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Once again we trawl the waters of the British light musical stage in the latter half of the 20th Century. Few of the names are at all well known. Peter Terson, for example, we remember (or forget) exclusively for his musicals on aspects of Staffordshire history for local consumption in the mid-1960s: The Staffordshire Rebels (1965), Sing An Artful Story and The Knotty (both 1966: the "Knotty" was an affectionate name for the North Staffordshire Railway). The two-man team of Jack Sherman and Geoffrey Venus was responsible for My Gentleman Pip, based on Dickens' novel Great Expectations, produced in Harrogate during 1968; previously they had written another musical, Harvest Time, in 1957.

Iwan Williams conducted and at times composed. I remember seeing and enjoying his musical version of Moll Flanders at the Nottingham Playhouse in 1966. Some years later, in 1974, he collaborated with David Wood, already noted in this series, on another musical, Maudie.

For many people of course writing a stage musical was, indeed is, only a small part of their musical activity. The Scottish composer David Dorward composed a stage musical version of Dickens' A Christmas Carol, produced in Edinburgh in 1967. Other lighter pieces by him were the Divertimento for brass, the unison songs Eldorado and Nicholas Nye and the suite for violin and piano, From Noon to Dawn.

Ian Kellam's The Young Visitors achieved 63 performances at the Piccadilly Theatre in 1968. It was not his only work for the stage; he wrote music for Joan Littlewood's production of Macbeth and he composed stage music for children, of which The Journey was an example. For a time he was the director of a choir school and this may explain why his output includes anthems, cantatas and carols. Also worth noting on the light side are his Cassation for woodwind quartet and After School, a piano piece for children.

Talking of compositions for children we may mention the Sussex-domiciled Jane Thomas, who has written musicals for schools. And finally Martin Read, who lives in Hampshire, has made choral settings of Christina Rossetti poems for children (though it is not always children who sing them), while the solo clarinet/saxophone piece The Numbers Game has an educational intent. He also wrote music for TV and videos and various Shakespearean songs; of several works for chamber ensemble The Great Island Triolets for seven instruments is perhaps the lightest.

Philip L Scowcroft

December 2000

Enquiries to Philip at

8 Rowan Mount



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

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