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TWENTY-FIRST GARLAND OF BRITISH LIGHT MUSIC COMPOSERS.
Writing music to accompany TV programmes and feature films continues to be an important light music activity. Several previous Garlands have passed briefly over composers of such music. Another one is Jim Parker, born in 1933, whose latest effort (1997) in that direction is the incidental music for the adaptation of Tom Jones, music which attractively represents the music of the novel's period (mid-18th century). To list Parker's other TV and film scores might be tedious to readers , but it worth noting that his work for the BBC's Another Six English Towns yielded a concert suite, entitled simply English Towns, for flute and piano. Additionally Parker has produced several musicals written for or at any rate suitable for children: Blast-off, Mr Jones Goes to Jupiter, described as 'a space musical for middle schools', All Aboard: A Musical Voyage with Captain Cook, the Christmas musical, Follow the Star and The Shepherd King, a musical in eight scenes. Shorter vocal publications by Parker include Captain Beaky and for chorus, The Burning Bush. Perhaps his most popular concert item (it was once recorded by the Philip Jones Brass Ensemble) is the 1987 suite for brass ensemble entitled A Londoner in New York whose movements are Echoes of Harlem, Chrysler Building, Grand Central, Central Park and Radio City.
Doreen Mary Carwithen, born in 1922 and a student at the Tobias Matthay School and then at the RAM is the widow of William Alwyn (1905-85), with whom she once studied at the Academy. (He was her second husband). Many of her works - a piano concerto has been recorded and there is some chamber music too - are serious and therefore outside the scope of this series, but she justifies her place here by her film scores (e.g. On The Twelfth Day, The Stranger Left No Card, Harvest in the Wilderness, Boys in Brown, Man in Hiding and Break in the Circle), dating from the 1940s and 1950s, by the overtures ODTAA ('One Damn Thing After Another' after the John Masefield novel) and Bishop Rock well in the British light comedy or topographical overture tradition, and by the charming Suffolk Suite (she and Alwyn lived latterly in that county). She was one of the earliest women to work in film studios.
These Garlands have from time to time included (as a personal indulgence) composers connected with my home town Doncaster. here is another. Edward Charles Booth (1872-1954) was born there into a musical family; his father (George) was Organist at a local church, his uncle (William) was also an organist, successively holding posts in Doncaster and Leeds churches, and his brothers George and William Bromley were to be professional musicians, respectively a pianist and a violinist. Between them they promoted a series of celebrity concerts at Doncaster's Corn Exchange between 1900 and 1914). inevitably Edward was musical, playing both piano and cello, and before turning to writing novels and short stories which were published both in this country and the United States he composed songs: a setting of O Mistress Mine (1899) and at least two ballads, England Mother England (1905), sung by Dame Clara Butt, and To Fortune (1908), both published. By that time Booth had left Doncaster to live in the East Riding and he lived his last 30 years and more at Sealby near Scarborough. One of his novels 'The Treble Clef ' has a musical flavour and is set in Doncaster, thinly disguised.
The composers of so-called 'mood music miniatures' during the late 1940s, the 1950s, and even afterwards, deserve at least a brief mention as their pieces were so often, memorable, well-characterised and scored with notable professionals. They are sometimes referred to as library composers for their works were published and recorded by sundry music publishers - Chappells, perhaps most famously Francis, Day and Hunter, Boosey, Bosworth, Paxton and so on - and taken into each publisher's recorded music library where they lay waiting for performances, often as a signature tune for a film or a radio or TV show. The best known of these composers - 'Trevor Duncan' (Leonard Trebilko), Charles Williams, Ernest Tomlinson and others, including the doyen of them all, Robert Farnon - are familiar to us as names and at least some of their music retains popularity. others are just 'names' like 'Peter Dennis' (Dennis Berry), composer of Fresh Up, Holiday in Hollywood etc; or Wilfred Burns whose output included pieces like In Sombre Mood, March of the Spacemen, Sports Salute, The Ballet Dancer, Stop Gap and Dream of a Kiss, even songs like Fairies and What makes the Starlight (both solos) and A Common Prayer (for choirs) plus film music (e.g. for The Love Match); or Len Stevens, whose titles included News Scoop, Clear Night, Mountain Rally, Madame in Mayfair, High Cloud and La Madrilena; or Cecil Milner, composer of Power Plant, Piston Rod, Paris Fashions, Melody for Lovers and many orchestral arrangements. William Hill-Bowen's titles include a piece of 'railway music', Paris Metro, featured by George Melachrino, and the quite popular Back Street Ballet. John Malcolm whose real name was Malcolm John Batt was less prolific than many but his piece Non-Stop (1952) was adapted three years later as title music for the brand new ITV News. Then there were the two Phillips brothers, both conductor-composers: Sid Phillips (1907-?) composer of Drifting Snowflakes, Hors d'Oeuvre, Moon Suite and much else although Sid was best known for his work in the jazz field and Woolf Phillips, whose output included Heading South (1961) and Parisian Mode, the latter used as the signature tune of BBC's once enormously popular 'What's My Line?' Many of the library titles, as may be seen from the examples quoted above, aimed to capture a particular mood in the hope that that particular mood picture matched a mood desired to be created by the film, radio or TV programme, or whatever. The titles acted as a kind of index reference point. 'Library Music' was I suppose an extension of the kind of music supplied by certain publishers some 30 or 40 years before, specifically to accompany silent films of which music Albert Ketèlbey was the most famous exponent (Ketèlbey's "silent film" music has been played in concert recently).
To finish this Garland here are two composers vastly different in outlook period and in the instruments the wrote (or write) for, with very different Yorkshire associations. First in point of time is Ernest Shand, whose real name was Ernest Watson, who was born in Hull in 1868 and who died in 1924. His career was bi-directional as he was both a guitar virtuoso and a music hall artiste. He composed over two hundred pieces, for piano, violin, mandolin and particularly guitar, many of them - and examples include Chanson and Sorrow and Song - light in character.
Then and last of all we have the case of Derek Broadbent, who was not, I believe, born in Yorkshire, but who conducted Yorkshire brass bands including Slaithwaite and, especially, Brighouse and Rastrick, for whom he made his astonishingly popular arrangement of The Floral Dance, which climbed to second in the pop charts in 1977. Broadbent who played the trombone in his younger days, made many other arrangements; his original compositions include the contest marches British Bandsman, Lenzburg and Centaur and a popular novelty number Cornets-a-go-go!
© Philip L. Scowcroft.
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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