About this Recording

British Light Miniatures: Vintage TV and Radio Classics


This compilation includes many tunes familiar from their use in radio and television programmes - two written specifically for the medium, the rest originating in recorded music libraries. Few started out being regularly available to the record/CD buying public but in recent years original recordings have appeared; few, however, have been re-recorded since the days of 78s and so these are often the first stereo/digital performances. In a few cases, unfamiliar sections will be heard in otherwise well-known pieces as in the original recordings they had to be shortened to fit onto one side of a 78 rpm disc. Some tracks are first recordings anywhere and two tracks are heard in rare orchestral guise, being almost exclusively known before in their military band versions, and in three cases, no performing material has survived and so it has been left to two talented arrangers to reconstruct the works for present day performance.

Ralph Vaughan Williams never restricted himself just to symphonies, concertos and the like, but saw his rôle as writing music for all areas of music-making, instrumental, vocal, and choral, and for professionals and amateurs to play. He took up film music in his later years as much as a new challenge as anything else. The military band also benefitted from several works from his inexhaustible pen, including a quick march based on Sea Songs - Princess Royal, Admiral Benbow and Portsmouth. It dates from 1923, having probably been first heard at the British Empire Exhibition the following year. This version for orchestra was prepared by the composer nineteen years later, and became familiar to television viewers in the 1950s as the theme for Billy Bunter.

Billy Mayerl was born in London and from 1926 ran his own School of Modern Syncopation in the cause of the style of piano-playing that he championed. Thanks to correspondence courses his 'teachings' spread worldwide, and he even counted the future King George VI as a pupil. Among the many pieces he composed and recorded, Marigold (1927), remains his signature tune and best-seller, with 150,000 copies of the sheet music sold in the first twenty years. Not surprisingly, he named his Hampstead home after it.

Gilbert Vinter studied bassoon and composition at the Royal Academy of Music. He held posts as conductor of the BBC Concert and Midland Light orchestras and was a familiar name on the air right up to his death. During the years on the staff of the 'corporation' he put his arranging skills to good use in dozens of selections for use in the many light music programmes prevalent at the time - none better than his Waltzing with Sullivan where he strings together many of Sir Arthur's best tunes in 3/4 time. For the record, major works affectionately plundered include The Gondoliers, Victoria and Merrie England, Utopia Ltd, The Pirates of Penzance and Iolanthe.

As the 'king of British light music' and 'that man who writes tunes', Eric Coates was an obvious choice to compose catchy station signature-tunes demanded by 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 various areas of the BBC empire, 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.

Daily for over thirty years, a sequence of cleverly woven traditional tunes from the four realms of the United Kingdom endeavoured to wake up a nation - well, at least that part willing to be roused at around 5.30am. It was the brainchild of ex-flautist, writer/broadcaster, Fritz Spiegl, who with the help of his friend and fellow ex-Royal Liverpool Philharmonic member, Manfred Arlan, made this 'arrangement of National airs'. It was finally dropped by the BBC in April 2006 despite a national campaign to save it.

Clive Richardson studied at the RAM and quickly established himself on the popular music scene, working at Gainsborough Pictures on the Will Hay comedies, and other films, and at the BBC providing many of the famous ITMA arrangements of familiar tunes that were so much an integral feature of the programme that played to most of the British population it would seem up to 1949 and the death of its star, Tommy Handley. Holiday Spirit became familiar as the theme of Children's Television Newsreel in the 1950s. Unbelievably, given its popularity, all material for the piece disappeared and this reconstruction was made by John Bell for an edition of Friday Night Is Music Night.

Arnold Safroni was the pseudonym of the novelist, dramatist and composer, A.S. Middleton. Born in Kent, he studied violin, becoming leader of the orchestra at Her Majesty's Theatre in Sydney, Australia, and later with the Carl Rosa Opera company. He wrote salon pieces and military marches, of which Imperial Echoes (1913) is his best known. It lay virtually ignored for the first thirty years of its life before BBC radio chose it to herald their nightly Radio Newsreel programme for the next thirty years or so. When CBC in Canada started up a television service in 1953 it was adopted there too for its nightly news bulletins.

Ivor Slaney trained as an oboist but he is best remembered as a versatile composer and arranger, responsible (anonymously) for many recordings by the 101 Strings, and, credited, as the composer of the scores for two classic, but very different children's TV film series - Sir Francis Drake and The Double-Deckers. Like so many of his contemporary colleagues he contributed extensively to the recorded music libraries. From here came the theme for the earliest TV series featuring Harry Worth and Top Dog which became just as famous through its use as the signature-tune of BBC radio's comedy series, chronicling the world of an imaginary government department in Whitehall, The Men from the Ministry.

Archibald Joyce was known as 'the English Waltz King' and ran a very successful society band playing for the very best balls and parties throughout the country in the years before and after the First World War. He also composed many waltzes and other pieces that were extensively played and recorded. Of the waltzes, Dreaming was the most popular, and a work like Songe d'Automne was even recorded by jazz legend, Sidney Bechet. Unlike his contemporaries Ketèlbey, Haydn Wood and Eric Coates, however, he found it hard to adapt to the changing times and never wrote the suites and characteristic pieces that would have enhanced his career. The waltz, A Thousand Kisses, was so entitled following a remark by a friend at the sight of a beautiful woman coming into the room - "she's worth a thousand kisses!" The piece was obviously a known favourite of Charlie Chaplin who included it in the music soundtrack he later added to his silent classic, The Gold Rush.

Woolf Phillips was born in the East End of London into a musical family. His brother Sid became a successful band-leader. Woolf began his working life with a leading music publisher, although it could easily have been as a professional cricketer having been offered a contract by Lancashire Cricket Club. Instead he worked his way up in the music business becoming in charge of the band at the London Palladium, accompanying the great acts of the day from both sides of the Atlantic, including Sammy Davis Jnr and Frank Sinatra, who was particularly appreciative and complimentary to Phillips. In 1966 his friend Donald O'Connor (of Singin' in the Rain fame) invited him to California to work, and there he widened his music-making into conducting symphony orchestras, as a way of accompanying the stars, and of course, captaining the local cricket team. Parisian Mode (1951) became the signature tune of BBC TV's long-running panel show, What's My Line?, even though it is curious that very little of it got heard - the introduction and not even the whole main theme at the start.

Cyril Watters began his musical life as a disciple of Billy Mayerl, being himself an able proponent of the syncopated piano style and writing a number of pieces himself accordingly. He contributed extensively to the recorded music libraries, where his Willow Waltz (1958) originated, later being used effectively for a curious and decidedly off-centre TV series called The World of Tim Fraser.

John Malcolm is the pseudonym of John Batt, adopted to distinguish his writing from his work as a high-profile solicitor. He was a chorister at Salisbury Cathedral, later gaining a scholarship to King's College, Taunton, where he wrote Non Stop, it seems, to spite his music-master who despised popular music. It was accepted by Francis, Day & Hunter, orchestrated by Ivor Slaney and recorded in Belgium before being chosen in 1955 to introduce ITV news bulletins for the next thirty years or so. He has written two TV series, The Main Chance and Justice, and the music as well for the former, along with commercials and other films.

George Melachrino became one of the most successful recording artists of the 1940s and 1950s in the field of light orchestral music, alongside Mantovani, Ron Goodwin, Ray Martin and Frank Chacksfield. He came to prominence during World War II when he conducted the British Band of the Allied Expeditionary Forces, the British equivalent of bands fronted by Glenn Miller and Robert Farnon. Winter Sunshine is probably his most popular original work and sets out to reflect the glamorous ski slopes and even more glamorous people who frequented them. His right-hand man was William Hill- Bowen who featured as solo pianist on many tracks and did many of the arrangements Melachrino recorded. His own two Parisian pictures are wonderfully idiomatic, and are heard complete, several cuts having been made in the Melachrino recordings to fit each on to one side of a 78 rpm record.

Hubert Bath was born in Devon and studied at the RAM. He was in at the start of the 'talkies' and in fact contributed to the score of the first British one, Hitchcock's Blackmail in 1929. Many others followed, culminating in Love Story which contained the mini-piano concerto, Cornish Rhapsody, so often recorded alongside Richard Addinsell's Warsaw Concerto which predates it by a few years. Bath never lived to see the full success of his piece, dying days before the end of the War in 1945 at work on the Margaret Lockwood vehicle, The Wicked Lady. His march, Out of the Blue (1931), subtitled ' Marine Four-step or Eva Three-step ', has become synonymous in Britain with football results, being the signature-tune of BBC radio's Sports Report.

There can be few Britons who do not recognise Barnacle Bill (1936) when they hear it, although its composer and title are less likely to draw a sign of recognition. From the late 1950s to the present day it has been heard just about every week (and in recent years more than once) on BBC TV as the signature-tune of the children's magazine programme, Blue Peter. It has been arranged by, among others, Mike Oldfield (of Tubular Bells fame) but this is the original version. (Herbert) Ashworth Hope was a successful solicitor with several offices around the north-west of England. He spent some time in the Far East but returned to retire in Somerset in the 1930s to a home large enough to have a music-room that the BBC in the West used for broadcasts of concerts featuring the likes of Campoli and others. For the last years of his life he regularly watched Blue Peter marvelling perhaps that a harmless little hornpipe he had written in the 1930s would become as familiar to the nation as the National Anthem itself.

Alan Owen led a double life as a BBC music producer ( Matinée Musicale, Friday Night Is Music Night among others) and composer, in which capacity he adopted the pseudonym Alan Langford. Born in London, he studied at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama with Benjamin Frankel, and as well as writing light orchestral works, contributed many pieces to the recorded music libraries - they were particularly 'plundered' for the Edgar Lustgarten crime series in the 1950s and 1960s. This Galop comes from a Little French Suite he wrote for such a library, but he later expanded it as a concert piece.

Montague Phillips was born in London and studied at the Royal Academy of Music. Initially a church musician, he branched out into orchestral writing and even conquered the West End stage with his operetta, The Rebel Maid, which starred his wife, Clara Butterworth. Many of his pieces later found their way onto library discs, but since not all were written for that purpose, cuts had to be made to accommodate the 78 rpm disc. This is particularly the case with the Valse from his three Dance Revels (1928). The other two shorter movements are a spirited Mazurka and a gentle Minuet, all displaying his talent for melody, and expert craftsmanship that places him as quite the equal of his friends, Eric Coates and Haydn Wood, albeit with a smaller body of work.

Sir John Dankworth was inspired by the clarinet-playing of Benny Goodman to study the instument seriously at the Royal Academy - after all, Goodman recorded the Mozart concerto and commissioned the Copland one. He formed his first band in 1950 and his famous 'orchestra' three years later. As well as performing on clarinet and saxophone, often with his wife, Dame Cleo Laine, he has written film scores including Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, The Servant and Modesty Blaise. His Widespread World was commissioned by Rediffusion Television and used from 1964 to open each day's broadcasting. Again, no material survived so it was left to Gavin Sutherland to reconstruct it for this recording.

© 2006 Philip Lane


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