About this Recording
8.570575-76 - BEST OF BRITISH LIGHT MUSIC
English 

BEST OF BRITISH LIGHT MUSIC

 

What exactly is Light Music? It can most easily be defined by its emphasis on instantly accessible and catchy melodies – as Andrew Gold, Head of the BBC's Light Music Unit from 1965 to 1969 said: "Light Music is where the tune is more important than what you do with it". Much of it is instantly familiar to more mature listeners through its use in the genre's heyday – the 1930s, 40s and 50s – as theme tunes for radio and television; indeed many of the pieces on this disc were specially commissioned for individual programmes and films. Above all, it conjures up a world long gone, of seaside piers and bands, tea dances and a welcome escape from wartime horrors and shortages. So enjoy this nostalgic trip back through the golden age of British Light Music as well as an introduction to more recent Light Music of the last few years.

CD 1

[1] Frederic Curzon (1899-1973)
Robin Hood Suite: March of the Bowmen (From Marco Polo 8.223425)
Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra, Adrian Leaper (conductor)

Dedicated to 'Marian', Curzon's wife, March of the Bowme n with its standard English march format is the third movement in The Robin Hood Suite, which appeared in 1937, the year of Curzon's marriage, and is regarded as the turning point in the composer's career.

[2] Eric Coates (1886-1957)
Sound and Vision: ATV March (From Naxos 8.570332)
The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Paul Murphy (conductor)

As the 'king of British light music', Eric Coates was an obvious choice to compose catchy station signature-tunes for the new independent television companies when they started up in Britain in 1955. Transmission usually began around 5pm, a far cry from today's 24 hour fare. Coates had written similar pieces for the BBC, but was now approached to write for 'Rediffusion' (Music Everywhere) in London, and as here, for Lew Grade's 'ATV' (Sound and Vision) in the Midlands.

[3] Anthony Hedges (b.1931)
Overture: Heigham Sound (From Marco Polo 8.223886)
RTE Sinfonietta, Anthony Hedges (conductor)

The overture Heigham Sound, written in 1978, was an extensive reworking and development of a short 1968 composition entitled A Holiday Overture. Hedges renamed the extended work after a noted beauty spot in the Broads in East Anglia where, according to the season, it could either be bustling or tranquil. The structure of the piece reflects this, with lively outer sections while the central section is, by contrast, calm and relaxed.

[4] Eric Coates (1886-1957)
The London Suite: Covent Garden (From Marco Polo 8.223445)
Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra, Adrian Leaper (conductor)

Covent Garden, the first of three movements depicting locations in London (the other two being Westminster and Knightsbridge) finally made Eric Coates a familiar name in the early 1930s. Inspired by the vistas available to Coates from his top-floor Baker Street flat, the 'tarantelle' Covent Garden is a lively movement, marvellously descriptive of the flurry of activity associated with that part of London, with a Cockney exuberance about the main theme.

[5] Sidney Torch (1908-1990)
Shortcake Walk (From Marco Polo 8.223443)
BBC Concert Orchestra, Barry Wordsworth (conductor)

Sidney Torch distinguished himself in two musical spheres. In his early years he gained a reputation as a brilliant cinema organist, but in the second half of his career he switched to composing and conducting Light Music, with even greater success. The lively hoe-down Shortcake Walk from 1952 allows the whole orchestra to enjoy themselves, and although it is a Torch original, somehow gives the impression that it is a familiar folksy melody.

[6] Geoffrey Toye (1889-1942)
Concert Waltz: The Haunted Ballroom (From Marco Polo 8.223522)
RTE Concert Orchestra, Ernest Tomlinson (conductor)

This waltz from the 1935 Toye ballet conjures up intangible mental images: the dimly-lit scene, the gradual lead-in to the seductive contours of the waltz, which becomes ever more compelling and dramatic as the ghostly figures take up their swirling dance; then the gradual subsiding as the vision fades into nothingness.

[7] Robert Farnon (1917-2005)
Melody Fair (From Marco Polo 8.223401)
Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra, Adrian Leaper (conductor)

This perfect example of Farnon's outstanding lyrical gifts began life as music for the film 'Paper Orchid', but was subsequently adopted as a signature tune for a number of radio shows as well as the television series 'Contrasts'.

[8] Haydn Wood (1882-1959)
Serenade to Youth (From Marco Polo 8.223402)
Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra, Adrian Leaper (conductor)

Scored for woodwind and strings, this is a product of Wood's later years, coming just two years after 1952's Sketch of a Dandy. Shot through with a sentimental vein reminiscent of his songs and ballads, the composer could well be paying an affectionately nostalgic tribute to his own happy childhood.

[9] Anthony Collins (1893-1963)
Vanity Fair (From Marco Polo 8.223522)
RTE Concert Orchestra, Ernest Tomlinson (conductor)

When not writing for Hollywood films Collins dedicated himself to the advocacy of British Music, occasionally composing in the lighter British style. He made no secret of the fact that for all his success in other spheres, the writing of Vanity Fair was the achievement he most valued, with its gently dancing melody over a dainty string accompaniment evoking the airs and graces of Regency London.

[10] Ronald Binge (1910-1979)
The Watermill (From Marco Polo 8.223515)
Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra, Ernest Tomlinson (conductor)

Written for oboe solo, strings and harp, The Watermill finds Binge in a gentle pastoral mood. Note the characteristic Binge device of setting the scene with orchestral figurations, in this case surging scalic passages of cellos and basses evoking the steady trundling of the mill-wheel. The piece was used as the signature-tune for the BBC television programme 'The Secret Garden '.

[11] Ernest Tomlinson (b.1924)
A Little Serenade (From Marco Polo 8.223413)
Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra, Ernest Tomlinson (conductor)

This delightful miniature, one of the composer's most popular pieces, began life as part of 'The Story of Cinderella' (a radio musical play), dating from 1955. It has been used as a signature tune for at least five different programmes and the composer himself reckons to have made at least thirty assorted arrangements.

[12] Roger Quilter (1877-1953)
A Children's Overture (From Marco Polo 8.223444)
Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra, Adrian Leaper (conductor)

A Children's Overture is a skilfully-wrought fantasy on well-known British nursery rhymes. The composer parades before the listener about a dozen melodies in all, dressing each one up in simple but effective orchestral colours. Included, amongst many others are, 'Baa! Baa! Black Sheep', 'Sing a Song of Sixpence', 'Over the Hills and Far Away', 'Here We Go 'Round the Mulberry Bush' and 'Oranges and Lemons'.

[13] Bill Worland (b.1921)
Millennium – A Celebration March (From Marco Polo 8.225161)
RTE Concert Orchestra, Gavin Sutherland (conductor)

Written for 1 January 2001, this march captures the New Year spirit and excitement of the new millennium with its Big Ben chimes and pealing church bells.

[14] Albert Ketèlbey (1875-1959)
In a Persian Market (From Marco Polo 8.223442)
Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra, Adrian Leaper (conductor)

This is one of those pieces which, upon hearing it, people say "so that's what it's called"! Ketèlbey followed the success of earlier light character pieces with his oriental work In a Persian Market, published in 1921, evoking the world of caravansaray, camel-trains, beggars, and a beautiful Persian princess, as the caravan passes.

[15] Percy Grainger (1882-1961)
Country Gardens (From Naxos 8.554263)
Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra, Keith Brion (conductor)

The ever-green and ever-popular Country Gardens dates from Grainger's period in the U.S. army in which he, in spite of his pacifist convictions, happily enlisted as a bandsman. He improvised on the tune at a Liberty Loan piano recital and its instant popularity when published, secured Grainger a never-ending flow of royalties.

[16] Richard Addinsell (1904-1977)
Goodbye Mr Chips: Theme (From Marco Polo 8.223732)
BBC Concert Orchestra, Kenneth Alwyn (conductor)

One of the recurring figures in Addinsell's film career was the producer/director Victor Savile, with whom he worked, from time to time, for over thirty years. In 1939 Savile brought to the screen the novel, 'Goodbye Mr Chips', the story of a schoolmaster finding love for the first time in middle life and suffering its loss thereafter, with only a school and its pupils for comfort. The MGM film was made in England and Addinsell provided a score to match its high production values.

[17] Ron Goodwin (1925-2003)
Theme from '633 Squadron' (From Marco Polo 8.223518)
New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, Ron Goodwin (conductor)

Although he is often labelled as a composer for war films, 633 Squadron was Goodwin's first attempt at the genre, in his 24th film. Despite his experience in the field, it was a while before he hit on the idea of using the actual numbers in the title as an integral part of the theme. After this, the theme itself came relatively easily and must rank, alongside Magnificent Men, as his most popular item.

CD 2

[1] Richard Addinsell (1904-1977)
Warsaw Concerto (From Naxos 8.554323)
Philip Fowke (piano), RTE Concert Orchestra, Proinnsias O Duinn (conductor)

The Warsaw Concerto was written for the 1941 film 'Dangerous Moonlight'. Originally, the producers were to use Rachmaninov's Second Piano Concerto, but ultimately decided not to pursue permission. Thus Richard Addinsell was charged with providing something in a similar vein. The film itself concerns a young Polish airman/concert pianist Anton Walbrook who escapes Warsaw to fight in the Battle of Britain.

[2] Sir Richard Rodney Bennett (b.1936)
Theme and Waltz from 'Murder on the Orient Express' (From Naxos 8.554323)
Philip Fowke (piano), RTE Concert Orchestra, Proinnsias O Duinn (conductor)

The star-studded 'Murder on the Orient Express' (which won Ingrid Bergman an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress) was based on the Agatha Christie thriller, and the composer, Richard Rodney Bennett, was the ideal choice to recapture the spirit of the 1930s. The theme is heard chiefly in the Istanbul nightclub prior to the fateful rail journey while the waltz embodies the Orient Express itself.

[3] Edward White (1910-1994)
Puffin' Billy (From Marco Polo 8.223522)
RTE Concert Orchestra, Ernest Tomlinson (conductor)

A self-taught violinist, Edward White also played the saxophone and clarinet in different West End orchestras, an ideal environment in which to develop his natural ability as a composer and arranger. Composition assumed an ever more important part in his professional life and Puffin' Billy must be one of his best known works, used for a Saturday morning BBC programme, 'Children's Favourites'.

[4] Sidney Torch (1908-1990)
All Strings and Fancy Free (From Marco Polo 8.223443)
BBC Concert Orchestra, Barry Wordsworth (conductor)

Sidney Torch excelled at bright, happy, melodic works usually displaying the virtuosity of the string players. All Strings and Fancy Free is a typical example, with the tune bouncing along in the pizzicato fashion that had been made so popular during the 1940s by David Rose.

[5] Billy Joseph Mayerl (1902-1959)
Marigold (From Marco Polo 8.223514)
Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra, Gary Carpenter (conductor)

Billy Mayerl's signature tune and best-seller sold over 150,000 copies of sheet music in its first twenty years of life from 1927, but its popularity inevitably overshadowed his other compositions, particularly in the years following his death. Like so many of his pieces, the title came from a pictorial source in his everyday life – in this case, a bowl of flowers on a table in his home. After the success of the piece, it is not surprising that he named his Hampstead home Marigold Lodge.

[6] Trevor Duncan (b.1924)
High Heels (From Marco Polo 8.223517)
Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra, Andrew Penny (conductor)

High Heels possesses warmth, charm and a fresh appeal that set it apart from many other works of the period. Duncan acknowledges the influence of David Rose's Holiday For Strings, but this work probably owes its joie de vivre to the fact that it was written at the time when the composer married his first wife Becky.

[7] Eric Coates (1886-1957)
Calling All Workers: March (From Marco Polo 8.223445)
Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra, Adrian Leaper (conductor)

This piece was written in 1940 at the instigation of Coates's wife who was working at a Red Cross depot at the time. She suggested to her husband that he write a piece to inspire her and her companions as they sat for long hours at their sewing-machines turning out bandages and dressings. The result was the march Calling All Workers, which begins with a rousing fanfare and whose Trio theme uses a busy counterpoint imitating the motion of a sewing-machine. The BBC soon chose it as the signature tune for their celebrated 'Music While You Work' programme and thus Calling All Workers quickly became one of the best known tunes in the country.

[8] Vivian Ellis (1904-1996)
Coronation Scot (From Marco Polo 8.223522)
RTE Concert Orchestra, Ernest Tomlinson (conductor)

Coronation Scot was composed by Vivian Ellis on a journey from Paddington to Taunton in 1938 and, in Ellis's own words, "did nothing" until it was chosen as the signature-tune for BBC Television's 'Paul Temple' thriller series. With its evocation of the train setting off, then settling down to the 'rhythm of the rails', over which comes a soaring melody that everyone can hum, Coronation Scot became a great favourite in its own right.

[9] Robert Farnon (1917-2005)
Colditz March (From Marco Polo 8.223401)
Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra, Adrian Leaper (conductor)

After the war, the exploits of Colditz inmates and their attempts to escape the World War II prison were described in illuminating detail in a book by a successful escapee, Major Pat Reid. This account was used by the BBC as the basis of a hugely successful television series in 1972/73, called simply 'Colditz'. The producer Gerald Glaister turned to Robert Farnon for the score, who was so impressed with the series that within a few days the whole piece was completed.

[10] Albert Ketèlbey (1875-1959)
In a Monastery Garden (From Marco Polo 8.223442)
Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra, Adrian Leaper (conductor)

The composer himself wrote of this piece: "The first theme represents a poet's reverie in the quietude of the monastery garden amidst beautiful surroundings; the calm serene atmosphere, the leafy trees and the singing birds. The second theme in the minor expresses the more 'personal' note of sadness, of appeal and contrition. Presently, the monks are heard chanting the 'Kyrie Eleison' with the organ playing and the chapel bell ringing. The first theme is now heard in a quieter manner as if it had become more ethereal and distant; the singing of the monks is again heard – it becomes louder and more insistent, bringing the piece to a conclusion in a glow of exultation."

[11] Ronald Binge (1910-1979)
Elizabethan Serenade (From Marco Polo 8.223515)
Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra, Ernest Tomlinson (conductor)

Ronald Binge's Elizabethan Serenade was first played by the Mantovani orchestra in 1951, reflecting the optimism of the new Elizabethan age that was then beginning, with the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. The piece has become one of the most popular light-orchestral compositions of all time.

[12] Eric Coates (1886-1957)
By the Sleepy Lagoon (From Marco Polo 8.223521)
Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra, Andrew Penny (conductor)

Eric Coates was a master of light music, providing material that has formed a stratum in British musical consciousness through much of the twentieth century. His By the Sleepy Lagoon, a valse serenade written in 1930, is very familiar to addicts of the BBC programme 'Desert Island Discs', for many years an introduction to the voice of Roy Plomley and later to that of Sue Lawley.

[13] Ernest Tomlinson (b.1924)
Shenandoah (From Marco Polo 8.223513)
Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra, Ernest Tomlinson (conductor)

Ernest Tomlinson's entry into the all-important world of broadcasting came not by way of composition but through arrangements of traditional tunes. In the sailing ships of old every task called for manual labour which seamen made a little easier for themselves by singing shanties and Shenandoah is one of the most popular, manifesting itself in many different arrangements.

[14] Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (1875-1912)
Hiawatha Overture (From Marco Polo 8.223516)
RTE Concert Orchestra, Adrian Leaper (conductor)

Coleridge-Taylor's most famous work was his large choral setting of Longfellow's renowned poem: 'Hiawatha'. Today's theatre audiences expect the overture to feature excerpts from the best songs from the musical they are about to see, but this has certainly not always been the case. In this way the Hiawatha Overture can be regarded as an individual work – at times romantic, on other occasions almost demanding to be used as exciting film music.

[15] Sir Edward German (1862-1936)
Tom Jones, Act III: For Tonight (Sophia's Waltz-Song) (From Marco Polo 8.223419)
Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra, Adrian Leaper (conductor)

Tom Jones was produced by Robert Courtneidge at the Prince's Theatre, Manchester at the end of March 1907 before transferring to London's Apollo Theatre two and a half weeks later. The undoubted highlight was Sophia's third act waltz song, 'For Tonight', a dazzling virtuoso aria. It appears here in an orchestral arrangement by Ernest Tomlinson, closely adhering to German's original scoring.

[16] Eric Coates (1886-1957)
Dam Busters' March (From Marco Polo 8.223445)
Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra, Adrian Leaper (conductor)

The Dam Busters' March is from the film, 'The Dam Busters', a story of war-time daring, describing the successful mission of British airmen to bomb several key dams in occupied Europe. The film score is dominated by the well known March, which has, since then, enjoyed an independent existence.

 


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