Nevertheless to create musical success solely by the manipulation of sound is a rare achievement in any era. And it's worth noting that in the two radio series that followed, called 'Sunday Rhapsody', Mantovani broadcast several Binge compositions. One of these, Andante cantabile, was destined to become perhaps the most successful piece of British orchestral music written in the new Elizabethan age.

The contribution publishers make to a composer's career is often overlooked. Walter Eastman, head of the London firm of Ascherberg, Hopwood and Crew, gave Ronnie much arranging work when he returned to the profession after the war, and was a source of much encouragement to him in his most crucial years as a composer, publishing many of his pieces from 1947 onwards. But - not untypically for a publisher! - he wanted something more, and it was to try and please Walter Eastman that Ronnie wrote his Andante cantabile. Having listened to that first broadcast Walter Eastman telephoned Ronnie: "That's what I call a tune! I think we've got something here. Damned if I know what you're going to call it; sounds like some sort of Elizabethan serenade."

The longer a hit takes to arrive the more long-lasting it is likely to be. Following publication under its new title Elizabethan Serenade this piece was avidly welcomed by the many broadcasting light orchestras of the time. It was chosen as the signature-tune for the BBC's Sunday morning series Music Tapestry, a regular favourite in the 19505. The Mantovani recording made in 1951 was used daily as late-night play-out of BFN - the British Forces Network radio station in Germany. Once rolling, the progress of Elizabethan Serenade was unstoppable. It has been rearranged for every conceivable combination. It was in the British charts twice - at different times. It won an Ivor Novello Award in 1957. Its song version Where the gentle Avon flows, with words by Christopher Hassall, was published in several forms.

After those two 1951 radio series, Ronald Binge decided to end his association with Mantovani. Ronnie was by now composing music for many films, including Desperate Moment (Mai Zetlerling and Dirk Bogarde), The Runaway Bus (Frankie Howerd), Dance Little Lady (Mai Zetlerling and Mandy Miller) and Our Girl Friday (Kenneth More and Joan Collins). He also w rote the music for more than fifty films for American Television.

There was also much incentive to help cater for radio's insatiable appetite at that time for new light music of all kinds. Until the 1960s radio was as potent a force on the general public as television was to become later. In the 1950s the BBC had eight light orchestras on staff, each with several programmes a week, and employed many other orchestras and combinations of every conceivable kind as well. Opportunities for composers were such as present-day composers can only marvel at. He was successful in other fields too. In his Concert Carillon of 1954 he used a similar 'cascade' effect with solo cornets as he had with violins in the 'Mantovani sound'. The piece was an instant hit in the brass band world and has become a standard item.

One day Ronnie's wife saw a reference in a book to a musical palindrome and asked what it was. Pieces of music cleverly fashioned so as to be the same whether played forwards or backwards have been a fascination for composers since the earliest days of music. The act of explaining what a palindrome was inspired Ronnie to write a Toccata for piano to demonstrate, but he went one better than any of his forbears in that his Vice Versa is the same piece whichever way up you look at it. In fact there is no right way up since the second half simply prints the first half (title page included) the other way up. Piano music has two staves, treble clef for the right hand, bass clef for the left. What the right hand plays from the beginning to the middle of the piece has to be played by the left hand when you start from the other end, those same notes now being read the other way up, and in the 'wrong' clef.

When his son Christopher was learning to play the recorder Ronnie composed another musical palindrome called Upside / Downside, Downside being the name of the school his son attended in Purley, Surrey. It is written for violin, recorder and cello and again there is no right way up to the score, with the title pages at both ends, one upside, one downside, and the music itself equally reversible. With the individual parts, two players can play from the same piece of music even if they are looking at it from opposite ends!

Surprisingly - being invited to conduct one's own work is an occupational hazard for any composer. Binge took to conducting rather late in his career. It came with a late night BBC radio series began in 1952, called String Song. Ronnie was surprised to find how much he enjoyed conducting after all those 'back-room boy' years. Increasingly, he was invited to conduct his own music throughout Europe. He continued to compose, later compositions including Saturday Symphony (1966-68), Te Deum (1970) and, for a change late in life, two albums for solo guitar. His love of light-orchestral music continued to find outlets in what is now called 'library music'. This is a flourishing genre of music little known outside the profession, being recordings made by music publishers for promotion in broadcasting, films and by other means and not primarily for sale to the public. One such recording was called Sailing By, which quickly became successful, and bids fair to rival the popularity of Elizabethan Serenade. Binge gave much of his time to the well-being of his fellow composers, serving for several years on the council of the Songwriters' Guild and then that of the Performing Right Society, always particularly forthright in the cause of British Light Music. He died on the 6th of September 1979 at his home at Ringwood in Hampshire.

No-one more exemplified the successful light music composer of his generation than Ronald Binge; immensely versatile, giving fully and completely, whether it be responding to the demands of the moment or writing what the muse within him had to express, with a wealth of invention and a mastery of technique. He was esteemed both for his music and for the unassuming lovable person that he was.

[1] Elizabethan Serenade

First performed by Mantovani in 1951, Elizabethan Serenade has became one of the most popular light-orchestral compositions of all time. It is so familiar it is easy to overlook just how original a piece of music it is. First, the accompaniment pattern is unlike anything heard before, in its gentle 'strumming' rhythm on lower strings, with, uniquely, the bass line tied rigidly to that same rhythm. Secondly, there are two completely contrasting melodies to savour, which alternate with each other throughout the piece. Melody one is a dancing passage for two flutes and a clarinet, which begins the piece, inviting us to listen out for the serenade melody to come, then offers contrasting interludes between the various presentations of that serenade theme as it develops and unfolds, and gives us a signing-off episode at the end. What is special about the 'dancing' tune, quite apart from its melodic charm, is that rhythmically its repeated notes slot perfectly into the gaps left in the accompaniment rhythms below. It is not an effect a listener registers consciously, but it is what gives the serenade its unique kind of momentum. The work is beautifully shaped, encouraging the serenade theme to find out more about itself as it proceeds. As the climax approaches, with quiet brass helping the slow crescendo, the interplay between the two melodies shortens, as if each is becoming more interested in what the other has to say, before we return to the theme as originally heard. The dancing melody returns until at last tiny breaks in the 'strumming' rhythm point the ending to us.

[2] Scottish Rhapsody

The mist enshrouded lochs, the calm of the glens, the skirl of the pipes and the swirl of the kilt as the highland fling dances on its with merry way. Binge culled from his extensive memory as many Scottish tunes as suited his need, -Kelvin Grove, Fairy Dance Reel and Where has my hi'lan' laddie gone? spring to one's notice - if necessary reshaping them to suit the flow of his design. If an existing tune did not quite fill the bill, Ronnie found, once steeped in the Scottish idiom, that it came naturally to him to compose new tunes in unmistakeably the same style. It is interesting to note that Scottish Rhapsody was originally written for Mantovani, who performed it with great success when his orchestra toured Europe and America, particularly in regions with a large Scottish element among the population.

[3] Miss Melanie

We are assured that Melanie is a girl who dwelt only in Binge's imagination, but what a delightful picture he paints of this fun-loving lass. Her naughtiest trick is to require the first fiddles to play the quirky first four notes of her tune in a special way. After playing the first note with the bow, the three spare fingers of the player's right hand have to jump instantly to the string to pluck the next three notes. Two years after it first appeared Miss Melanie was chosen as the theme tune of the Joan and Leslie Show on television because, as star of the show Leslie Randall said, "It indicated that same pretty crazy people were about to appear".

[4] Las Castañuelas

Unusual for a composer of light-orchestral music Ronald Binge did not write any suites, so here we bring together three of his Latin-orientated pieces. He was very fond of Spanish music, and Las Castañuelas, (in English, The Castanets) presents an exciting picture of a Spanish Festival and the uninhibited nature of its milling crowds.

[5] Madrugado (Daybreak)

A steady bolero rhythm sets the scene, with the clarinet melody evoking the calm of early morning. The music slowly builds as the rhythm continues on its unremitting way and the melody is taken up by larger and larger forces. The sun slowly rises from behind the mountain-top, spreading its light till the crescendo brings us to the glory of the full day.

On holiday in Spain in 1953 the Binges, including six-year-old daughter Margaret, found themselves listening to Madrugado every day, it being used to introduce a mid-day news bulletin on radio. "Oh yes," said the receptionist when Ronnie enquired about it, "It's an old Spanish melody." He took some convincing that it was written by Ronnie himself.

[6] The Red Sombrero

That characteristic broad-brimmed hat, the sombrero, conjures up images of lazy hours whiled away under the Mexican sun, but if it is a red sombrero we are whisked away into an exhilarating dance. Indeed, there is more than a hint of Brazil in this music carried along by Samba and Conga rhythms.

[7] Trade Winds

In the days of sail, to catch the trade winds, which blew inexorably across the oceans of the world, eastward to the north of the equator, westwards to the south of it, with the dreaded doldrums somewhere in between, was vital to the well-being of international commerce. In this piece, we stay with the tall ship while it responds to wayward winds, sometimes surging onwards, at other times becoming more calm, but the winds always returning to keep the vessel moving ever onwards into the horizon.

[8] Faire Frou-Frou

To Paris now, and the dancers of the Folies Bergère, who inspired Binge to write this sparkling piece in the style of a Can-Can.

[9] String Song

String Song was the name of the BBC radio series designed for late-night listening that began in 1955, arranged and conducted by Ronald Binge. A large string orchestra was used, with the BBC Choir and Max Jaffa featured on solo violin. The distinctive new sound that Ronnie fashioned came from the way the strings were laid out and voiced. They were seated as a double orchestra, one in the foreground to concentrate on melody, the other offering an across-the-spectrum spread of solo strings away in the distance to provide the background harmonies.

When the signature tune of String Song was published, large string sections being rare in light music, Ronnie offered the option of this background 'choir' being provided by wind instruments instead of strings. That is the version chosen for this recording, enabling all 45 of the orchestra's violins, violas and cellos to devote themselves to play the melody alone, initially in a rich unison, then, as the music swells to a climax, in octaves, with a sudden fall to a unison again as the song comes to an end.

Concerto for Saxophone

[10] Allegro spiritoso

[11] Andante espressivo

[12] Rondo: Allegro giocoso

The BBC launched its annual International Festival of Light Music in 1951. Each festival has consisted of five or six weekly concerts on Saturday evenings in June and July at the Royal Festival Hall, London. The festival has been truly international, with guest soloists, conductors, orchestras, choirs, bands and ensembles from round the world performing alongside the resident BBC Concert Orchestra.

Beginning with Eric Coates and Haydn Wood the BBC carried out an enterprising policy of commissioning British composers to write works for these concerts, which were broadcast live to a large European audience. Binge's first commission in that series was Thames Rhapsody. When offered a second commission, for the 1956 festival, he chose to write this Concerto for Saxophone. The soloist was Michael Krein, a leading figure on the light music scene, both for his famous Michael Krein Saxophone Quartet, and as conductor of the London Light Concert Orchestra. The first performance took place in June 1956, with the BBC Concert Orchestra, the composer conducting.

The concerto adopts the standard three-movement format. The first contrasts the spirited theme which opens the movement with the more lyrical one that soon follows. It shows the power and versatility of the modern saxophone, well able to hold its own in symphonic discourse with the orchestra. The slow movement again shows Ronnie's mastery of form, able to build on a single theme, presented first by saxophone, then taken up by the orchestra and developed by each to reach a memorable climax and a slow fall to an ending that gradually dies to nothing. The poignant question mark that hovers over the end of the slow movement is quickly answered by scurrying strings, with running unison figures over which the saxophone soon announces a happy melody in the style of a jig, with full orchestra soon entering into the spirit of things. In the middle section the momentum is interrupted as the wood-wind respond to jocular messages from the saxophone by asking it to slow down, an example of orchestral by-play which has Ronnie Binge written all over it. Brass and Strings show their impatience by taking over the saxophone tune, but the wood-wind are still set on holding things up. A return to the movement's opening figurations on strings puts an end to all that, and the first section is repeated. After a final run-up from the saxophone, the orchestra ends the work with a flourish.

[13] The Watermill

The Watermill is Binge in gentle pastoral mood, a piece written for oboe solo, strings and harp. Note the characteristic Binge device of setting the scene with orchestral figurations. In this case the surging scalic passages of cellos and basses evoke the steady trundling of the mill-wheel, a motif used as introduction and returned to as each oboe phrase ends, allowing the soloist a moment or two to relax before returning to his lovely melody. One of Ronnie's best-loved pieces, The Watermill was used as signature-tune for the BBC television programme 'The Secret Garden'.

[14] Scherzo: Allegro molto

Few composers, 'serious' or 'light', have resisted the challenge sometime in their career of writing music in the style of an earlier age. In 1951 Binge wrote his Scherzo in classical, that is early 1800s, style. It follows the traditional scherzo pattern, a typical interplay of lively themes to begin and end with, and a smoother trio section in the middle.

[15] The Dance of the Snowflakes

The Dance of the Snowflakes is a striking example of the use of sound to paint a picture. The 'cascade' effect first used in the Mantovani sound is modified in a quite novel way. Binge writes a tune with six notes to a bar, then divides the violins into six so that each part can take up a note in turn. This they play with a trill, which they keep going until called upon to start a new note in their allotted place in the next bar, and so on. It is a bit like bell-ringers having to come in at exactly the right moment to keep a peal in a regular flow - except that when their turn comes round it will not sound the same note as it did last time. At the same time the harp picks out the melody notes to keep the violins in order. In time the snow settles and in the middle section we gaze in wonder at the all-white panorama before us, but not for long, as the snow returns once more to its glittering dance.

[16] High Stepper

High Stepper, a jaunty, roguish piece, was built from music Ronald Binge wrote for an Independent Television programme called The Adventures of Aggie, which was about a young girl who gets herself into all kinds of problems. There were several series of films, and later the title of the series was changed to Born to Trouble.

[17] Prelude: The Whispering Valley

Prelude is perhaps an inadequate term for what in effect is a miniature rhapsody for solo piano and string orchestra. Solo cello also is involved, helping us return to the main narrative towards the end, after the short piano cadenza is over. The Whispering Valley is a piece which seems full of meaning, yet one can never quite find what the evocative title describes - a valley in the remote countryside, an air of mystery, of clandestine romance? The elusive language of music conveys something deeper than can be expressed in words.

[18] Venetian Carnival

The Venetian popular song O mamma, mamma cara has been promoted under the title Carnival of Venice ever since Paganini wrote a set of variations on it for solo violin in 1829, his Opus 10. Many other composers followed and it has been particularly associated with the cornet and the brass band world since a certain M. Arban (in 1869 the first professor of cornet at the Paris Conservatoire) wrote a celebrated set of variations on it to give his students something virtuosic to play for their final examination. Binge, having astutely changed the title round to avoid confusion with all other versions, begins his set by quietly reminding us of the tune, then swirls us away to festivity, each representation of the tune offering a sound-picture of the different facets of a carnival. At the end we hear a reminder of the theme that has intrigued composers over nearly two centuries, then swell to a conclusion.

[19] Sailing By

About the most difficult thing to compose is a tune which is both simple and memorable. Easy-to-listen-to easy-to-forget tunes abound, but Sailing By has that extra quality that makes it stay in the memory. To be technical, Sailing By is a tune whose every note is taken from the notes of the chords that propel it. The genius though, having set the simplest of accompaniments to lilt the tune along, is to enrich the melody by way of felicitous orchestration: the rise and fall of the flute figurations which introduce the piece and feature throughout as fill-ins at the ends of phrases; the undulating clarinets which become more busy and join in the flutes' ornamentations as the climax is reached. All that, with a persuasive title, made this piece an ideal choice for a BBC Television documentary on an International Balloon Race. This was a programme without dialogue and the interest engendered by the music made it an overnight success. For several years countless numbers of listeners have unwound from the stress of the day to the relaxing strains of this melody, as the final item before close-down of the BBC Radio 4 programmes of the day. Thus, just as Elizabethan Serenade was the automatic choice to open the Ronald Binge CD, there could be no more appropriate way to round it off.

© 1994 Ernest Tomlinson


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