One of the most prolific and in his time most popular of Victorian ballad composers was JOHN BLOCKLEY. His Arab's Farewell to His Favourite Steed can still be heard occasionally (I seem to recall a recording in LP days), though The Better land was soon exceeded in popularity by Frederick Cowen's better known version. Blockley cashed in on the popularity of Tennyson's The Charge of the Light Brigade by making a song version. Other popular titles were Break, Break, Break, The Flowers of Home, Hearts and Homes, List to the Convent Bells, The Sands of Dee, The Memory of the Past, By the Shore, Jessie's Dream, The Elfin Echoes, Evangeline, The E nglishmen, Ring Out Wild Bells, The Mother's Song To Her Child, Many Happy Returns and-a duet - Floating Away. There are a mixture of the sentimental and the patriotic. In many cases he wrote both lyrics and music.

One of the greatest eras of British light music was the post-war period of the mood music libraries and the broadcasting light orchestras. Conductors of the latter included RAE JENKINS, conductor successively of the BBC Variety and BBC Welsh Orchestras, and JACK LEON, who also used the name Joy Jerome and directed his own orchestra; both arranged and composed to a fair degree. Library composers included CECIL NORMAN, whose compositions included the marchlike numbers Whistling Commandos, dated 1962, and Small Town Parade; BBC producer ERIC WARR born in 1905, arranger and composer of orchestral titles like Blue Waters, and REG ARTHUR, who also used the name KEITH PAUL. Runaway Bells was actually a "Paul" piece; Say it Over a Nova was an "Arthur".

Film composers have been legion from the 1930s and 1040s up to the present. From the earlier years we may mention CEDRIC MALLABEY, whose scores included these for the Gainsborough/Gaumont British films The Man in Grey (1943) and Fanny By Gaslight (1944), and Temple Abady(1903-70), who composed both for feature films, like The Women in the Hall (1947), Miranda (1948), All Over the Town (1949), Folly be Wise (1952) and Street Corner (1953), and for documentaries like the British Transport films This Year London. More recently ELIZABETH PARKER is worth a mention for her score for the recent BBC TV documentary Meet the Ancestors. JOHN CAMERON, born in 1944, has been a notable composer for both TV (including Jack the Ripper, 1988, and Jekyll and Hyde, 1990) and the large screen, examples being The Ruling Class (1968), Kes (1970) and the Agatha Christie "detective", The Mirror Crack'd (1980). Two film composers called Jones (unrelated separated by approximately a generation) are also worth a brief mention. KENNETH V JONES, born in 1924, produced scores for Sea Wife (1956), The Horses Mouth (1958), Leopard in the Snow (1978) and many others. TREVOR JONES, born in South Africa in 1949, wrote for Brothers and Sisters (1980), The Runaway Train (1985), the updated version of Richard III (1995) and Hideaway (also 1995).

Finally let us mark the recent passing of ANTHONY NEWLEY (1931-99), actor on both stage and screen, singer and later director, who joined to write a musical with Leslie Breciusse, on three notable occasions: Stop the World - I Want to Get Off (1961), which ran for 478 performances in the West End and then 555 more in America, not to mention a revival in 1978 and a film version in 1966; The Roar of the Greasepaint - The Smell of the Crowd (1964) , which did not reach the West End but was put on in America; and The Good Old Bad Old Days (1972), which managed 309 performances at the Prince of Wales Theatre on its West End run. Newley's music is "popular" rather than "light", if not indeed "pop" (he was a pop singer in his earlier days), but several of the tunes are memorable ones, transfer well to a light music ambience and may well survive.

© Phil Scowcroft


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Philip's book 'British Light Music Composers' (ISBN 0903413 88 4) is currently out of print.

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