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We begin with two figures known for their music for the screen and particularly the small screen. First there is MATTHEW SCOTT, who most recently has provided the "new" music for The Mrs Bradley Mysteries on BBC 1 (although much of the music for those is selected from real jazzy tunes from the 1920s and 1930s, the period in which this elegant costume series is set). Secondly we have MAX HARRIS. Arguably the best-remembered TV series for which he provided the music is the sit-com Open All Hours; but Bombay Duckling (the Kipling Theme, from BBC TV's feature Kipling) and the Gurney Slade theme and Hat and Cane, both from The Strange World of Gurney Slade all achieved publication in piano versions.

Moving back into the earlier years of the 20th Century we nominate first two who were not British by birth but who for varying reasons receive a brief mention NACIO HERB BROWN, born in 1896, was American, but his instrumental genre piece The Wedding of the Painted Doll was very popular with British light orchestras and ensembles in the 1920s and afterwards; he also produced songs, film music for earlier Hollywood features and a number of other orchestral miniatures, such as Broadway Melody and American Bolero, Then there was JEAN GILBERT, who was actually born MAX WATERFIELD in Hamburg; he died in 1924 but before that he had several shows produced on the English musical stage, among which we may list The Girl in the Taxi (1912), his most popular piece, Lady of the Rose, Puppchen, The Cinema Star, Mam'selle Tralala, Ratsa the Dancer, and, with Vernon Duke (previously featured in these Garlands), Yvonne. Some of these musicals had popular dance movements extracted from them - a Waltz from The Lady of the Rose, a Two-step Intermezzo from Puppchen and the Fluffy Pets One-step (!) from The Cinema Star.

MICHAEL STRONG was certainly British and was basically - although the waltz Only For You was popular in an instrumental arrangement between the wars - a composer of ballads like The Villages of England, One Day of Gold and, dated 1946, De Lawd Knows All.

Finally there was ALFONSO GIBILARO, who was of Italian extraction and apparently related to the conductor Sir John Barbirolli, who from time to time, programmed his orchestral music (I seem to remember Three Sicilian Miniatures, or some similar title, appearing in Hallé programmes during the 1940s and early 1950s). Gibilaro was a pianist in small orchestras and ensembles (he regularly appeared and recorded with the violinist/composer DAVID DE GROOT). Others among Gibilaro's lightish compositions included Burlesque Serenade, a Fantasia on British Airs (for oboe and strings), Menuet de la Poupie and the Rondo des Marionettes. It may be worth dusting down one of his scores sometime.

© Philip L. Scowcroft

January 2000

Apparently Gibilaro was quite advanced in years when he became the father to a little boy. One day, the boy was invited to his cousin’s birthday party, and during the party, the children all played with toy musical instruments – tin whistles, kazoos, little drums, etc.
Gibilaro, still at home, got a phone call from the boy, to tell him that they had an orchestra, and would he like to hear them? The kids played their music, and at the end, the little boy asked Gibilaro what he thought of it. “Well, “ he said, “it wasn’t terribly good, was it?” “It should have been,” said the boy, “Uncle John was conducting.” Uncle John, of course, being Sir John Barbirolli.



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

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