All Strings and Fancy Free
This June sees a new collection of fine recordings conducted by Sidney Torch "All Strings and Fancy Free"
The Music of SIDNEY TORCH
1 ON A SPRING NOTE (Sidney Torch) The Queen’s Hall Light Orchestra Conducted by Sidney Torch 2 SIBONEY (Lecuona) The Sidney Torch Orchestra 3 MAGIC CIRCLES (Marshall Ross) The Sidney Torch Orchestra 4 CORONATION SCOT (Vivian Ellis) The Sidney Torch Orchestra 5 RADIO ROMANTIC (Sidney Torch) The Queen’s Hall Light Orchestra Conducted by Sidney Torch 6 BEACHCOMBER (Clive Richardson) The Sidney Torch Orchestra 7 DESTINY (Sidney Baynes) The Sidney Torch Orchestra 8 CORNFLAKES (Norman) The Sidney Torch Orchestra 9 ALL STRINGS AND FANCY FREE (Sidney Torch) The Sidney Torch Orchestra 10 WITHOUT MY LOVER (Gerard) The Sidney Torch Orchestra 11 A SONG BY THE WAY (Eric Coates) The Sidney Torch Orchestra 12 MEANDERING (Sidney Torch) The Queen’s Hall Light Orchestra Conducted by Sidney Torch 13 JUST ONE OF THOSE THINGS (Cole Porter) The Sidney Torch Orchestra 14 HIGH HEELS (Trevor Duncan) The Sidney Torch Orchestra 15 DOMINO (Louis Ferrari) The Sidney Torch Orchestra 16 ELFINETTE (Jansen) The Sidney Torch Orchestra 17 A CANADIAN IN MAYFAIR (Angela Morley) The Sidney Torch Orchestra 18 LONDON PLAYHOUSE (Sidney Torch) The New Century Orchestra Conducted by Sidney Torch 19 BLUE NIGHT (Sidney Torch) The Sidney Torch Orchestra 20 OUT OF THE BLUE (Robert Busby) The Queen’s Hall Light Orchestra Conducted by Sidney Torch 21 AMORE MIO (Sidney Torch) The Queen’s Hall Light Orchestra Conducted by Sidney Torch 22 FANDANGO (Sidney Torch) The Sidney Torch Orchestra 23 CRESTA RUN (Yvoire) The Sidney Torch Orchestra 24 SHOOTING STAR (Sidney Torch) The Queen’s Hall Light Orchestra Conducted by Sidney Torch 25 PAN AMERICAN FANTASY El Rancho Grande (Uranga); Noche de Ronda (Lara); Tico Tico (Abreu); Frenesi (Dominguez); Perfidia (Dominguez); The Cactus Polka (Plumb). The Sidney Torch Orchestra Sanctuary Living Era CD AJA 5540
Commercial CDs have to appeal to the general record buying public, as well as committed enthusiasts, which can sometimes pose a problem for compilers. It is necessary to present a rounded view of the talents of the artist or orchestra being featured, yet at the same time there is a desire to appeal to existing fans by offering something that may not already be in their collections. Another important factor is to try and present the best possible sound restorations which modern technology can offer, so that new CDs may well benefit from superior sound quality compared with earlier releases. On top of all that there is the opportunity to write comprehensive notes for the CD booklet that will give purchasers – both today, and many years ahead in the future – some useful information about the music and the performers. Hopefully I will have achieved some of these objectives in this new Sidney Torch CD. Certainly I am confident that RFS members will appreciate the fine digital sound restoration that Alan Bunting has bestowed on these vintage 78s. Even if you already have many of these 78s in your collection, I hope that you will be encouraged to add this latest CD to your shelves – not only for the sake of completeness, but also to assure record companies that there is still a genuine demand for new light music CDs, otherwise they will simply cease to be released. This collection is intended as a tribute to one of the great names in British Light Music, yet it has to be admitted at the outset that it is incomplete. The reason is simply that Sidney Torch is remembered today not only as a leading figure in orchestral music, but also as one of England’s foremost cinema organists. Other CDs have remembered his many fine performances on the legendary electronic organs of the 1930s – notably the large Christie at the Regal, Marble Arch, and the mighty Wurlitzer at the Gaumont State cinema in Kilburn. The many 78s he recorded from those magical picture palaces reveal him to have been an exceptional performer, coaxing sounds from those amazing instruments that make it difficult to believe that only one person was sitting at the keyboard. His skills that he developed during his formative years were to play an important part in his later career, when he regarded his orchestra somewhat like a painter approaches a blank canvas: it is the embellishments that define a masterpiece, and separate the superb from the mundane. Sidney Torch always treated his listeners to an exciting musical experience, leaving them with fresh delights to be discovered on repeated visits. Not for him the simple melody performed without any light or shade: his recordings sparkled with inventiveness, constantly surprising with unexpected changes of key and tempo. Sidney Torch, MBE, was born of Russian parents on 5 June 1908 at 27 Tottenham Court Road, London. His father Morris Torchinsky, an orchestral trombonist, decided to anglicise the family name, and it was he who introduced his son to the rudiments of music.
Torch’s first professional engagement was as accompanist to the celebrated violinist Albert Sandler. He then moved into several cinema orchestras playing for silent films, but the arrival of the talkies forced him to consider a musical change of direction. For a while he became assistant organist to Quentin Maclean at the Regal, Marble Arch, taking over this famous Christie Organ full time from 1932 to 1934. From Marble Arch Torch moved on to the Regal, Edmonton, leaving in 1936 to join Union Cinemas, opening many new organs and recording at their flagship theatre, the Regal Kingston. In 1937 he opened the magnificent Wurlitzer Organ at the Gaumont State, Kilburn, which was then the largest cinema organ in England.
In 1940 he was called into the Royal Air Force, and initially was stationed near Blackpool, where he continued to record at the Opera House. He first trained as an air gunner in the RAF, but was subsequently commissioned and attained the rank of Squadron Leader. He became conductor of the RAF Concert Orchestra, which gave him the opportunity to study more closely the intricacies of orchestral scoring. Torch realised that the days of the cinema organ as he knew it were numbered, so he turned to light orchestral composing, arranging and conducting, where he quickly discovered that his composing talents were ideally suited to the requirements of the production music (mood music) publishers, that were rapidly establishing libraries in London. From 1946 onwards Sidney Torch contributed many different works to the Chappell catalogue, both under his own name and also as Denis Rycoth (an anagram). He also conducted the Queen's Hall Light Orchestra on these special recordings, working alongside Charles Williams, Robert Farnon, Peter Yorke, Angela Morley, Clive Richardson and many other luminaries of light music in the post-war years. Francis, Day & Hunter employed Torch to conduct their New Century Orchestra when their library was launched in 1947, and he remained with them for two years until a Musicians' Union ban halted all such work in Britain.
In 1953 the BBC decided that it needed a new programme and, with Sidney Torch's full participation, the formula for "Friday Night Is Music Night" was devised. The BBC Concert Orchestra had been formed the previous year, and Torch conducted it for almost twenty years in this series, until his retirement in 1972. During this period Torch became one of the most popular and respected conductors in Britain. His countless broadcasts included many celebrity concerts, often at London's Royal Festival Hall as part of the BBC's regular Light Music Festivals. He had a reputation as something of a martinet, according to the musicians and singers who performed under his baton. Following his retirement Sidney Torch seemed to lose interest in his previous musical activities. He rarely wanted to talk about his pre-war stardom as a cinema organist, and similarly dismissed most attempts to get him to recall his great moments in light music. In a rare radio interview in 1983 he admitted that he had been cruel to most of his producers, although he felt that many of them probably benefited from the experience. He was appointed MBE in 1985. He committed suicide at his Eastbourne, Sussex home on 16th July 1990 at the age of 82, having been pre-deceased by his wife Elizabeth Tyson (a former BBC producer) four months earlier. In celebrating Sidney Torch’s ‘World of Light Music’, this CD includes examples of his talents as a composer, arranger and also conductor of the work of some other composers he admired. Light music admirers will be pleased to see the names Marshall Ross (actually Ray Martin), Vivian Ellis, Clive Richardson, Eric Coates and Trevor Duncan included among the other composers featured on Sidney’s 78s. Yet the main billing has to go to the maestro, with his wonderful compositions such as On A Spring Note, Radio Romantic, All Strings And Fancy Free, Meandering, London Playhouse, Blue Night, Amore Mio, Fandango and Shooting Star. Also the scintillating Torch arrangements – among them Coronation Scot (he turns the Vivian Ellis light music classic, which normally sounds like a slow local train, into an express!), Destiny Waltz by Sidney Baynes and Pan American Fantasy where Torch’s love of the music of Latin America is given full rein. Individual composers who deserve special mention include Clive Richardson for Beachcomber (his other major works are London Fantasia and Melody On The Move), Trevor Duncan – who achieved his first big success as a composer thanks to Sidney Torch’s recording of High Heels, and Eric Coates whose A Song By The Way used to introduce a BBC radio programme of the same name. Angela Morley is one of today’s top arrangers and composers and Torch encouraged her during the crucial early years of her career by commissioning several scores including Siboney and Just One Of Those Things; he also made the superb premier commercial recording of A Canadian in Mayfair (which Angela had dedicated to Robert Farnon). Speaking recently, she remembered Sidney as being a stern taskmaster on the podium, but off it he was a most charming man. That seems to sum up the feelings of most of the musicians who came into contact with him during his long and distinguished career. David Ades