London Light Music Meetings Group - October 11th 2015

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Report on the Autumn 2015 meeting of the London Light Music Meetings Group at the Lancaster Hall Hotel London W2

It was Sunday 11th October and time for another get-together of the LLMMG - our fourth. About sixty people attended, and we were pleased to welcome a number of members of the Light Music Society - no doubt wishing to give support to their Chairman, Gavin Sutherland, who was our special guest for the afternoon.

Tony Clayden welcomed everyone to the meeting, opening with a recording of the McHugh-Dubin composition South American Way,from a series of recordings which Bob Farnon made for ENSA towards the end of WW2. This was taken from one of several CDs which the late David Ades generously made available to the LLMMG for our first meeting in May 2014.

Tony then introduced Gavin Sutherland, who presented a tribute to the late-lamented Ernest Tomlinson; his recent passing has robbed us of perhaps the last of Light Music's legendary figures.

Gavin played Ernest's overture, Highway To The Sun, performed by the Royal Ballet Sinfonia under Gavin's baton and followed it with Pizzicato Humouresque conducted by Ernest Tomlinson.

Next followed a tribute to Frank Sinatra - 2015 being his centenary year. This was presented by Anthony Wills and he commenced with the famous Nelson Riddle arrangement of I've Got You Under My Skin . This was followed by Sinatra singing Bop Goes My Heart, accompanied by the Phil Moore Quintet. After Small Hotel (from the sound track of 'Pal Joey') we listened to a humorous exchange between Sinatra and Jimmy Durante, from a 1946 radio broadcast. Next came The World We Knew by Bert Kaempfert and I've Got A Crush On You in which Frank Sinatra duetted with Barbara Streisand. To conclude the tribute, Anthony played Put Your Dreams Away, a 1945 song written by Ruth Lowe, Paul Mann and Stephen Weiss. It became the theme song for Sinatra’s post-war radio series, and was played at his funeral.

Tony Clayden then played some tracks from the latest Guild releases. From '100 Great American Light Orchestras Volume 2’, we heard On The Sunny Side Of The Street played by Skitch Henderson, his piano and orchestra, and from the early Independent Television (c.1956) series 'Sailor of Fortune', a catchy Ronald Binge composition entitled The Liberty Boat. This was followed by La Cucuracha in a very humorous arrangement by the Percy Faith orchestra. A track from the new CD 'At the Piano' followed - an original Farnon composition, Little Miss Molly, played by Robert Farnon and his orchestra and featuring the famous piano duo Rawicz and Landauer. To take us up to the first interval, we listened to Edward White's Runaway Rocking Horse from the new Guild CD of the same name. This was the original full-length Boosey and Hawkes library version, which had to be considerably cut when it appeared commercially, to enable it to fit onto ten-inch ‘78’ records.

During the interval, I played some light music on the hotel's grand piano. I had some requests - but I carried on playing!

Commencing part two, Tony re-introduced our distinguished guest, the conductor, composer, pianist and arranger Gavin Sutherland. He gave us an interesting and often amusing account of his career. The writing was clearly on the wall when he started playing the piano at the age of three ! To illustrate his talk he played the following pieces of music, taken from some of his many CDs :-

The Three Rivers Fantasy by Arthur Wilkinson

The Dream Of Olwen by Charles Williams – a solo performance by Gavin

The Arcadians Overture (Arthur Wood)

The title tune for Carry On Camping by Eric Rogers

London Salute (Philip Lane) - written for the BBC Concert Orchestra, but played here by Gavin Sutherland and the Royal Ballet Sinfonia.

Music from the film Roots Of Heaven (Malcolm Arnold) played by Gavin and the Royal Ballet Sinfonia.

Laura (David Raksin) - arranged and conducted by Gavin

Non Stop (John Malcolm) - the 'News at Ten' theme, played by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.

First movement from The Surrey Suite –(Richmond Park) by Montague Phillips, played by the BBC Concert Orchestra under Gavin's direction.

Scherzo from Partita For Orchestra by Matthew Curtis

The Widespread World Of Rediffusion (John Dankworth)played by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra under Gavin's direction.

This brought Gavin’s contribution to a conclusion. It was much appreciated that he didn't leave immediately after he had given his presentation, but stayed until long after the end of the meeting, chatting aimiablyto one and all.

We then took our second- short- interval.

In part three, Andre Leon came to the top table; his first item was Sukyaki played by the Billy Vaughn Orchestra and he followed it with Lucy's Theme from the 1961 movie 'Parrish' – in effect a re-vamp of the Theme From A Summer Place – (both written by Max Steiner) played by the Percy Faith Orchestra. Warren Barker is perhaps best known for his compositions and arrangements for military band, but today we heard his orchestra in Wunderbar (Cole Porter) from the Guild CD 'Great American Orchestras', Volume 1. This was followed by Strangers In The Night (Bert Kaempfert) played by John Williams with the Boston Pops Orchestra, in an arrangement by Angela Morley. Andre concluded with Ronald Binge's Sailing By, although he omitted the weather forecast! It was played by the Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted by Ernest Tomlinson.

It was now time for my 'Radio Recollections' feature and I opened with a rousing number by John Carmichael entitled Morning Call played the London Light Concert Orchestra conducted by Alexander Faris, a distinguished conductor who died recently. He is perhaps best remembered for The Edwardians, the theme music from the television series 'Upstairs Downstairs'. I continued with a delightful piece by Albert Cazabon entitled The Jesters, extracted from an edition of 'Morning Music' played by the BBC Northern Ireland Light Orchestra under their conductor, David Curry. I concluded with two items from 'Music While You Work' played by Ralph Wilson and his Septet, Blue Marionettes by Leslie Clair and Fiddler in the Barn by Sherman Myers (Montague Ewing) which featured the group's three violins, led by Alfred Sverdloff. I explained to the audience that Ralph Wilson took over from Billy Mayerl as MD of the Grosvenor House Dance Orchestra in 1945, forming his Septet for the BBC's Light Music Department in 1959.

It was back to Tony Clayden to provide the final items on the programme, and he chose to shine the spotlight on the composer and arranger George Melachrino, commencing with a piece entitled Copper Concerto - an ingenious amalgam of If You Want To Know The Time Ask A Policeman (Durandeau)and The Policeman’s Holiday (Ewing) andincluding a brief snatch of Three O’Clock In The Morning (Robledo).

This was followed by Les Jeux (which, according to my research, means 'games'.) It is part of a suite by Melachrino entitled Five Sketches From Life, and showcases the composer’s undoubted ability as a writer for strings. Finally, a Robert Farnon composition, in an unusual arrangement by George Melachrino, Sophistication Waltz, (also known as My Song Of Spring ).

This brought us to the end of another excellent afternoon of music. How DO four hours pass so quickly? Tony thanked all who had taken part, and in particular our special guest Gavin Sutherland for his entertaining presentation.

Tony once again drew attention to our next meeting in May 2016, when Shelley Van Loen and the Palm Court Strings will be playing for us. These superb musicians have been performing together for a quarter of a century, with numerous radio and TV appearances to their credit, and they also entertain every month in the Palm Court of the Grand Hotel, Eastbourne. This is the first time that our new group has engaged a fully professional ensemble and we are hoping for a very good attendance to meet the not-inconsiderable cost of staging this event.

Finally, Tony bade us farewell until May 8th. 2016, playing out with Step Lightly played by Shelley Van Loen and the Palm Court Strings.

©Brian Reynolds 2015

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