David Ades recalls a Great British Orchestra


During the past two years Vocalion have released two CDs of recordings by this legendary light orchestra, and the latest has just reached the record stores. But what exactly was ‘The Queen’s Hall Light Orchestra’, and why is it still held in such high esteem by many light music aficionados?
The QHLO was the survivor of a musical tradition which began in the nineteenth century. For many years the orchestra was associated with the highest standards of 'traditional' light music, although it was also responsible for introducing to the public many new works by the post-war generation of composers.
The Queen's Hall (from which it takes its name) was built in 1893 on a site close to where the BBC’s Broadcasting House is now, at the top of Regents Street in London. It had a superb acoustic, and was the only major concert hall situated conveniently in London's West End. Sadly it was destroyed on the night of 10/11 May 1941 by enemy bombing during World War 2, and was not re-built.
The first Queen's Hall Orchestra was formed in 1895. It became the New Queen's Hall Orchestra in 1915, by which time the London publishers Chappells were lessees of the Queen's Hall. It gave its last concert in March 1927. Fearing they would lose too much money at the box office, Chappells decided to disband it, rather than allow it to broadcast. For a while the orchestra continued under the auspices of the BBC as 'Sir Henry J. Wood and his Symphony Orchestra'.
The New Queen's Hall Light Orchestra (proprietors: Chappell & Co. Ltd.) existed from around 1916 until 1927. It was conducted by Alick Maclean and performed mainly for the Chappell Ballad Concerts.
Fifteen years later the name 'Queen's Hall Light Orchestra' was still owned by Chappells. When they began to issue mood music recordings for films, newsreels and radio in 1942, the name QHLO appeared on the 78rpm discs, initially directed by Charles Williams. For their radio broadcasts and recordings, the orchestra consisted of some of the finest players in London, often from leading symphony orchestras. Although not a regular ensemble, it is clear that Chappells were careful to ensure that high standards were always maintained, both in terms of performance and repertoire.
The orchestra contributed to various radio series in the 1940s and 1950s, including Morning Music, Home to Music and in their own programme Musical Mirror (Reflections in Melody) in 1950. Occasionally the orchestra gave public performances, such as in 1947 when Sidney Torch conducted broadcasts of seaside concerts from resorts in the south east of England. Chappells continued to use the name for many of their orchestral recordings of mood (production) music well into the 1960s.
Within the famous Chappell music publishing group, the Chappell Recorded Music Library was set up in 1941 to provide mood music for professional users throughout the world and, as mentioned above, after months of preparation the first discs were actually issued a year later. Often copyright problems prevented the use of commercial records, and producers of films, newsreels, documentaries, radio and television programmes needed a source of music covering every possible mood, that would be free from such restrictions - and affordable. The British pioneers in this field included De Wolfe, Bosworth and Boosey & Hawkes, but it has to be acknowledged that Chappells quickly became the industry leaders, especially during the 1950s.
Teddy Holmes was appointed by Chappells as the first manager of their Recorded Music Library in 1941. He was well aware of the capabilities of the composers then working in the British film industry, notably Charles Williams, Clive Richardson and their colleagues who were employed (often anonymously) by Louis Levy.
Williams was chosen to conduct the first series of recordings, which took place at the EMI Studios, Abbey Road, London early in 1942. They were made by EMI’s Special Recordings Department, and the first single-sided 78s appeared with EMI’s standard label designs (at least three different versions). Chappells soon started designing their own labels, initially featuring the word 'Chappell' boldly shown against a black background with a red piano in silhouette. This was later changed to the more familiar red and white label, with black printing. Different labels were used for the same recordings when they were repressed at later dates.
During 1942 and 1943 Chappells continued to make their mood music recordings at EMI, Abbey Road, often on Saturday mornings when musicians were more freely available. Their venue changed to Levy's Sound Studios at 73 New Bond Street from 1944 until 1946; the following two years they were back at EMI. Towards the end of 1948, and during 1949 some recordings were made by Decca at the Kingsway Hall. Then a dispute with the Musicians' Union (involving all mood music publishers) forced them to switch their recording sessions to the continent of Europe, a situation which continued for many years.
By the mid-1940s the public was starting to notice the attractive light music in the Recorded Music Libraries of the various London publishers from its use on radio and particularly in cinema newsreels. These records were strictly not for sale to the general public, but eventually a few of the better-known works started to find their way onto commercial records.
When they were made, over 50 years ago, electrical sound recording had only been in existence for around 20 years, but the sound engineers had already become experts of their craft. Still in mono, they managed to recreate the subtle nuances intended by the composers and orchestrators with great success, despite the fact that often as few as only one or two microphones may have been employed in the studio. The mikes themselves were of an early vintage, adding to the atmosphere of these tracks; for example, the brass has a quality all of its own.
Maybe it was the acoustics, or those marvellous glowing valves. Certainly the musicians were familiar with this kind of music, and knew exactly how it should be interpreted. So many different elements combined to make the light music scene of the 1940s what it was, which is why compilations like these are providing such an important service in preserving our musical heritage.
When deciding upon the choice of material in these collections, I have tried to present many talented and important composers in the first versions of some of their best-known works.
Recognising that keen collectors will already possess recordings of much of the standard light music repertoire, the opportunity has also been taken to introduce a number of lesser-known pieces which are now appearing for the first time on commercial release.
Although most of the 78s featured in the first collection were taken from their Chappell sessions, I also included the QHLO playing four well-known compositions recorded by EMI for release on their Columbia label. It was necessary to include several works which would appeal to the casual buyer, because future CDs of light music depend upon existing ones selling in sufficient numbers to encourage record companies to spend their hard cash!
The latest CD (Volume 2) contains only Chappell 78s, and full tracklistings of both CDs appear on the next page. I have included several tracks which were requested by RFS members following the release of the first CD.
In total there are 57 scintillating performances by some of the finest composers of the 20th century, all conducted by the three ‘greats’ - Williams, Farnon and Torch.

Charles Williams (1893-1978) worked in cinema orchestras accompanying silent films, which provided an invaluable training in the technique of mood music. With the arrival of talkies he became one of a talented group of composers who set new standards in pre-war British films, and eventually the public began to notice his name on the credits. His Dream of Olwen (from the long-forgotten film "While I Live") was a massive seller, both in terms of records and sheet music. Another theme from the 1940s, Jealous Lover, was surprisingly chosen for the 1960 American film "The Apartment", providing Williams with a big international hit late in his career. One of BBC Radio’s most famous themes was Devil’s Galop (on the first CD) which introduced "Dick Barton - Special Agent". Williams attempted several sequels, possibly the best being They Ride By Night. It was extensively featured in a "Dad’s Army" episode, and perfectly accompanied the antics of Captain Mainwaring and his Home Guard platoon. Vocalion’s first QHLO collection opens with The Voice of London which became the signature tune of the orchestra. Rhythm on Rails and Trolley Bus are other ‘classic’ Williams titles on the CD. Charles Williams also excelled at ‘busy’ pieces, portraying everyday scenes from shopping to travel. Less specific than some, Exhilaration nevertheless conjures up a flurry of non-stop activity, reaching several climaxes but still maintaining a frantic momentum right to the end - providing a fitting finale to the second collection.

Robert Farnon (born 1917) is undoubtedly one of the major figures in quality British music from the second half of the 20th century. He excels as a conductor, composer and arranger, and the reissue by Vocalion on CD of many of his finest albums from the 1950s has revealed the timeless quality of his writing to a new and appreciative audience. His respect stretches across the Atlantic, and he has recorded with the likes of Frank Sinatra, George Shearing, Tony Bennett, Lena Horne, Sarah Vaughan and The Singers Unlimited, to name just some. These CDs spotlight Farnon working for Chappells, soon after he had been recruited by the Recorded Music Library’s founder, Teddy Holmes. In 1976 he reminisced: "I don’t think there has ever been a more star-studded orchestra than our Queen’s Hall Light Orchestra, and how they enjoyed playing under Robert Farnon’s baton the fantastic stream of wonderful and perfect orchestral pieces that came from his pen." Jumping Bean and Portrait of a Flirt are among the Farnon treats on the first CD. There are two fine examples on CD 2 - Proud Canvas and The Huckle-Buckle. They are far from being Farnon’s best known works (these can be found on Vocalion CDLK4104), but the sheer inventiveness of Farnon’s fertile talent shines through in every bar. When asked to arrange another composer’s work (such as Honey Child by Joyce Cochrane) it assumes an identity that proclaims its pedigree without question. Now well into his eighties, Farnon is still creating charming new works from his home on the idyllic island of Guernsey.

Sidney Torch (1908-1990) began his professional career as pianist for the celebrated violinist Albert Sandler. Like Charles Williams, he also worked in cinema orchestras just before the silents were replaced by talkies, then during the 1930s he became one of Britain’s most accomplished theatre organists, appearing at the consoles of Christies and Wurlitzers in London and the Home Counties. After service in the Royal Air Force during World War 2, Torch decided on a career change which resulted in him becoming a familiar name conducting orchestras on radio and records. A prolific composer for Chappells, he also made numerous recordings for various transcription services (in the USA as well as Britain), and researchers are still making fresh discoveries which reveal the considerable extent of his non-BBC activities. But it was the BBC that kept him before the public, notably through the radio programme "Friday Night Is Music Night" which he helped to devise in 1953. Torch composed over 100 works for Chappells, and also arranged for some of their other writers (Alpine Pastures by Vivian Ellis is a famous example). His best-known compositions include Shooting Star and On a Spring Note (both on the first QHLO CD). Back in the 1950s he achieved some success with Meandering which is now available again after an absence of more than forty years. Amore Mio is another Torch cameo, full of charm and bearing the unmistakable hallmarks of its creator. Torch’s successful career was rewarded with an MBE in 1985, but sadly his last years do not appear to have been happy. He died at the age of 82, having taken an overdose shortly after the death of his wife, the former BBC producer Eva Elizabeth Tyson.

Space does not permit us to include biographies of all the composers featured on these CDs, but the following deserve special mention.

Jack Strachey (1894-1972) has ensured his musical immortality by composing These Foolish Things. In the world of light music he is also remembered as the composer of In Party Mood, the catchy number he wrote for Bosworths in 1944 which was later chosen for the long-running BBC Radio series "Housewives’ Choice". This is just one of a series of catchy instrumentals that have flowed from his pen, and the opening number in the second collection reveals his affinity with theatre and the entertainment scene. Another well-known piece in similar style is Theatreland. One could be forgiven for thinking that Top Of The Bill could almost have been written by one of Strachey’s contemporaries, the ‘Uncrowned King of British Light Music’ - namely Eric Coates. But the keen listener can identify sufficient touches which attach the work firmly to JS.

Vivian Ellis (1904-1996) will always be remembered for Coronation Scot which introduced the BBC Radio series "Paul Temple". Some years later he struck lucky again, when the producer of "My Word" chose his Alpine Pastures - perhaps a surprising choice, since it had previously appeared in cinema advertisements for Ovaltine! Ellis also had a distinguished career in the musical theatre, notably "Mr. Cinders" (1929) and "Bless The Bride" (1947); in his eighties he came to the public’s attention when Sting resurrected Spread A Little Happiness.

Haydn Wood (1882-1959) was a contemporary of Eric Coates (1886-1957), both of them enjoying similar successes - originally with ballads, then concentrating on full scale orchestral works and suites. Roses of Picardy has been in the repertoire of most singers of the 20th century (even Frank Sinatra!), and that alone could justify Haydn Wood’s place among the great popular composers. Recent recordings of his works have demonstrated the depth and wide scope of his composing abilities, especially in suites. This native Yorkshireman often dedicated such works to London, yet the suite on the second CD Snapshots of London seems to have escaped attention elsewhere for the past 50 years. The first QHLO CD includes the charming Prelude from Wood’s Moods Suite.

Peter Yorke (1902-1966) was pianist-arranger with the famous Jack Hylton Band, but the seeds of his enduring success were sown in 1936 when Louis Levy engaged him as chief arranger with his famous Gaumont-British Orchestra. The wonderful, rich sound that Yorke created for Levy was embellished in later years when Peter Yorke’s own Concert Orchestra made numerous recordings (some of them have recently appeared on a Naxos CD with the saxophone player Freddy Gardner - see ‘Keeping Track’ in this issue). Yorke was a household name in Britain 50 years ago, thanks to his numerous broadcasts and records. Happily more of his music is gradually reappearing on new CDs (there is also a fine collection on Vocalion CDEA6005), but little is known today of his many original compositions. Often Yorke’s scores can sometimes verge on the rumbustious, but in Quiet Countryside he reveals the peaceful, mellow side of his nature. This gentle, flowing melody has been unfairly ignored for far too long. The first QHLO CD includes the piece he selected to introduce so many of his programmes, his own Sapphires and Sables.

Clive Richardson (1908-1998) composed many fine light music cameos, and he came to the forefront of the light music scene in the 1940s, following a distinguished pre-war career in theatre and films, scoring (uncredited) most of the Will Hay comedies. Two of his best pieces are Holiday Spirit and Melody On The Move both on the first CD. In the style of the former is Jamboree, no doubt demanded by his publishers as the obligatory sequel which often has to follow a successful number. It appears on the second QHLO collection, alongside Outward Bound, which proves that Richardson could also write in a more contemplative vein.

Montague Phillips (1885-1969) worked in the same areas as Eric Coates and Haydn Wood, except that his ballads possibly lacked something which would have made them popular to the masses, and thus they have tended to be forgotten. But Phillips did succeed in a musical genre that failed to survive the last century, the operetta: his "Rebel Maid" (1921) still gets occasional amateur performances, helped by its ‘hit’ song The Fishermen of England. Disliking the influences of jazz and syncopation in the 1920s, Phillips thereafter concentrated on ‘traditional’ orchestral music, much of it in lighter vein. Works such as his Surrey Suite deserve to be preserved in modern recordings, and the Waltz from his "Dance Revels" suite illustrates the kind of well constructed melodies he seemed to be able to compose at will.

Frederic Curzon (1899-1973) is represented on the first QHLO CD by his best-known work The Boulevardier. Also a one-time organist, he held an executive position at London publishers Boosey & Hawkes where he guided their Recorded Music Library through its formative years.

Clifton Parker (1905-1989) produced some fine film scores, notably "Western Approaches" and "Sink the Bismarck". He composed The Glass Slipper, a children’s operetta, in 1943; the Chappell recording (on the first QHLO CD) was used frequently in the early days of television, often when the dreaded words ‘Normal Service Will Be Resumed As Soon As Possible’ appeared on the screen.

All of the recordings on these CDs originate from the 1940s, a period which saw a remarkable outpouring of talent from a group of dedicated composers who were masters of their particular art. One could easily dismiss a three-minute work as a mere trifle, unworthy of serious consideration, but that would ignore the fact that such a brief time-scale obliged the composers to develop their ideas with a passion and intensity, and a brilliance of orchestration, that is thoroughly rewarding for the listener. There can never have been a period when so much high quality light orchestral music was being written by so many talented composers.
At the beginning of the 21st Century, music lovers have never had such a wonderful and varied choice of recorded music available to them. Long Playing records were superb (and still have many loyal fans), but it has to be acknowledged that the invention of the Compact Disc has resulted in an explosion of available music of every kind. Modern sound restoration techniques (especially the pioneering British CEDAR system) have encouraged the reissue of numerous recordings from the past, much to the delight of silver haired collectors who are now able to hear old friends sounding better than ever before. Happily this trend does not appear to have stifled new talent: in the world of Light Music many CDs of new performances have been released in the past ten years, proving that this particular style of music still has a lot of life left in it today!

New Release:


1. TOP OF THE BILL* (Jack Strachey) 2. ALPINE PASTURES* (Vivian Ellis) 3. HONEY CHILD (Joyce Cochrane)
4. LOOKING AROUND (Colin Smith) 5. CHAMPAGNE MARCH* (Geoffrey Henman) 6. PROUD CANVAS (Robert Farnon)
7. PALM BEACH PROMENADE (James Moody) 8. DRIFTING* (Richard Addinsell) 9. NEWS THEATRE* (Jack Beaver) Snapshots of London Suite (Haydn Wood)
13. SEASCAPE (Tony Lowry) 14. MEANDERING* (Sidney Torch) 15. QUIET COUNTRYSIDE* (Peter Yorke) 16. LUNA PARK* (Eric Siday) 17. ORCHID ROOM (Robert Busby) 18. THEY RIDE BY NIGHT* (Charles Williams) 19. THE HUCKLE-BUCKLE (Robert Farnon) 20. JAMBOREE (Clive Richardson) 21. AMORE MIO* (Sidney Torch) 22. PAN AMERICAN PANORAMA* (Philip Green) 23. OUTWARD BOUND* (Clive Richardson) 24. COLISEUM MARCH+ (Michael North)
25. PUNCHINELLO+ (John Holliday) 26. MOON LULLABY+ (Mark Lubbock) 27. WALTZ from ‘DANCE REVELS’+ Montague Phillips) 28. EXHILARATION+ (Charles Williams)


The two other volumes in this series:

conducted by Charles Williams, Robert Farnon and Sidney Torch

THE VOICE OF LONDON (Charles Williams); JUMPING BEAN (Robert Farnon); BOULEVARDIER (Frederic Curzon); SHOOTING STAR (Sidney Torch); HOLIDAY SPIRIT (Clive Richardson); DUSK (Cecil Armstrong Gibbs); PORTRAIT OF A FLIRT (Robert Farnon); DEVIL’S GALOP (Charles Williams); ON A SPRING NOTE (Sidney Torch); JAMAICAN RUMBA (Arthur Benjamin); PICTURES IN THE FIRE (Robert Farnon); RHYTHM ON RAILS (Charles Williams); EIGHTH ARMY MARCH (Eric Coates); THE GLASS SLIPPER - OVERTURE (Clifton Parker); HIGH STREET (Robert Farnon); CINEMA FOYER (Len Stevens); UP WITH THE LARK (Robert Busby); TAJ MAHAL (Robert Farnon); MELODY ON THE MOVE (Clive Richardson); DANCE OF THE BLUE MARIONETTES (Leslie Clair); WAGON LIT (Sidney Torch); HEY DIDDLE DIDDLE (Charles Williams); WILLIE THE WHISTLER (Robert Farnon); SAPPHIRES AND SABLES (Peter Yorke); TROLLEY BUS (Charles Williams); PRELUDE FROM ‘MOODS’ SUITE (Haydn Wood); BARBECUE (Sidney Torch); HURLY-BURLY (Len Stevens); RADIO ROMANTIC (Sidney Torch).



1 ALL SPORTS MARCH* (Robert Farnon) C339; 2 PADDLE BOAT (Joyce Cochrane) C358; 3 MELODY OF THE STARS (Peter Yorke) C366; 4 GOING FOR A RIDE (Sidney Torch) C314; 5 STATE OCCASION* (Robert Farnon) C294; 6 SOLILOQUY* (Haydn Wood) F9295; 7 VALSE D’AMOUR*** (Tony Lowry) C273; 8 ALL THE FUN OF THE FAIR** (Percy Fletcher) C127; 9 MUSIC IN THE AIR (Byron Lloyd) DB2436; 10 SUNSET AT SEA** (Charles Williams) C132; 11 WAIATA POI (Alfred Hill) C326; 12 COMIC CUTS (Sidney Torch) C378; 13 PALE MOON (Frederick Knight Logan) DB2564; 14 CUBANA** (Charles Williams) C199; 15 ECSTASY (Felton Rapley) C384; 16 GRAND PARADE** (Clive Richardson) C276; 17 SONG OF CAPRI (Mischa Spoliansky) DB2564; 18 SPRING SONG** (Haydn Wood) C214; 19 MY WALTZ FOR YOU (Sidney Torch) C291; 20 FIESTA* (Mark Lubbock) C311; 21 THE AWAKENING (Robert Busby) C334; 22 KINGS OF SPORT* (Jack Beaver) C295; 23 FIDDLER’S FOLLY (Len Stevens) C358; 24 CASANOVA MELODY* (Michael Sarsfield) C374; 25 GRANDSTAND* (Robert Farnon) C344

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Several hundred hours of effort have gone into this new edition of the Robert Farnon Discography but, apart from these first few pages, much of the credit for its existence is due elsewhere as, in truth, I have merely compiled and re-arranged the earlier labours of others.

Prime among these was the late Michael Maine, editor of the pre-computer age 1977 edition, and his team of researchers. Since then David Ades has produced numerous supplements which are incorporated here and further information has been gleaned from the pages of the Society's magazine Journal Into Melody.

The late Don Furnell was responsible for the onerous task of checking and amending the information in the draft print-outs from the database and for proof-reading the final results, other than the Chappell entries which were verified by David Ades.

Alan Bunting - July 1996

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Below are PDF documents containing the following parts of the Robert Farnon Discography (please note that several files are very large and that downloading them may take some time):


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Many CDs have been released since the main Discography was last updated in 1996. Please visit the separate page in this website for further information:

Compact Discs of compositions and arrangements Conducted by Robert Farnon

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Compact Discs of compositions and arrangements Conducted by Robert Farnon
Including important releases of his music by other orchestras

Full details of all Robert Farnon recordings up to 1996 can be found on the Discography pages in this website.

Some of the Compact Discs listed below have been deleted, but they may still be available from record dealers' stocks. Also copies may be available second-hand through various sites on the internet.

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ROBERT FARNON'S SCORE FOR THE 1977 FILM "THE DISAPPEARANCE" is finally available on disc.

For full details on this recent release, please visit the following site:


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Robert Farnon & His Orchestra

THE ORIGINAL LP SFL 13048 (1965) STEREO Second Time Around (Van Heusen; Cahn)
All the Way (Van Heusen; Cahn)
Come Fly with Me (Van Heusen; Cahn)
A Lovely Way to Spend an Evening (McHugh; Adamson)
In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning (Mann; Hilliard)
Only the Lonely (Van Heusen; Cahn)
Young at Heart (Richards; Leigh)
Call Me Irresponsible (Van Heusen; Cahn)
(Love is) The Tender Trap (Van Heusen; Cahn)
All or Nothing at All (Altman; Lawrence)
Nancy (With the Laughing Face) (Van Heusen; Silvers)
My Kind of Town (Van Heusen; Cahn) A PORTRAIT OF JOHNNY MATHIS
THE ORIGINAL LP SBL 7659 (1965) STEREO Misty (Garner; Burke)
The Twelfth of Never (Livingston; Webster)
It's Not for Me to Say (Allen; Stillman)
What Will My Mary Say? (Vance; Snyder)
When Sunny Gets Blue (Segal; Fisher)
Maria from 'West Side Story' (Bernstein; Sondheim)
Chances Are (Allen; Stillman)
A Certain Smile (Fain; Webster)
Gina (Vance; Carr)
Small World (Styne; Sondheim)
Wonderful, Wonderful (Edwards; Raleigh)
Someone (Kaempfert; Ilene)

Vocalion CDLK 4455

Robert Farnon & His Orchestra

THE ORIGINAL LP SFL 13047 (1964) STEREO Get Me to the Church on Time (Lerner; Loewe)
Wouldn't it be Loverly (Lerner; Loewe)
On the Street Where You Live (Lerner; Loewe)
I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face (Lerner; Loewe)
Button Up Your Overcoat (De Sylva; Brown; Henderson)
Black Bottom (De Sylva; Brown; Henderson)
Dancing in the Dark (Schwartz; Dietz)
The Best Things in Life are Free (De Sylva; Brown; Henderson)
I'm a Dreamer, Aren't We All? (De Sylva; Brown; Henderson)
Sunnyside Up (De Sylva; Brown; Henderson) THE SENSUOUS STRINGS
THE ORIGINAL LP 852011 BY (1962) STEREO The Touch of Your Lips (Noble)
To a Young Lady (Farnon)
Isn't it Romantic? (Rodgers; Hart)
La Casita Mia (Farnon)
Moonlight Becomes You (Van Heusen; Burke)
When I Fall in Love (Young; Heyman)
Two Cigarettes in the Dark (Pollack; Webster)
I'm in the Mood for Love (McHugh; Fields)
Hey There (Adler; Ross)
Something to Remember You By (Schwartz; Dietz)
Just a Memory (De Sylva; Brown; Henderson)
Alone Together (Schwartz; Dietz)

Vocalion CDLK4462

Mike Dutton, of the UK Vocalion label, has been responsible for restoring almost all of Robert Farnon's early recordings to availability in recent years. Farnon fans owe him a deep debt of gratitude for making available once more those glorious 1950s sounds on Decca, but there has been a gap waiting to be filled regarding the 1960s -; until now.

Surprising the copyright owners have shunned the 1960s Philips LPs for decades, despite false hopes being raised on a few occasions. For years it had seemed to RFS members that the pairing of Bob's Sinatra and Mathis collections was a 'natural' for reissue, but it has taken until late 2011 for this to happen. Mike Dutton has now obliged, but he has gone one step further, by reissuing the 'My Fair Lady' and 'Sensuous Strings' albums as well.

Readers will not need reminding that these two CDs contain fine examples of Farnon's mastery of string writing, as well as his instinctive feel for the swing era that played an important part of his upbringing. What stands out today, is that these recordings do not sound dated: they could have been recorded a month or two ago, such is the timeless quality of beautifully crafted music such as this.

A long held appreciation of Farnon's work must have been the main reason why Quincy Jones signed him up to make a series of LPs for US Philips, a division of Mercury Records, also released in Britain by Philips. This produced five outstanding orchestral albums, the first of which was "The Sensuous Strings of Robert Farnon", released in October 1962. As the title suggests, "Sensuous Strings" focuses on Farnon's mastery of string writing, rather than his command of the full forces of a modern concert orchestra.

The sessions took place on 10 and 11 May 1962 at the Cine-Tele Sound (CTS) studios then situated at 49-53 Kensington Gardens Square in Bayswater, London. In some ways Farnon was thumbing his nose at Decca for their failure to fully promote his work while under contract with them, because these were new stereo recordings of numbers that had previously appeared in mono on various LPs of the 1950s.

In JIM 18 (August 1962) David Ades reported on the final session on the evening of 11 May, which he was able to attend. David wrote: "The first tune played at my visit was Just A Memory and it took well over an hour before everyone was satisfied with the result. The other three tunes -; When I Fall In Love, Hey There and To A Young Lady -; were recorded with very little trouble. Of these, To A Young Lady was the most memorable for me. It was about 9:40 and the session was due to end at 10:00pm. Only the string session and a flautist were left in the studio, and the almost haunting quality of the flute introduction had everyone in the control room amazed. The first 'take' was perfect, but with a few minutes left it was decided to play safe and have another run-through. This second performance turned out to be one of the few occasions when it has been possible to improve upon perfection!"

David also spoke with producer Quincy Jones: "Quincy Jones, A & R Manager for Mercury Records, couldn't hide his enthusiasm for Bob's music. 'I'd like to record fifty albums with him!' he told me." Douglas Gamley was also present, sitting with the balance engineer and closely checking the score to make sure that all the notes were finding their way on to the tapes.

Although the emphasis was on strings, Farnon makes subtle use of occasional woodwinds and brass. It is also good to hear two of his own compositions, the afore-mentioned To A Young Lady (dedicated to his daughter Judith) and La Casita Mia, blending perfectly with the standards making up the rest of the collection. On numerous occasions we hear the sublime violin of Raymond Cohen, for many years Farnon's concertmaster.

In later years Robert Farnon's recording sessions would be regularly reported in Journal Into Melody, but a glance through back issues in the 1960s reveals very little about the other sessions that Bob did for Philips. There were actually five instrumental LPs, the one still awaiting reissue being "Captain From Castile and other Great Movie Themes". This could be paired with the "Shalako" soundtrack, and we have suggested this to Vocalion. Will there be some good news to report about this one day soon?

This report is taken from 'Journal Into Melody', issue 191, March 2012.

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Issued to coincide with 55th Anniversary of the Robert Farnon Society in 2011

ROBERT FARNON (1917-2005)
"Captain Horatio Hornblower, R.N." Suite (1951)
1 Introduction: HMS Lydia
2 The Wind
3 Polwheal
4 Lady Barbara
5 Natividad
Rhapsody For Violin And Orchestra (1958)
6 Lento
7 Andante – Allegretto scherzando
8 Larghetto tranquillo
Conducted by ROBERT FARNON


The Robert Farnon Society is proud to be making available again an important 1959 recording, originally issued on a British LP in 1960. It features two works which proved to those familiar with his short cameos such as "Jumping Bean" and "Portrait Of A Flirt" that Farnon was capable of composing more substantial works when the occasion arose. Robert Joseph Farnon was born in Toronto, Canada, on 24th July 1917. While still in his teens he became a familiar name on local radio, but he wanted to move away from the popular music that was paying the bills and spent three years working on his first symphony, which was premiered on 7th January 1941. A second symphony followed a year later, but the Second World War interrupted his plans and, in 1944, he arrived in Britain as Captain Robert Farnon, conductor of the Canadian Army Band.

He remained in Britain after the war and found himself in demand for radio and television broadcasts, the composition of production music, numerous commercial recordings and film scores.

Following the termination of his exclusive contract with Decca, he conducted a large number of top session musicians and players from leading London symphony orchestras for these recordings under the title ‘The London Festival Symphony Orchestra’.

Robert Farnon died on Guernsey on 23rd April 2005 aged 87. The two works on this CD are fine examples of his mastery of composition and orchestration, but they represent only a fraction of the considerable body of work he accomplished during his lifetime.

"Captain Horatio Hornblower, R.N." (Suite)

In 1951 Warner Brothers commissioned Robert Farnon to compose the score for their major British feature "Captain Horatio Hornblower, R.N." starring Gregory Peck and Virginia Mayo. The subject was an exciting sea story in the finest swashbuckling tradition and it gave Farnon on the opportunity to indulge his passion for writing music descriptive of the sea. To get himself in the right mood he spent several weeks on the south coast of England soaking up the atmosphere, in much the same way Debussy had done many years earlier when composing "La Mer".

This suite (prepared by Farnon several years later) is faithful to the original soundtrack score. It requires a large symphony orchestra, with added French horns and brass, and this is evident from the very beginning with the dramatic main theme.

From this develops the beautiful flowing melody descriptive of Hornblower’s frigate "HMS Lydia".

The third movement begins with the theme for Hornblower’s servant Polwheal, based on the traditional British naval air "Portsmouth". This proceeds to the main love theme for "Lady Barbara" which Farnon used later as a separate orchestral work. The final movement covers the exciting battle scenes against the French, with the Lydia theme emerging triumphant.

Robert Farnon conducted the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in a later recording of this suite in 1991, but many admirers still regard this 1959 one as being preferable.

Rhapsody for Violin and Orchestra

This Rhapsody is regarded by many of his admirers as the finest of Robert Farnon’s more serious works. It was commissioned by the BBC and received its first performance (in an abridged version) at London’s Royal Festival Hall on 7th June 1958 as part of the BBC’s Light Music Festival, an annual event for many years. It was written especially for Raymond Cohen (1919 - 2011), and was premiered by the BBC Concert Orchestra, conducted by the composer. In 1959 Mr. Cohen made the first recording of the entire work, which was also widely performed and recorded by the Canadian Steven Staryk. Shortly after the Second World War Raymond Cohen entered, and became the first winner of, the prestigious Carl Flesch International Violin Competition. He went on to establish an international reputation as a soloist, playing with eminent conductors and orchestras all over the world. In 1959 he was invited by Sir Thomas Beecham to be his concertmaster and solo violinist, a position he held with distinction for six years. He had a long association with Robert Farnon, being his leader and solo violinist for recordings and concerts for many years. He played a Stradivarius violin dated 1703. In August 1991 Robert Farnon and Raymond Cohen made a further recording of the Rhapsody for an American record company, but it is generally accepted that the original recording, which we have here, is the definitive version.

David Ades

This CD is only available from The Robert Farnon Society. Please refer to the ‘Robert Farnon Society Compact Discs’ pages on this website for details of how to order.

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LENA HORNE with ROBERT FARNON AND HIS ORCHESTRA and featuring PHIL WOODS saxophone: "Lena – A New Album" I’ve Grown Accustomed to His Face, Someone To Watch Over Me, My Funny Valentine, Someday My Prince Will Come, I’ve Got The World On A String, Softly As I Leave You, I Have Dreamed, A Flower Is A Lovesome Thing, I’ve Got To Have You, My Ship Vocalion CDLK 4342, 43:03 mins. Last February Mike Dutton asked me to pen some notes for this reissue of an album which – I must confess – I hadn’t listened to carefully for several years. To say it was a magical experience is something of an understatement. Around that time, in the mid-1970s, we were in the happy situation of receiving a steady supply of new Farnon albums, each one containing some priceless gems. To coin a familiar phrase, it was like being let loose in a sweet shop; there were so many treats all around that you didn’t always realise how wonderful some of them really were. I am facing the same situation today when I make selections for the Guild Light Music CDs. I often include individual tracks from Bob’s early Decca LPs (now out of copyright) and in many cases they stand out from the rest. In their original settings, among twelve or so of similar works all receiving his masterly touch, the orchestrations still sounded wonderful – but not as wonderful as they seem today when placed in the spotlight on their own. After several years of negligence I have now returned to the Lena Horne project, and it has been a true revelation. At times I struggled to find the words to express my overwhelming feelings of admiration for the way in which Bob treated each number – the only exception being A Flower Is A Lovesome Thing which Lena’s husband Lennie Hayton arranged. When three unique talents met at London’s Olympic Studios in April 1976, the result was bound to be something rather special. Lena Horne had already been at the top of her profession for almost forty years, beginning with her international fame in great musicals such as "Stormy Weather " and "Cabin In The Sky" (both in 1943), leading to her many concert appearances at the finest venues. She felt equally at home at the plushest nightspots in London, Paris, Monte Carlo, Stockholm, Chicago and New York, and the talented little girl who grew up in Brooklyn never short-changed her legions of doting admirers. By the time she was 16 she appeared at the famous Cotton Club, and this tended to set the tone for her life in show business. Lena was in her element entertaining the diners in nightclubs, yet to the millions who adored her around the world it was her films and recordings that were so magical. Her taste in choosing her material was undoubtedly helped by her marriage to Lennie Hayton, from 1940 to 1953 one of the leading musical directors at M-G-M. The third ingredient in the magical mix of unique talents was Phil Woods, a bebop-influenced alto-saxophonist whose impressive credits included working with Benny Goodman, Quincy Jones, Gene Krupa and Thelonious Monk – to pick just four at random. He honed his craft during four years at the Julliard in New York where he majored in clarinet. Critics and readers of Downbeat praised him with awards, and he received two Grammys around the time that he went into the studios with Lena Horne and Robert Farnon. The bonus of an album such as this is that it allows those involved to express the music in a way that may be completely different from the version that has already become familiar. Divorced from "My Fair Lady", I’ve Grown Accustomed to his Face takes on an almost doleful feel, bringing out the full meanings in Alan Jay Lerner’s lyrics which cleverly convey the realisation that familiarity has moved on to a new, higher plane. Composers must get frustrated when their carefully crafted verses get omitted by singers, but happily Lena Horne does not disappoint in Someone to Watch Over Me. This track marks the first appearance of Phil Woods, far removed from his bebop roots, but his saxophone provides the perfect foil to Lena’s complete grasp of the meanings in the lyrics. My Funny Valentine reveals the Robert Farnon strings in all their glory, with an almost religious feel encompassing the singer who clearly worships her lover. The earlier comment about familiar versions of well known tunes certainly applies to Someday My Prince Will Come. For a while after the release of Walt Disney’s 1937 masterpiece "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs", Adriana Caselotti’s high soprano frightened off anyone else but by 1976 a new generation had emerged largely untouched by the original, and receptive to a new interpretation. Robert Farnon always knew when simplicity was best, and Lena begins with the intimate sound of Gordon Beck on piano, with the strings gently ushering in Phil Woods as the chorus ends. This is late night music par excellence. The simple theme is maintained in I’ve Got the World on a String with Phil Woods and Gordon Beck supported by Chris Laurence on bass, before the strings eventually shimmer in and alert us to the fact that the lady is about to sing – preceded by a suitable fanfare from the brass. Softly As I Leave You gets the tender treatment it deserves, with the strings providing a heart-rending backdrop before the piano provides just the right touch of perception.I Have Dreamed recreates the jazzy sound of saxophone, keyboard and bass, but the rich orchestral colours are never too distant. Lena’s husband Lennie Hayton provides the lovely string setting for A Flower is a Lovesome Thing, then I’ve Got to Have You is the one track that acknowledges that popular songwriters were still around in the 1970s, although styles had changed quite dramatically. Personally I feel that this is the one number that was out of place in this collection. Kurt Weill composed My Ship for the 1941 show "Lady in the Dark" and it now seems incredible that some bands at the time treated it as an up-tempo number (which you can find on a future Guild CD!), especially when you hear the magnificent setting created for Lena Horne and Phil Woods. Farnon always filled his orchestras with the top session players: his regular Concertmaster, and first violinist, was Raymond Cohen (for whom Farnon composed his "Rhapsody for Violin and Orchestra") and the usual choice of harpist was David Snell, today a leading composer and conductor for films. Each and every performer involved in this album was at their peak when this recording was created in 1976, and the sheer quality shines through in every track. I urge every reader to add it to their collection while they can. If you need an extra incentive, in the booklet there is a colour photo of Bob with Lena relaxing during a break in the sessions. David Ades

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Last spring (2006) David Ades was approached by the British company Jasmine Records to discuss the possibility of a 2CD collection of Robert Farnon recordings. Rather than repeat the repertoire which has already appeared on other labels, the early discussions centred on recordings that were new to CD. However, at the same time Jasmine naturally wanted to include some of Robert Farnon’s best known works, so that the collection would have a general appeal – especially in North America where Jasmine is a strong seller. Jasmine is gradually building up an impressive catalogue of light music releases, with recent issues featuring Mantovani, Gordon Jenkins and Hugo Winterhalter.

David suggested that the inclusion of some of Robert Farnon’s soundtracks from the 1940s would certainly appeal to his admirers, especially as they have never before been available on commercial recordings. It was also agreed that many of his Decca 78s accompanying popular singers deserved to be restored to the catalogue, and gradually the concept for this new release began to take shape.

David recommended that Alan Bunting should handle the digital sound restoration, and work on the project began in earnest last autumn. Rather than mix the vocals and instrumentals, it was decided that the first CD would concentrate on Bob’s famous numbers, with four longer extracts from film soundtracks. The second CD concentrates on the Decca singles he conducted – many of them featuring his own brilliant arrangements. The result is a collection that provides a snapshot of his formative years in Britain, with plenty of tracks being reissued for the first time in over half a century – thereby making the release of great interest to existing Farnon fans, as well as those who will be discovering his genius for the first time.

CD 1 Orchestral and Film Music

1 Portrait Of A Flirt (Robert Farnon)
2 Gateway To The West (Robert Farnon)
3 Westminster Waltz (Robert Farnon)
4 All Sports March (Robert Farnon)
5 "JUST WILLIAM’S LUCK" (1947) film soundtrack excerpts (Robert Farnon)
Orchestra Conducted by ROBERT FARNON
6 Peanut Polka (Robert Farnon)
7 How Beautiful Is Night (Robert Farnon)
8 Melody Fair (Robert Farnon)
"SPRING IN PARK LANE" (1948) film soundtrack excerpts
Conducted by ROBERT FARNON
9 Opening titles music: Early One Morning (traditional)
10 The Moment I Saw You (Manning Sherwin, Harold Purcell); closing titles music
11 Proud Canvas (Robert Farnon)
12 Manhattan Playboy (Robert Farnon)
13 "WILLIAM COMES TO TOWN" (1948) film soundtrack excerpts (Robert Farnon)
14 State Occasion (Robert Farnon)
15 Pictures In The Fire (Robert Farnon)
16 Jumping Bean (Robert Farnon)
17 A Star Is Born (Robert Farnon)
"MAYTIME IN MAYFAIR" (1949) film soundtrack excerpts
Conducted by ROBERT FARNON
18 Opening titles music: Maytime In Mayfair (Harry Parr-Davies)
19 Journey Into Melody (Robert Farnon)
20 Maytime In Mayfair ballet (Robert Farnon)
21 Dream Dance; closing titles music (Robert Farnon)

CD 2 Robert Farnon and his Orchestra accompanying singers on UK

1 The Fleet’s In (Victor Schertzinger, Johnny Mercer) THE JOHNSTON SINGERS
2 You’d Be Hard To Replace (from "The Barkleys of Broadway") (George Gershwin, Harry Warren)
3 Chi-Baba, Chi-Baba (My Bambino Go To Sleep) (Mack David, Al Hoffman, Jerry Livingston)
4 You Keep Coming Back Like A Song (from "Blue Skies") (Irving Berlin)
5 Hallelujah (Vincent Youmans, Leo Robin, Clifford Grey)
6 Maybe You’ll Be There (Rube Bloom, Sammy Gallop)
7 Cherry Stones (John Jerome)
8 Every Time I Meet You (from "The Beautiful Blonde from Bashville Bend") (Josef Myrow, Mack Gordon)
9 I Am Loved (from "Out of this World") (Cole Porter)
10 The Stars Will Remember (Don Pelosi, LeoTowers)
11 Goodnight You Little Rascal You (Noel)
12 Great Day (Vincent Youmans, Billy Rose, Edward Eliscu)
13 Penthouse Serenade (When We’re Alone) (Will Jason, Val Burton)
14 When You Make Love To Me (Jascha Heifetz, Marjorie Goetschius)
15 My Resistance Is Low (Hoagy Carmichael, Harold Adamson)
16 Once Upon A Winter Time (Johnny Brandon, Ray Martin)
17 If You Ever Need A Friend (Jimmy Harper, Larry Miller)
18 Kiss The Boys Goodbye (Victor Schertzinger, Frank Loesser)
19 The Way That The Wind Blows (Whitney, Kramer)
20 In Between The Showers (You’ll Find A Little Sunshine) (McGhee, Walsh, Silberman)DENNY DENNIS
21 I’ll Make Up For Everything (Ross Parker)
22 Lovely Lady Let The Roses See You Today (Hardy)
23 When You’re In Love (O’Connor, Fields, John)
24 A La Claire Fontaine (Traditional, arr. Robert Farnon)
25 "Cinderella" – Walt Disney Film Selection (Mack David, Jerry Livingston, Al Hoffman)

Jasmine JASCD 661

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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.