Dateline: September 2004
■ The first item of Robert Farnon’s news in our last issue concerned a collection of string arrangements which Bob hopes will be recorded during the coming year. An extra title recently completed is called Un Place de mon Coeur and Bob has provisionally given this collection the title "Cameo For Strings". Naturally we’ll let you have more information as soon as a recording session is booked. Bob hopes that the Phoenix Studios in Wembley will be available, because he prefers the more intimate sound to larger venues such as Watford Town Hall.
■ Song of Scandia keeps reappearing on Bob’s music stand. The version for the above proposed CD is essentially for strings, and Bob has also written a new setting for bassoon. This is at the request of Margaret Pollock, the principal bassoon player with the BBC Concert Orchestra, and it may well be heard in a "Friday Night Is Music Night" before long. Originally this work featured the cello, and Bob explained to us that the cello and bassoon have many similar characteristics which suit this piece particularly well. If possible, Bob would like Margaret to perform some solos on the projected "Cameo for Strings" album (see our first paragraph). He has scored his new work A Place In My Heart (Une Place de mon Coeur) for bassoon; this is a slow blues number, and is in recognition of Margaret’s love of jazz. Please turn to page 47 to read more about Margaret Pollock.
■ Flautist Jane Pickles is adding a new Farnon composition to her repertoire. It is called Songbird and is a 10-minute work in two movements. Again it could be heard soon on "Friday Night Is Music Night".
■ Fred Mills, the trumpeter formerly with Canadian Brass, now has an active solo career which takes him to several countries for special concerts. Bob has composed Vivacity for him – a 5-minute work which is apparently not very easy to play!
■ Beloved is a recent Farnon work which is on the list for the "Cameos for Strings" collection. The vocal version is called This is my Beloved, and Brian Farnon is currently performing it with his band. Bob understands that Tony Bennett may also be interested, and there could be some positive news later in the year.
■ As we reported in our last issue, Marc Fortier in Montreal is working tirelessly to try and get a premiere performance of Robert Farnon’s Symphony No. 3 as soon as possible. Unfortunately he has recently received a letter from André Previn explaining that it will be difficult for him to conduct the symphony in Montreal, because he has no plans to be working there, at least in the next few years. However André is doing all he can to get it scheduled in to a programme in Norway, where he is currently working with the Oslo Philharmonic. We all remember the much quoted comment by André that he regards Robert Farnon as the greatest living writer for strings. In his latest letter to Marc Fortier he ends up: "I’m an enormous admirer of Mr. Farnon’s work and have been for a great many years. Please send him my warmest regards."
"Happy Birthday, Bob!" - on the Internet
FORREST PATTEN sent the following message to all his fellow-members of the ‘Beautiful Instrumentals’ web site in celebration of Bob’s 87th. We repeat his message in full, exactly as it was received around the world:
From: musicsfx [mailto:]
Sent: Friday, July 23, 2004 2:52 PM
Subject: [BeautifulInstrumentals] Happy 87th Birthday to Robert Farnon! Saturday, July 24 marks Canadian composer/arranger Robert Farnon's 87th birthday. The good news is that he's continuing to write with no signs of slowing down. From his home in Guernsey (in Britain's Channel Islands), the "Guv'nor", as he's affectionately known by his musical peers, is enjoying a renaissance in popularity. This is due, in no small part, to the availability of his vast Decca repertoire reissued on CD thanks to Michael Dutton's Vocalion label. There is also a thriving worldwide appreciation society dedicated to the works of Robert Farnon (and other composers/arrangers of light music) based in England. Their website (www.rfsoc.org.uk) is filled with all sorts of great information. On a personal note, it's been my pleasure to know Bob since the 1970's. We continue to stay in touch on a regular basis. His name alone has opened many doors and allowed me to meet and to interview a number of musical greats including Tony Bennett, John Williams, Henri Rene, Ron Goodwin, Dizzy Gillespie, Andre Previn, Frank Comstock, Henry Mancini, Peggy Lee, and Gene Puerling. They all have acknowledged Bob's influence on their respective careers. Listen to arrangements by Don Costa, Marty Paich and Johnny Mandel. You'll hear the "Farnon touch." Musically, he can write everything from classical to some of the hottest jazz you'll ever hear. But it is his "string" sound that captivates. When you listen to a Farnon recording, you'll end up asking yourself "how did he do that?" His arrangements are filled with so many surprises. His writing skills are all a very natural and flowing part of the genius of this man. While interviewing Bob back in the 1980's, I asked him why he wasn't as well known to the record buying public as the other conductors in the Decca stable like Stanley Black, Frank Chacksfield and Mantovani. His answer was that he simply didn't want to go through all of the promotional machinations that the others had to when selling their music to the public. His idea was to write, conduct and record the music, and to let the public react to it accordingly. It's safe to say that if the general public didn't initially embrace or respond, people in the music business certainly did! Today, Robert Farnon's music continues to be heard throughout the world. Besides the Vocalion CD releases, you can hear many of his Chappell Music Library pieces on the cult TV series 'The Prisoner.' Also from Chappell's is the haunting music box cue used for "Josette's music box" on early episodes of the ABC-TV gothic soap opera 'Dark Shadows.' His "Gateway ToThe West" will be remembered as the theme for the long running 'David Susskind Show'. And, of course, there are the movie scores for Gregory Peck's 'Captain Horatio Hornblower, R.N.', 'Shalako' with Sean Connery and Bridget Bardot, and the final "road picture" with Bing Crosby and Bob Hope, 'Road To Hong Kong'. Happy birthday to my friend Robert Farnon. Keep writing. We need your wonderful music in our world today.
‘Beautiful Instrumentals’ is the Number One Music Discussion Group Celebrating Beautiful Easy Listening Music Instrumentals and Vocals. For more information visit www.groups.yahoo.com/group/BeautifulInstrumentals/
Willi Tokarev is one of Russia’s top singers and entertainers, and he is a great fan of Robert Farnon. On Willi’s website (www.willitokarev.ru/robert_farnon.htm) you can read his tribute to Bob, but for those of you who might have difficulty in understanding Russian, Willi’s friend Alexander Korobko has kindly made the following translation for ‘Journal Into Melody’
If I was provided with something from God, then the rest I got from Tchaikovsky, Stravinsky and Robert Farnon.
Certainly, I marvel at Chopin, Rachmaninoff, Mussorgsky, Mozart, and Beethoven! Yes, needless to say, every well-known composer, beginning with Gluck, grasped my attention, making me admire his brilliant works. In the melodic sense I was influenced by Peter Tchaikovsky, in the harmonic - by Igor Stravinsky, but Robert Farnon has literally influenced my entire musical credo: the melody, the harmony, the arrangement.
He instilled in me the taste, which determines the quality of work in any genre. When a musician's erudition is filled with all that is beautiful, beginning with the folk music and concluding with the most complex symphonic works, the treatment of his own creations under the influence of this very erudition, acquires its own unique value. In the 1960s we acquired a radio receiver at home and I tuned into radio from London, discovering music arranged with such highest craftsmanship, that it immediately became the object of my admiration. That was the orchestra of Robert Farnon, his music and his arrangements.
Later, I also familiarised myself with other conductors and their orchestras, which were I found very interesting. These are the orchestras of Andre Kostelanetz, Percy Faith, George Melachrino, Mantovani and many others, but none of them has reached Robert Farnon's level when it comes to arrangements.
Robert Farnon focuses attention on many aspects of his works: the irreproachable selection of musicians, splendid instruments, amazing soloists, the striking cleanliness of the intonation of the orchestra, an infinite quantity of "colours" thanks to the unique combination of instruments, and the main thing - the soul and the heart of the conductor, his special, finesse and taste, which one can feel in any of his works.
This absolute harmonic and melodic texture can be created only by highest, perfect intellect. The intellect of Robert Farnon. For example, each of his introductions to any piece which he arranges - is a mini masterpiece, making you admire the limitless possibilities of this composer and master of orchestration. Because of his fantastic arrangements many works acquired a timeless quality.
As a conductor, the skill of Robert Farnon, in combination with the craftsmanship of his arrangements provides a kind of pleasure that is difficult to define. It is a balsam, which cleans your heart and soul, making a man more noble and much happier. It would be a very useful practice to listen to Robert Farnon's music before the beginning of lessons in schools. Fifteen minutes of his celestial music, would fine-tune the emotions of schoolboys to something very positive, making further learning that much more effective.
One can say that Robert Farnon's creativity - is virtually an unattainable art and skill. Robert Farnon is the apex of musical Everest. The Lord himself listens to his music with pleasure. Robert Farnon's music - this is the Milky Way, where the scales and logic – are amazing. His enormous orchestra is a magic rainbow of sounds.
When dressing up well-known melodies, Robert Farnon applies to them an unusual "make up", conveying feelings of amazing beauty. In their design these "dresses" do not have anything equal in terms of beauty. In the theatre there is the acknowledged Stanislavski system. It would be wonderful if the world's musical institutions would teach the system of Robert Farnon. That would change our world into a better place.
The Titanic ability of Robert Farnon is amazing. Being the conductor of three symphony orchestras in London, he also wrote music for films, arranging it with his usual lustre. Robert Farnon is a unique phenomenon who extends into the infinity. His music is eternal, thanks to his unique orchestra, in which as Perpetual Mobile his heart is beating. Thanks to you, celestial musical envoy, for making happy the millions of people on our planet.