Robert Farnon Society Spring Meeting 2012
By Brian Reynolds
May 13th was a lovely day - just right for our Spring Journey Into Melody and it was one to which I had been particularly looking forward - a really special day, with the promise of some live music from the London Salon Ensemble.
Some time before the music was due to start I spotted a piano on stage - and when I see a piano I can't resist playing it! So I serenaded the incoming multitude (whether they wanted it or not!) Fortunately, most had brought their earplugs just in case!
A gentleman called Howard Del Monte (son of composer and guitarist Sydney Del Monte) introduced himself to me, so this gave me an excuse (not that I needed it,) to play his father's often broadcastBows and Bells. Then David Ades and Albert Killman took the stage to present the first part of the programme.
We opened with Robert Farnon's Portrait of a Flirt. Nothing particularly surprising in that you may say, but this version featured David Farnon at the piano - an arrangement which was recently broadcast when the BBC aired some vintage editions of Friday Night is Music Night earlier in the year.
We then listened to the trombone of the late Don Lusher, accompanied by Bob's orchestra in the title tune of that delightful film Young at Heart. This was followed by Wouldn't it be lovely from 'My Fair Lady'. This featured the flugelhorn of Shake Keane. Bob was once again at the helm.
By way of a tribute to one of our members, Sylvia Rix who had recently passed away, David played us one of her favourite pieces Let's Dream of Tomorrow, written by our good friend John Fox and performed by the John Fox Orchestra.
We continued with the Frank Cordell Orchestra playing June is Busting out All Over in the style ofPlayful Pizzicato.
Next came a tribute to an RFS member, the late Uan Rasey (trumpet) with a performance featuring the MGM Symphony Orchestra, of the blues sequence from 'An American in Paris'. Bess, You is My Woman - (George Gershwin's bad grammar, not mine!)
A complete contrast next, as we listened to the Royal Ballet Symphonia playing The Little Dress, this being the first movement of The Breton Suite by Mansel Thomas, a musician whom many older readers will associate with the BBC Welsh Orchestra. This was followed by a Chappell library recording - Sports Flash by Charles Williams, played by the Queen's Hall Light Orchestra.
We always sample some new releases at our meetings and our next item came from a new Guild CD 'Stereo into the Sixties'. We heard Johnny Douglas and the Living Strings play Pedro the Fishermanfrom the film 'The Lisbon Story'. This was followed by Tony Bennett singing Remind Me, accompanied by the Robert Farnon Orchestra.
Malcolm Lockyer was the composer of Stranger than Fiction (originally titled The Big Guitar) and we listened to the recently-departed Bert Weedon playing this very successful number, accompanied by Sidney Torch and his orchestra. This was followed by a track from a forthcoming Guild CD 'The Art of the Arranger Vol 2'. The piece selected was These Foolish Things featuring the Angela Morley Orchestra.
From the album 'A Portrait of Johnny Mathis', Erroll Garner's Misty almost brought Part One to a conclusion. But to whet our appetite for part two, we went to tea to the accompaniment of the BBC Northern Dance Orchestra and Dominique.
Returning, suitably refreshed, we were entertained by The Snake Charmer from Old Bagdad. No - it wasn't a special guest, it was the title of another track from the BBC Northern Dance Orchestra's new double CD 'Diamonds'. Next came a piece which I know very well from listening to military bands:Gee Whizz played by the Bournemouth Municipal Orchestra under Sir Dan Godfrey with Matt King playing the xylophone solo.
This was followed by Once Upon a Time sung by Patricia Lambert with the BBC Midland Light Orchestra conducted by our old friend Harold Rich. This came from a recording of a radio series which Harold did with the orchestra entitled 'Barry Kent Sings'.
It was then time for my 'Radio Recollections' and I began with two pieces from Bernard Monshin and his Rio Tango Band. The first was an exciting paso doble by Jose Mendoza entitled Festa Valesta and that was followed by Wynford Reynolds's concert waltz Morning Glory. I then turned to Maurice Arnold and his Sextet (three violins, piano, bass, guitar and percussion) for a sparkling Latin number calledLavoona, featuring the nimble fingers of Maurice Arnold at the piano, He was also the composer. Taking the tempo down a little, a relaxing beguine by James Warr (Peter Haysom Craddy) entitledBlue Waters played by Raymond Agoult and his Players. Next we heard from violin virtuoso Ralph Elman and his Bohemian Players. As Ralph was Ron Goodwin's leader, it was appropriate that he played a Goodwin original - Messenger Boy. Finally I turned to Reg Pursglove and the Albany Strings for Fredric Bayco's Lady Beautiful.
The programme continued with Haydn Wood's Roses of Picardy which was performed by Frank Sinatra. However this was from a selection of outakes. So we heard Frank's attempts to get it right and, so it seemed, giving up at the end!
Next came Stateside Stroll otherwise known as East of Fifth in a Bruce Campbell arrangement played by the Robert Farnon Orchestra.
To conclude Part two we had a 'mystery tune' - one of a number of Percy Faith recordings which Alan Bunting would dearly like include on a future Guild CD, if only he could identify it. Sadly, nobody could!
After the raffle, we took our second break whilst the stage was set for our very special guests
Now, the moment to which I had personally been looking forward for a long time. Some eighteen months ago I was sitting in the Royal Festival Hall listening to the London Salon Ensemble, something which I had done countless times during the last twenty years, and I turned to Tony Clayden, who was sitting next to me and said "we really have got to invite this orchestra to a Farnon Society meeting!"
Tony agreed and said that he would invite them, and here they were!
The line-up of the orchestra was as follows:
Michael Gray (Solo Violin), Megan Pound and Penelope Gee (violins), Lars Payne (cello), Steve Rossell (double bass), Daryl Griffith (celeste, percussion and occasionally violin), Kevin Darvas (piano) and Neil Varley (accordion).
As I have written an article about the ensemble, which appears following this report, I will simply tell you what they played. It included a number of requests mostly from Tony Clayden and myself!
Their first section came from their standard repertoire and was as follows
Gypsy Blood (March) (J.G. Renner)
Souvenir d'amour (Oliphant Chuckerbutty)
Pirouette (Oliphant Chuckerbutty)
Romany Serenade (Max Morelle)
Phantom of Salome(Waltz) (Archibald Joyce)
The Sirens of Southend (Alfred Reynolds)
At our suggestion the ensemble then played a group of pieces that were regularly heard on the old Light Programme during the sixties.
Hampden Roar (March) (Fred Hartley)
Edelma (Pasillo) (Tereg Tucci)
Heidelberg Polka (Cyril Watters)
Mexican Fire Dance (Albert Marland)
The Westminster Waltz (Robert Farnon)
We were grateful to Ann Adams for lending us the orchestral parts for Edelma and to Lars Payne for spending many hours adapting it for the ensemble - who continued with some more items from their concert repertoire.
In the Park Cafe (Kruger-Hanschmann)
Sunshine Over Capri (Hermann Krome)
Easter Parade in Vienna (Robert Stoltz)
Remembrance(Tango-fantasy) (Helmut Ritter)
Da Capo (Georges Boulanger)
Next, three compositions by the ensemble's self-effacing celeste player, Daryl Griffith who is responsible for composing and conducting much of the music heard in television and film drama.
The New Year Belle
Sunday on the Southbank
The ensemble concluded with three contrasting items
Reconciliation (Percy Fletcher)
Keep Moving (Frederick Charrosin)
Salut d'amour (Edward Elgar)
The final item was specifically requested by Tony as it is a favourite of his fiance Lyn, who was with us in the audience.
We are most grateful to the London Salon Ensemble for agreeing to play for us - and for giving such a superb performance! It brought to an end an afternoon's entertainment that will be difficult to top!
Editor: Brian Reynolds is far too modest about his piano playing. His repertoire covered a wide range of well-known light music pieces, all in very attractive arrangements and performed without any sheet music. Members thoroughly enjoyed his unexpected – and impromptu – recital!
THE LONDON SALON ENSEMBLE
By Brian Reynolds
I was first introduced to the delights of the London Salon Ensemble some twenty years ago, although it had already been in existence for some years. It soon became apparent to me that this was a virtuoso ensemble of classically trained musicians and their regular concerts of light music in the foyers of the National Theatre and the Royal Festival Hall have given me pleasure on countless occasions in subsequent years.
The ensemble usually comprises eight (occasionally nine) musicians and its instrumentation is similar to the BBC's Palm Court Orchestra, with the solo violinist standing out in front, in true Palm Court style.
However, unlike the BBC's 'Grand Hotel' broadcasts which were steeped in nostalgia, the ensemble tackle a broad range of British and Continental light music - some of it familiar, some of it unfamiliar or forgotten.
Many of the personel have remained the same over the years, notably cellist Lars Payne who founded the group, pianist Kevin Darvas, and Daryll Griffith who plays celesta, harmonium, occasionally violin and any percussion effects that may be required. An unassuming man, his listeners are probably unaware that as a composer and conductor he is responsible for much of the incidental music in television drama, as well as on 'the silver screen'. Some of his delightful light music miniatures are featured by the ensemble.
For many years, the solo violin was played by the late Donald Weekes. Nowadays, Michael Gray assumes this role, usually supported by Megan Pound and Penelope Gee, who has also played at 'The Bonnington' when Ann Adams has provided our music. Typically, for a Salon or Palm Court orchestra, an accordion is included and this is expertly played by Neil Varley, who is also a BBC producer for Radio Three and was responsible for the special edition of 'Friday Night is Music Night' broadcast in 2011 on both Radios Two and Three, as part of 'Light Fantastic'.
In recent years, the ensemble has played many times at the Royal Festival Hall and often gives a concert on or near New Year's Day. Until a change of music policy a few years ago, they also played regularly at the National Theatre foyer. They have performed at many prestigious locations in London, including the British Museum, National Portrait Gallery, Barbican Centre, Lambeth Palace and 11 Downing Street. Members of the Royal Family have been entertained by the ensemble at private receptions at St.James's and Kensington Palaces. The ensemble also recorded the incidental music for an ITV production of 'Oliver Twist' - Alan Bleasedale's adaptation of the Dickens novel. The music was nominated for a BAFTA award.
They have twice broadcast live in Brian Kay's Radio Three show and have been the subject of Radio Four's 'Richard Baker Compares Notes' .
They have made a number of CDs which are available through their website. There are quite a number of tracks from these CDs on SPOTIFY www.spotify.com should you require a 'taster' before purchasing.
The available CDs are as follows:
ORIENT-EXPRESS (MeridianCDE 84466)
THE CLASSIC SALON
with Charlotte Page (Meridian CDE84416)
THE ART DECO CAFE (Meridian CDE84361)
THE PALM COURT (Meridian CDE84264)
LOVE'S DREAM (Meridian CDE 84307)
with Miranda Keys and Donald Maxwell
ALFRED REYNOLDS Music from the Theatre
with Miranda Keys/Donald Maxwell (Meridian CDE84308)
The London Salon Ensemble, with their superb performances, have for the last twenty five years, played a major part in keeping light music alive - at a time when others have been trying to bury it. Long may they continue to do so.