MEETING OF THE ROBERT FARNON SOCIETY: SUNDAY 25TH NOVEMBER 2007 AT THE BONNINGTON HOTEL, LONDON
By BRIAN REYNOLDS
To paraphrase the well—known September Song ‘It’s a long long time from April to November’ and the congregation attending this year’s ‘Autumnfest’ were as keen as always to wallow in another four hours of glorious melodies. As usual, many of those attending were ‘regular’, and those who weren’t were taking tablets for it!
Proceedings began as members took their seats to the accompaniment of the BBC Theatre Orchestra (conducted by Harold Lowe) of Oranges and Lemons - arranged by Spike Hughes.
At 2.OOpm with Albert Killman, David Ades and Vernon Anderson at the presenters’ table, the meeting officially got underway with Robert Farnon’s Proscenium.
The year 2007 being the 90th anniversary of Robert Farnon’s birth, it was felt appropriate that his music should feature more prominently than usual and David, paying tribute to Patricia Farnon, who had recently passed away, felt that something should be played in her memory. Having consulted David Farnon, it was decided that his own arrangement of Bob’s Country Girl would be appropriate - retitled Country Boy on this occasion - the recording being by that fine singer Sheila Southern with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra under the direction of Robert Farnon. (I seem to recall Sheila Southern being the wife of broadcasting pianist Derek Cox).
Albert then introduced a piece as a tribute to Ronnie Hazlehurst who had recently died. He chose a recording by the Ronnie Hazlehurst Orchestra — Robert Farnon’s theme from the fine television series "The Secret Army", after which we were treated to a DVD featuring Dolf van der Linden conducting The Metropole Orchestra in a 1961 performance Il fait des bonds. Robert Farnon was the guest conductor of the Metropole Orchestra on many occasions.
It was then the turn of Vernon Anderson to present a tribute to Angela Morley (formerly Wally Stott); the items chosen were Limehouse Blues from the Sounds of Paradise Orchestra (Stott), Embraceable You featuring Rosemary Squires, then an item from "The Missing Battleship" - an edition of "The Goon Show". This was the closing theme Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead from "The Wizard of Oz". Finally, Vernon played us Angela’s private recording of one of her latest compositions entitled Reverie.
It was now time for Albert and David’s usual selection of new releases which were as follows:
Young Man in Love (Ernest Tomlinson) from the 1974 suite "Aladdin" played by the Royal Ballet Sinfonia conducted by Gavin Sutherland from ‘British Light Music Premieres Vol. 4 (Dutton Epoch).
Theme from the ‘Glenn Miller Story’ by Henry Mancini arr.Stott and played by the Wally Stott Orchestra - a Philips 78 on a new Dutton Vocalion CD. David criticised the complete lack of booklet notes.
Legend by Henry Croudson, who was a popular cinema organist and musical director of the ‘Strings in Rhythm’ on radio, this recording being by the London Promenade Orchestra conducted by Walter Collins from the new Guild CD ‘Musical Kaleidoscope’ Vol.1
Ladies of Lisbon by William Hill Bowen who wrote under the pen names of Luis Tristan and Don Versey - a fact that could have been mentioned in the booklet notes, if there had been any! This piece (a particular favourite of mine) was played here by the George Melachrino Orchestra and is from a new Vocalion CD entitled ‘Our Man in London’ & Highlights from ‘Lisbon at Twilight’. David pointed out that some titles are missing from the second LP, and Roses of Picardy is credited to Haydn instead of Haydn Wood!
Pioneer Trail (Charles Williams) - signature tune for the annual BBC Sports Personality of the Year - played by the Danish State Radio Orchestra conducted by Robert Farnon -a Chappell recording on Guild CD ‘Musical Kaleidoscope Vol 2.
To conclude the first part of the afternoon’s entertainment David introduced (on DVD) excerpts from our 50th Anniversary souvenir.
A thirty minute interval followed, introduced by one of Angela Morley’s play-out themes for "Hancock’ s Half Hour".
The audience returned to their seats to the accompaniment of the Associated British Studio Orchestra conducted by Louis Levy in a performance of the title music from the soundtrack of "Laughter in Paradise" by Stanley Black - this being a subtle clue as to what was to come.
For our main feature we were honoured by the presence of Stanley Black’s son Jeffrey Black who, together with his daughter Jacqueline gave a lucid, affectionate, yet frank account of Stanley’s career. Tony Clayden introduced the Blacks to the audience drawing attention to the fact that several other members of the Black clan (including his widow, Edna Kaye) were also present to give support. In what he described as a ‘senior moment’ Tony managed to forget Jacqueline’s name, but saved the day by turning it into a running joke. To illustrate their talk, the Blacks played the following pieces, some of which had to be shortened because of time:
Music from the 1949 film "Third Time Lucky" featuring Edna Kaye
It’s a Raggy Waltz (Brubeck) - Piano feature
Rhapsody in Blue (Gershwin)
Quiet Night of Quiet Stars (Jobim)
Mood Mambo from "The Young Ones"
Three Blind Mice (arr. Black)
Music from the Australian film "Strictly Ballroom"
Honeysuckle Rose — featuring Coleman Hawkins
That Old Black Magic
Tony Clayden thanked Jeffrey and Jacqueline Black for their excellent presentation and continued with a couple of tributes of his own. Firstly, he played part of The Selfish Giant as a tribute to its composer, Eric Coates, whose death occurred fifty years ago, in December 1957. Afterwards, he played Elgar’sSalut d’amour. The year 2007 was, of course, the 150th anniversary of the birth of Sir Edward Elgar — as most people are aware, apart from the Bank of England who, as a mark of disrespect, chose this year to remove his picture from our banknotes!
Tony also took the opportunity to inform us of a recital on 16th December by our own Robert Habermann (accompanied by Geoff Eales) and a concert by the London Salon Ensemble at the Royal Festival Hall on December 30th.
It was then back to the big screen again, as we watched Robert Farnon, on a DVD, conduct the London Philharmonic Orchestra at the Royal Albert Hall in his Farnon Fantasy.
Tony then took control if the raffle, with the assistance of Jeffrey and Jacqueline Black, heralded by Edmund Hockridge (a long time Canadian colleague of Robert Farnon) singing Luck Be a Lady. The interval was announced by Stanley Black’s March of the Goons.
We returned to our seats to the accompaniment of Bert Kaempfert’s Las Vegas — from a new Guild CD due for release in January and no doubt available by the time you read this.
Albert opened up the third part of the show by introducing Cab Smith and his familiar ‘Swing Session’. This comprised the following:
Button Up Your Overcoat played by the Robert Farnon Orchestra from a Philips LP
The Very Thought of You sung by Carol Kidd
Swing Hoe (Farnon) — Leslie Jones and his orchestra of London.
Albert thanked Cab for his presentation and then introduced Paul Barrett who had come along to tell us about a forthcoming concert which he was promoting by the newly reconstituted Mantovani Orchestra — the concert venue being ‘The Lighthouse’ in Poole. This presentation was accompanied by the famous Mantovani recording of Charmaine. Afterwards Albert played Mantovani’s Tanya - the Moulin Rouge Theme. Albert went on to play Gabrielle which comes from the film "Paris when it Sizzles" and was played by Vic Lewis and the strings of the London Philharmonic Orchestra.
As usual, David presented the final section of the programme and commenced with Robert Farnon’sSea Shore - a big hit in those distant days when real music sometimes made the ‘Charts’. It was played by Rawicz and Landauer with the Wally Stott Orchestra.
We were then given an opportunity (via DVD) of watching and listening to Robert Farnon talking about his early career.
This was followed by an old favourite ‘Winter Sunshine’ by George Melachrino, arranged by Robert Farnon, who was conducting the BBC Radio Orchestra.
With Christmas just a few weeks away, it was appropriate to close the meeting with Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas in a Bob Farnon arrangement - performed by Tony Bennett with the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Don Jackson (recorded at Abbey Road, August 2002 for Hallmark Cards).
It just remained for David to thank everyone for their contributions - the Stanley Black Family (who had to leave early), Vernon Anderson, Tony Clayden, Cab Smith, Paul Barrett not forgetting the helpers on reception. Special thanks were also given to Tony Clayden for his technical services which require a lot of time and effort, and of course, the indefatigable Albert Killman.
The meeting dispersed to Robert Farnon’s Melody Fair, followed by Carioca (from a radio broadcast by the Robert Farnon Orchestra), Canadian Caravan from Leslie Jones and his Orchestra of London, and finally, a Christmas Medley from Tony Bennett accompanied by Robert Farnon.