Classical MusicWeb

Music Webmaster Len Mullenger


As with our 96th bouquet, several of our composers this time were known as conductors rather than as composers. But their compositions and, in most cases, arrangements were a major part of their musical activity. Frank Cantell, for example, conductor post-1945 of the BBC Revue Orchestra, then (1950-61) of the BBC West of England Light Orchestra. Or Frank Chacksfield (1914-1995), born in Sussex, initially pianist, organist and dance band leader, but remembered most as conductor, especially on BBC radio and in the recording studios, with "The Tunesmiths" and "Frank Chacksfield and his Orchestra". His arrangements included Charlie Chaplin's theme from Limelight, which became a popular hit. His original works included In Old Lisbon, Gay Dog, Dapper Don, Candid Snap, Prelude to a Memory, Little Red Monkey, Flirtation Waltz, Ebb Tide, On the Beach and Donkey Cart. Several of these are clearly "production music" titles; for TV he provided music for a Sexton Blake adaptation.

Howard Carr (1880-1960) made his name conducting in London theatres and unsurprisingly wrote much for the stage, operettas and musicals, of which Shanghai and The Chinese Honeymoon were just two. He composed songs, partsongs and plenty of light orchestral items: the ballet suite Carnival of the Elements, the nautical suite On the Briny and the Three Heroes suite, performed for the first time at the Armistice in 1918, the heroes being O'Leary VC, Captain Oates of Captain Scott's Antarctic Expedition of 1911-12 and Sub-Lieutenant Warneford VC, the first British pilot to bring down a Zeppelin (in 1915). Single movements included the overtures Sir Walter Raleigh (1940), The Jolly Roger, The Crimson Fan and Moorish Dance.

Douglas Gamley (1924-1998) was born in Melbourne (Australia) and many will recall him as a conductor, pianist and orchestrator of often lush-sounding arrangements of popular tunes. He is credited with a version of The Beggar's Opera, which was recorded, and with many original compositions like Souvenir de Granada and Link With Romance, plus film scores including J M Barrie's comedy The Admirable Crichton, the "police procedural" Gideon's Day and sundry horror movies.

Albert Cazabon (1883-1970) was a violinist who broadcast with his own ensemble during the period after the Second World War. He composed widely and enjoyably for light orchestra: Three Ballet Sketches, the entr'actes On the Moonlight Terrace and Spring Morning; the rondos The Jester and Scherzando; and Preludes Romanticos, Columbine and Harlequin, Autumn Nocturne and Fjell Melody: Norwegian Souvenir.

Ivan Caryll (1861-1921) was only British between 1882, when he settled in London (he was born Felix Tilken in Belgium) and 1911 when he moved to the United States where he died. Altogether he composed (or contributed to) some forty operettas or musical comedies, his first success coming in 1893 with Little Christopher Columbus. Other particular hits, all first produced in England, were The Shop Girl, The Circus Girl, A Runaway Girl and Our Miss Gibbs (all with Lionel Monckton), plus The Lucky Star (1899, played by the D'Oyly Carte company, but not the equal of Sullivan), The Toreador (1901) and The Duchess of Dantzic (1903). His output also included songs, dances and salon pieces for his own light orchestra, for which incidentally Elgar composed his shapely Serenade Lyrique in 1899.

Many regarded Newcastle-born Adam von Ahn Carse (1878-1958) (the "von Ahn" was dropped after 1914) as more of a musical scholar, author and researcher than a composer. Indeed I remember reading with pleasure several of his books on musical history in my teens and he edited and arranged many 18th Century orchestral works, so helping the revival of baroque and lesser-known classical music. He also collected old instruments. He had indeed something of an academic background. Educated in Germany and at the Royal Academy of Music with Frederick Corder, he returned to the Academy as Professor of Harmony and Counterpoint (1922-40), having previously taught at Winchester College. Generations of young (and other) musical amateurs had reason to be grateful to him for his many arrangements and compositions which enriched the light music repertory without making him quite the equal of, say, Eric Coates, Haydn Wood or Percy Fletcher. As a taste of a prolific output, let us list Norwegian Fantasia, for violin and orchestra, the overtures Happy Heart and Holiday Overture, the suites Boulogne: A Romantic Legend, The Merry Milkmaids and Wilton Suite, all for orchestra, and Three Characteristic Pieces, Three English Pictures, Processional March and the "overture" Puffing Billy, an attractive piece of "train music", all for brass band. Many instrumental and "light chamber" pieces were published, among them Fiddle Fancies, Scenes Afloat and Suite in Old Style. He composed in more serious vein, symphonies, symphonic poems, a violin sonata and cantatas, but we may surely claim him as a light music composer. Young performers still play the pieces he penned for them and which we have not the space to list here.

Philip L Scowcroft

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

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