Analysed by Robert Walton
Until I heard the name Roger Roger pronounced properly in French (Ro-jay Ro-jay) (like the soft “j” in Taj Mahal), I had always assumed it was spoken just like the English first name Roger. I was corrected on a 1950s radio series “Paris Star Time” featuring his 35-piece orchestra.
I first met him on the day I joined Radio Caroline as a DJ in 1964. I was asked to interview him at their London offices in Mayfair. I remember absolutely nothing about it except he was a delightful man and was ready to answer any questions I put to him. It was definitely not the kind of music one might play on a “pirate” ship but I managed to slip the odd title in. Mind you, it hadn’t escaped my attention that such vessels like our “Mi Amigo” would have been flying the Jolly Roger flag! My overall impression of his music was the sheer uncluttered and methodical way he orchestrated his many catchy tunes. Never a wasted note or an unnecessary fill. Which brings me to his ScenicRailway of 1962.
There is an undeniable “Portrait of a Flirt” feeling about Scenic Railway, very melodic and beautifully recorded, presumably in a Paris studio. The clarity of it is superb. Warm syncopated pizzicato strings in harmony take the steam train’s strain heading for the heights in a most relaxed fashion. Woodwind drop in at the obvious moments. After the first 16 bars the strings immediately switch to arco for 10 delightful bars of contrasting fun with the woodwind. Returning to the main theme the flutes play a very short but difficult “same note” exercise against the pizzicato strings.
We are now heading straight for the middle section still in pizzicato mode but not for long as we return quickly back to the bows for a sweeping 8 bar tune sharing the load with the woodwind. The scoring is so detailed just like a locomotive’s components engineered to perfection. Finally we are back to the familiarity of the opening pizzicato section with all its twists and turns.
It wasn’t surprising, therefore, that Chappell & Co eventually offered Roger Roger an acceptable publishing deal for his brilliant compositions that took their place alongside the English giants of the genre. Like them he was fully equipped with all the right musical know-how of orchestration and style, as well as his ability to write tuneful melodies the listener could instantly hum.
From originally writing music for documentaries and films, including the well-known pantomime sequences in Marcel Carné’s 1944 “Les Enfants du Paradis”, the breadth and range of Roger Roger’s work made him a household name throughout the world. “Fiddles and Bows” Guild GLCD 5201
CD Review – Malcolm Arnold
A Centenary Celebration
Peter Fisher Violin / Margaret Fingerhut Piano
SOMM Recordings SOMMCD 0640 [69:03]
Malcolm Arnold was Northampton born in October 1921 and died in September 2006. His music was once described by Sunday Times critic Paul Driver as "fecund, fastidious, witty, touching, melodious, sardonic, profound". Driver also opined that Arnold was "a many-faceted composer …
CD Review – Eric Coates
British Light Music vol. 3
Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra
Naxos 8.555178 [71:26]'
The Merrymakers, London Suite, Cinderella, The Selfish Giant, London Again Suite, Calling All Workers, The Dambusters March.
CD Review – Mozart Wind Concertos
London Symphony Orchestra / Jamie Martin
lso live lso0855 [141’18”]
Of the three classical composer giants, Bach, Beethoven and Mozart, the last-named is possibly the one most appreciated by light music enthusiasts. Melody poured from his pen and none more so than in the three concertos on the first album of this 2-CD issue recorded at a live concert from the Jerwood Hall, LSO St Lukes in October 2019.
CD Review – André Rieu
And His Johann Strauss Orchestra
UNIVERSAL CD [72:20] & DVD [49’] 744754886801
'Clear the top of the best-selling chart: André, his orchestra and choir, are back with their first studio album since 2019. A new release from the Dutch maestro, who brings so much joy to so many people with his CDs, DVDs, live concerts and YouTube presence, will be especially welcome to readers starved nowadays of discs of their kind of music...
Analysed by Robert Walton
It’s strange how some people seem to have a natural affinity with wild life and anything that moves, especially birds. As a toddler, Robert Farnon’s son David was very much into birds...
Analysed by Robert Walton
It’s strange how some people seem to have a natural affinity with wild life and anything that moves, especially birds. As a toddler, Robert Farnon’s son David was very much into birds. They seemed to be attracted by his friendly and welcoming manner flying from of the garden eager to meet this young maestro of ornithological interest. Perhaps he caught the conducting bug in this setting! Even his mother came up with the comment, he could “charm the birds out of the trees”. Bob was in the process of finishing a new piece requiring a title, so hence the name came in handy. (Living in rural Ireland in the 21st century nothing much has changed. Robins, tits and finches are still first in the food queue).
The opening couldn’t be anything else but Robert Farnon describing an early morning atmosphere. I have a 78-rpm disc of an actual dawn chorus recorded in cellist Beatrice Harrison’s Surrey garden in 1924. Going forward, Bird Charmer sounds as if it was one of those 1940’s Farnon gems but in fact was as late as 1958. The magic was still there in leaps and bounds.
The flute heads the woodwind in customary Farnon fashion, flitting around in complete control but giving the impression of being as “free as a bird”. Then in perfect contrast, the strings escape from their cage with a typically beautiful sweeping tune from the Farnon canon with some nice changes, ending with a repeat of that catchy ditty.
We arrive at the bridge for yet another gorgeous melody this time with plenty of daring jumps played by the strings but highly hummable. Listen out for some subtle syncopation. Of course many classical composers took discordant risks like that but not quite as audacious. Come to think of it, there’s quite a bit of that going on in early piano concertos but the dissonance is resolved quicker.
Then echoing the beginning, a now slow oboe and flute with twittering background noise welcome you gradually back to the bustling “early” bird. We return to the familiar up-tempo tune followed again by that irresistable first melody. Then like an afterthought, a suggestion of Sidney Torch’s Comic Cuts, with the coda fitting like clockwork.
Vocalion CDLK 4174
The biggest story of the year so far is the news that 'Music by John Barry', a new book in praise of more than forty of his film scores, is close to publication! Sources close to the project tell us that this near 500-page book is the best work so far from the three scribes. OK, technically it's also the first, but you get the idea! You can see more details on this cunningly constructed flyer by the artist, Ruuders. Now, in view of how poorly the previous book, 'Hit and Miss: The Story of The John Barry Seven' sold, it seems highly likely that copies of this new book will be in limited supply. So, do yourself a favour and indicate your interest immediately by contacting the writers via this email link. Details of price and publication date will be sent to you as soon as possible, and anybody who then orders it is *guaranteed* a copy. In fact, if requested, at least one, maybe two of the authors will sign your copy. They might even do so even if you don't request it. :)
Another attractive release from this ever-enterprising label. Probably the main interest for our readers will be a tad under a the third of the disc devoted to the first recording of Edward Kennedy 'Duke' Ellington's 'Twelve Melodies'. These popular songs – including It Don't Mean a Thing (If it Ain’t Got That Swing), Sophisticated Lady, Solitude, Mood Indigo and In a Sentimental Mood – have been arranged by the pianist using the original sheet music. So, they are quite different from the classic jazz versions.
CD Review – Andrew Lloyd Webber – Symphonic Suites
The Andrew Lloyd Webber Orchestra/Simon Lee
Here at last is this new release of what for many of us is our kind of music performed by a full orchestra. It has been a while coming as it was announced at the end of August and the release date then put back two months. Nevertheless, well worth waiting for.