Dateline June 2005
■ The Sidney Torch feature in the centre of this issue is thanks to Lew Williams, who has great admiration for Torch as a cinema organist before World War II. Lew also has plenty of admirers himself: as our member Robin King tells us, "Lew is a superb, very much respected musician. He is one of the world’s finest organists – both classical and theatre – equally well-known in UK organ circles as in the USA. He is resident organist at Organ Stop, Mesa, Arizona (a suburb of Phoenix) which has the world’s largest Wurlitzer housed in a public place … 5 manuals and 77 ranks. Awesome! There is more information (and some audio samples) at www.organstoppizza.com "
The March issue of The Gramophone included a full page article on Light Music by Andrew Lamb.Guild and Vocalion CDs were specifically mentioned.
A major light orchestral hardback biography is on its way, hopefully out in time for the centenary of Mantovani's birth on 15 November next. "Mantovani – A Lifetime In Music" tells of Mantovani's relentless quest for perfection in a musical career that lasted over 50 years. Written by Colin MacKenzie and to be published by Melrose Books, it follows the maestro's musical career in detail, from his early days as an aspiring classical musician, his dance band days of the 1930s, his activities as a musical director in the theatre and his successes in America and worldwide in the 1950s and up until his retirement in 1975. The author has had unique access to the Mantovani family, his record producers, arrangers, musicians and fans from various parts of the globe to provide a very detailed portrait of his life and times. It's the "full Monty", of interest to Mantovani fans everywhere, but also to anyone interested in light orchestral music and the history of popular music in the 20th century. More details as and when we have them.
Derek Boulton tells us an amusing story from Russia. In last September’s JIM we told you about the Russian singer Willi Tokarev, who is infatuated with the music of Robert Farnon. Willi lives in a block of flats in Moscow, which has been renovated from former army barracks. The old public address system is apparently still intact, and wired to all the flats. Each morning Willi wakes up his fellow residents to the strains of either Portrait of a Flirt or Westminster Waltz!
Paul Barnes is back on Saturday evenings. His radio show "Gold for Grown-Ups" from BBC Radio Norfolk (beamed to many BBC local stations in Eastern England) is no longer on Sundays (where it failed to reach its potential target audience) to Saturdays between 6.00pm and 9.00pm. Check the frequencies in Radio Times and tune in next week. Alternatively you can listen via the internet on the BBC website www.bbc.co.uk
Former BBC Radio-2 producer Anthony Wills now runs Golden Sounds Productions, but radio isn’t his only passion. He is also the Chairman of the National Piers Society, which publishes a fascinating magazine. If you’d like to know more, drop a line to the Membership Secretary: Phil Johnson, 26 Weatheroak Close, Webheath, Redditch, Worcestershire, B97 5TF, England.
Allan Bula has previously reported on the Hastings Light Orchestra, and the latest news is that it will join the Waldron Light Orchestra to perform a joint open-air concert near Lucas Hall, Waldron, on Sunday July 10th from 3.00pm onwards. Waldron, an ancient village approx. three miles east of Uckfield, East Sussex, is in the Domesday Book as Waldrene (from ‘the forest house’) and acquired its modern spelling in 1336.
John Wilson conducted the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra on April 21st at London’s Royal Albert Hall before a capacity audience (reports Tony Clayden). The Classic FM Live concert included popular items by Mozart, Vaughan Williams, Handel and Walton; the latter’s Spitfire Preldue and Fugue was given a particularly spirited performance. Two compositions by Saint-Saens were featured, the Carnival of the Animals and the finale of the Third Symphony, which showcased the recently rebuilt RAH organ. The programme concluded with Elgar’s Cello Concerto, with Julian Lloyd Webber as soloist. John has now done a lot with the RLPO, and the synergy between conductor and orchestra was most evident.
We are pleased to report that Ann Adams has been invited to play once again in a London park this summer. The venue is Kensington Gardens, on Sunday 31 July and as we go to press the concert is expected to start at 2.30 pm. If you plan to attend, you may care to ring Brian Reynolds beforehand (telephone number on inside front cover) to check that there have not been any last-minute changes.
Shelley Van Loen has just released a new CD – "In The Shade Of The Palms" - on her own PalmCourt Records label. Full details, plus a review, will appear in our next issue, but if you would like to order a copy before then you can telephone Shelley on 01869 351990.
Sound Copyright – the battle goes on! In April a New York Court of Appeal found in favour of Capitol in a dispute with Naxos. Initially this raised alarm bells since there seemed a prospect that record companies reissuing recordings over 50 years old could be prohibited from selling in the USA. However this appears to have been an over-reaction, and the suggestion has been made that Capitol’s win could prove to be a Pyrrhic victory. It is alleged that the judgement only applies to record companies with an office in New York (such as Naxos of America). Another complication is that a query has arisen as to whether EMI could assign rights to its Capitol subsidiary in recordings that had already fallen out of the 50-year copyright in Britain, and were therefore in the public domain. Clearly there are going to have to be even more court cases in an attempt to clear up what is becoming a very messy situation. One speculates as to how any judgement in one country could prevent the world-wide trade in CDs that now exists via the internet. The best answer for the major record companies would seem to be to exploit their own catalogues by bringing out reissues themselves, competitively priced, so that there would be no point in independents such as Naxos trying to gain a share of the market.
Within ten days of the news of Robert Farnon’s passing, Sanctuary Living Era advised all their dealers of the CD "A Portrait of Farnon" originally released in February 2004.
BRAVO MARK STEYN!
For all the 49-odd years that our Society has existed, we have come to expect snide, derogatory comments about ‘our kind of music’ from musical snobs who wouldn’t recognise a tune if it jumped up and slapped them in the face. Give them atonal cacophony and they roll over with their legs in the air waiting to be tickled, just like the Editor’s black cat Mamba. But to admit to enjoying melody …?
Therefore it’s all the more pleasing when, occasionally, a columnist does have the courage to admit to liking something musical which gives pleasure to the majority. Even more surprising, is a columnist who takes his fellow writers on the same newspaper to task.
This is what Mark Steyn said in his Daily Telegraph column on 3 May:
"It's the little things in the paper that drive you nuts. I made the mistake of reading Thursday's obituary of Robert Farnon on a plane and the following sentence caused my mouthful of coffee to explode over the guy in front of me and set his hair plugs alight: ‘He also did some suitably syrupy arrangements for the crooners Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Lena Horne and Vera Lynn.’
Good grief. There's nothing "syrupy" about Farnon's arrangements for Sinatra. If you listen to his work on Sinatra Sings Great Songs From Great Britain, the guitar coda on "Garden in the Rain" and the trumpet obligato on "If I Had You" are worth the price of admission alone.
I felt rather depressed at the thought that "syrupy" should be my paper's final judgment on the greatest Canadian orchestrator of popular music ever, especially when you consider that "Now is the Hour" (the "Maori farewell song") was co-written by Clement Scott, the Telegraph's drama critic from 1872 to 1899.
It remains the only song by a Telegraph journalist ever recorded by Sinatra, at least until the lost tapes of Frank Sinatra Sings the Boris Johnson Songbook are discovered.
So I dusted off the Great Songs From Great Britain CD and was reassured to find the Farnon arrangements as ravishing as I remembered them. The key line is from "Garden in the Rain": "a touch of colour 'neath skies of grey." That's what Farnon's orchestrations brought to even the dullest material, like "We'll Meet Again", whose stiff-upper-lip sexless stoicism Sinatra can't get his head around at all.
We'll be hearing "We'll Meet Again" rather a lot this VE anniversary week. Looking back at that Sinatra/Farnon album, you're struck by how - in 1962 - so many of the numbers they chose are wartime songs, either from the Second War - "We'll Gather Lilacs" - or the First - "Roses of Picardy".
One of the reasons why it's effortlessly easy to "commemorate" the Second World War is that popular culture had signed up for the duration. It was the war that brought Robert Farnon to Britain, to lead the Allied Expeditionary Force's Canadian band, as Glenn Miller and George Melachrino led the American and British bands."
Bravo, Mark Steyn! We need more writers like you to bring some commonsense to the blinkered musical establishment.