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The Golden Age of Light Music: The Runaway Rocking Horse and Other Library Lollipops
All track in mono.
rec. 1945-62

The eponymous track written by Edward White is surely a favourite of all those people who love magic and fairy tales. Many children wanted a rocking horse: most enjoyed a ride on a carousel. The course of the music makes it very easy to imagine a wooden horse jumping off his rockers (or cranks) and going for a canter into some romantic English landscape. The music describes the diminutive horse playing by himself. He gallops and trots and jumps but soon begins to tire. There is one last frolic and then, as if by magic, he is back on his wooden frame. The piece ends with a little sigh.

There are a few trips abroad with this CD. Harry Dexter takes us for a little jaunt into France with his lady friend – ‘La Compagne’: more a stately dance really. I have not come across Julius Steffario before — actually a pseudonym for Amsterdam born composer Jan Stoeckart. ‘Mexican Serenade’ is a lovely laid-back little piece, but I think musically researched from books rather than a visit to that country. We can include Archibald Joyce’s ‘Vision of Salome’ in the ‘travel section’ of this review. The composer is concentrating on her performing a decorous dance rather than the ‘Seven Veils’ or the foolishness that led to the beheading of John the Baptist. A very suburban Salome, indeed. From the Middle East to Bonnie Scotland is an eight hour flight. However, the setting of Charles Williams ‘Highland Lament’ predates international flight. This beautiful tune has all the emotion of Bonnie Prince Charlie surveying the wreckage of his dream after Culloden and all the romance of Flora MacDonald aiding his escape. A truly evocative piece.

Now, I do not imagine that Frederic Curzon travelled much farther east than Tilbury to get the inspiration for his ‘Chinese Scene’. It is definitely Shanghai seen through the lens of Southend Pier. ‘Flametta ‘sounds like a girl’s name –or it could be simple a ‘flame’ seen by night. Quite definitely Anthony Collins found his lady or fire in Sunny Spain. Sandalwood comes from many parts of the world – including Pakistan, Japan and Hawaii. Trevor Duncan has opted for something quite oriental – complete with snake-charmer type music in his ‘The Scent of Sandalwood’. I was not quite sure what the title of Stephen Fenora’s (probable pseudonym of an unidentified composer) ‘Viva Villa’ implied. Was it a tribute to Aston Villa FC? There was a 1934 film of that title set and filmed in Mexico where the subject was Pancho Villa. Let us just say it is a lively piece that does not reflect Aston Villa’s position in the Premier League … as of December 2015.

Sports and out-of-doors pursuits are not forgotten. I loved the sheer liveliness of Gilbert Vinter’s ‘Water Ski Ride’. Mood pieces such as Harold Smart’s quirky ‘Peek-a-Boo’, with the instruments almost ‘vocalising’ the piece’s title and presenting a lovely romantic ‘middle eight.’ I do wonder what the ‘Circus Lad’[s] job was. Perhaps he was a trainee lion tamer, or maybe led the horses. A zippy little tune by Phillipe Pares that fairly bounces along. Maybe he was an acrobat?

As a child I hated table-talk when visiting family. I used to try to escape and read a book. Looking back from nearly sixty years of age, I wish I had paid more attention – I might have learnt a lot about my family that has now passed into the mists of time. Dolf Van Der Linden’s ‘Table Talk’ seems fairly reserved and not at all ribald or boisterous. I am not sure what ‘Patterns’ Ken Warner is suggesting in his short piece, but it is a pleasant little number with some clever orchestration. King Palmer suggests that we ‘Pull Up your Socks’. Small boys at my primary school used to have garters with a little flash to avoid this problem developing. I never did.

Ronald Binge’s ‘The Liberty Boat’ seems to be a play on words or notes. Allusions to John Philip Sousa’s well-known ‘Liberty Bell’ March may conceal a vote of thanks to the USA for the 2,710 examples of this class of ship built during the Second World War. They contributed towards replacing the British merchant fleet lost to German U-boat attacks.

The lady imagined by Bruce Campbell as being ‘Pert and Pretty’ seems to epitomise a mid-nineteen fifties lady about town. Equally attractive is William Davies ‘Melody Maid’, which opens the proceedings on this CD. And the ‘Girl on the Calendar’ by Clive Richardson is more likely a ‘deb’ than a pin-up. One of my favourite pieces on this CD.

Anthony Mawer takes us to some candlelit, open-air restaurant somewhere on the Mediterranean coast with his ‘Starlight Concerto’. Written for piano solo and orchestra this is a fine sub-Warsaw Concerto bit of romantic persiflage.

It is good to have a piece by the classically-trained Billy Mayerl. Still best known for his syncopated novelty piano solos and his theme tune,’ Marigold’, some of his music has been transcribed for orchestra. ‘Maids of Honour’ may well refer to a wedding or possibly cakes. This is one of his gentler pieces that nods towards something a little more classical.

Walter Collins is a regular on this series of CDs, also known as Billy Mack he is still recalled as one-time musical director at the famous Art-Deco Pavilion at Bexhill-on-Sea. ‘Team Spirit’ is one of those jolly pieces that suggest Boy Scouts at their jamboree, all pulling their weight at some project such as fording a river. Another jolly-hockey-sticks type of piece is Leslie Bridgewater’s ‘Spirit of Youth’. I guess that even in 1946, youngsters would have found this a wee bit tame and possibly patronising — not a whiff of jive or swing.

I was delighted that Tony Claydon and Alan Bunting chose to round off this enjoyable programme with three numbers from the late Ernest Tomlinson, who died in 2015. I did look up the internet to see what imagery the composer wished to portray with his vivacious ‘Sheerline’. It seems that it refers to a luxury Austin car. This was designed before the Second World War but did not go into production until 1947. Certainly this music exudes luxury, happy times and good living — picnic at the races sort of idea. The next piece, ‘House of Horrors’ is really not quite as terrifying as the title might imply. The inhabitants seem mischievous rather than wicked. Some effective and spooky woodwind that sounds a bit avant-garde at times. Tomlinson’s final contribution is exactly as it says ‘on the tin’ – ‘Gay and Vivacious’. In mood we are more or less back on board the Austin, only this time out for a spin in the South Downs and maybe an evening in Brighton.

A great selection of light music drawn from the music publisher’s libraries. Lots to interest the enthusiast of this genre. A few favourites and lots of new discoveries. It never ceases to amaze me that all this music is still available, and just keeps on coming from Guild. Long may it continue.

John France

William DAVIES (1921-2006) Melody Maid, Connaught Light Orchestra (1960) [2:29]
Harry DEXTER (1910-1973) La Compagne, New Century Orchestra conducted by Erich Borschel (1958) [2:06]
Gilbert VINTER (1909-1969) Water Ski Ride, Louis Voss & his Orchestra (1961) [2:20]
Leslie BRIDGEWATER (1893-1975) Spirit of Youth, New Century Orchestra conducted by Sidney Torch (1946) [2:51]
Edward WHITE (1910-1994) The Runaway Rocking Horse, New Concert Orchestra conducted by Jay Wilbur (1946) [3:40]
Ken WARNER (1902-1988) Patterns, New Century Orchestra conducted by Erich Borschel (1961) [2:28]
Julius STEFFARO (b.1927) Mexican Serenade, Hilversum Radio Orchestra conducted by Hugo De Groot (As Hugh Granville) (1957) [2:56]
Clive RICHARDSON (1908-1998) Girl on the Calendar, Queen’s Hall Light Orchestra conducted by Robert Farnon (1956) [2:26]
King PALMER (1913-1999) Pull Up Your Socks, Westway Studio Orchestra (1960) [3:07]
Anthony MAWER (1930-1999) Starlight Concerto, Hilversum Radio Orchestra conducted by Hugo De Groot (as Hugh Granville) (1961) [3:16]
Bruce CAMPBELL (?) Pert and Pretty, Lansdowne Light Orchestra (actually Stuttgart Radio Orchestra conducted by Kurt Rehfeld) (1957) [2:53]
Archibald JOYCE (1873-1963) Vision of Salome: Waltz, New Century Orchestra conducted by Sidney Torch (1946) [2:50]
Ronald BINGE (1910-1979) The Liberty Boat, Lansdowne Light Orchestra (actually Stuttgart Radio Orchestra conducted by Kurt Rehfeld) (1956) [2:31]
Dolf Van Der LINDEN (1915-1999) Table Talk, Dolf Van Der Linden & his Orchestra (1954) [2:40]
Phillipe PARES (1901-1979) Circus Lad, Grosvenor Studio Orchestra (1957) [2:35]
Charles WILLIAMS (1893-1978) Highland Lament, Queen’s Hall Light Orchestra conducted by Charles Williams (1945) [2:44]
Harold SMART (1921-1980) Peek-a-boo, The Bosworth Orchestra (1962) [2:21]
Frederick CURZON (1899-1973) Chinese Scene, New Century Orchestra conducted by Alfred Matchat (1962) [2:29]
Anthony COLLINS (1893-1963) Flametta, New Century Orchestra conducted by Erich Borschel (1958) [2:55]
Trevor DUNCAN (1924-2006) The Scent of Sandalwood, New Concert Orchestra: conductor not named (1962) [3:50]
Stephen FENORA (?) Viva Villa, Crawford Light Orchestra (1962) [3:02]
Billy MAYERL (1902-1959) Maids of Honour, Lansdowne Light Orchestra (actually Stuttgart Radio Orchestra conducted by Kurt Rehfeld) (1957) [3:29]
Walter COLLINS (1892-1956) Team Spirit, London Promenade Orchestra conducted by Walter Collins (1949) [2:50]
Ernest TOMLINSON (1924-2015) Sheerline, Crawford Light Orchestra (1962) [2:44]
Ernest TOMLINSON House of Horrors, New Century Orchestra conducted by Eric Borschel (1959) [2:32]
Ernest TOMLINSON as Alan Perry Gay and Vivacious, Louis Voss & his Orchestra (1961) [2:08]
Dates refer to recording, not composition.



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