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The British musical theatre is splattered with the names of those composers who surfaced briefly with just one success (or, more usually, non-success). Examples are: Brendan Healy, who wrote songs for a production of C.S. Lewis's The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe at Newcastle Playhouse in 1984; Anthony Phillips, who composed the music for Alice, produced at the Leeds Playhouse in the same year; Michael Reed, whose Six For Gold (also 1984), many of whose songs were couched in a music-hall type idiom, was interesting in that it comprised six one-act plays presented over two nights, but it was, I suppose predictably, impracticable and an attempt to re-jig it as a single night's entertainment never got off the ground. Then there is Alasdair MacNeill, whose The Magic Sword was staged at Newcastle in 1982; Paul Knight, whose 'Ello 'Ello 'Ello was put on at Oldham in 1982; and Andrew Schofield and Jay Naughton, whose Erpingham Camp saw the light of day in Liverpool, also in 1982.

I recently came across, in brass band recordings, Pixie's Parade by one Saville and Snowy Polka by one Ridley, catchy pieces both, the latter having an almost Viennese feel, but I know nothing of the composers, not even their Christian names. Staying with brass bands, we should mention Howard Snell (1936-), an excellent conductor, notably of Desford Colliery and Britannia Building Society bands, a prolific arranger and composer of (more or less) original works like Exhibition Can-Can for band and Three Pastiches published for trumpet and piano.

For our ballad composer, what about Alexander MacFadyen, whose Love is the Wind, A Birthday Song and To a Rose were popular enough in their day, which I believe came out in the 1920s and thereabouts?

Finally for two modern composers with the same surname, though not related as far as I know. Michael Davis has produced a number of works for brass ensemble (e.g. A Little Suite from which I have heard the Fanfare and Scherzo, and Jenny Wren) and an opera for schools, The Pied Piper. By contrast Alan Davis, born in 1945, appears to specialise in tuneful recorder ensemble music: a Sonatina, Party Pieces and - both arrangements - Scott Joplin and Dixie Blossom.

Philip L Scowcroft

October 2000


Enquiries to Philip at

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

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