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This Garland is devoted, more or less, to a few more lesser-known figures from the British musical comedy scene of the 1950s. David Kelsey, lyricist, director and occasional composer, wrote the score for Maria Marten, or The Murder in the Red Barn, produced in Oldham in 1958 and revived at Southsea (1960), Cheltenham (1963), and Northampton (1967), but this last revival was a revised version with new music by Alexander Faris. Charles Ross, director, producer and composer, collaborated with Ronald Cass (lyricist and composer of Liz, 1968, a version of the Lysistrata story which had a few provincial performances) on the score of Harmony Close (1956, revived in 1957, but in neither year did it make the West End, despite its attempt at modernity). Ross's later shows included Love à la Carte (1958) and Romance (1971), the latter achieving a handful of performances at the Duke of York's Theatre. John de Grey's Earnest in Tune (1959), which had just a single week-long run as part of the Old Stagers' annual season at the Marlowe Theatre during Canterbury Cricket Week, is noteworthy only for the fact that that year also saw another musical version of Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest, Malcolm Sircom's hardly more successful Ernest. Coincidences of this kind not infrequently took place.

One does not associate that once-popular pianist Russ Conway (1927-2001?), whose real name was Trevor Herbert Stanford, with the British musical stage, but in 1958 he combined with Norman Newell, who also wrote the lyrics, in Mister Venus, which had a provincial run, then managed 16 performances at the Prince of Wales Theatre. At least three of Stanford's songs from that show - "Every Little Minute", "Love Like Ours" and "Time to Celebrate" - were published. His other compositions, primarily for piano, although some were arranged for brass and possibly other forces, included Concerto for Dreamers, Parade of the Poppets, Side Saddle, Snow Coach and The Whistling Cat. Newell's publications included several arrangements of well known classical tunes, but I suspect that the "arrangement" principally involved fitting words to those tunes; he was, after all, primarily a lyricist.

Philip L Scowcroft

October 2000


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

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