Classical MusicWeb

Music Webmaster Len Mullenger


We begin this time with two lady ballad composers, FRANCES ALLITSEN (1849-1912) was a professional singer, trained at the Guildhall School of Music. She by no means confined herself to ballads, her works including a Piano Sonata, a Cantata for the Queen, in Coronation year (1911), a Suite de Ballet and a couple of overtures. Her 130-odd songs are mostly of the ballad type (though some set German words) and included A Song of Thanksgiving, Love's Despair, There's a Land, Love is a Bubble, The Sou'wester, Youth and Margaret but much the best known was The Lute Player.

FLORENCE AYLWARD, born in Sussex in 1862, survived until 1950 and seems, more so than Allitsen (though like her she studied at the Guildhall School) and other ballad purveyors to have confined herself to ballads; some of her most popular titles were Beloved It is Mora, Love's Coronation, How Dear You Are, Song of the Bow, Mother of Mighty Sons, and The Bird I Love Best; her Flower Songs were a ballad cycle of four songs.

LARRY ADLER, born in 1914, was born in the United States, but settled in London after McCarthyite persecution in his home country during the 1940s. He is best known as a virtuoso harmonica player for whom Cyril Scott, Vaughan Williams, Arthur Benjamin and Malcolm Arnold, among others, composed significant pieces but he has also composed considerably for his instrument, both for films, Genevieve (1953), most notably, but also The Hellions, The Great Chase, A High Wind in Jamaica, King and Country and The Hook, and concert works like the Theme and Variations.

Now for two composers called Alwyn but they are not related as far as I know. WILLIAM ALWYN (1905-85) is at least as much a serious composer with his five symphonies, operas, chamber music and the rest. But on the lighter side he wrote scores for over 60 films either side of the Second World War, including, notably, Desert Victory, a wartime (1943) documentary whose rousing march was published in a piano version which the writer recalls struggling with, and Odd Man Out. We can point also to his music for radio features and to lightish concert items, such as the Scottish Dances, the brilliantly scored Elizabethan Dances for a BBC Light Music Festival, a Manchester Suite, Festival March (1951, of course), The True Glory, another march, the delicious Autumn Legend for cor anglais and strings and, his contribution to the characteristic, lively, often comic, British concert overture, the bustling Derby Day.

KENNETH ALWYN's real name is KENNETH ALWYN WETHERELL. Born in 1928, he conducted ballet and musicals, notably Half a Sixpence before going to conduct the BBC Concert Orchestra in 1968. He is credited with composing TV tunes, the marches Fighter Command 1940 and Young Grenadier, plus copious arrangements.

RICHARD ANTHONY SAYER ARNELL, born in 1917, presents something of a parallel to William Alwyn in that he composed a number of symphonies and that he wrote much for films, some of his scores using electronics in an accessible manner. His ballets The Great Detective (1953), a tribute to Sherlock Holmes, and Punch and the Child also perhaps entitle us to reckon him as a significant contributor to British light music.

JOHN H FOULDS (1880-1939) was a multi-faceted musical personality. Born in Manchester, he played the cello in the Hallé (and other) orchestras. His prolific compositional output included experimentation, at an early date, with microtones and an interest in Indian music (he died in India, having latterly worked for All India Radio). A substantial number of his compositions are "light" in category, however, for him they "paid the mortgage". Titles worth remembering were the "intermezzo impromptu" La Belle Pierrette, the Kashmiri Boat Song with its attractive Eastern colour, a salon piece which has recently been recorded, the overtures Le Cabaret, a Keltic Overture and the sparklingly Sullivanesque Theatre Overture, the suites Gaelic Melodies, Holiday Sketches (the movements are Nurenberg, Bohemia, Odenwald and Coblenz), Music Pictures (several suites), Suite Fantastique, Suite Francaise, Puppet Ballet Suite and last, but far from least, the Keltic Suite, whose middle movement entitled Lament*, attained great popularity in the great days of the salon orchestras some of which popularity still clings to it.

Philip L. Scowcroft

* I remember performing the Lament on the viola at St Andrews University in 1959 (typist's note - Frances Dodd)

Enquiries to Philip at

8 Rowan Mount



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

E-mail enquiries (but NOT orders) can be directed to Rob Barnett at

Return to:   index page
                              Classical Music on the Web