Dateline September 2005
It is with the deepest regret that we have to announce that Robert Farnon passed away peacefully in his sleep during the early hours of Saturday morning, 23 April 2005. A private family funeral took place on Friday 29 April on the Channel Island of Guernsey where he had lived for the past 46 years.
A Memorial Service was held in London on Sunday 24 July at St. Paul's Church (known as the Actors Church), Covent Garden, London. This was attended by family members and many friends and colleagues of Robert Farnon, including some of the top musicians who were regular players in his orchestra for recording sessions in recent years. The speakers included BBC radio personalities Brian Kay and Malcolm Laycock, conductors Iain Sutherland and James Beyer, together with Robert Farnon's manager for 60 years Derek Boulton, and David Ades, secretary of the Robert Farnon Society. In between the speeches the congregation heard many of Robert Farnon's best loved melodies.
The entries that follow on this page are taken from recent issues of our magazine "Journal Into Melody". They illustrate vividly the fact that Robert Farnon was still enthusiastically composing and arranging right up to the end of his life, and his final works will probably prove to be as highly regarded as the many other notable landmarks in his illustrious career.
We continued to receive many heartfelt messages in memory of Bob, long after the deadline for our June/July issue had passed, and the following appeared in Journal Into Melody, September 2005.
What a shock to read of dear Robert’s passing. I am privileged to have worked with him and recall his lovely warm nature – what a man! Rosemary Squires, MBE
Over the years Mr. Farnon’s music has, and still does, give me endless pleasure. I was lucky enough to be present at a live relay from Norwich of "Journey Into Melody", the Sunday afternoon programme on the old BBC Light Programme, in which Robert conducted the BBC Midland Light Orchestra. After this hour we were invited to stay for another concert which was recorded for transmission on the BBC Overseas Service. For me, Bob Farnon was a lost link with a musical world which – alas – is no more. He will forever be associated with the great light music masters, David Rose, Andre Kostelanetz, Arthur Fiedler and our own Eric Coates. Thanks to record labels such as Vocalion and the Guild ‘Golden Age of Light Music’ series, I can still enjoy the music of the masters, of which Robert Farnon must rank as one of the finest. R.C. Wilkinson
On behalf of all the members of the West Midlands Branch of the Sinatra Music Society, I would like to offer our condolences to Pat and all the family of Robert Farnon on their sad loss. If it is any consolation, we will have the wonderful legacy of music and recordings to enjoy and remember Robert. Phil Suffolk
I was saddened and shocked to hear of Robert Farnon's passing. The ABC's (Australia) "Classic FM" station mentioned it today (30/04/05) on the "Scene" programme and played two of his best known compositions "Westminster Waltz" and "Jumping Bean". In a way, here was a background to my youth, it was only much later that I found out who had penned the melodies. His work will live on. Rick Ashworth
I, too, was saddened to learn of Robert Farnon's recent passing. I only became aware of his music recently when his brother, Brian, and wife, Gloria, moved to our community and became active in our local music scene. Brian has lent me numerous recordings of Robert's music, and I have been delighted by it. As director of the College of Southern Idaho Wind Ensemble, I am happy to report that we were able to program two of Robert's pieces, Westminster Waltz and Derby Day, on our March 2005 concert, with Brian joining us in the clarinet section. Both the audience and the band members thoroughly enjoyed these pieces, and I am anxious to program more of his music on our concerts. I offer my deepest and sincerest condolences to Robert's family. George K. Halsell, Professor of Music, College of Southern Idaho
The wonderful work of the RFS has been crucial in securing the future, not only of Robert Farnon’s name and reputation, but of all the many recordings that have now become an historic and enduringly valuable and valued archive. It is very sad to bid mortal farewells to distinguished figures and close friends, but it is wonderful when they leave a great legacy of creations and recreations. We are very fortunate and must guard and foster it well. Long may the RFS flourish! Terence Gilmore-James
For lovers of light music Robert Farnon’s passing is a great loss, however we have the consolation that ‘the melodies linger on’. Olga and Norman Jackson
I just have no words that can describe what this sad news brings. One of the true greatest arranger of all times has left us... he was the foundation, the path to which every major arranger followed. He was a cathedral, he was the most innovative and daring arranger of his time and beyond. I send my warmest condolences to the Farnon family and to all of us, the Farnon musical family... I shall never forget him and he'll continue to be a huge part of my life. Jorge Estrada
Thank goodness for the medium of recorded sound, ensuring that the music of our all-time great Robert Farnon will live on forever. At Bob’s passing the world will never seem quite the same. Bill Watts
So sad to hear about Robert Farnon. It’s now up to all of us to conserve the musical legacy he has left to history. Robin King
I met Bob in the Golders Green Hippodrome in 1974 when he conducted the BBC Concert Orchestra. I was a musician in the army at that time and I had to play a bassoon Solo. He came up to me after the performance and said how much he liked it. It was an arrangement of a piece by Gilbert Vinter, also a bassoonist. Alan Rutherford
As an early founding Member in the 50's when my friend Ken Head formed the Robert Farnon Appreciation Society, it is hard to accept that our Icon Bob as we knew him, has left us aged 87 years leaving behind many happy memories of those meetings held in London sharing his and our love of Light Music. In those early years he always left us with a 78rpm Vinyl record with two of his latest compositions of light music. How we treasured these records. Having left England to live in Australia in 1969, I sadly missed those RFAS meetings in London with fellow music lovers. Gladly I learnt that the Society still flourished and had grown and renamed the ROBERT FARNON SOCIETY which appreciates all light music.
' If Music be the Food of Love play on '
As Bob died on the eve of Shakespeare's death on 24th April I think the above quotation is a fitting epitaph for Bob. He gave us the food and love of his music and we his admirers will continue to play it. As Shakespeare gave so much to England and the World through his literature, so has Robert Farnon given so much to England and the World through his music. May Shakespeare have the last word as we bid farewell to a much loved friend and talented musician.
'Our revels now are ended: these our actors (As I foretold you) were all spirits, and Are melted into air, thin air, And like the baseless fabric of this vision, The cloud - capped Towers, the gorgeous Palaces, The solemn Temples, The great Globe itself, Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve, And like this insubstantial pageant faded Leave not a rack behind : we are such stuff As dreams are made on ; and our little life Is rounded with a sleep.'
Bob may you REST IN PEACE. May flights of angels sing thee to thy rest. ALLELUIA.
I am sure Ken Head will be waiting for you to form the Robert Farnon Society in Heaven !
Deepest Sympathy on the loss of Robert Farnon. He was a distant cousin of mine. I have an extensive Farnon Family tree. I was the youngest of 5 Farnons born in 1943 in Dublin, Ireland. I live in Georgia now. Good Luck with keeping his music with us. I hear his music frequently on 904 channel on TV while we are playing cards. Dianne nee Farnon Kenny
I received my copy of the special edition. I didn't know Robert as many of you did of course but after years and years of loving his music I feel the loss, I really do. I was listening this morning to "The wide world of Robert Farnon". I love the whole thing but I especially love "I Saw My Lady Weep" it's so exquisitely beautiful, there is a poignancy to it that really moves me. I'm so sad on the one hand but so glad that I managed to find the society before he left us. I was reading the lovely articles that had been written in remembrance of him, and it is amazing to me that nearly everyone remembers the first time they heard "Portrait of a Flirt"; it seems the lights went on for all of us with that particular joyous piece. I had high hopes of being able to find out whether or not he remembered my Uncle Leonard doing session work with him. Doubtful really when he knew so many fine musicians. Not to worry that wasn't meant to be, I don't believe that death is the end anyway and who knows we might all meet up one lovely day by "Lake Louise", or on "The Magic Island." Until then, I'll continue to add to my collection, my life will be the better for it. Hope you don't mind me sharing a few thoughts with you here and there I haven't got any one else to talk to about it, it's frustrating. There is a community radio Station here and there's a nice English announcer on there once a week and I know by his selection, (Nostalgia and light Music) that he would probably play some of my RF CD's if I asked him really nicely. He has his programme on Thursday and I spoke to the Station Manager and he has agreed that it's a good idea. So who knows. Cathy Frank
I was saddened to learn of Robert Farnon's passing as I had hoped to meet him when my wife and I visit England in a few years time. My great love and appreciation of his music and that of his contemporaries has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. As Philip Brady reminded us in his tribute "the melody lingers on" and such beautiful melodies they are too. From all accounts Robert was a truly wonderful man who enjoyed bringing happiness into the lives of others through his music. A life of great fulfilment. Chris Guy
With great emotion I received the sad news of Robert Farnon; he was a genius of wonderful British music. Roland Buchholz
What a shock when I returned from holiday! We left on April 22nd and returned to a full-on computer crash on May 10th, so I did not know the bad news until I opened the special magazine. What a terrible thing to happen, especially as the report from Daniel Smith at the April meeting indicated that he was reasonably O.K. Please accept our condolences, and trust that everything goes OK with the Farnon Family. At least we have a wonderful legacy that we can continue to enjoy until our day arrives. The very first LP that I bought with Birthday money was "Something to Remember you by", and that got me started, first into buying records, and then into the Music business with the dance-band, and then my own band up here in Skegness - 38 years in all.
Bev Mastin It has long seemed remiss of me as a proud member of The Robert Farnon Society, not to express my appreciation of what being a member of the Society has meant to me. Along with most of the members listening to Robert's music now, reminds me vividly of my teenage years when, according to my state of mind, my sadness, happiness, joy or aspirations, his music painted pictures which have stayed in my mind ever since and I know always will. He has, for sixty years been MY COMPOSER and (and this may sound opinionated) I am proud to have been blessed with such good taste in music at so early an age. Robert, somehow, along with other great men, seemed indestructible. Surely God would not rob us of so great and ongoing a talent. Yet God gave us the pleasures of that talent and I reckon He thought that it was about time that Robert composed some music for him - that, I am sure, is happening. Along with the sad news of Robert's death, I must admit there came an apprehension that the Society might now fold. How pleased I am to know that this will not happen. Thank you for the Special Tribute Edition, which I will treasure. Until things find a level there will be difficult times ahead but I am sure that Robert's musical legacy is too great for his Appreciation Society not to continue to thrive. Terry Stowe I was saddened to read of the death of Robert Franon. I am sure he will be greatly missed by all music lovers. He has left us with a great legacy of beautiful music and wonderful memories. John Woodland Robert Farnon was the best composer and arranger of light music ever. Richard Crew I feel very saddened by Robert's passing. His compositions and performances introduced me to the joys of light music while I was in my teens. John Leeming I would like to send my condolences. I am sure that Robert Farnon’s spirit will live on through his music for many years to come. Michael J. Comley I was very saddened to hear of the passing of Robert Farnon. The news was still sinking in, days after I received the Special Tribute Issue of ‘Journal Into Melody’. I cannot add to the sentiments already expressed, except to say how proud I feel to be a member of the Society that bears his name. I never met him in person, but I feel I’ve always known him through his wonderful and unique music and from the warm and endearing portraits of him painted by contributors to JIM over the years. Gordon Moritz Receiving the Special Tribute Issue of JIM made me think back to the days of the wireless, when I heard Robert Farnon’s music for the first time – like ‘Jumping Bean’ and ‘Portrait of a Flirt’. In those days money was hard to save, but I did and bought the 78. Today I am still collecting his music, which to me paints pictures – such as ‘A La Claire Fontaine’ which reminds me of the New Forest. He had a rare gift to transmit lovely music and arrangements. John R. Harrison I suppose we all knew that we would hear the sad news one day, but always hoped it would be well into the future. Bob has left behind a most remarkable treasury of compositions, arrangements and recordings. Jerry Hicken I have known Robert Farnon’s music since the days when he appeared on "Friday Night is Music Night". I love his music, which I find so relaxing. Colin J. Fairbairn Although Bob Farnon was a good age, I was naturally very sorry to hear that he would be writing and composing no more. As an international statesman of western music, he was unique, as was the year he first came to my attention, 1944, when the formation of the Allied Expeditionary Force signalled that the end of the European part of World War 2 was in sight. That brightening time, as yet still free of commercial pressures, also gave a wonderful showcase and opportunity to the other two AEF bandleaders and musical statesmen, Glenn Miller and George Melachrino. We didn’t foresee then that the end of the war would soon mean the end of both big bands and light orchestras as main providers of the music of the day. Looking back, Bob had the stature of a musical Churchill, and Miller the magic of a Tuneful Roosevelt. Our own Melachrino was more of a melodious Atlee – big at the time, but not destined to be remembered so long. Allan Bula I cannot claim this great privilege in the normally accepted sense, yet Bob spoke directly to me through his music for the first time when I would have been about six or seven years old – and he has done so scores of times since then. Some composers grab one by the scruff (musically speaking) and shake hard; others ingratiate; others hold one at arm’s length, or put up rolls of barbed wire or build impenetrable stone walls. Robert Farnon held out his hand to me through his sparkling cameos – ‘Portrait of a Flirt’ and ‘Jumping Bean’ – all those years ago and said, as so often since: "Here I am. Here you are. Good to know you. I’m your friend." John Govier It seemed as if Robert Farnon would always be there. The world has lost a musical giant, but we are fortunate to have his great legacy of music to enjoy. Pierre de Bie The Special Tribute Edition of ‘Journal Into Melody’ was very much appreciated. The tribute in the weekly ‘The Stage’ included a very nice photo of Robert, just as we remember him. Robert Brown The tributes to Bob in the Special Issue of the magazine were wonderful. I think the word ‘approachable’ is just so right. I remember when I met him that he really made me feel that he enjoyed meeting me, and having his photo taken. It is so important that his music will be with us forever, and I hope that in due course he will have a fitting memorial to his long lifetime and the legacy which he has given to the world of music. Jennifer Cundall Like so many, I loved Robert Farnon`s music from a very early age. I heard it used on "Dick Barton" when the plot moved to Canada ("Jumping Bean" & "Canadian Caravan") and "Portrait of a Flirt", "Manhattan Playboy" etc.,were, as you well know, used on so many occasions on radio and at the cinema on newsreels and documentaries. I don`t think his music will ever date or cease to please. I’m sad that, unlike some other members of the RFS I never met him but the love and respect felt by so many gives me a very good word-painting of a great composer and a lovely person. My gratitude once again to everyone who works so hard in running a wonderful society and make great music available to us. Alec Adcock It was with great sorrow that I heard of the death of Robert Farnon. Without knowing it, Bob Farnon has played a very important role in my life. I was called up in 1946 and in '48 was posted to the British Forces Network in Hamburg, Germany as a trainee announcer. I eventually ended up presenting the BBC's "Two-Way Family Favourites" with Jean Metcalfe. It wasn't long before I realised that there was no DJ on German radio so I applied for the job and got it. The first show in '53 was a sensation - partly because of the music and partly because of my horrific British accent. I didn't have a theme tune, however, so when a copy of "Melody Fair" arrived (from Decca, I believe) it was love at first hear. By this time (1954) I was broadcasting in German from Cologne and Robert Farnon introduced every show until 1961 when I transferred to television. Of course, he came along too and stayed with me until 1970. In the years that followed, he also accompanied me to Mallorca, to Kiel, to Berlin and now, fifty years after his first play in '54, we're back on WDR Cologne radio again. It's been quite a long ride. I love his music and the Germans love "Melody Fair" too. Unfortunately it's pretty difficult to get CDs of his work over here which is one of the reasons I'm writing to you. I'd love a copy of "Journey into Melody" and assume that it will contain details of how I can obtain some more of his work. He was a great composer and arranger and his brilliance has always inspired me. He will, I'm sure, be sorely missed as a person but I reckon his music will go on for ever. Chris Howland The greatest musician of all time, Bob Farnon, has left us a magnificent library of music that will live forever. Music (and I mean real music) is to the mind what water is to the body. Bob’s music cleans and refreshes and just makes you feel Great. Bob’s gift – and what a gift it is – that made so many people happy, and will continue to do so. I feel so proud and humble to be part of any organisation that will ensure his music takes its place in history. John Strange I first encountered Bob’s music when I listened to "In Town Tonight" on Saturday evenings. I was later to hear his compositions in full in "Music While You Work" and was impressed and interested further. Bob’s music has always had different effects on me. It has been relaxing, stimulating and even surprising. Many other composers have tried to imitate his style. Some have got very close, but did not quite equal the Great Man. The world of music has suffered a great loss in his passing. I always found Bob to be so approachable, pleasant and placid in his manner, and ever the gentleman and a gentle man. A great musical light has been extinguished. Heaven now has the pleasure and benefit of his talents. Brian Coleman On behalf of my family I would like to say how sorry we were to hear of the death of Robert Farnon. Our thoughts and prayers go to his family. It is wonderful to know that writers and broadcasters will always keep his wonderful music alive. The likes of Robert Farnon and Nelson Riddle will be with us forever. Tony Webb Fortunately we in the USA were exposed to the beautiful and moving music of Robert Farnon. It was over the radio, primarily WQXR in New York City. "Journey Into Melody" was a theme used for some time for their ‘Dinner Concert’. Robert Farnon wrote melodies that were memorable – not just good tunes. My sincere condolences to his family and all you good people in the RFS. With our Society, Bob will always live. Herbert George An important light music link for me in New Zealand is Brian Kay’s weekly BBC Radio-3 programme, via the internet. It was from there on a Friday evening in May that I learned the sad news of Bob’s passing the previous weekend. For the past ten years, I’ve also had a weekly music programme – ‘Sounds Easy’. It goes out live for three hours on a Saturday, so I quickly ‘re-jigged’ things to arrange a short tribute for the following morning. Listeners would certainly have recognised the name since I regularly play light music, much of it with a Farnon connection. As well as the tribute pieces, the 9am ‘Saturday March’ spot provided an opportunity for ‘Derby Day’. In the early 1960s, I met Bob a couple of times at London meetings, and was relieved to find a relaxed, affable personality who perfectly matched the music I’d grown to love. I intend to write more about light music in my life, but for now, simply join with everyone in lamenting the loss of a quiet but towering personality in the world of fine music. Peter Richardson To my mind Robert Farnon was a musical genius, and it’s difficult to think of anyone who could match him for being so prolific. He had such a fertile musical brain which was always ready to commit pen to paper. What a vast treasure-trove of material in terms of film scores, compositions, arrangements, symphonic works, radio and television themes – no wonder he was so revered. R.W. Bartlett First of all, let me offer my condolences to everyone for the loss of a great man, Robert Farnon. As the saying points out that one man's death diminishes everyone else's life... I enjoyed his music and will use his recordings as a benchmark of what truly great music can do for all of us. Richard Jessen The sad news of Robert Farnon's passing was announced soon after my arrival in England on holiday on 23 April, the day he died. This date is also, of course, St George's Day, so I certainly won't forget the date. Although I never met Robert Farnon personally, I felt I knew him thanks to the RFS, of which I have been a member for many years. His name and music always conjure up happy thoughts of times gone by when his music was played and he conducted orchestras on the many BBC Light Programme radio sessions, particularly on Sunday afternoons. His recorded legacy means I can enjoy much of his music whenever I want to and I am particularly grateful to the record companies who have reissued so much of his work, particularly the classic Decca LPs, on CD over the last few years. The emotions the music evokes are sometimes extremely intense. As time goes by, all too quickly, more and more of the talented composers/arrangers/orchestra leaders and musicians pass on so it was inevitable that, one day, Robert Farnon would join them. Although sad that Robert Farnon has gone, I am grateful and feel so lucky that I lived in an era when his music attained the recognition and popularity it deserved. Long may his reputation be perpetuated through the continuation of the Robert Farnon Society. Michael Beaumont I was so sorry to hear of Bob’s passing…. In Hull, in 1944, at the age of 17 I heard the Canadian Band of the AEF for the first time, and have been a fan of Robert Farnon’s music and arrangements ever since. In 1944/45 they were wonderful years for music, together with the British and American bands, despite the war. I was so pleased to meet Bob for few minutes in Brentford, Ontario when he visited Canada a few years ago, and he told me that his mother also came from Hull. Thank-you for the Special Issue in May – a wonderful tribute. Norman Leisk I was deeply honoured that Robert Farnon chose me for what is now his final musical composition. Over the past months, we had been in touch frequently as the music took shape. Robert expressed often to me his enthusiasm and excitement about his new bassoon concerto and for him it represented a new lease on life and renewed purpose at a time when he took ill. I flew twice to Guernsey to discuss and go over the music with him, and along with working on the music, we spoke of many other things; his friends and colleagues over the years, his beloved wife, children and grandchildren, the importance of music and the arts, my own life experiences and along the way had a lot of good laughs. To me he seemed like someone 87 years old going on 35, full of enthusiasm and hope. There was never a moment of pessimism or negativity, just a great need to move forward and create something beautiful for the world to experience. Daniel Smith On behalf of the Sinatra Music Society, the national committee of same send their condolences on the recent death of Robert Farnon. Because of your appreciation of Robert Farnon’s life, work and career, we feel sure that your society will continue to flourish and give pleasure to your many members, as the SMS has done, since Sinatra’s death. Margaret Cummings, secretary Whe I was given the new that Bob had passed away, I was left with a feeling of dismay and utter disbelief, and that I had lost a dear friend. Bob was truly a gentle gentleman – an absolute musical genius, and we shall never see his like again. He has left us a wonderful legacy, and his music will live on and remain in all our hearts for ever. Thank you Bo, rest in peace. Edna Foster As a comparative newcomer to the Robert Farnon Society, and also one of the younger members, it was such a shock to hear of Bob’s passing. I only met and spoke with him once, at a meeting a few years ago, but I soon realised what a genuinely friendly and sincere person he was, and he really made me feel sat ease. In the eight years that I have attended the meetings at the Bonnington Hotel, I have come to both learn more about his music, and love those lush orchestral sounds, more so each time I listen to them. What a legacy he has left to us all, and indeed the world. He will be sorely missed. Tony Foster I would like to add my deep sorrow at the passing of Bob Farnon. Although I never had the good fortune to meet the man I feel through the pages of JIM I had come to learn a tremendous amount about his life and music. We are lucky to have so much of his wonderful music on disc. The one thing that must continue is the ‘Journal Into Melody’ magazine. The capable team is providing an immense service for us all. Long may it continue. Colin A. Adamson