A 153rd GARLAND OF BRITISH LIGHT MUSIC COMPOSERS
One or two light orchestral composers to start with. Frederick Aldington, active around the 1930s, produced the suite, Bracebridge Hall and Three English Folk Tunes, both for string orchestra. Another Frederick, Frederick Bye, whose floreat was rather later, was a prolific arranger; his Netherlands Suite (for orchestra) was indeed based on old Dutch songs and dances – original pieces included a march, Parade of the Regiment and the suite Puppets. And Violet B. Archer, born in 1913, was responsible for Britannia, A Joyful Overture – one of several composers down the years who have made use of Thomas Arne’s great tune.
If we revert for a moment to the Victorian era, we come across the name of John Francis Barnett (1837-1916), who trained at the Royal Academy of Music and in Leipzig, and was an inveterate composer of Victorian (and immediately post-Victorian) cantatas (his father John Barnett (1802-90) is remembered even by text-book writers who pour scorn on our Victorian composers for his opera The Mountain Sylph). Some of JFB’s orchestral miniatures certainly merit inclusion in these pages, pieces like the Two Sketches: Ebbing Tide and Elfland (1883) and, clearly a companion piece, and also first performed at the Crystal Palace, Two Sketches: Flowing Tide and Fairyland (1891), or Liebeslied (1895, published 1897) and the two pieces for strings from 1899, Pensées Mélodiques and Gavotte. Surely some of these would be worth dusting down?
Moving forward again in time, we encounter the name of Robert Chignall (1882-1939), a composer much in demand by the BBC for incidental music to radio plays and features (for example, Henry V, Julius Caesar, Coriolanus, Herod, Dr. Faustus, Pompey the Great, The Man Who Worked Miracles, Drury Lane: A Celebration and a play by Dorothy L Sayers and a precursor of her cycle The Man Born to Be King, He That Shall Come) sundry Fanfares, many arrangements, the Henley Serenade for small orchestra, musicals like Robin Hood and To Let and songs such as The Tornado Dance and The Girls of the C.I.V.
Talking of songs we may mention Stanley Dickson, active around the 1920s and composer of such ballads as God Bless You, We Won’t Be Singing and Little Brown Cottage.
Finally, a mention for Frederic d’Erlanger (1868-1943), Paris-born but settled in England for much of his life, remembered primarily for his four operas including Tess, after Thomas Hardy, but some of his orchestral pieces are certainly in a lightish vein, for example the Poème for violin and orchestra and the waltz Midnight Rose. It would be fascinating to hear the latter sometime and discover whether Strauss or the Frenchman Waldteufel (or neither) was its inspiration.
Philip L Scowcroft
Enquiries to Philip at
8 Rowan Mount
S YORKS DN2 5PJ
Philip's book 'British Light Music Composers' (ISBN 0903413 88 4) is currently out of print.
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