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(Ellington & Parish)
Queen’s Hall Light Orchestra
Analysed By Robert Walton

When I first noticed the names of Edward Kennedy ‘Duke’ Ellington, Sidney Torch, Charles Williams and the Queen’s Hall Light Orchestra all together on a record, I thought I must have been seeing things! Here was one of the most influential figures in jazz in the same genre as two top English light orchestral composer/conductors as well as one of the greatest orchestras in light music. The unusual assemblage of such a list was unbelievable. You couldn’t get a more unlikely group. And to think that Ellington led the most famous jazz band of all time.

When Sidney Torch became involved with light orchestras he seemed to have given up arranging popular songs. Maybe he’d got tired of them in his organ playing days or was commissioned to concentrate on his own music. So it was an unexpected pleasure to discover him arranging an Ellington tune for the Queen’s Hall Light Orchestra conducted by Charles Williams. (BBC London Transcription Service). So let’s have a listen to Torch getting into the mind of a jazz musician.

If ever a melody was given the full treatment it was Sidney Torch’s 1945 arrangement of Duke Ellington’s 1933 standard Sophisticated Lady. Written in the key of A Flat, the release goes to G, but the clever bit is the way it returns to A Flat. All the orchestral ingredients of Torch’s DNA are featured, both dramatic and light. The introductory attacking strings give the piece a huge build-up merging into those familiar downward chromatic notes of the song, followed by a long simmering chord helped by the harp before reaching the main theme. The “David Rose” sliding effect in the bridge proved most effective. Sophisticated Lady is hard enough to sing, let alone play, so it’s just as well the Queen’s Hall Light Orchestra was on hand. Actually it sounds better played instrumentally. In fact it began life as an instrumental but I believe possesses the seeds of a piano concerto.

And again the orchestra repeats another exciting run-up, this time sounding almost like an organ. I wonder if that was deliberate or co-incidental? Then the sound of background music from an imaginary blockbuster biblical movie, complete with solo violin. And that haunting Ellington tune returns. Did I hear a touch of Torch’s Radio Romantic?

A single bell tolls Torch’s moment of freedom when the song gets everything the arranger can throw at it. Pure Torch. And then into waltz time. But how is this masterpiece going to end? Quietly. I wonder what the Duke would have said? Guild Light Music GLCD 5223

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(Joseph Kuhn)
Analysed by Robert Walton

It must be highly unusual for a three minute composition on a 78 rpm disc to actually supply music for each scene like a film soundtrack. I can’t recall such a thing.

In this case the location is Paris (familiar to the composer) when we are picked up by a limousine. One’s mind immediately turns to Gershwin whose reputation for describing big cities is well established as An American in Paris, but the opening sound of Acquaviva is more appropriate (remember New York in a Nutshell?) This is followed by a lush welcoming string passage when we are ushered courteously into a humble café. You may say this is a little over the top, but this is no ordinary restaurant. You can tell by the music and the decor. A haunting Mancini-like waltz greets us as we step down from this classy automobile and enter a warm and friendly establishment.

Now seated at a table, you know you’re in for the ultimate in French cuisine or just a drink, because right on cue the sound of an accordion joins the orchestra. We’re in Paris alright! Made to order music just like the food. Yes, they’ve thought of everything. It’s the kind of café where you can have anything you like, and you won’t get annoyed glances from the staff, even if it’s just a coffee! After more string sounds, solos from the piano, guitar and woodwind provide the perfect atmosphere. Before we know it we’re back to the accordion but not for long because our limo has arrived and awaits us. That was a quick drink! Acquaviva is again on hand to whip us away into the traffic of the French capital’s most famous thoroughfare.

In conclusion a word or two about our esteemed composer, Joseph Francis Kuhn. I have to admit I was totally ignorant of him until a little research put me right. He was an American symphonic composer, arranger and conductor known for his sweeping rhapsodies. The Paris Theatre 0rchestra was one of the many groups connected with the American Miller Company one of which was the 101 Strings. Sadly Kuhn died at the tragically young age of 37 in 1962 from a spinal cord injury. Look out for four of his other works on Guild CDs.

Catch Champs Elysees Café on “Confetti” Guild GLCD 5175

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Bees-A-Buzzin’
(Edrich Siebert)
Analysed by Robert Walton

The most recent volcanic eruption in Auckland, New Zealand took place about 800 years ago. It created Rangitoto Island at the mouth of the Waitemata Harbour. Fast forward to the 20th century and during WW2 a 6 year old boy was walking barefoot in the sand on the mainland opposite Rangitoto along Takapuna Beach, when he suffered his own personal ‘eruption’ - a nasty bee sting! Yes, it was me! There were no EpiPens in those days. By the time we got home my face was completely swollen and unrecognizable but the combination of a doctor and a brandy seemed to do the trick. I gather it was touch and go for a while. Luckily I have never experienced another. All the more reason to always carry an EpiPen. So hearing this composition brings it all back. I can’t help feeling sorry for my attacker though.

I never saw or heard the actual bee, but anytime Dolf Van Der Linden’s Orchestra happens to be playing Bees-A-Buzzin’ I’m straight back to the scene of the crime! There’s absolutely no doubt about the title of this piece, which enters instantly. The opening busy busy section is a good test for an orchestra especially one as good as this. Up, down and around goes the scale-like tune delivering the appropriate mood.

And so to a short secondary theme giving us just the right contrast to the main melody, which is standing by to rejoin the piece. And then we’re immediately into the bridge for a third tune adding yet another building block to this brief journey of continuous rhythm. The listener somehow feels freer (if that’s possible in this context) and slightly relaxed but as soon as the bee returns to its normal work of sipping the nectar, the melody takes on a more business-like tension.

Of course the most famous ‘bee’ tune is Rimsky-Korsakov’s Flight of the Bumble-bee from his 1900 opera “The Tale of Tsar Saltan” with a more oriental flavour containing 50,000 notes! It’s intended to evoke a chaotic and rapidly changing flight path of a bumblebee. It certainly succeeds.

And in its own way so does Seibert’s Bees-A-Buzzin’ if somewhat less frenetic. It’s a sort of gentle entry preparing you for the hard chromatic world of Rimsky-Korsakov!

Heard on Guild Light Music
Confetti GLCD 5175

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By Robert Walton

Rawtenstall is the largest town at the centre of the Rossendale Valley in Lancashire, England. With a population of 22,000, it’s situated 15 miles north of Manchester in the ancient Forest of Rossendale.

Whenever I saw genial Rawtenstall-born Ernest at the Robert Farnon Society meetings, he always gave the impression of being a country person. He won a scholarship to Manchester Cathedral Choir School and Manchester University where he graduated in 1947. This solid musical

background paid off because the following year he was a staff arranger for a London firm of music publishers as well as becoming organist for a Mayfair church.

He was essentially a light music composer sometimes credited as ‘Alan Perry’. I first became aware of him through Little Serenade, a piece that was never off the air when I came to England in 1962. Because of that, I tended to associate Tomlinson with compositions of a rural nature perhaps relating to his roots.

Here’s one that is definitely not from that ilk but with an undeniably city feel about it - Sheerline. In fact it doesn’t sound typically Tomlinson at all but demonstrates he could turn his hand to any style should the mood or commission take him. If anything there’s a touch of Farnon about it. But it shows he’s right at home writing a busy rhythmic theme.

The introductory 4 bars don’t burst in like some compositions but sort of enter gently to join up with the waiting, catchy meandering melody. As well as being in a pleasant category it’s also ideal material for what it was designed for. Light orchestral music at its finest. There’s still so much of his music hidden away and demanding to be discovered.

The tune starts climbing immediately but not for long. With a mind of its own and sensing a journey ahead, it begins to dart about wherever the fancy takes it and keeps the listener on his/her toes. (Fred Astaire would be tempted). The harmonies are tailor made for the tune.

The middle 8 provides a perfect link, momentarily taking your eye off the ball. But it’s this constant caper as the melody twists and turns, creating one of the most perfect arrangements/compositions in this specialized art of production music. Ernest Tomlinson has created a classic, which would have been quite at home in the Chappell library.

And talking of libraries, when London publishing houses were throwing away skip loads of music, it was Tomlinson to the rescue as he saved tons of tunes for posterity. All devotees of light music owe him an incalculable debt of gratitude. As a footnote, actress Jane Horrocks (“Little Voice”) was also born in Rawtenstall. Guild GLCD 5232.

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Laura (1)

(Raksin)
Morton Gould’s arrangement
Analysed by Robert Walton

This is the first of four studies of important arrangements of the classic song Laura in the order they were scored.

In light music many of my favourite violin solos were played anonymously, mainly because they were just part of a faceless session orchestra. For me the finest violinist in the genre who has remained nameless is the brilliant soloist on Music In The Air by the Queen’s Hall Light Orchestra conducted by Sidney Torch. If anyone can identify him I would be very grateful.

So for once it’s marvelous to know the name of the instrumentalist. In this case it’s the American classical violinist Max Pollikoff who created the “Music In Our Time” series which commissioned and premiered hundreds of new serious works. However in the highly specialized world of light orchestral music, the solo violin tended to play in its upper register but on this occasion it’s at the lower end of its range sounding almost like a viola.

In my view, David Raksin’s Laura (1944) is one of the most beautiful melodies to grace the 20th century. Let me hasten to add, this fragment from the film of the same name wouldn’t have existed as a song without Johnny Mercer’s wonderful words. Such a complex tune would have probably remained unknown but for two “minor” miracles - the lyricist’s input and Raksin’s chords. So let’s see what Morton makes of it.

The arrangement played by rich strings (never saccharine) basically sticks to the original sheet music harmonies which are so gorgeous they hardly need altering. Pollikoff creeps in with a most haunting interpretation. I never fail to be moved to tears by his understated playing and tender vibrato. Lush strings come back for the second phrase after which the soloist again returns to caress the title. Note he always enters on the name itself “Laura”, not before. Completing the melody for the first time the stirring string section fulfils its mission with all it can muster.

Then the violin gives the impression of preparing to head for the heights to continue soloing, but in fact when it reaches the top it simply joins the other fiddlers acting as an enricher and melting into the crowd. At this point listen out for some very effective rubato which suits Laura down to the ground. And speaking of altitude, the “viola” returns to terra firma on the words “The laugh that floats on a summer night that you can never quite recall”.

Back to the strings for the main tune with a little touch of tremolo before some vintage céleste to taste. The tutti climax is absolutely stunning but Max Pollikoff’s final offering just has to be the highlight. It’s also an opportunity to hear his all-round ability on the instrument. Gould’s uncomplicated ending does full justice to his highly sensitive arrangement of one of the outstanding evergreens of all time, let alone the Great American Songbook. This 1947 Morton Gould setting was probably one of the first non-vocal versions to be recorded for the commercial market.


Laura (2)

(Raksin)
Robert Farnon’s arrangement
Analysed by Robert Walton

This track from the LP “Presenting Robert Farnon” was recorded in 1950 and produced by Tutti Camarata. It was a fantasy of Farnon’s to hear a large string aggregation play his setting of Laura. Well, thankfully he finally got his chance and his dream came true.

Without any preamble, he goes straight into the tune achieving far more impact than any introduction. After all, it worked perfectly well for When I Grow Too Old To Dream, Always and To A Wild Rose on the same disc. The famous Farnon strings in slow foxtrot tempo caress the lovely Laura as only they can. In the first break on the word “light”, the céleste provides some sprightly movement over a sustained chord (“misty light”). This small keyboard instrument sounding like the glockenspiel was a favourite decorative device of Farnon’s at the time, as well as being part of the backing behind vocal numbers.

In the next pause on the word “hall”, four lower string “brush” strokes give her portrait a bit more interest. The céleste returns to add some colour in the next section (“The laugh that floats on a summer night that you can never quite recall”). Typically Farnon doesn’t overdo the ornamentation at this early stage keeping it comparatively straight.

Then the arrangement starts to ever so slightly go up a gear (“and you see Laura”) with his unique unison violins gathering intensity and height but sounding like no other orchestrator. It’s hard to believe violins on the same note would instantly identify Farnon the founding father, but this master of mood music carries us all up into the ether whether we want to or not. To end the first chorus (“She gave your very first kiss to you”) back we go to a rich warm low-key affair slowing right down.

The harp then emulates a bell tolling, as if heralding a stirring solo in a violin concerto, interspersed by some glorious Gould-like swells. Never has popular music been so elevated. The strings gently conclude this lazy laid-back look at Laura by also providing some downward chromatic decoration with the harp for the coda. After landing on the home harmony, restless strings, not quite finished, take a little wander before finally coming to a halt. Note the irresistible dissonance between the sustained last note of the tune and the wayfarers. It’s all part and parcel of the Farnon genius.


Laura (3)

(Raksin)
David Rose’s arrangement
Anaysed by Robert Walton

The trademark Rose string sound (tune on top of a violin chord in the treble and celli on the same melody note two octaves below) instantly hits you for six as it declares this 1952 arrangement open. This calling card is Rose’s “fanfare!”. Never faraway in a Rose score is the oboe, a distinct reminder of the music of Victor Young at the start of an LP of Paul Gallico’s “The Snow Goose” read by Herbert Marshall. In Rose’s case the oboe makes its presence first felt in a fast descending scale, only to be assailed by the opening chord again. But we’re not quite through with the woodwind as the mellow bassoon adds its homage to our special lady.

After all that, we’re finally off with Rose’s rubato-ing strings sounding very much in control of the strain of this beautiful Italian, Spanish and English girl’s name. It’s the feminine form of the Late Latin male name Laurus. The oboe is back playing over “misty light” and the strings take us onwards to “the hall” when muted brass act as fillers, joined by a rhythm section, before taking over the tune with “The laugh that floats on a summer night”. Decorating the word “night” the violins produce an ethereal effect using harmonics. This is followed by a woodwindy “that you can never quite recall”.

Subdued strings, now minus rhythm, (“And you see Laura”) with a harp, clarinet and flute for company, move on to another sudden outpouring of emotion with a French horn ‘swimming’ inside the chord. And then gradually the strings build up for the end with small outbursts of musical steam like an unpredictable volcanic geyser site. The final wail from the “wall of sound” with echoes of the opening is repeated softly.

If ever a song was “felt” by an arranger then this must be it. Riddle did it with Vilia. But Rose takes Laura even further by becoming totally involved with the song and living every nuance. This is achieved by simply following his musical conscience. A melody and lyric of such distinction deserves no less.


Laura (4)

(Raksin)
Composed, arranged and conducted by David Raskin for the New Philharmonia Orchestra
Analysed by Robert Walton

Before we talk about the music, it might be worth recounting how Raksin got selected as composer for the 1944 film “Laura”. He was chosen quite by accident as it happened. There had been problems in the preparation of the production; so much so, it had become a “don’t touch it with a bargepole” picture, as anyone connected with it could be tainted. Otto Preminger wanted the studio’s top man Alfred Newman, but Al already had more films than he could handle. Bernard Herrmann turned it down on the basis that if it wasn’t good enough for Newman, it would hardly be suitable for him.

At the time, Raksin was considered too unconventional and inexperienced. But they’d reached the bottom of the barrel so Newman reluctantly assigned Raksin to do the job. Now for the first time Raksin was called to a screening in Darryl Zanuck’s darkened projection room. One of the scenes was to be cut quite savagely but the composer protested that no one would understand that the detective (Dana Andrews) was in love with Laura. There was a horrified hush as Zanuck asked who that was. An assistant informed him that it was Raksin. After more discussion, the composer incredibly got his way and Zanuck granted him permission to try. So Raksin’s chutzpah paid off. The composer was given the weekend to come up with a theme, otherwise Duke Ellington’s Sophisticated Lady would be used. A tall order! As luck would have it, Raksin found what he was looking for just in time, and Laura was born, albeit only on a scrap of melody.....by Monday!

A truly radiant symphonic opening sets the scene for what promises to be a really special arrangement, more a fantasy really. When the horns come in, a feeling of hope fills the air, just like Venus, the Bringer of Peace from Holst’s “The Planets Suite”.

Hard to keep the oboe out of any arrangement, but there it is in all its plaintive glory singing out the first four bars of Laura twice. Some Farnon-like flute figures follow continued by the oboe. A single horn plays the tune if not accurately, but composer Raksin is perfectly free to do exactly what he likes. After all, the year was 1975. The second time the horn is joined by a glockenspiel that taps out some decorative notes in the appropriate places. Then the oboe and clarinet provide a bit of dramatic interest before the strings play with the melody before handing it on to a superb violin soloist. Wish we could have heard more of him/her. Then another soloist appears on the scene. It’s amazing how the sound of a cup-muted trumpet transports us instantly back to the Big Band Era.

Then cutting in on the last part of the tune, Raksin waltzes Laura around the ballroom in much the same way as Riddle did in the introduction of A Handful of Stars for Nat “King” Cole.

Now we get really symphonic with the New Philharmonia showing us what they’re made of. Never has the song had such a glorious treatment. Probably the most dramatic its ever received. Later in a subtle passing moment, the horn somehow manages to remind me of Mozart’s 4th Horn Concerto, while the oboe adds its colour to the kaleidoscope.

Finally the Big Band Era is again represented by that lone soloist giving the song that little touch of nostalgia that even a large symphony orchestra can’t quite reproduce.

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(Van Heusen; Delange)
Reg Owen Orchestra
Analysed by Robert Walton

One of the most underrated composers, arrangers and conductors of the 20th century European scene was Reg Owen (born George Owen Smith, (1921-1978). I first came across him as one of the original orchestrators for Ted Heath’s Music after WW2, with classics like Colonel Bogey, Blue Skies March, Sidewalks of Cuba, Cuban Crescendo (composer) and Village Fair.

Impressed as I was with these arrangements, there was something else he produced for which I shall be eternally grateful - The Reg Owen Arranging Method of 1956. It’s the best one of its kind easily outdoing many other big name manuals on how to orchestrate. Owen covered every aspect of arranging from the smallest combination to a full orchestra. Each instrument was thoroughly defined, including its range. His coverage of the subject was so complete that the book became my bible of music. If it hadn’t been for Owen, I would never have been so well informed and given the incentive to be an arranger.

He is mostly remembered as a ‘one hit wonder’ because of his 1958 best-selling recording of Manhattan Spiritual. His excellent film scores were also very much part of his career.

One of his non-dance band arrangements was an early 1938 Jimmy Van Heusen ballad called Deep in a Dream played by a studio orchestra in 1960. It’s a very apt title given its ethereal quality with good lyrics by bandleader Eddie DeLange. First to greet the ears are the unmistakable sounds of Flamingo even though it hadn’t been written then. A “Gordon Jenkins” type tempo accompanies a horn in a lazy start with a hint of A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square. This quite predictable melody creeps along at a snail’s pace sliding on to very basic chords. Time for the irresistible strings to make an entry which they invariably do. Like most arrangers who adore them, Reg Owen always kept one eye on the main chance ready to feed them in.

“Then from the ceiling, sweet flutes come stealing” giving the bridge a little stressful undertow with pizzicato strings, while taking us gently back to the main tune. Once again strings are the thing as we wander among the flamingos waking up from our serious siesta.

Guild Light Music
GLCD 5209

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By Robert Walton

Why do strings, especially those in a symphony orchestra, have such an effect on audiences, like transmitting a sublime message? Especially a composition with a lovely melody and beautiful harmonies. And like any gathering of performing instrumentalists, there’s always a distinctive air of mystery about the music. But more than that, the sound they create can be the most thrilling it’s possible for humans to produce. Think of it as a jumping off point for the listener to use his/her imagination in whatever way they choose. Add appropriate words and it can become a religious experience as, for example, in Mahler’s Symphony of a Thousand. If there happens to be a handy choir around, there’s nothing else in the world that can beat that combination. Even the most unmusical ear can be affected in some small way by the forces of the most powerful and biggest artistic outburst.

So where do strings originate? They’re influenced entirely from the sound of the human voice. Even a wordless chorus or made-up lyrics can be a most moving experience. So the next time you sing with a group, remember you were once part of the most precious natural component waiting to be re-invented and played by man-made means. Although violins, violas, cellos and double basses were discovered and perfected by experts (Amati, Guarneri and Stradivari), it’s still our vocal chords, which inspired such a universal auditory creation.

Arrangers Ferde Grofé and Bill Challis were largely responsible for introducing classically orientated string sections into the dance band and jazz worlds via bandleaders Jean Goldkette and Paul Whiteman. Gershwin’s sensational Rhapsody in Blue was the culmination of these three cultures. After a modest string quartet Artie Shaw got hooked on a larger section, but the first real genius of string backings was Axel Stordahl who single-handedly gave them total legitimacy in the world of popular music for Frank Sinatra. In the process, Stordahl paved the way for Nelson Riddle.

Finally, and perhaps more than any other style, strings became the mainstay of light music (concert music in America) especially between 1940 and 1960, which was constantly heard on cinema newsreels and radio in general. This is sometimes called “The Golden Era of Light Music” when the finest practitioners of the highly specialized art of mood or production music reached its zenith - Eric Coates, Charles Williams, Sidney Torch, Clive Richardson, Wally Stott (Angela Morley), David Rose and many others. Before anyone screams out “What about Farnon?” I was just coming to him. In the 20th century, Robert Farnon was without doubt the greatest composer, arranger and string writer of them all! André Previn was absolutely right.

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(Van Heusen; Delange)
Reg Owen Orchestra
Analysed by Robert Walton

One of the most underrated composers, arrangers and conductors of the 20th century European scene was Reg Owen (born George Owen Smith, (1921-1978). I first came across him as one of the original orchestrators for Ted Heath’s Music after WW2, with classics like Colonel Bogey, Blue Skies March, Sidewalks of Cuba, Cuban Crescendo (composer) and Village Fair.

Impressed as I was with these arrangements, there was something else he produced for which I shall be eternally grateful - The Reg Owen Arranging Method of 1956. It’s the best one of its kind easily outdoing many other big name manuals on how to orchestrate. Owen covered every aspect of arranging from the smallest combination to a full orchestra. Each instrument was thoroughly defined, including its range. His coverage of the subject was so complete that the book became my bible of music. If it hadn’t been for Owen, I would never have been so well informed and given the incentive to be an arranger.

He is mostly remembered as a ‘one hit wonder’ because of his 1958 best-selling recording of Manhattan Spiritual. His excellent film scores were also very much part of his career.

One of his non-dance band arrangements was an early 1938 Jimmy Van Heusen ballad called Deep in a Dream played by a studio orchestra in 1960. It’s a very apt title given its ethereal quality with good lyrics by bandleader Eddie DeLange. First to greet the ears are the unmistakable sounds of Flamingo even though it hadn’t been written then. A “Gordon Jenkins” type tempo accompanies a horn in a lazy start with a hint of A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square. This quite predictable melody creeps along at a snail’s pace sliding on to very basic chords. Time for the irresistible strings to make an entry which they invariably do. Like most arrangers who adore them, Reg Owen always kept one eye on the main chance ready to feed them in.

“Then from the ceiling, sweet flutes come stealing” giving the bridge a little stressful undertow with pizzicato strings, while taking us gently back to the main tune. Once again strings are the thing as we wander among the flamingos waking up from our serious siesta.

Guild Light Music
GLCD 5209

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Vocalist
By Robert Walton

Over the years I have always been aware that string man George Melachrino was an occasional singer in the dance band world but I had never heard him, let alone seen him in that role. He had already been employed by Ambrose, Carroll Gibbons and Bert Firman. Therefore imagine my surprise and delight at finding him on a recent video on the Internet on Google. Until then he was just a handsome face in a photo on some long forgotten record or CD disc. Now for the first time I was seeing him “live” as it were, filmed by British Pathé at the Embassy Club in 1940 with a 9-piece orchestra.

Holding his violin, he was dressed more like a Lieder singer in a Tuxedo about to render the well known Great American Songbook standard Fools Rush In. It was the completely unexpected formality of his presentation that staggered me. I thought it’d be a casual performance like a member of the band briefly leaving his chair. But this was totally out of character, like a recital from London’s Wigmore Hall. His excellent tenor voice gave the 1940 tune an almost classical treatment. I bet its writers Johnny Mercer and Rube Bloom would have been amazed. This was just another example of Melachrino’s many talents. His clear voice made him more than a cut above any old crooner. And his conducting ability must have stood him in good stead for his first big studio job with the Austrian-born tenor Richard Tauber in 1945. Remember Melachrino was also a multi-instrumentalist. As well as a very good violinist he had mastered the viola, oboe, clarinet and saxophone. All these abilities made him a perfect leader of an orchestra. Rather like composer-arranger Robert Farnon who also as a multi-instrumentalist had a head start in the business.

So from a tiny violin a few inches long given to him by his stepfather, George became conductor of two of the world’s finest light orchestral combinations, the Melachrino Strings and Orchestra. In his childhood he was given manuscript paper and instead of coloured chalks, a pencil to play with. At 4 years of age he composed his first piece Up the Mountains because the pattern of the notes resembled just what it said, the title. Even then he was a class act!

After arriving back in the UK in 1965 after a holiday in New Zealand, I learnt of the sudden tragic death of the man himself which was more than a blow, because literally only the night before, I met George Melachrino’s agent in Chelsea and was about to offer some of my own tunes for the company.

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As my friend Graham Miles has posted two versions of a piece by Peter Yorke entitled "Fireflies" which are distinctly different by virtue of length, I will take a moment to touch on this particular subject, as it raises some very interesting questions to which there may be myriad answers.

In the case of two recordings of a piece that are noticeably different in length, in the sense that one has material that the other lacks, we first have to ask ourselves which came first and is the original version, to ascertain whether the composer expanded on his original, or on the other hand in the reverse eventuality, whether he cut a short portion from what he originally had, and finally, whether it was rather a matter of cutting it in the recording process to enable it to fit on the side of a 78 or 45 RPM single disc.

Whatever the truth of what may actually have occurred in these cases, it is inevitable that some subjective preference will enter into it when making a judgment.

I do not claim any position of being a final arbiter in such cases. I can only judge each instance of such on its merits as I receive them. I am already aware that there could well be opinions sharply differing from my own, but I have no choice in this matter, as these selections are not being examined as though part of a college course in composition.

To get underway with what I am referring to, I will start with Robert Farnon's "Journey into Melody." Most of us might know that the piece originally had a far more elaborate introduction, making a full circle of keys in the process. This may be heard in the piece's original recording by the Queen's Hall Light Orchestra under Charles Williams. Reportedly Farnon himself decided to shorten the introduction to lead directly into the main melody, resulting in the form most of us are familiar with. For whatever reason, this was more satisfactory to him as being "better balanced" structurally, but as I am at frequent pains to point out, we do not all receive a given piece of music in the same manner individually, and of necessity would include the composer as well. I for one feel that the original extended introduction adds a searching quality at the beginning that gives it a whole new dimension, and I actually prefer the piece in that form and always so play it at the piano.

With Farnon's "Pictures in the Fire" the reverse appears to have occurred as the piece evolved, as one can note by comparing the earlier recording by the Queen's Hall Light Orchestra with the later one by Farnon's own orchestra. In the process, Farnon added in a short phrase to smoothen out a transition within that central modulating section that in a previous article I had written covering this piece I had referred to as "bluesy." I feel that the piece is definitely improved by this short addition, with any feeling of abruptness evident in the earlier version completely remedied, so in this case I will prefer the piece in its later state.

But it should not be assumed from any of the above that I would always by inclination prefer a longer version of a piece when comparing two versions side by side.

To take yet another Farnon selection, "Lake of the Woods" where here too we have alternate presentations; a simpler, normal length presentation in the normal A-A-B-A form of a ballad as given by the Queen's Hall Light Orchestra, and the later one by Farnon with his own orchestra as part of the album "Canadian Impressions" in which the piece is expanded out to include a whole middle section before returning to the B-A of the opening. In this case, at least for me, it is a matter if stylistic incompatibility, at least as I receive it, between this new middle section and the original outlying portions with which I have difficulty in reconciling with one another. For that reason, I will continue to prefer the shorter version on the older recording. Moreover, I see the rather veiled sound quality here as a clear advantage as obviously the purpose of this piece is to convey a certain atmosphere, not to have every last detail of it rendered vividly clear.

Haydn Wood's "Soliloquy" is another example of what I am referring to. I actually found myself in a brief dialogue with the blogger, John France on this piece and expressed my reactions to the piece and to the two versions of it.

The shorter version appears on a recording by the Queen's Hall Light Orchestra under Robert Farnon; the longer version with the Slovak Radio Orchestra under Ernest Tomlinson.

As I advised Mr. France on that blog (it appears that hitherto he had been quite unaware of Farnon's shorter version), with my present information, it is quite impossible to know whether Wood expanded his piece from what he originally had, or trimmed away material from his original in the other eventuality, or perhaps Farnon in his efforts to fit the piece on the side of a single edited the piece to that end (quite expertly, one would think, if such were the case).

In any event, my preference is decidedly for the shorter version, which I invariably use when performing it. Listening to the longer version, I get the inevitable impression that it starts on an indeterminate chord in the middle of nowhere, and that the piece actually begins a few bars later. Moreover, in the reprise section, I feel that by the very nature of the material, it is quite unnecessary to go over every last bar that appeared earlier, and as I have just stated, I will continue to maintain for reasons stated my firm allegiance to the shorter version.

Some years ago, Robert Walton, one of the Society's regular contributor, wrote an essay on a piece by Edward White that I was hitherto unfamiliar, entitled "Caprice for Strings." I found it to be a rather unusual piece, but because of its rather erratic course I found that I was having difficulty in following it so that it made sense to me. At that point Tony Clayden stepped in to graciously share with both Robert and myself a recording of this same piece purporting to be the original, with additional material that was removed in the later recording.

I listened to this, and as a result of this added material I now for the first time found that I could better understand what the piece was about as the sections now held together more coherently. Moreover, some of the instrumental effects that Bob had described I could now hear for the first time, as I could not hitherto on the version that Bob had originally posted.

Further details of what I am referring to may be seen in my comments about this piece at the time it was posted.

Clive Richardson's "London Fantasia" is another example of what I am referring to. The original version was recorded by Mantovani on two sides of a 12" single disc, featuring Monia Liter at the piano, and is the only version I have cultivated, as it is the fullest version.

Richardson himself recorded it subsequently, with both Charles Williams and with Sidney Torch, and both versions have a small piece cut out. As he has recorded it in this fashion on both occasions, it must be presumed that he so preferred it for presentation, but others listening to it might very conceivably feel differently about it and would prefer it in its original form or at least it's more extended version if it came afterward.

The matter of having to economize in order to fit a selection on the side of a single disc can often necessitate some forced adjustments, some of which, in a recording I have posted of myself at the piano on both YouTube and Facebook I have actively sought to remedy.

Thus, with Percy Faith's arrangement of "If I Loved You" and David Rose's arrangements of "Why Do You Pass Me By" and "All I Desire," in each of which there is an obvious attempt to offer two presentations of the song, using existing material I have added extensions so that both presentations structurally have the full A-A-B-A scheme.

With Peter Yorke's "Blue Mink" I have added a slight extension to end the piece more smoothly so that it is not as abrupt, remembering that this is for listening purposes rather than as background music from a mood library. And in a planned second recording, I will be taking the middle slower section of Yorke's "Whipper Snapper," expanding it out to include more of the material from the faster section, being that this was the apparent intent in what is there presently, aborted due to the necessity once again of fitting the selection on the side of a single disc.

I hope that my notes have been informative and as always I will invite comments back.

William Zucker.

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About Geoff 123
Geoff Leonard was born in Bristol. He spent much of his working career in banking but became an independent record producer in the early nineties, specialising in the works of John Barry and British TV theme compilations.
He also wrote liner notes for many soundtrack albums, including those by John Barry, Roy Budd, Ron Grainer, Maurice Jarre and Johnny Harris. He co-wrote two biographies of John Barry in 1998 and 2008, and is currently working on a biography of singer, actor, producer Adam Faith.
He joined the Internet Movie Data-base (www.imdb.com) as a data-manager in 2001 and looked after biographies, composers and the music-department, amongst other tasks. He retired after nine years loyal service in order to continue writing.