David Ades was Secretary and Treasurer of the Robert Farnon Society from 1962 until December 2013, when the Society ceased to function as a Membership Organisation. For much of that time, he also edited JOURNAL INTO MELODY, which became highly regarded as a model of its kind throughout the world.
Born in Westcliff-on-Sea, Essex, David was educated at the local High School For Boys. Upon leaving school in 1954, David joined the Midland Bank, with a break for National Service in the RAF from 1956-58. During his later career, he was appointed manager at branches in Northampton, Leicester, Eastwood (Nottingham), and ultimately served as a member of a management team based in Mansfield.
His love of music had started as a small child, listening to radio broadcasts. At the age of seven, a kind neighbour lent him a portable gramophone during his convalescence from a long illness, and that kindled what was to become a lifetime’s interest in record collecting.
During the 1940s, David enjoyed listening to the many light orchestras performing ‘live’ on BBC radio and he was fascinated by the compositions used as signature tunes. A few were available on commercial discs, but he soon discovered that most had been recorded on special publishers’ ‘78s’, not for sale to the general public. His frustration at being unable to obtain this material was compounded when he began to recognise many pieces used in Cinema Newsreels.
In 1956, David became a member of the newly-formed Robert Farnon Appreciation Society (the word Appreciation was later dropped), where he met Bob Farnon and other notable musicians active in the field of Light Music. In 1962, he took over as Secretary of the Society, remaining at the helm until 2013.
Following visits to Radio and Television studios, and attending occasional recording sessions, his connection to the Light Music ‘scene’ grew ever-stronger, and he would become well-known within the profession for his extensive- indeed encyclopaedic- knowledge of the genre.
Although time for such activities was perforce limited by his work commitments, he was able to write the sleeve-notes for a Polydor album by Robert Farnon entitled Portrait Of The West. This became the first of several commissions. In 1988, Grasmere Records engaged David to compile a collection of Famous Themes (drawn from the Chappell library) for their third volume in a successful series of LPs, which were also issued on Compact Cassette.
In 1989, David was offered a very generous early- retirement package, and this enabled him, at the age of only 51, to concentrate almost ‘full-time’ on his great passions – Light Music in general, and the Robert Farnon Society in particular. Soon afterwards, David and his family re-located from the East Midlands to their beautiful new home in Somerset, where, in later years, they played host to some ‘ extra’ meetings, held during the summer, for members of the RFS.
In 1991, Reference Recordings (US) asked David to write the notes for an important project featuring some of Bob Farnon’s more ‘serious’ works, and he also contributed the notes for three albums by Bob with the American soprano Eileen Farrell.
From 1992 onwards, David worked on several projects for EMI; the CD Music For A Country Cottage was re-packaged for HMV record shops, reaching their Top Ten list for several weeks. Further releases around that time included Memories Of The Light Programme and tributes to George Melachrino, Charles Williams and Sidney Torch. British Film Music of the 1940s and 1950s was widely praised, David’s extensive booklet notes no doubt contributing to that acclaim. Also particularly successful was a two-CD collection of fifty themes entitled The Great British Experience, (still available today) and its sequel, The Great Sporting Experience, which Q Magazine named their Compilation Of The Month. Following the sudden death of Ron Goodwin in 2003, David quickly put- together a special two-disc CD tribute set for EMI.
Throughout the decade he worked with various London publishers, assisting them with the re-issue many of their archive recordings onto CD. Major projects were handled for- inter-alia- Chappell, Bruton, Atmosphere Music and KPM; for the latter company, David negotiated the purchase of the Charles Brull / Harmonic music library, which had been inactive in administrators’ hands for many years. He also arranged for Extreme Music to acquire a library of Mood Music from a leading German publisher.
In 1991, Marco Polo introduced a landmark series, newly recorded, entitled British Light Music, andDavid assisted with information for several releases, as well as providing the complete booklet notes for the Samuel Coleridge Taylor, Sidney Torch and Trevor Duncan CDs. Other labels to commission notes and compilations included ASV/Sanctuary, Conifer, Naxos, Silver Screen and Jasmine.
In 1995, the BBC Radio-2 producer Roy Oakshott engaged David to work on a new series entitled Legends Of Light Music. As well as choosing the musical items, the brief included preparing basic scripts, which the presenters could then embellish with their own personal comments. The first and second series were introduced by Denis Norden; 1997 saw Russell Davies as compere, with Bob Monkhouse hosting the final two series in 1999 and 2000, making a total of thirty-three half-hour editions.
Michael Dutton introduced a new series of Easy Listening CDs on his Vocalion label in 2000, and David was involved from the outset, helping to select the repertoire and of course writing many of the booklet notes. Over the next few years, almost all of Robert Farnon’s Decca albums were re-issued, as well as ‘classic’ albums from Stanley Black, Frank Chacksfield, George Melachrino, Mantovani and Cyril Stapleton.
The archives at Rediffusion Records and EMI also yielded further treasures and during this busy period David contributed to over fifty releases.
Concurrently, he was devoting much time to running the Society; the job of editing Journal Into Melody alone took- up at least eighty hours per issue and although he had some valuable assistance, the main task of producing the publication continued to fall upon his shoulders until the very last edition. He taught himself to use Desk Top Publishing, becoming very proficient in the latter and this resulted in a very high standard of the finished product.
He also researched the archives of several leading publishers of production music, (e.g. BMG, Chappell, Bruton, Charles Brull/Harmonic, Francis Day and Hunter, KPM, Boosey and Hawkes, Bosworth and Paxton) and this led to the production of many new CDs for professional users, advertisers and film makers, who could then utilise genuine vintage recordings to support their productions. More recently, David worked in a consultative capacity with the Imperial War Museum, to provide music soundtracks for the silent films in their archives; these have now been made commercially available.
David wrote the scripts for several BBC Radio documentaries about Robert Farnon, and in 2005 he assisted with the making of a BBC Television documentary –A Little Light Music- narrated by Brian Kay, which was shown on BBC 4. David briefly appeared on- screen, but his main contribution was helping to develop the scripts and providing photos, record sleeves and labels. Some ’clips’ from videos which he had taken at a Bob Farnon recording session with George Shearing at the CTS Studios, Wembley, were also shown.
David was a guest on BBC Radio Three, on Brian Kay’s Light Programme, broadcast on January 27th 2005. Six years later, in June 2011, the same channel presented a week-long series of programmes entitled Light Fantastic. David assisted ‘behind the scenes’ and was interviewed by Petroc Trelawny during the interval of the main Saturday evening concert, in which John Wilson conducted the BBC Symphony Orchestra.
David contributed (anonymously) a number of musicians’ biographies to the Guinness Encyclopaedia Of Popular Music - and also to the New Grove Encyclopaedia, in the latter case receiving due credit.
Probably David’s finest achievement, and arguably his greatest legacy, is his involvement with the Golden Age Of Light Music CDs for Guild Records. In 2003, he was approached by the owners of the Swiss-based company to compile and produce the series, the first releases appearing in 2004. In addition to choosing the music- much of which originated from his own collection and that of Alan Bunting- he was tasked with supervising the digital restoration (expertly carried-out by Alan) and to write the comprehensive programme notes for each release. It is doubtful if anyone could have foreseen the phenomenal success of this venture; by the end of 2014, the 124th disc had been reached and the total number of tracks restored and issued was around 3000 ! Many, if not most, of these would otherwise have been lost to posterity.
At the time of writing, more releases are planned; David’s programme notes were completed during the last few months of his life.
Other recent projects have included occasional booklet notes for other record companies and the recording of programmes for the Internet Music Station Radio Six International, featuring both Light Music and Dance Bands.
Ironically, David's last completed programme was broadcast on February 21st 2015 – the day of his death at the age of 76 – after a prolonged and cruel illness which he bore with great dignity, courage and fortitude. David must surely be credited with almost single-handedly rescuing Light Music on recordings and broadcasts, at a time when the genre had almost drowned in a sea of ignorance, apathy and indifference; the raising of its profile in recent years must in no small way be due to his tireless efforts. He was the driving force of the Robert Farnon Society, a unique organisation which flourished for around fifty-seven years – itself a notable achievement – and which gave so much pleasure to so many people, both in the UK and World-Wide, during that time.
I was privileged to work with David for several years, helping to organise the London Meetings of the Society and he was always very courteous and unflappable. Many of us learned a great deal from him, and will continue to feel a huge sense of loss at his passing.
‘Off –duty’, David was a very private, modest and gentle man who, in addition to the music, enjoyed his lovely garden, a glass of good wine, and a spot of travelling. He was devoted to his wife of 48 years Moira, whom he had first met at primary school; his daughter Fenella; and his two grandsons James and William.
To all his family, sincere condolences are extended.
Tony Clayden – February 2015
With acknowledgements to Geoff Leonard, Alan Bunting and Tony Currie