In November 2005 the Robert Farnon Society welcomed one of Britain’s foremost film and television composers to its London meeting. As Peter Burt reports, DEBBIE WISEMAN captivated everyone present!
For those of us visiting London and using its public transport for the first time since July 7th, there may have been some anxiety in travelling to the refurbished Derby Suite at the Bonnigton Hotel on November 27th. As we joined in a moment’s silence to remember the passing of Robert Farnon and two past stalwarts of the Society, Edna Foster and Peter Bunfield, I am sure our minds also turned to those whose lives had been so tragically cut short or been maimed in the atrocities.
Movingly, the lights were dimmed as we listened to Bob’s recording of Peacehaven. What happened in July may also have deterred some of us attending Bob’s Memorial Service, so it was good to have Albert introduce a video of short excerpts from the eulogies, including one by our indefatigable Secretary. David himself told us there was a CD of the eulogies available for sale. He then spoke briefly about the acclaimed BBC Four programme ‘Music for Everybody’ and introduced excerpts featuring Robert Farnon. Albert followed this by introducing extracts from two exclusive Society DVDs: recordings of recent visits to our meetings by Trevor Duncan and Ernest Tomlinson, both of whom we were sorry to hear were currently in poor health. [We have, of course, subsequently lost Trevor, as reported elsewhere in this issue]. These events had been expertly recorded and edited by Ralph Thompson with assistance from Geoffrey Richardson.
The popular New Releases spot was next with an interesting Ron Goodwin arrangement of The Stripper [Vocalion]; Silverheels by the Palm Court Orchestra conducted by Charles Job [Canada]; Castles in the Air - Celebrity Symphony Orchestra [Guild]; First Meeting from John Fox’s "The Love of Joy" -Royal Ballet Sinfonia [Campion], and What Kind of Fool Am I? sung by Lance Ellington with the John Wilson Orchestra [Vocalion]. David was hugely enthusiastic about the last disc but this listener would have preferred Andrew Cottee’s arrangement without the vocal! Wearing my CD seller’s hat, I still think that with so many noteworthy new releases it is pity room can only be found for four tracks. Stanley Black’s closing theme from ‘The Naked Truth’ sent us to the first interval and a welcome cuppa.
We resumed our seats for what was without any doubt whatsoever the highlight of the meeting. This was an extended interview conducted by Rodney Greenberg with our Guest of Honour, Debbie Wiseman MBE. Debbie is one of our finest composers whose work has been widely praised by critics and music lovers. She discussed her career with Rodney and gave us a fascinating insight into writing and recording music for television and movies. Her words were enhanced by video clips from ‘Arsène Lupin’, ‘Freeze Frame’, ‘Tom’s Midnight Garden’ and ‘Wilde’. Albert voiced the appreciation of all present for a "most delightful hour".
Debbie drew the raffle and we broke again for another interval and a further opportunity to gladden Ellen, Paul, and myself [not forgetting the Treasurer] by buying more CDs.
Bob’s Trumpet Talk brought us back to our seats for Cab Smith, eschewing his usual Swing Session, to play three more Farnon compositions all connected with transport: En Route, Main Street, and Rush Hour. Paul Clatworthy was then welcomed to the platform and brought us Con Alma played by Dizzy Gillespie accompanied by Mr Farnon and his Orchestra. Back, then, to Albert who introduced two selections from Canadian radio programmes marking Bob’s death.
Firstly from Robert Harris’s CBC Radio 2 programme ‘I Hear Music’, an hour long tribute to Bob, came I Got Rhythm with Bob and the AEF Band. Interestingly Robert’s father had worked with Bob when he first came to this country. Secondly from a weekly radio show presented by RFS member Glenn Woodcock on Jazz FM [Toronto], which devoted the whole of its 5-hour time slot to Bob, we heard the closing music from the AEF ‘Canadian Caravan’ show that Bob later re-orchestrated for Canadian Impressions.
DVD excerpts had been a feature of the afternoon and David appropriately brought proceedings to a close by introducing two more from TV: the thought to have been long lost ‘The Best of Two Worlds’ presenting Robert Farnon and his Orchestra with Douglas Gamley and Petula Clark; and the more recent BBC4 showing of a ‘Friday Night Is Music Night’ with John Wilson conducting the BBC Concert Orchestra in Portrait of a Flirt, March from A Little Suite, and A Canadian in Mayfair.
David’s customary closing thanks all round included the welcoming ladies who take our money for admission and the raffle, and the tireless Tony Clayden who not only supplies and operates the technical facilities but leads the team responsible for devising the meeting. On Advent Sunday it was a shame there was no seasonal music, but it had been an afternoon reassuring us that some things are still right with our world.