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Peter Dickinson, born in Lytham St. Anne's in 1934 and who now lives in Sussex, has not so far figured in these Garlands as his basic reputation is that of a "classical" composer (of for example, concertos for piano, his particular instrument - I recall him playing his Piano Concerto at a BBC Prom during the 1980s - and organ, string quartets and several substantial vocal pieces) and one often using experimental methods. But he has also had his lighter moments: parodies of other composers, like Five Forgeries for piano solo and his own versions of blues and rags, a by-product no doubt of his long-held interest in American music, popular and other. Many of these were collected together in Blues, Rags and Parodies, published for piano solo in 1986. Blue Rose and Wild Rose Rag were both based on Edward Macdowell's popular drawing-room piece To a Wild Rose. Dickinson was educated at Queen's College, Cambridge and the Juilliard School; his academic posts have included professorships at Keele University and Goldsmith's College.

Light music is, by its nature, soothing, if not perhaps healing. For Keith Barnard (1950-), composer, musician, poet, healer and teacher, music has a definitely healing quality. His compositions, which include a chamber opera, two symphonies, a cello concerto and many piano solos, while they are gentle and tuneful, are not, properly speaking, light music. His idiom draws on, inter alia, Debussy and Scriabin.

Two composers of pieces I came across in the same Christmas concert are worth a mention. Chris Tambling's highly rhythmic Charleston Carol (the words, but not of course the tune, are those of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen) for women's choir and the march for brass band, Carolcade by Trevor Davis, an up-tempo potpourri of familiar seasonal melodies.

I finish with two Irish composers. Or rather Michele Esposito was born in Italy in 1855 but he came to Ireland in 1882. He did not return to his native land until 1928, the year before he died. He contributed much to Dublin's musical life, arranging chamber music concertos and founding the Dublin Orchestral Society, conducting it until 1914. His compositions reflect both these activities (two string quartets and sonatas for cello and violin for the former and an Irish Symphony (less popular than Hamilton Harty's), two Irish Rhapsodies (which had less currency in their day than Stanford's) and lighter works like the Neapolitan Suite, Irish Suite No. 1 (how many were there?) and a Berceuse. Esposito arranged many Irish tunes, wrote songs (one example is The Heather Glen); all three of his works for the light musical stage (The Post Boy, (1902, described as "an Irish operetta"), Peggy Machree (1904), largely based on traditional Irish melodies like a "ballad opera", and The Tinker and the Fairy (1910) ) reflected his adopted country.

T.C. Kelly (1917-85) also arranged several traditional Irish melodies and composed much for orchestra, most of it for Radio Eireann in its early days and a lot of that in light mood. Born in Wexford, he was an organist in Newry and, for 30 years, Director of Music at Clongewes Wood College.

Philip L Scowcroft

December 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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