Analysed by Robert Walton
For me the name Joyce Cochrane has always been synonymous with just one composition, her beautiful Honey Child immortalized in Robert Farnon’s arrangement for the Queen’s Hall Light Orchestra. So it was a nice surprise to come upon one that almost got away. Flowing Stream is included in the Golden Age of Light Music series in “A First A-Z of Light Music”. (Guild GLCD 5169).
With no intoduction the opening immediately calls to mind two great light orchestral classics - Clive Richardson’s Outward Bound and Benjamin Frankel’s Carriage and Pair. But this is Flowing Stream of 1958 played by the New Century Orchestra conducted by Erich Borschel. It was used in the same year as the theme for a British Southern Television series called “Mary Britten, MD”, starring Brenda Bruce. The juxtaposition of the two tunes works remarkably well in quite a different arrangement from the originals. Flowing Stream has a lighter textured treatment with a lovely feeling of peace and calm in a troubled world guaranteed to make you smile. Pure nostalgia you might say from a vanished era. Each time the strings go into a holding pattern, flutes ripple their way over the chord.
After 16 bars we go into 8 bars of a contrasting tune perhaps suggesting a change of scenery but with more tension. Listen to a descending string bass before the main theme repeats and completes a 32 bar chorus with a definite finish. In fact it’s a double closure of the first section.
And now the bridge. Modulating to a new key, a pleasant melody played by a horn provides clear echoes of the theme with a slightly bluesy effect but quickly returns to the delightful main strain. And then the tune (more laid back) is repeated yet again in two keys before going into that earlier 8 bar passage. Finally after a gentle restart the haunting Flowing Stream gradually builds up to a truly triumphant ending. By now it has become a fast moving river!
I’m Robert Farnon’s grand-daughter and nothing makes me happier than to see people remember him.Report Comment Link
Bob, just to comment on a sentence in your first paragraph - "this one almost got away." Well, had there been a bunch of Joyce Cochrane selections all together on one recording, I guarantee you that it would not have "gotten away." That is the point I have been strenuously trying to make, to David and to other interested parties for the longest time.Report Comment Link
Before I get to the actual material, I would just like to say that I have never found the Guild series of recordings as particularly helpful in my quest for acquainting myself with unfamiliar light music selections. This is simply because the contents of each album are far too diverse in nature, so that with a figure whom I find particularly attractive in what he has to offer in such selections, I am not easily enabled to explore his work further and deepen my acquaintance with his work. A close friend and colleague of mine actually gave me a copy of one of these albums as a gift, but this has not in any way made any difference for me. And I recall having words with David a few years ago over this method of assembling these albums, and my opinion on this issue was published in the JIM magazine. I had received comments back criticizing my opinion in addition, but to this day I have held fast to my feelings in this matter.
That said, I will point out that during the 1950's, which was the height of my period of collecting recordings of light music, there was a very limited number of recordings available in the USA that emanated from the Chappell and other mood libraries. Those very few that were available were all described as having the music offered performed by the Queen's Hall Light Orchestra without any further information, but as I indicated in a recent article, I have now become very skeptical of the information that was offered on those discs.
In any event, contained within those very few discs, were four selections by Joyce Cochrane: "Paddle Boat," "Honey Child," "Blue Velvet," and "Starry Night." Of these, I have personally found "Blue Velvet" to be the most interesting and the most engaging, but that is merely my own subjective response to these pieces - all are attractive in their own way.
I have to point out that I have not been able to find much information on Joyce Cochrane aside from her years, let alone a photograph or other image of any sort.
As far as this selection goes, I have found it pleasant enough, but nothing in it to remind me of Richardson's "Outward Bound" and certainly not of Frankel's "Carriage and Pair" - the Mantovani recording of this latter I have owned for years and am intimately familiar with it (along with the excellent flip side "Bees in the Bonnet"). I have also seen the film from which this is extracted; "So Long at the Fair," in fact many times, as I have found it quite excellent.
I have stated many times in the recent past that I can only become closely acquainted with a piece of this nature, or for that matter any piece at all - a serious piece as well, in fact - by getting familiar with the overall lay of the land, so to speak; the overall picture, before attending to any salient details, rather than concentrating on instruments that happen to be playing at any given time.
Bob frequently uses the term "bridge" in his descriptions. I have seen it used to describe a portion of a popular ballad, but I am driven to inquire what the meaning of it is - bridge to what? My description of what I think he is referring to would simply be "second" or "alternate" idea or section. I suppose that is the thinking I instinctively use from my own vantage point, but I compare this to two people speaking a different language who need an interpreter. The term in this usage still does not register with me.