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Music Webmaster Len Mullenger


We will start this time in the Victorian music-hall with GEORGE LE BRUN, a composer remembered for many songs but most of all for Oh Mr Porter!, very popular in its day when Marie Lloyd sang it, but now staging something of a come back, with different words, as the signature tune of the 1990s BBC railway sitcom Oh Doctor Beeching! Le Brun's included another railway one, the Level Crossing and other transport-orientated ones like Salute My Bicycle and The Cabby. Others were The Idler, Come Back Sweetheart, The Song of the Thrush, The Waiter, The Shop-Walker, The Girl in the Khaki Dress, It's a Great Big Same, All That Glitters is not Gold, Detective Camera, As in a Looking Glass, Half-Past Nine and If it Wasn't For the 'ouses in Between, some of them clearly domestic ballads rather than music-hall numbers. He copntinued publishing them until at least 1900. But Le Brun was known as composer in the musical theatre as well, with his burlesque Cartouche & Co in 1892 and contributions to Odd Man Out five years later.

A slightly more up-market Victorian song/practitioner was JOHN ORLANDO PARRY (1810-79), of Welsh origin but born in London and the son of John Parry (1776-1851), arranger of Welsh airs and composers of songs, ballads and mainly lightish stage pieces, including Ivanhoe, or the Knight Templar (1820), A Trip to Wales (1826) and The Sham Prince (1836). The younger Parry was pianist, harpist, singer (at first of more serious songs, then concentrating on popular ones) and entertainer, though he had to give up public performance in 1853 because of nervous breakdown. He composed a few glees, much dance music for piano and a large number of songs of which the best known were probably Villikins and His Dinah and The Flying Dutchman. (The young Elgar orchestrated the accompanist of the latter for a concert in Worcester which has misled some observers into thinking that he encountered Wagner's music rather earlier than he actually did).

Let us now forward a generation or so and look at CHARLES J. WOODHOUSE, born in London in 1879 and a very capable and experienced violinist who played in various London orchestras, including the Royal Philharmonic Society's, the LSO and at Covent Garden; most importantly he was Henry Wood's leader for the Promenade Concerts, though the orchestra was various styled: Queen's Hall, New Queen's Hall and BBC Symphony. Ill health forced his resignation in 1934 and he died in Surrey on 2 May 1939. Woodhouse was an able pianist as well and he also conducted, occasionally for the Proms and regularly for the mostly amateur Civil Service Orchestra, examined and lectured. Most of all he composed and arranged music for young amateurs to play. His arrangements, of popular classical tunes, need not detain us. The compositions are, as I can personally attest, still played by student orchestras. Three English Melodies and Three Welsh Melodies were quite popular in their day: The Ravel Suite was an Eric Coates-type composition, but for amateur; the miniature overture Spring-Tide and Rosemary were published for two violins and piano but adapted for string orchestra. Other Woodhouse titles included Wait For the Wagon, the marches Valiant Knight, a particularly stirring piece, Unity and Processional March¸ the pizzicato exercise Fairy Fingers, and attractive Berceuse and a host of dances, among them A Stately Measure, Peasant's Dance, Rustic Dance, Clown's Dance, Slow Gavotte and Valse and Eastern Dance. There are plenty more where those came from. © Philip Scowcroft

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