21 May

Laramie

Written by

(Cyril Mockridge)
Al Caiola’s Orchestra
Analysed by Robert Walton

Of all movie music there’s nothing so instantly recognizable as a western theme. This is because many of the best stories of the Wild West captured the ultimate desire and desperation of the human spirit to journey into the unknown in search of a better life. This was the dream of millions of Americans.

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(Cyril Mockridge)
Al Caiola’s Orchestra
Analysed by Robert Walton

Of all movie music there’s nothing so instantly recognizable as a western theme. This is because many of the best stories of the Wild West captured the ultimate desire and desperation of the human spirit to journey into the unknown in search of a better life. This was the dream of millions of Americans. Still is perhaps. According to the Marx Brothers, “Go West” is where the sun always shines and the fun never sets! But in reality it was nothing like that. Anyone determined enough would take the “plunge”. And there were not only mighty rivers to cross, but also plains and deserts to traverse and mountains to climb. And with that hope came an almost religious fervour calling upon God to give them guidance in their quest and bring them safely to their destination. So hence good western themes have an almost hymn-like or folkish quality with the immigrant’s blind faith in their future prospects. All this positivity produced good vibes and hopefully a happy ending. So let’s focus on one such theme.

Television arrived in New Zealand as late as 1960. One of the first series I remember was “Laramie” in back and white. But even more than the storylines, what truly struck a chord was the gorgeous theme by Cyril Mockridge. British-born Mockridge, arranger, pianist and composer emigrated to America in 1922 and was staff composer for 20th Century Fox from 1935 until 1961. Although he wrote the soundtracks for many well known films including “River of No Return”, “The Man who Shot Liberty Valance” and “Cheaper by the Dozen” his name never meant much to the general public. Perhaps it was because he often orchestrated scores for some of the big names and didn’t always get the credit. Incidentally his surname has Devonian origins.

Al Caiola, a highly respected studio guitarist, who played for Percy Faith and André Kostelanetz, takes care of the opening chorus. Then what we’ve all been waiting for, the strings enter in clippity clop-trot tempo with that unforgettably strong tune supported by the horns. From here to the end, the guitar and strings take it in turns to play. It’s the strings that eventually win out declaring their total dominance of the situation. Listen to the way the melody climaxes before coming down to earth.

Hear it on 100 Greatest American Light Orchestras - 2
Golden Age of Light Music, Guild Records (GLCD 5231)

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20 May

Report on the spring gathering of the London Light Music Meetings Group on Sunday 6th May 2018

Written by

It was a sunny and unseasonably warm day at the Lancaster Hall Hotel, as Light Music enthusiasts arrived for another feast of melodic music - now almost unobtainable on the BBC!

After opening - appropriately - with George Melachrino's Spring Morning, Tony Clayden welcomed the multitude, and read out a number of apologies for absence for those who were either unwell, or whose commitments during this Bank Holiday weekend rendered attendance impossible.

Read the report here...

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13 May

Piccadilly Playboy

Written by

(George Elliott)
Analysed by Robert Walton

In the 1970s when British commercial radio became legal, George Elliott was Head of Productions at LBC (the London Broadcasting Company off Fleet Street). We first met in that capacity when I was a voice over artist. He was also a commentator but I had no idea he was a composer as well. Clearly a man of many talents.

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(George Elliott)
Analysed by Robert Walton

In the 1970s when British commercial radio became legal, George Elliott was Head of Productions at LBC (the London Broadcasting Company off Fleet Street). We first met in that capacity when I was a voice over artist. He was also a commentator but I had no idea he was a composer as well. Clearly a man of many talents.

His Piccadilly Playboy was along the lines of Robert Farnon’s ManhattanPlayboy but eminently less frantic with a more basic orchestration. Strangely enough before Bob moved to Guernsey, the Farnons and Elliotts were neighbours in Gerrard’s Cross. Perhaps George caught the musical bug in Buckinghamshire. He remembered the occasion Bob wrote Bird Charmer for his son David. The inspiration for the title actually came from David’s mother Pat who said that “he could charm the birds out of the trees!”

But this is George Elliott’s Piccadilly Playboy written in 1958 and played by the Symphonia Orchestra conducted by Curt Andersen. It starts with 4 bars of busy woodwind and muted brass straight into the arms of waiting unison strings for a lesson in the art of smooth legato phrasing. At the appropriate moments decorative woodwind slot in to this pleasant 1940’s-type mood music melody.

There’s a noticeable moment’s silence before the bridge begins. Normally this would be filled with orchestral activity but the arranger decided on this occasion to have a deliberate pause. The rhythm section you’ll observe is barely audible. The brass takes the lead while arco strings steadily climb up for decorative duties changing to pizzicato. Another silence.

Back to the main strain as the strings now in harmony keep things moving. Yet another silence. Unison strings play another section, effectively a bonus bridge. After much coming and going we eventually find ourselves back at the official bridge.

Before you can say “George Elliott” the opening is repeated and we go headlong towards the close. Piccadilly Playboy builds up to a satisfactory conclusion with a positive brass assisted finish. It all sounds so effortless.

The English playboy mightn’t be quite as hurried as the American but predictably is more formal and laid back.

Can be heard on
“Light and Lively”
Golden Age of Light Music
Guild Records (GLCD 5160)

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28 Apr

Rainbow’s End

Written by

(Leon Pober)
Lou Busch’s version analysed by Robert Walton

The hit parade has never exactly been littered with light orchestral pieces, but from time to time one appeared amongst a sea of vocal numbers. The most original and imitated in the 20th century was David Rose’s Holiday for Strings, his first disc to sell a million. Mantovani’s Charmaine, Leroy Anderson’s Syncopated Clock and Frank Chacksfield’s Limelight were three others to make the charts. Sometimes though, the B sides of million sellers deserved to be heard too...

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(Leon Pober)
Lou Busch’s version analysed by Robert Walton

The hit parade has never exactly been littered with light orchestral pieces, but from time to time one appeared amongst a sea of vocal numbers. The most original and imitated in the 20th century was David Rose’s Holiday for Strings, his first disc to sell a million. Mantovani’s Charmaine, Leroy Anderson’s Syncopated Clock and Frank Chacksfield’s Limelight were three others to make the charts. Sometimes though, the B sides of million sellers deserved to be heard too.

One such title turned up on the radio in the mid-50s when I was doing three months Compulsory Military Training in New Zealand. It was Rainbow’s End on the back of Lou Busch’s Zambesi and stood out as a relaxed waltz of quality in an era when rock ‘n roll was threatening to take over. I must admit I had completely forgotten its name, let alone the melody. Consequently it took a bit of time to track down.

It has an unusually long introduction and for a generally quiet arrangement the record begins with a startling blast like a wind storm, gradually becoming softer. The listener is hypnotized into a kind of dream world. A trilling flute gently welcomes us to this tender string tune. After a while woodwind and an ascending Les Baxter-type humming chorus join the orchestra. When the strings, piano and singers really get going one wonders why Rainbow’s End didn’t become better known. In fact it’s not unlike a Henry Mancini melody. Later the arrangement creates a joyous atmosphere with a distinct bell-like effect. Then the brass contributes to a key change.

An accordion leads the way with brass, orchestra and more bells. Suddenly we find ourselves in a hauntingly peaceful coda with the strings high on harmonics. A flutter of flutes, muted brass, sustained strings and a glorious harp glissando gives a solo flute the final fling.

In conclusion, a few words about composer Pober (born 1920 Massachusets died 1971 Los Angeles). Four of his best known songs are Sweet Treat, Tangi Tahiti (The Call of Tahiti ), Tiny Bubbles and Pearly Shells. Artists who have recorded Leon Pober’s songs include, Burl Ives, Don Ho, Billy Vaughn and Dean Martin. In 1960 Pober wrote the musical Beg, Borrow or Steal with jazz tenor sax player Bud Freeman. Also they composed Zen is When for the Dave Brubeck Quartet. Did you realize “rebop” is Pober spelt backwards?

Can be heard on

The Golden Age of Light Music “Light and Lively” Guild Records (GLCD 5160)

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20 Apr

Percy Grainger - Wind Band Classics 2

Written by

Naxos 8.573680  Royal Norwegian Navy Band conducted by Bjarte Engeset.

Brief review here...

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18 Apr

Classic Movie Thrillers

Written by

This latest ‘thriller’ from The Halle – "Classic Movie Thrillers" -part of the Nottingham Classics concert series - was faultless as was the informative compeering from a very knowledgeable Petroc Trelawny who presents BBC Radio 3’s ‘Breakfast’.

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Royal Concert Hall, Nottingham (14thApril 2018)
(The Halle Orchestra conducted by Stephen Bell)

I had seen the famous 86-piece Halle here in Nottingham when they played ‘The Music of James Bond’ in May 2016. I had been very impressed with the high standard of playing. They came back here in March last year, with their conductor Stephen Bell, to play an impressive set entitled ‘Great Sci-Fi Movies’.

This latest ‘thriller’ from The Halle – "Classic Movie Thrillers" -part of the Nottingham Classics concert series - was faultless as was the informative compeering from a very knowledgeable Petroc Trelawny who presents BBC Radio 3’s ‘Breakfast’.

The concert got off to a cracking start with one of my favourite pieces – ‘The Dance of the Witches’ from John Williams’ score to ‘The Witches of Eastwick’. Pleasingly, this has now become a staple part of Williams’ concert music. The pace got even faster for the next piece – Lalo Schifrin’s great title theme from the TV series and film ‘Mission Impossible’. Flawlessly played it was preceded by ‘The Plot’, which always played out in the series before the end title theme.

It was now the turn of the great Ennio Morricone and a tune I had never heard before. I must admit I was a little surprised, but delighted – the main theme from Quentin Tarantino’s 2015 Western ‘The Hateful Eight’ was a terrific tune and I’m now wondering whether to invest in a CD of the complete score, which won a Golden Globe and, incredibly, Morricone’s first Oscar!

A concert of film music wouldn’t be complete without at least one track by Bond regular John Barry and, for the second time, I heard the Halle play a lovely version of Barry’s ‘Piz Gloria Escape’ / ‘Ski Chase’ from ‘O.H.M.S.S.’ There was some great twangy guitar playing; and kettle drums towards the middle of the tune. Simply great. The orchestra then toned it down a little for Barry’s 2nd piece - a nice version of ‘The Ipcress File’, where the guitar aptly doubled for cimbalom, which had played out on the soundtrack to the film.

It was time for another John Williams piece – in fact, the 2nd of 5 on the night! ‘Catch Me If You Can’ was a lovely jazzy cue from Spielberg’s 2002 film featuring a charming saxophone solo.

The next cue was an odd one – a very slow, simple theme from a composer I’d not heard of – David Julyan – who was, in fact, sitting in the audience at the very front of the upper tier, taking his bows at the end of this very short cue. It didn’t do anything for me; and even the audience delayed slightly before applauding - though, to be fair, they probably hadn’t expected it to finish so soon.

One of my favourites was next, the headline cue for this concert. This was the great overture from ‘North by Northwest’ by the late, great Bernard Herrmann. This music is always great to hear but the second part of the section was quite laid back and I can only assume this was the cue ‘Conversation Piece’.

Side one of the concert finished with Michael Giacchino’s awesome theme from Pixar’s computer-generated animation film from 2004 – ‘The Incredibles’. Compeer Trelawny reminded me of a fact that I had long-forgotten. Yes, it was John Barry who had originally been chosen to compose this score - but Barry wanted to look forward for his inspiration for his music and the producers wanted him to look back to his old scores / music. In fact, the film’s actual trailer was tracked to Barry’s ‘O.H.M.S.S.’ theme. Nevertheless, I found it a thoroughly enjoyable piece of music.

Side two opened with Stephen Sondheim’s theme from Tim Burton’s 2007 horror film ‘Sweeney Todd’. Quite enjoyable. Next up was a charming waltz theme (Waltz No.2) for Stanley Kubrick’s film ‘Eyes Wide Shut’ from 1999; originally composed by Dmitri Shostakovich. Another horror from 1999 followed - James Newton Howard’s piano theme from ‘The Sixth Sense’. I have to admit that all three of these themes were new to me but they were all played splendidly and were very enjoyable.

It’s hard to think of a concert where ‘Jaws’ isn’t played these days and sure enough this was Williams’ third piece of the night. I’m not a keen fan of ‘Jaws’ – the theme has never done anything for me, aside from Lalo Schifrin’s pounding 6-minute disco rendition that reached No.14 here in the UK singles charts in 1976.

Perhaps one of the best themes of the night was to follow. How can one omit ‘Bernard Herrmann’s ‘Psycho’ masterpiece from a ‘Classic Movie Thrillers’ concert? I’d only just watched ‘Psycho 2 & 3’ a few days before so this was surely one of the highlights of the evening for me. ‘The Rainstorm’ cue preceded the famous, but all-to-short shower sequence – great to hear the screeching / shrieking violins. This had been yet another polished performance from The Halle, who received a fantastic reception from the audience. They then went on to play what would be the third Herrmann theme of the night – in fact, the atmospheric theme to Martin Scorsese’s ‘Taxi Driver’ (1976) was to be Benny’s last as he sadly died Christmas Eve, 1975 before the film’s release.

Time for another Williams piece! Selections from the Indiana Jones series of films always go down well and this time we were treated to the main theme from ‘Indiana Jones & the Last Crusade’, another Spielberg film from 1989. Stirring stuff – Williams’ scores for these films were all very energetic.

It was horror time again and a film I’d seen on TV not too long back. Francis Ford Coppola’s ‘Bram Stoker’s Dracula’ (1992) was composed by Polish composer Wojciech Kilar – another chilling and rarely heard piece of music that went down well.

I’d never been keen on Hans Zimmer but he occasion comes out with a corker. Surprisingly, the next pieces were two of those - ‘Batman Begins’ (2005) and ‘The Dark Knight’ from 2008. Rousing stuff.

After a great concert it was sadly time for the final selection of the evening. The 5th John Williams composition and one of my favourites – the 5 minute plus main theme from Spielberg’s dinosaur epic from 1993 ‘Jurassic Park’. I’ve heard this many times before in concert but like it immensely – it’s like you get two themes in one. Later on this year, to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the film, there is to be a live concert, with the music performed to film and conducted by the Czech National Symphony Orchestra.

After rapturous applause Stephen Bell reappeared to announce an encore – Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’. This certainly got the crowd moving - and I was humming this great tune all the way to the bus stop! Of course, it had to be good – the great Quincy Jones had produced it.

Another great concert of film music was over. Again The Halle proved faultless and the concert had been a refreshing change from the previous space themes. Highlight of the evening??? There were too many nice tunes to choose from but ‘Witches of Eastwick’ / ’Mission Impossible’ / ‘O.H.M.S.S.’ / ‘North by Northwest’ / ‘Pyscho’ / ‘Batman…’ / ‘Jurassic Park’ were perhaps my favourites. Here’s to the next one!

© Gareth Bramley – April 2018

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About Geoff 123
Geoff Leonard was born in Bristol. He spent much of his working career in banking but became an independent record producer in the early nineties, specialising in the works of John Barry and British TV theme compilations.
He also wrote liner notes for many soundtrack albums, including those by John Barry, Roy Budd, Ron Grainer, Maurice Jarre and Johnny Harris. He co-wrote two biographies of John Barry in 1998 and 2008, and is currently working on a biography of singer, actor, producer Adam Faith.
He joined the Internet Movie Data-base (www.imdb.com) as a data-manager in 2001 and looked after biographies, composers and the music-department, amongst other tasks. He retired after nine years loyal service in order to continue writing.