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To start with here is a clutch of ballad or ballad-like composers, spanning a very considerable period. Florence Marshall comes earliest in time as her Ask Me No More, the only song of hers which achieved wide fame, dates from 1880. Gertrude Sans-Souci comes perhaps a generation later and is, in effect, another "singleton", as her When Song is Sweet (but only that) may still be encountered. Charles Vale, active either side of the Second War, composed or arranged many songs, some, like Everyone Sang (words, Sassoon), quite serious, but other lighter, notably Green Meadow and Lane, ten songs for young singers dating from 1947. Cyril Winn, from approximately the same period, had a distinguished career in musical education; his songs include Song of the Music Makers, Knitting and The Guardians. Stewart Nash was active as a piano accompanist to singers before and after 1970; he composed songs for them, too two titles are Leisure and Rich Days, both sung (by the mezzo Shirley Minty), at a Doncaster Arts Festival recital in 1970.

Talking of musical education, a number of composers have specialised in work for young performers which basically falls within our (admittedly wide) definition of light music. Sheila Nelson is well known as a writer of instruction books and exercises for students on stringed instruments; a few of her pieces, like Fiesta for strings and the variations on Early One Morning can be heard in concert. Peter Kay has composed musicals for young voices, to words by his wife Heather, examples being The Snowman of Kashmir (1975) and Theseus and the Minotaur, or Knock-Out at Knossos (1976).

Anthony Foster, who lives in Sussex, has composed, in addition to church music, Jonah and the Whale, an entertainment for junior choirs, audience, piano and other instruments ad lib and pieces for recorder ensemble like Show Waltz and Calypso and Carol and Rumba. Beryl Price, active particularly in the 1970s, produced many arrangements of traditional material for young singers or instrumentalists, along with original compositions an Andantino for virginals and On the Go; Six Sketches for Piano. Harold Perry was also a prolific arranger around the same period along with a few orchestral pieces, like The Curtsey and Maypole Dance. Malcolm J. Singer also comes into this category with his piano pieces For Young Ears Only, one of whose movements rejoices in the titles Cannoning Gavottes. Timothy Baxter is another whose church music output is leavened by short pieces for young performers, like The Naturity (five pieces for piano), Jota and Cock Sparrow. And quite possibly teacher/pianist/composer Christopher Headingtons (1930-98) short piano pieces Barcarolle, A Cheerful Tune, Italian Dance and Sad Pastoral were also aimed at young performers.

One or two minor instrumentalist composers to note before we pass to some brass band specialists. Clara Rosss compositions were primarily for mandolin and piano a Sicilienne dated circa 1900, is especially attractive. Franz Holfords published work, by contrast, was for oboe and piano: Dance For a Gnome (1957), Summer Madrigal (1957) and Pastorale and Goblin (1959).

The earliest of our brass composers is Shipley Douglas who dates back to the early 20th Century. He wrote marches of which Mephistopheles and Peace and War have retained some popularity. Trevor Walmsley served in the RAF during 1939-45 and later conducted various brass bands, Wingates, Brighouse & Rastrick and, from 1965, Yorkshire Imperial Metals his works for band include one called Ocean Bounce. From roughly the same period, Ron Gardner composed variations on A Frog He Would A-Wooing Go, a solo, Flugel Blues and, a quintet, Kaleidoscope.

Finally for our TV/film composer. Nicholas Hooper lives in Oxfordshire and his many scores for the large and small screens include, most recently (2001) that for BBC1s adaptation of The Way We Love War.

Philip L Scowcroft

November 2001

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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