(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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20 Aug

John Williams In Vienna

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Wiener Philharmoniker ● Anne-Sophie Mutter
DG 4836373 (75’00)

On Saturday 8th July 1972 I joined a packed audience in Nottingham’s Albert Hall for the opening concert of that year’s Festival given by the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by André Previn. The third item on the programme was Symphony No.1 by a ‘John T Williams (born 1932)’. The review in the local newspaper said that “when two gentlemen made a conspicuous exit from the hall after the first movement, one began to fear the worst.”

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04 Aug

Matt Monro - Stranger In Paradise The Lost New York Sessions

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UMC 5387616 (50:08 & 79:45)

In 1959, legendary record producer George Martin paid a struggling singer from Shoreditch, Matt Monro – born Terence Parsons 1930, died 1985 – £25 to demonstrate a Sinatra-ish song called You Keep Me Swinging for a proposed Peter Sellers album ‘Songs for Swinging Sellers’. But Sellers could not match the Monro take-off and Matt himself was to wind-up on the record disguised as Fred Flange.

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01 Aug

Yo-Yo Ma Plays Morricone

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Yo-Yo Ma (cello)
Roma Sinfonietta Orchestra, Ennio Morricone
Sony 88697562802 (55:57)

The master of “spaghetti western” movie music and much more, Ennio Morricone (born Rome 1928), was lost to us earlier this year, and for me this recently discovered album is a fitting memorial to his work that includes over 400 cinema/tv scores and more than 100 classical works, with total sales over 70 million.

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26 Jul

Sarah Willis : Mozart Y Mambo

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Alpha ALPHA578 (54:43)

Here is a fun album combining works for French horn by top classical tunesmith W A Mozart with traditional Cuban music. It is the brainchild of British French US born, Sarah Willis, who is a member of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra horn section, and a presenter of TV and online classical music programmes.

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20 Jul

Palace Premieres

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Palace+Premieres+CoverWorld première recordings of British music for string orchestra performed at the Royal Palaces.
Including works by Curzon, Dunhill, Lee, Quilter, Rowley, Speer, O’Donnell, Thorne, Scott, etc.

The Countess Of Wessex's String Orchestra – Conductor Major David B. Hammond

The terms Military Music and Wind Band are usually synonymous. So it came as somewhat of a surprise to learn – from the comprehensive booklet notes accompanying this recent CD release – that there has been a long tradition of string playing in the British Army.

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11 Jul

Respighi : Roman Trilogy

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Sinfonia Of London John Wilson
Chandos CHSA 5261 (60:06)

Old friends from RFS meetings and more recent admirers of his charismatic conducting will welcome this release from John Wilson. It is his third album directing the superlative Sinfonia of London that he has re-formed with a hand-picked line-up of instrumental talent led by Andrew Haveron.

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29 Jun

John White and Ralph Thompson, R.I.P.

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It is our sad duty to record the deaths of two more former members of the Robert Farnon Society, both of which have occurred during the last few months.

John White was a regular attendee at RFS and then LLMMG meetings. By profession a Group Manager for London Underground, latterly at KingsCross Station, John passed away at West Middlesex Hospital in December 2019, having unfortunately suffered two strokes. He was a great devotee of Frank Sinatra and possessed a huge collection of recordings of the latter. He would be seen taking copious notes throughout our meetings and was always on the lookout for new CDs that interested him.

Ralph Thompson will be remembered by many for his video recordings of RFS meetings, particularly those which had taken place on special occasions. A civil engineer in professional life, Ralph had a number of interests, including photography and videography, cycling and old London buses, in addition to Light Music and record collecting. Regrettably, he had suffered kidney failure towards the end of 2019 and died during February of this year.

Another of our supporters, Peter Luck, was a friend of both John and Ralph, and we are obliged to Peter for providing this information.

Tony Clayden
June 2020

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25 Jun

City Lights - Lisa Batiashvili

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Deutshe Grammophon 483 8586 (65.54)

This is a winner in the ‘crossover’ album stakes, taking its name from the 1931 Charlie Chaplin film. Georgian-born German Lisa Batiashvili is considered special even among the very many fine violinists of her generation, praised by both audiences and fellow musicians for her virtuosity and sensitivity.

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18 Jun

George Melachrino

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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.

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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.