Dateline August 2013

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The final programme in the first series of "The Golden Age Of Light Music" was broadcast on Radio Six International at the beginning of June. The good news is that the programmes are going to be repeated later this year, and some new ones will be added after the first 32 have been heard again. The repeats might begin before you receive the next Journal Into Melody, and you can check the Latest News page of our website to discover more. Alternatively visit and click on ‘schedule’.

Light Music enthusiast and author Philip Scowcroft, RFS member and frequent writer for JIM and elsewhere, turned 80 on 8 June. Unsurprisingly the birthday was celebrated musically: on 12 June by a visit from the Fitzwilliam String Quartet in the Doncaster Museum and Art Gallery lunch hour concerts Philip has organised since 1966; and on 9 June, in an end-of-course concert by Doncaster’s Beechfield Youth Orchestra, which included the premiere of a piece composed by local musician James Belbin Wood in honour of the event – entitled Scowcroft’s Scherzo (Philip was presented with a handsome bound copy of the score). Philip tells us that its main section was cheerful and tuneful, befitting a light music man, but with just enough spicy harmonies to provide contrast!

We are very sorry to report that our good friend Frank Comstock died on 21 May aged 90. Frank has been a loyal supporter of the RFS for many years, and through him a number of great musicians from the glory days of Hollywood came to know about the RFS, not least Doris Day with whom Frank worked on "Calamity Jane" and other projects. Forrest Patten got to know Frank in recent years, and he has contributed an obituary in this issue.

Also in May the RFS lost another loyal and long-serving member, Stan Coates. At one time Stan used to travel down to London from the north-east of England to attend our meetings, and he first introduced the young John Wilson to our society around 18 years ago. Stan had an encyclopaedic knowledge of big band music, and one of his favourites was Geraldo. His diligence in seeking out rare manuscripts enabled John to include some great arrangements in his concerts, including some long-forgotten ones by Robert Farnon.

James Beyer tells us that his latest Edinburgh Light Music Concert on Saturday 25 May went extremely well; and everyone on both sides of the podium seemed to enjoy themselves. As is the norm at this time of year – the holiday season coupled with a particularly good day weather-wise slightly reduced attendance numbers. This pattern is nothing new and the shortfall is always compensated by a larger turnout at our winter programmes. It is a sad fact – but nevertheless something out-with anyone’s control – that the current economic situation is also affecting audience numbers in all branches of the performing arts.  However, an audience totalling 672 (78% capacity) is still an excellent attendance in this day and age. The orchestra’s next concert is on 16 November at Edinburgh’s Queen’s Hall as usual. Website: E-mail:

The American copyright of Happy Birthday To You came into the news just recently. In June it was reported that Good Morning To You Productions Corp, a New York company said it was making a documentary about the song. Facing a penalty of $150,000 if it used Happy Birthday without permission, the company said it paid a $1,500 licensing fee in March. Happy Birthday to You has been performed around the world in tribute to everyone from toddlers to centenarians for nearly 120 years, but few people know that the ubiquitous song is owned by a private company. Now, the most famous ditty in the English language has found itself in the middle of a legal battle after a film production company filed a lawsuit seeking to overturn the copyright protecting the song. The proposed class action asks a federal court to declare the song to be in the public domain and that Warner/Chappell Music Inc, the music publishing arm of Warner Music Group, return ‘millions of dollars of unlawful licensing fees’ it has collected for reproductions and public performances of the song. ‘More than 120 years after the melody to which the simple lyrics of Happy Birthday to You is set was first published, defendant Warner/Chappell boldly, but wrongfully and unlawfully, insists that it owns the copyright to Happy Birthday to You,’ the lawsuit said. Under a revised US copyright law, works created after 1923 are guaranteed 95 years of protection. Although the song was first published in 1893, according to, the song has been considered as protected by copyright because the lyrics appeared in a songbook in 1924 and a piano arrangement for it was released in 1935. Just another example of the crazy situation which afflicts music copyright, especially in the USA.

Recently seen on ebay: a seller offering ‘a rare 10" 78 recording of Robert Farnon’s Symphony No. 1’ for the bargain price of £188.13 plus £19.67 postage! This must be another copy of a direct from air recording of the first broadcast way back in 1941 by the Toronto Symphony; fortunately we already have this in the RFS archives.

Our friends in The Light Music Society are holding their annual AGM Weekend with plenty of music and feasting back in Lancashire this year, over the holiday weekend 24, 25 & 26 August. The familiar venue is Ernest Tomlinson’s home, Lancaster Farm, Longridge. On the Sunday morning Tony Currie of Radio Six International will be doing his hour-long show "The Lively Lounge" live from the Library of Light Orchestral Music at the farm. It will be broadcast from 10:00am to 11:00am BST and will be heard world-wide via the internet. Tony’s shows are always very varied and enjoyable, and RFS members with internet access are urged to listen in. The programmes enjoy several repeats, so wherever you are in the world it should be available at a time to suit you. Visit and click on ‘schedule’ to check when you can hear "The Lively Lounge". It’s sure to be fun!

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