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Most of the blooms in this bouquet flowered on the British light musical stage around the turn of the 20th century. Several of them were also conductors in the same field. Ernest Rousden, for example, composer of The Gay Parisienne, toured in 1894 (but when it reached the London stage, Rousden’s score was dumped and a new one written by Ivan Caryll, a mortifying experience for the former), The New Honeymoon (1901), mostly by Howard Talbot, and to Liza Lehmann’s operetta Sergeant Brue (1904). F. Sydney Ward conducted from the 1880s and later went into theatre management but his only compositions to reach production, The America Belle and Stirring Times, both appeared in 1897 in provincial runs.

Alfred H West was a West Country man, pianist and conductor . His one stage show was The Land of Nod (1897), but he also wrote a number of popular songs, music hall dities rather than drawing-room ballads – examples are Cosmopolitan Courtship, Not a Bit of Good, With Me, Our Court Ball, My Country Cousin, Dolly’s Advice, The Racecourse Sharper, How? and Mafeking Night, performed at the Henry Wood Proms in 1900 – and many monologues. Alfred Plumpton did not boast a show of his own but he made contributions to King Kodak, as part of a six composer co-operative, which appeared in 1894 and the racing comedy Newmarket, which achieved 58 performances at the Opéra Comique in 1896. Plumpton also composed popular ballads like Forget Not to Forget.

The light musical stage has, as we have seen during these Garlands, a fair share of "singletons", composers who have produced one score, then disappeared with little or no trace. Examples from this era of the British musical include: Alfred Carpenter, composer of Man About Town (18 performances at the Avenue Theatre in 1897) and contributions to The New Barmaid the year before; Charles J. Lacock, whose one show was The Japanese Girl 1897); the memorably-named G. Oastlene Walker (Lord Dunnohoo, also 1897) and J. Capel Woodruffe, who was responsible for The Joking Girl, in 1899, one of many dozens of musicals entitled "The ______ Girl" at this period and slightly later.

We end with two similarly named composers. When we mention the name Arnold Cooke, we think of the Yorkshire-born, one-time Hindemith pupil born in 1906 and for all the attractiveness of much of this output, a generally "serious" composer – though exceptions can be made of his engagingly tuneful piano solos Dance of the Puppets, Scherzo and Pastorale and perhaps some of the music for the ballet Jabez and the Devil. The earlier Arnold Cooke was a conductor in the light musical theatre around the time of his later namesake’s birth. As such he contributed to The Bicycle Girl, toured in 1897, which was mostly composed by Orlando Powell, and One of the Family (1898, jointly composed with Henry Lay). The Cooke shows which were "all his own work" were two which enjoyed only provincial reputations: The Principal Boy (1899) and the musical farce What Became of Totman?

Philip L Scowcroft

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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