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We begin this time not with some forgotten Victorian composers of dance music but a composer of the present day, and a young man at that, ADAM SAUNDERS who shows - not uniquely, of course - that light music is still being written and not just as incidental to a film or TV programme. Saunders' Comedy Overture is an ebullient piece, very much in popular style with one or two quotations of favourite melodies: good fun.

Another interesting figure, who is still alive, is NORMAN HARVEY RUTHERLYN, born in 1930 and self-taught in music. In 1965 he conceived the idea of portraying the life of Sir Winston Churchill in music. The task, completed in 1974, took him more than eight years; Derek Barnes helped with the orchestration. The work has yet to be heard in public in this country, though it has been performed in Czechoslovakia (as it then was known) and recorded on CD. The movements of Churchill, A Legend in Music, are "Cradle Days", "Nursery Days" "Sad Days at St Georges' School", "Harm School" (an orchestral setting of Forty Years On!) "Peering at Life Around a Corner", "Churchill March" (this has been heard live in this Country), "The Malakand Field Force", "Cavalry Charge at Omdurman", "The Blenheim Romance", "Seascape (Lord of Admiralty)", "The First Great World War", "The Chartwell Suite" (in four movements, Spring Dawn, Summer's Day, Autumn Mists, Winter's Night) and "The Second World War", which is also in four sections. Rutherlyn founded the Churchill Society which has sponsored the music and benefits from its performance. The music is perhaps derivative but it does show awareness of British musical tradition, not least in the light music sphere

Now for some Victorians. Here are a few more dance composers, whose effusions were performed by brass bands in Doncaster - and doubtless elsewhere - in the 1890s: W O KEEFE, who produced, inter alia, the polka The Three Musketeers; T Green (gallop, Sunshine); EUGENE ROSE whose works included Invitation Schottische and the polka Garden Party; LAWRENCE CAROLAN, of the schottische Queen of Heart, and H.L.D. JAXONE (?JACKSON) composer of the valse, La Canzonetta.

JACOB (sometimes Jacques) BLUMENTHAL (1829-1908 was German-born, a pianist, who studied with Herz for piano and Halevy for composition, but he settled in London in 1848 and became pianist to Queen Victoria. He naturally composed a large number of shortish, light movements for piano solo and hundreds of songs, including many to German words, but also many characteristic Victorian ballads, among them The Message, Across the Far Blue Hills, Maria, Sunshine and Rain, Love the Pilgrim, My Queen, Sweet is True Love, Venetian Boat Song, The Burning Ship and Thinking of Thee.

Finally mentions for ARTHUR WILKINSON, active a generation or so ago as a composer of light orchestral pieces including the Dance Mexicaine and the Three Rivers Fantasy (the rivers were the Tyne, Wear and Tees), TIM WILLS, otherwise known as RICHARD JOHNSON and MALCOLM BARRON, whose orchestral miniatures included World Traveller March (arranged by the great Robert Farnon) and the harpist JOHN MARSON (1932-) who studied at the Royal College of Music and who composed a number of lightish pieces for his instrument, including, for clarinet and harp, the Acadian Sketches.

© Philip L Scowcroft.

November 1999




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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