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THE GARLANDS OF BRITISH LIGHT MUSIC: Garland 53 Ballad composers

Now for a few more ballad composers, all quite popular in their various days: SIDNEY LENNOX, active in the first third of this century, who composed, e.g. Dreams Locked Away in Your Heart, The Fairest Flower of Them All and, probably most popular, A Garden in Brittany. From roughly the same period was ALISON TRAVERS, whose most popular ballad was A Mood; others were A Song of Summer and Speak, Earth Speak. Most intriguing among Travers' instrumental output were two suites, both of which were orchestrated by SIDNEY BAYNES of Destiny Waltz fame: May Day Suite (A May Morning, Noon Reverie and Around the Maypole) and The Compass Suite, reminiscent of Coates' Four Ways, with its individual movements entitled: North, The Arctic Zone; South, South Pacific; East, The Chinese Bazaar; and West, The Prairie. PETER REVELL whose real name was HERBERT M. GIBSON, died on 17 October 1970, he was best remembered for his Serenade to a Beautiful Day, a song but arranged many times for orchestra, most notably by HENRY GEEHL and JACK BEAVER - other Revell song titles included Sunny Evening, The Whistling Cavalier, Spring Comes to Stay and The Confession.

Now for a few more "library music" (or mood music, or production music, if you prefer) composers. JOHN BELTON was known primarily for his marches (The Maginot Line, Down The Mall, and especially popular one, All Set and Times Marches On) plus novelty numbers like The Merry Blacksmith. NORMAN WHITELEY's most popular title was Air for a Summer Evening; others were granny's Spinning Wheel, Kathleen May and, described as an "impression", Dusky Aristocrat. ERIC WINSTONE was noted as a bandleader in the 1950s and 1960s . His signature tune was entitled Stage Coach, which may not have been his composition, but others like Oasis, the Neptune Concerto of 1967 and Trafficscape which achieved some fame, were by him. ROBERT BUSBY is worth a mention for his catchy march Sportsmaster, dating from 1951. ALBERT MARLIND is remembered for one title in particular, the Mexican Fire Dance of 1950, but he wrote other things, such as songs (Sunny Serenade also appeared in 1950), orchestral novelties like Spring Double and Piccadilly Prelude, the Cubanero (Cuban bolero) for piano and orchestra (1954), plus many traditional arrangements and medleys for "Friday Night is Music Night" between 1953 and 1962. ALAN HAWSHAW is maybe best known for his title music for Channel 4's long running "Countdown", but other novelty numbers worth remembering are Beat Boutique, Girl in a Sportscar and Piccadilly Night Ride.

Now for some composers that many might regard as "classical" rather than "light". MAX SAUNDERS, born in 1903, composed partsongs and orchestral pieces, but some of the latter might fall into the "light" category. Africa Suite, Maori Suite, Diversions and Interludium, both for strings, maybe also his most popular item, A Cotswold Pastoral for oboe and strings. He also produced arrangements of traditional material, both from the British Isles and from further afield, and several scores to accompany BBC radio productions. GREVILLE COOKE (1894-1992) was a clergyman (eventually a Canon of Peterborough Cathedral), educated at the RAM and Christ's College, Cambridge. To a considerable degree he ran his clerical and musical careers in parallel; they even overlapped as he composed hymns tunes and anthems. Some of his songs (eg Daydreams, Shepherd Boy's Song and My Heaven) were ballads and many of his instrumental miniatures were also light in character, like Sea Croon, for cello and piano, and the piano solos Meadowsweet, Whispering Willows, A Day at the Sea, Sundown and, quite the most popular High Morley Rest, some of which resembled John Ireland in lighter view. And finally in this paragraph GEORGE BUTTERWORTH (1885-1916) perhaps stakes a claim for inclusion in the paragraph. His Houseman settings are "art songs", not ballads, but what are The Banks of Green Willow and the Two Idylls but light music?

Finally here are two composers of whom I know little but who are perhaps worth a mention, One F. THOMPSON, active between the wars, composed waltzes with titles of almost Ketelbeyan exoticism (two are Rio Nights and Panama Twilight; and GEORGE FRENCH, who flourished around 1950 with songs like Pirate Gold and a scherzo string orchestra.

© Philip L. Scowcroft

May 1998


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