Classical MusicWeb

Music Webmaster Len Mullenger


Two popular song composers to begin with. Michael Watson, active in the first few decades of this century, produced ballads like Anchored, Hush Ya' Gently Honey, I Wish to Tune my Quivering Lyre, O 'Twas in the Broad Atlantic, The Press Gang, The Powder Monkey (an old salt's story), The Wishing Well (a Cornish Legend), Thy Sentinel Am I, The Oak Tree Brave, The Kissing Bridge, Lady, Buy, Ride a Cock Horse, Duty and The Songs We Sang in Childhood. Since I First Met Thee was arranged by him from Anton Rubinstein's Romance Opus 44 No. 1.

Charles Wolseley was, compared with Watson, often rather more down-market, his compositions being music-hall songs and dialogues. The songs included Cloze-Props, Do You Believe in Fairies?, The Green-Eyed Dragon, The Wheel-Tappers' Song, A Song of the Sea and The Demon King. Smouldering Fires was incorporated in the musical The Love Pirate. His monologues included Coffee Cups' Race, Gunner Joe and, much the best known of all, Old Sam ("Sam, pick up tha' musket"). He could well be the composer of musicals H. Wolseley Charles that we discussed a few Garlands ago.

Edmund Rubbra (1901-86) comes across as one of the most serious of composers with his eleven symphonies, chamber music, concertos, choral music and so on, not to mention the fact that he held academic posts at Oxford and the Guildhall School, but his output includes a number of lighter pieces, like the overtures Resurgam, a tribute to wartime Plymouth (1975) and the Festival Overture, the Fanfare For Europe on EEC, for six trumpets, Opus 142, a few lighter songs, including Three Bird Songs for unison voices, Air and Variations for pipes or recorders and, finally, for brass band, although it is quite a substantial work, the Variations on The Shining River, the test piece for the National Championships in 1958.

Our modern day TV composer is Chris Blackwell, whose most recent score is the music for Dunkirk - The Final Tribute whose title music incorporated the hymn tune Melita ("Eternal Father Strong to Save") which is particularly associated with the "Dunkirk spirit".

For our brass band composer we briefly recall William Edward Moyle, who was for many years in the 1940s and 1950s conductor of the Newquay Town Band. His compositions, mainly marches, mostly reflect his Cornish background: Thornton, Cornish Floral Dance, Patrol, Restormel, Cornish Rock and, most popular of all, Cornish Cavalier.

Finally, let us return to popular songs and recall a composer of popular numbers(often with amusing titles) active especially in the 1930s. On his own account Ralph Butler composed Come and Have a Cuddle on the Common, I'm Happy When I'm Hiking, When a Black Sheep Meets a White Sheep and Shovel up Your Troubles. But Butler seems to have been a great one for co-operating with others - sometimes better known than him - in the composition of popular songs. The Haunted House was written with Tolchard Evans and Horatio Nicholls, Sailor Sail Me Round with Tolchard Evans, The Sun Has Got His Hat On, Round the Marble Arch, Let's All Sing at the Top of Our Voices and We Mustn't Miss the Last Bus Home with Noel Gay of Lambeth Walk fame, I'm the Monster of Loch Ness with Will Haines and Riding on a Char-a-Banc with no fewer than four others. How on earth did they share out the work?

Philip L. Scowcroft

Enquiries to Philip at

8 Rowan Mount



Philip's book 'British Light Music Composers' (ISBN 0903413 88 4) is currently out of print.

E-mail enquiries (but NOT orders) can be directed to Rob Barnett at

Return to:   index page
                              Classical Music on the Web