Dateline June 2005
MESSAGES OF CONDOLENCE
Below we include just a small selection of the many messages we received as news of Bob’s passing reached music lovers around the world. Some are from non-members of our Society, who simply wanted to express their sorrow. Others preferred to remain anonymous. All of them reflect the sadness we all feel, yet there is also a strong sense of gratitude towards Robert Farnon for the legacy of wonderful music that he has left to us all.
The best music I ever heard from Great Britain was composed by Robert Farnon. Tony Bennett, speaking to Derek Boulton as soon as he heard the sad news
We’re devastated to hear the very sad news about Bob. He hadn’t yet heard a performance of his new symphony. I'm still trying to take in that Bob is no longer with us. I always thought that he and I would live for ever! Angela Morley
I am still in shock. I had just finished practicing his bassoon concerto and was taking a break when I saw the heading of your email and knew right away what had happened. When I spoke to him two days ago, he was extremely enthused about the piece and looking forward to seeing it being premiered next year. If I was back in the UK I would want to show up at any memorial service but I am here in Brooklyn right now. Please add my name to anything in print if this is to be part of a testimonial to his memory. Very sad and unexpected. Daniel Smith
Robert made laugh many times over the years, but this is the only time he made me cry. He told me that one of the greatest honours in his life was the creation of the Robert Farnon Society. He will be sadly missed. Dorothy Head
Sad news - regarding dear Bob. I first knew him in 1967 when I used to collect music from the Mayfair Hotel, London for his BBC Radio Orchestra sessions at the Camden Theatre. John Dunn was the announcer, I seem to remember. Tony Bennett was a guest singer. I remember the sessions well - everything was magic with these superb arrangements he did for his BBC recordings. Collectors’ items. Only yesterday I received a PRS Distribution payment - with details of a Library CD I produced for Amphonic Music Ltd. - which included titles by Bob. Indeed, his music will linger on. Indeed, his music will linger on. A great and kind person. Tim Wills
Robert Farnon was one of my two greatest musical influences. The other was Serge Rachmaninov, who once said "Music is enough for a lifetime but a lifetime is not enough for music". I know Bob would have agreed. Tony Osborne
I was so very sorry to learn that Bob Farnon had passed away. Please convey my condolences to his family. Robert Farnon was a giant of the 20th and 21st Century. It was a great privilege to have known him. His Music will remain with us throughout the present Century and beyond. He was such a multi-talented human being, a kind gentleman and master of his profession. He will be sorely missed by all who had the good fortune to know him. May he rest in peace. Cyril Ornadel
What a shock to hear of the passing of our beloved Robert Farnon. He was a giant of the genre, and will live always in our memories, and in the wonderful recordings he has left us. Rest in Peace, dear Robert. Neil
I cannot tell you how saddened I am to hear the news of Robert's passing. I have sent the news direct to Mr. Bennett's NYNY office even though I am sure they will have the news. Our thoughts are with 'The Guvnor's' Family at this time. Condolences, Mark & Margaret Fox [Tony Bennett Society]
Words cannot express my sorrow at the passing of our beloved friend and mentor. Robert Farnon was our inspiration; we have lost our most cherished Patron. He was treasured like family. Philip Brady
I am very sorry to hear the sad news. Robert Farnon's passing is indeed the end of an era. I will pass on the news to Reuben and Gary Haberman. Please convey the condolences of all the South Afrcan members to Mrs Farnon. Sydney Becker
Yes it is a sad time, but his music lives on. My own knowledge and appreciation of light music has increased tremendously thanks to the compositions of Robert Farnon and the work of the Robert Farnon Society. I wish that Robert Farnon's work will continue to become more widely known and appreciated around the World. I pass on my condolences to his family and friends, and to the society. Tommy Wylie
Sorry to learn of the sad news. The end of a 'Legend'. Gareth Bramley
So sorry to hear this sad news - the end of an era indeed. Also, particularly sad that Bob passed away before the premiere of his new symphony. At least he knew it was going to take place, but very upsetting nonetheless. Things won't be the same for the society, but I'm sure you'll go from strength to strength promoting light music and keeping Bob's name in the public eye. Adam Saunders
I have just seen the announcement about Robert Farnon on the BBC website. I am very sorry indeed. Sincerest condolences, Noel Kent
Just learnt the sad news....now I appreciate more than ever what a great privilege it was to be there and meet "The Guv'nor" on his 80th birthday at the Bonnington. Nigel Burlinson
I have just read on the "beautifulinstrumentals" newsgroup, that Bob has passed on. I am deeply saddened at this news, and I called Philip Brady to let him know. It is Saturday night here and Phil told me that he will fax you overnight. Would you please pass on my sincere condolences to Bobs' family and to all members of the RFS at this sad time. Tomorrow night I will have a small tribute to Bob and his life in music. Alex Hehr (Golden Days Radio) Melbourne
Viens d'apprendre la triste nouvelle du décès de robert farnon. Veuillez transmettre mes sincères condoléances à sa famille et à vos amis de la société Robert Farnon. Hélàs encore un grand musicien du siècle passé qui disparaît! On se sent orphelin. pour vous et les vôtres toute ma sympathie en ce moment de tristesse et de deuil. Madame Roger Roger, Eva Rehfuss
So sorry to hear of the passing of Mr Farnon at age 87 - a musical genius. Anthony Wills, former BBC Producer
I have just read your email, and naturally I feel so dreadfully sad to learn of Robert Farnon's passing. Thank you so very much for letting me know so quickly. Once again, I am naturally immensely saddened by this news. Geoffrey Cross
Everything has been said about the great Robert Farnon. The only new thing to say today is the thing we all secretly hoped to postpone for years to come: he is no more with us. But he still is and we will stay close to this most gifted and gentle man by performing his superb music. Did he speak to us last night, Montreal time ? We were watching a non-scheduled movie with another Canadian, Donald Sutherland and we waited till the very end to know who had composed the music. It was Robert Farnon. The title : The Disappearance. Understand that we are in a state of shock. Our prayers are with you, the immediate family and the international family who loved the Guv. Marc Fortier et Hélène Fortier
He will never be replaced as the finest writer for strings in the world of popular and light music. I like many others in the Society,grew up with his unique sound.May I add my sympathy to his wife and family. Phil Napier
Very sad news indeed. I am sorry for the community's loss. Please try not to let this stop you from continuing to document his legacy. Tim Weston
Just to say how sad I was to learn of Robert's death and I offer condolences to his family. He was widely respected and leaves a legacy of wonderful music which will live forever and his memory will also be perpetuated through the Society. David Nathan, National Jazz Archive
What a tragic loss. Our sincerest sympathy. Bob and Pam Haber
I must express my personal deep sorrow at dear Bob's passing. I will never forget that one solitary day with him, when I played (with the dear old BBC Midland Light Orchestra, with Bob conducting) Douglas Gamley's "Summer Festival Waltz". That day will stay in my memory forever.... as will a note which Bob wrote to me, later, and I will always treasure the recording of it. Harold Rich
Very sad for us all. I spoke to David Jacobs today who had already written a letter to the family. Gary Williams
Oh what a sad day! Every once in awhile I would give Robert a call, hating to bother him in case he was writing but aching to have even a short chat. He was always go gracious and honestly seemed pleased that I called. He has long been one of my special heroes and his contribution to the wonderful world of music is endless and untouchable. I won't be making those phone calls anymore but I have his music to listen to for now and forever. Marlene joins me in extending our deepest regrets to you, the society, and all the world. J. Billy VerPlanck
It was such a shock to see the notice of Bob's death. There was a full page article on his life and his great achievements in one of our national newspapers - but it was with a very heavy heart that I read the news. Am so grateful we were able to make even that small connection again through your Society - it meant such a lot to know he still remembered those days with affection. What a full and productive life he lived, doing what he was born to do, and the wonderful music will be such a legacy for future generations. I know a light will have gone out for so many of you and do send my deep condolences. Alixe Wallis (Kathran Oldfield)
Thank you for letting me know the very sad news, it was quite a shock especially as I just discovered that Sir John Mills had also passed on, another favourite of mine. Adam Endacott
Thank you so much, David, for including me on the mailing list reporting this very sad news. I immediately wrote a brief obit which I've placed on the Message Board of the 1950s Nostalgia website Whirligig - http://www.whirligig-tv.co.uk/index.htm as follows:
I have sad news to report, that Robert Farnon died today. The RF Society has announced that he passed away peacefully in the early hours of this morning. Captain Bob Farnon came to England with the Canadian Band of the AEF, along with his American counterpart, Glenn Miller. After the war he stayed in the UK and embarked on what would be a most distinguished career in music, composing, arranging and conducting his own orchestra on countless albums. Early assignments were writing the scores for films, such as the Herbert Wilcox productions starring Anna Neagle & Michael Wilding (Spring In Park Lane etc), 'Just William' films - and in later years 'Shalako', 'Road To Hong Kong' and 'Captain Horatio Hornblower'. In the 1940s and 1950s he arranged and conducted for the Decca label, accompanying artistes such as Gracie Fields, Anne Shelton, Denny Denis and Vera Lynn, and in the album era his orchestrations would be in demand by a number of great American vocalists, including Frank Sinatra, Lena Horne, Tony Bennett & Sarah Vaughan - and he also arranged and conducted albums by 'Singers Unlimited', George Shearing, Rawicz & Landauer and Jose Carreras. Farnon composed many light music cameos for Chappell Music Publishers, primarily for use as background music in newsreels etc, but many of these pieces were recorded by Bob's and other orchestras, and often became familiar through their use as radio and TV signature tunes. Among his compositions that will be well known to many of us on Whirligig are 'Portrait Of A Flirt', 'Jumping Bean', 'Journey Into Melody', 'Melody Fair', 'Westminster Waltz' and 'Manhattan Playboy'. He won a Grammy Award in 1996 for an arrangement recorded by jazz trombonist J.J.Johnson, and was also the recipient of several Ivor Novello Awards - including the theme for the TV series, 'Colditz'. Many of Robert Farnon's Decca albums are currently available on CD from Vocalion Records. A sad loss to the world of music. Brian Henson
You can imagine what sad news for me was the passing away of our dear Robert Farnon. I send to you, and his family, my condolences. Serge Elhaik
What sad news to wake up to here on a Sunday morning. I was alerted to the news by email from Jeff Sultanof, via John Pickworth, the text of which I have attached [Editor – see message below]. Although, of course, I never knew Mr. Farnon personally, I have been a devotee of his music since my earliest days in radio (1957) when I became aware of, and had access to, the great Chappell mood music library at 3AW. I hope and trust the Robert Farnon Society will go on and continue to flourish in memory of a great man. In the meantime, it is only appropriate to send condolences to you, your colleagues in the Society and to the members of Mr. Farnon's family. The music world is a much better place because of the contribution of Robert Farnon over many years. Graham Miles
I have just received word that Robert Farnon has passed away in Guernsey at the age of 87. Several of us have had threads on Farnon, so I won't repeat what was already written. I will say that in many ways, because I got to work intimately with his music in creating over 50 new corrected scores, that it was like an advanced degree in arranging. I got to study with a master, and this will always be an important part of my life. My anger and frustration are that his work never was properly engraved and published in his lifetime, because I could never get the funding to complete this phase of the project. Perhaps this can still be done. I'm too emotional to write anymore, especially since we've covered this ground elsewhere. Jeff Sultanof
I am so sorry to hear of Robert's passing today. It must be a very sad day for you, personally and all friends and members of the Society. Please accept my sincere condolences. Although I did not know Robert, his music and memories will live in my mind forever. My very best wishes to you, at this sad time. Paul Durston
Just received the bad news - Please Relay my Deepest Sympathy to Bob's Family. - It is a most sad time. Mike Redstone
Sad news, indeed, but for us, not for him, now that he is liberated from this world of pain and darkness. I know nothing about his personal life, but there is no doubt that it was well fulfilled in his art. We may mourn his loss, the lack of his physical presence, but he will live in our hearts forever through his magnificent music. Enrique Renard
Thank you for the message I least wanted to hear. A great light has been extinguished in Bob's passing. My thoughts and prayers are with his family at this sad time. Geoffrey Lord
Robert Farnon was a wonderful master of melody and one of the all time greats of light music. He is simply irreplaceable. I have loved his music for over fifty years since first I heard him on the old BBC Home Service in about 1952. R.I.P. William Brown
I am so sorry to learn of his passing. The last of the great light orchestral personalities has left us, but has left behind a wonderful legacy. We shall always be grateful to Bob Farnon and others of his kind who have given us so much pleasure down the years. Colin Mackenzie
Very sad indeed to hear this unwelcome news. As you know, via my father I knew Bob well and have particularly treasured the memory of a short holiday I spent at La Falaise in 1964 during which he was kindness and understanding personified. Clearly he was also one of the finest composers of the modern age and I take pride in the fact that his music has enriched the lives of arguably many millions of music lovers the world over, and increasingly is likely to do so for generations hence. A very sad event has occurred as we have all lost a good friend who was also one of the giants of really beautiful music. Paddy Dunn
What sad news. My Father (Tony Osborne) and Uncle Bob are both very saddened by the news. Gary Osborne
Our mutual friend, Peter Appleyard, called me yesterday morning to tell me of the death of Robert. My wife, Barbara, and I were shocked and greatly saddened by the tragic loss of such a great musician, and such a dear friend. An incredible loss to the world of music, and to so many people. Robert and I have had regular communication - mainly telephone calls and facsimiles - over the last decade that has been personal and musical. We have had regular discussions regarding one of his last compositions, Wind Symphony: "The Gaels," that I have been contracted to conduct at the Performing Arts Centre, Newark, New Jersey, USA in the Spring of 2006. I was greatly honoured and moved when Robert called me on Monday, August 14th 2004 to tell me that he was dedicating the work to me. Barbara, whom Robert frequently addressed affectionately as 'Lady Barbara,' joins me in sending our sympathy and condolences to you on the loss of your dear friend and colleague. Incidentally, the very last work that I programmed and conducted in my twenty-seven year tenure as Musical Director and Conductor of the Brantford Symphony Orchestra was Robert's Suite, "Captain Horatio Hornblower, R.N." that I dedicated to Robert, and the third movement of the Suite, "Lady Barbara,' to my wife. Dr. Stanley Saunders
I was deeply saddened to learn about the passing of Robert Farnon. It is a great loss to the world of music, and to all of us who had the privilege to know him personally. He was a wonderful man and his contribution to music was unique – the world will be a poorer place without him.
Sigmund Groven What a sad loss to music this is, it seems as if all the greats are departing this world one by one these days. One thing we do have though is the marvellous recordings of his works and our memories of the great man. Steven Wills I need hardly tell you how sad I feel at the moment to be informed of Robert's passing. His gift of music and conducting was masterful and he will be missed by the many that appreciated his beautiful and tuneful music. Ron & Tammy Mace I was grieved to hear of the death of Mr. Robert Farnon. He was a very important and well loved person. He will be missed by many. I would like to know you have my deepest sympathy in your bereavement. Yoshiki Nakano As I've stated previously in the RFS journal, Bob virtually taught me everything I know about writing for strings by his example. As such, He will greatly missed my me personally. There'll never be another one like Bob. My sincere condolences to the entire Farnon family.
RIP [Billy May once said: nobody ever got fired for writing something pretty]. Phil Kelly I have just learnt of the passing away of my uncle from my father, and I am saddened I never got to know my uncle in person. I adored his work immensely, something I only came to realise over the last decade. I'd like to thank the Robert Farnon Society and their members, for the kind words expressed on these pages during our time of grief. God Bless. Christopher Farnon Robert Farnon was without doubt one of the greats of light music and his passing is an immense loss not just to the music world but to everyone who enjoys 'our' kind of music. Luckily, this great man's music legacy lives on as, in recent years, there have been quite a few CDs released of Robert Farnon music. Chris Landor We were all so saddened to hear of Bob's passing. Without doubt, he was the greatest Composer/Arranger ever, and I will treasure his talent and his memory forever.
Les Reed OBE Ever since I became a great enthusiast of the music of Percy Faith, and started collecting his music with the help of friends worldwide, the name of Robert Farnon was always mentioned as one of THE masters of the wonderful music we enjoy, "popular music for orchestra." In many respects, I have thought of them as equals - bringing rich orchestral sounds to radio and records, one in the US, one in the UK! Both of them knew a magic time where the orchestra reigned supreme over the radio waves and both went on to bring us many hours of wonderful music on records. Percy Faith and Robert Farnon studied in Canada, Faith going to the United States for fame and fortune, and Robert Farnon to the UK. There can be little doubt that they are GIANTS in the wonderful musical world they created for us, and that the news of Robert Farnon's death is a reminder that these giants of the light music world have left us no heirs with their musical capabilities; it is a changed world, not for the better, where large orchestras dominated by strings have essentially vanished - however, Faith and Farnon left us with their rich recorded legacies - and we will always be grateful for that. My condolences go out to the family of Mr. Farnon, as well as to his very loyal enthusiasts who have maintained a wonderful Society over the years that celebrates his life and his music. Bill Halvorsen Robert Farnon was the doyen of composers of light music. The master craftsman not only of his genre of music but also the wider field of composition. Robert Farnon's melodies will continue to delight and bring pleasure to future generations and this music is his public legacy. Vale Robert Farnon. Rob Blackmore All the great ones are leaving us, sad to say. Paul Snook I visited Bob at the nursing home in Guernsey a month ago (March 2005) and made the trip for that purpose. I am an arranger who adores Bob's work and eventually got up the courage to call him after admiring his work for years and longing to see his scores to unveil the magic of his beautiful writing. I could not have been prepared for the kindness I received. That phone call was the beginning of a friendship that grew and grew, and I feel grateful to have the experience of knowing such a special human being. Bob talked me through various aspects of writing for strings that one day I will describe in more detail, in short, the effect it had was to have me write more true to my instinct and not hold back fearing outside elements like limited available rehearsal time and therefore the need to write 'easier' charts. He talked me through each interval for double stops and multiple stops. He once phoned me and said "Any music questions?" That day, I knew I was the luckiest guy in the world. Once I asked him if I could send him something from here (I wanted to show my appreciation for all his kindness). Bob told me he had no score paper. Long story short, I shipped some to him and after what seemed like only a week, he was well into writing a bassoon concerto, that as it turns out will be premiered by bassoonist Daniel Smith. Bob was proofreading the computer engraved score when we visited him. I am so happy that a man whose love for music never seemed to have waned continued to write up to his passing. Condolences to Pat and his family from me and my wife Jennifer (who also visited Bob & Pat).
David O'Rourke Most saddened at the news of Robert Farnon's passing. What a great pity he did not live to hear his Edinburgh Symphony performed. Jack Docherty The sad news about Bob is a terrible blow to all of us who new and loved him. Many, many people will be stunned by the news. In any informal communication with the family please add my name - as one of many - whose thoughts go out to his family at this time. David Turner I came online this evening (25 April) after taking three days holiday for Passover, and found the sad news of Mr. Farnon's passing, relayed through the 78 RPM Collectors list courtesy of David Lennick of Canada. I was saddened to hear the news, but I believe it comforting that his final years were spent in great acclaim, with the Society fostering worldwide awareness of his music and Light Music in general; and with listeners and devotees of his compositions and performances better able to send their regards and admirations to him personally. One could probably safely presume that few composers of music were so able to see the effect that their life's work had upon the public, which must have been a satisfying tribute for him to have seen. Michael Shoshani Just heard the sad news about Bob. It just seems to be all doom and gloom everywhere these days. Jeff Hall What truly sad news... I do hope it wasn’t too traumatic for Robert at the end. How sad that someone who had the power to give such joy couldn’t live forever. Cathy Franks As a fan of the 1960s TV Series "The Prisoner", in which much of Mr Farnon's Chappell work appears, I was most saddened to hear of his death this weekend. I know I speak for many "Prisoner" fans around the world when I say that without his musical genius, the series would not have achieved the same level of unique atmosphere for which it has become famous. I am only sorry that such sad news has led me only now to look deeper into his other work and to this Society for the first time. With sincere condolences to his family, friends, and colleagues.
Rick Davy,on behalf of "The Unmutual" Prisoner Website Quite by accident I saw the obit this morning (26 April) on the Internet. I was and am devastated by the news. My condolences go to you and other friends and family. Even though I never knew Bob, his music has become an important part of my life as of late, and will continue through the rest of my life. I had talked at length and enthusiastically with David O'Rourke who had spent some time in Guernsey with him. David relayed to me stories of his encouragement to David and his warmth. I know through David that he was hoping to make a US visit some time in the next year. David was very excited about that (as was I) and I had thought we might begin planning an event to celebrate Bob's upcoming 90th with a New York concert, perhaps to be repeated in Canada (or vice-versa). This is still a good idea! Today is a day for tears for me, prayers for his family. I feel very grateful to have had even the minimal contact with the RFS. My biggest regret is to have come close to communicating with him, but not quite close enough. I wanted to thank him for his music, for his amazing creativity, unparalleled in our time, and how much joy this has brought to me. Tom Fay This is a very sad time for Bob’s family, friends and the Society. But he left a great legacy of music and recordings. Ken Wilkins I, and countless others will have many very fond memories of Bob - his kindness, his generosity and above all his unassuming manner, which made him a respected figure throughout the musical world. Latterly, telephone calls between us were frequent in an attempt to get his "Edinburgh" Symphony performed in the capital; and thanks to Iain Sutherland, this has become possible. I am only sorry that Bob has passed away before the "World Premiere" in the Usher Hall on 14th May - but, I'm sure that he will be there in spirit. Sadly, it is the end of an era. James Beyer, Conductor Edinburgh Light Orchestra I am sure I am one of many to receive the sad news of Bobs passing who find it difficult to know how to express our feelings. I know you will have, on behalf of the Society and its members, passed on condolances to the Farnon family to which I think all of us who gained so much pleasure from his music felt part of. I hope their will be an opportunity for all of us to pay homage in due course to one of the greatest musical influences of our generation. With deep sadness, Peter Capp I was very sorry to hear about Mr. Farnon. Now we have lost "The Great Canadian". A few days before we lost "The Great Dane", Niels Henning ØP, only 58. A shock to us all. He was such a nice and loving person. I will miss them both. Jørgen Borch Nielsen My brother, Joe told me over the weekend that Robert Farnon had died after spending time in hospice. A tragic loss. Nick Perito, arranger/conductor long time association with Perry Como, has written his autobiography and he mentions that Joe hired him to play accordian on a Tony Bennett recording date. "Thanks to Tony Tamburello, a dear friend and excellent pianist, we were introduced to the arranging and compositional genius of Robert Farnon". Another great loss. Jimmy Soldo I hear we have lost the Leader of the Band; a great loss. Robert Ing I was Eric Tomlinson's recording assistant on the "Bear Island" and "Disappearance" sessions for the film scores down at the Anvil Studios Denham in the late 1970's. I later recorded the Pia Zadora album with Bob at CTS in Wembley in 1984. Bob, you were the greatest arranger of all time; your works take my breath away and it has been a true honour to have worked with you. Alan Snelling How saddened I am to learn of the death of our esteemed President, Robert Farnon, CM. I know we will all miss Bob, but Thank God we still have all that lovely music he’s left behind for us. Jack Smith I talked to Robert Farnon on the telephone only two months ago (February) when he had returned from tests at the local hospital on Guernsey. He reassured me that all was OK at that time. It was ironic that I was working in France last week and thought of telephoning him since I was so close to the Channel Islands but did not have his number with me. I first met Mr Farnon when I played a concert of his music in Ottawa at the National Arts Center in '1971 with Mr. Robert Farnon conducting the National Arts Orchestra of which I was the first solo trumpet. I was in contact with him many times since. I was responsible for two commissioned works made by the Canadian Brass for his hand. The first, a "Farrago of British Folk Songs" for Brass Quintet and orchestra; the other was an Irish music suite titled " From the Emerald Isle" for Brass Quintet. The "Farrago" got 100s of performances while the "Emerald Isle" was never performed by the Canadian Brass during my 24 years with the CB, but I have performed the suite many times here in the USA, Europe and South America since 1996. Marvellous music! The day I arrived home from France (Sunday, April 24) I got the email and I also received the first shipment of my new CD called "Fred Mills and the Pentabrass Quintet" which has the new version of the Farnon "Scherzando" for solo trumpet but with Brass Quintet accompaniment rather than the original string orchestra accompaniment. Mr Farnon had given me his permission to rescore the "Scherzando" for this fourth combination as well as the other rescoring for solo trumpet with large Brass Ensemble and solo trumpet with Woodwind Choir. It was such a privilege to search his scores for the proper notes to rescore. I was very honoured, needless to say. All in all I have performed the "Scherzando" about 200 times with these four different orchestrations from 1996 to the present. Mr. Farnon was a most inspiring man. A generous man with always a cheery encouraging greetings even though I hadn't seen him in over 33 years. I was a small boy living in Guelph, Ontario when I first heard Mr. Farnon play the trumpet with the "Happy Gang" band on the noon hour CBC radio show. This is before I started to play the trumpet so it just occurs to me now that his influence had already started to point me to the trumpet in 1942. More recently, I had asked Mr. Farnon if he would mind my rescoring his "Tete a Tete", a duet of solo trumpet and solo flugelhorn with small orchestra to Brass Ensemble of 12 players which I have scheduled for concerts in St Peterburg, Russia (Festival of Romantic Trumpets) on May 24th and again in Calabria, Italy on June 3rd. I have already played the "Scherzando" in both those locations last year. Mr. Farnon has left us with so much music and the emptiness I feel will be removed when I realize the joy that his music brings will fill my glass very soon. Fred Mills The news of Robert Farnon’s death has touched me deeply and made me very sad. The music world has lost one of its greatest exponents of first-rate music in the light, film and jazz genre. His unique music was enjoyed by innumerable people around the world for more than half a century. There were also – and still are – many admirers of his music here in Germany. We are all mourning the passing of an ingenious musician and a gentle person, but we should console ourselves with the fact that Robert Farnon was blessed with a long life during which he never lost his creative power, and that his works will live on, not least because of the extraordinary commitment of the Robert Farnon Society. Alexander Schatte The death of Robert Farnon has left a great void in our musical lives, and we have lost a truew genius. I can never repay him for all the hours of musical pleasure I have had listening to his wonderful melodies and harmonies since, as an excited schoolboy in 1948 buying my first Farnon record of Jumping Bean (Decca F9038) at a shop in Chatham in Kent, where I was brought up. I was immediately ‘hooked’ and have everything made available since. I will now treasure my LP and CD collection even more, and whilst it is sad we have lost Bob it is a happy thought that we can still listen to his wonderful work at the touch of a button. I am also grateful that I was able to meet Bob at two meetings at the Bonnington Hotel in the early 1990s, and remember him as a very charming and friendly person. Bob will be irreplaceable for his wonderful compositions, harmonies and accompaniments to so many artists. I am looking forward to attending the premiere of Bob’s Edinburgh Symphony in the Usher Hall on 14 May. I am sure Bob would have been pleased that it was going to be performed. Terry Viner Over the years Mr. Farnon’s music has, and still does, give me endless pleasure. I was lucky enough to be present at a live relay from Norwich of "Journey Into Melody", the Sunday afternoon programme on the old BBC Light Programme, in which Robert conducted the BBC Midland Light Orchestra. After this hour we were invited to stay for another concert which was recorded for transmission on the BBC Overseas Service. For me, Bob Farnon was a lost link with a musical world which – alas – is no more. He will forever be associated with the great light music masters, David Rose, Andre Kostelanetz, Arthur Fiedler and our own Eric Coates. Thanks to record labels such as Vocalion and the Guild ‘Golden Age of Light Music’ series, I can still enjoy the music of the masters, of which Robert Farnon must rank as one of the finest. R.C. Wilkinson On behalf of all the members of the West Midlands Branch of the Sinatra Music Society, I would like to offer our condolences to Pat and all the family of Robert Farnon on their sad loss. If it is any consolation, we will have the wonderful legacy of music and recordings to enjoy and remember Robert. Phil Suffolk I was saddened and shocked to hear of Robert Farnon's passing. The ABC's (Australia) "Classic FM" station mentioned it today (30/04/05) on the "Scene" programme and played two of his best known compositions "Westminster Waltz" and "Jumping Bean". In a way, here was a background to my youth, it was only much later that I found out who had penned the melodies. His work will live on. Rick Ashworth I, too, was saddened to learn of Robert Farnon's recent passing. I only became aware of his music recently when his brother, Brian, and wife, Gloria, moved to our community and became active in our local music scene. Brian has lent me numerous recordings of Robert's music, and I have been delighted by it. As director of the College of Southern Idaho Wind Ensemble, I am happy to report that we were able to program two of Robert's pieces, Westminster Waltz and Derby Day, on our March 2005 concert, with Brian joining us in the clarinet section. Both the audience and the band members thoroughly enjoyed these pieces, and I am anxious to program more of his music on our concerts. I offer my deepest and sincerest condolences to Robert's family. George K. Halsell, Professor of Music, College of Southern Idaho I profoundly regret this very sad news. Enrique Klapp Our Gentle Giant may be gone, but his music will be with us forever. Please, please keep the Society going so that we’ll always have Bob’s music to live with. He has given the world nothing but the best sounds of his heart, and we owe it to him to keep his memory alive! Ralph Enriquez The wonderful work of the RFS has been crucial in securing the future, not only of Robert Farnon’s name and reputation, but of all the many recordings that have now become an historic and enduringly valuable and valued archive. It is very sad to bid mortal farewells to distinguished figures and close friends, but it is wonderful when they leave a great legacy of creations and recreations. We are very fortunate and must guard and foster it well. Long may the RFS flourish! Terence Gilmore-James For lovers of light music Robert Farnon’s passing is a great loss, however we have the consolation that ‘the melodies linger on’. Olga and Norman Jackson I just have no words that can describe what this sad news brings. One of the true greatest arranger of all times has left us... he was the foundation, the path to which every major arranger followed. He was a cathedral, he was the most innovative and daring arranger of his time and beyond. I send my warmest condolences to the Farnon family and to all of us, the Farnon musical family... I shall never forget him and he'll continue to be a huge part of my life. Jorge Estrada Thank goodness for the medium of recorded sound, ensuring that the music of our all-time great Robert Farnon will live on forever. At Bob’s passing the world will never seem quite the same. Bill Watts So sad to hear about Robert Farnon. It’s now up to all of us to conserve the musical legacy he has left to history. Robin King The above Condolences were received in time for inclusion in our June/July magazine. Further messages will appear in our September issue. The Guv'nor – the Robert Farnon Story
BBC Radio 2's tribute to Robert Farnon
Presented by David Jacobs, Sunday 5th June 2005 at 7pm Radio 2's Sunday slot between 7 and 8.30pm is usually taken by Sheridan Morley in Melodies for You. On this occasion, however, we had David Jacobs presenting a 1½ hour tribute to Robert Farnon. 'A great man of music', said David in his introduction as Gateway to the West was played. We couldn't agree more. The programme was an independent production by Associated Rediffusion for Radio 2, and paid a remarkably full tribute to this most diverse and individual of light music composers. There was a good selection of voices on offer in between the music (all Farnon arrangements and compositions), including some wonderful archive material of Farnon himself. For those who knew him, his wicked sense of humour together with his gentle manner and soft Canadian accent must have been captivating. Many of us, who best know Farnon for his orchestral music, would be surprised at the amount of work he did with singers, film makers and dance bands. He wrote in so many different styles, yet maintained an unmistakable sound which, though commonly imitated, was perhaps never equalled. First we heard John Wilson, a man well in tune with the Farnon manner of composition, and a great innovator in the world of light music. Bob had given a number of his original scores to John Wilson, who has subsequently done a huge amount of work with them. The singer Tony Bennett spoke sincerely of his love for Farnon's music, saying that the most important thing about it is that it is good music; it doesn't matter how popular something is, because, as Toscanini said, it is either good or it isn't. During the programme we heard Bennett's warm voice in two songs: Robert Farnon’s Country Girl and Ebb & Kander's Maybe This Time. Film composer Quincy Jones said a few words about his admiration for the man behind the music, and we heard an excerpt from Bob's favourite film score Captain Horatio Hornblower RN. Then followed a discussion with John Wilson about how difficult it is to bring off light music convincingly. Jumping Bean, still on record as the most used signature tune of all time, came up next, before a synopsis of Bob's early years. Apparently his parents wanted him to take up the violin, but as he was leaving the house to attend his lesson he would hide the instrument in the dustbin and go skating instead. Shocking! Later on he learnt the trumpet, an instrument perhaps better suited to his personality. Having said that, many would regard Farnon's string writing as the best of any light music composer. Before World War 2 Bob was one of the founder members of that Canadian radio institution "The Happy Gang", and we heard an excerpt from one of the RCA 78s they recorded (like much of the music used in the programme, it came from RFS archives). Then the civilian Bob became Captain Robert Farnon in charge of the Canadian Band of the Allied Expeditionary Forces, arriving in England in 1944. Continuing on the theme of the Second World War we heard Vera Lynn talking about Bob as the perfect gentleman and a wonderful musician with whom she loved to work – 'one of the best we've ever had in this country'. We heard Vera singing You Can't be True, Dear in a Farnon arrangement. He enjoyed many highly successful collaborations with the great British dance bands, notably Ted Heath and Geraldo. David Ades of the Robert Farnon Society spoke next, after Portrait of a Flirt was played – the flip side of the same record on which Jumping Bean was released in 1948. As David pointed out, this was really a double 'A' side – and possibly the finest light music 78 ever produced. John Wilson talked about the influence of Eric Coates on Robert Farnon, apparent in his mastering of the miniature form and impeccable orchestration. We heard light music classics Alcan Highway and A Star is Born and then John Wilson talked a little about Bob's love for quirky variety in his scores. One section of his arrangement of Mort Dixon's Flirtation Walk is almost atonal. Not what one might expect from a master of melody; very much tongue-in-cheek. Bob worked with Frank Sinatra on his only British album Great Songs from Great Britain, released in Britain (but not the USA) in 1962. It is now regarded as one of the finest albums Sinatra made. We heard Ted Shapiro's If I Had You followed by Haydn Wood's Roses of Picardy. Two major problems occurred during the recording: firstly Sinatra had a frog in his throat and couldn't quite make the top notes first time round – secondly the studio piano decided to give up the ghost near the start of the session, perhaps accounting for the large amount of celesta on this album. These things happen when real music is performed by real people. How refreshing! David Jacobs remarked that it is a shame Bob didn't write more ballads. His wistful How Beautiful is Night confirms this, and was sung here by Sarah Vaughan. An amazing personality, Bob said, "Did I give up or take up smoking when I met her? I can't remember!" We then heard the brilliant close harmony group, the Singers Unlimited, performing with Bob's orchestra in Herman Hupfeld's As Time Goes By, followed by Lena Horne singing Lerner & Loewe's I've Grown Accustomed to his Face. In his later years Robert Farnon turned his attention to larger scale orchestral works, many completed well into the 1980s and 90s. As David said, it is difficult to cover these in a tribute of this length, but then their quality is present within the miniature works anyway. However we did hear excerpts from Rhapsody for Violin and Orchestra and Lake of the Woods, the latter of which Bob likens to Debussy's Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune. Ronald Corp, conductor of the New London Orchestra, shared some memories of a childhood coloured by wonderful music, and introduced the piece he heard played on Saturday mornings at the cinema – Westminster Waltz. This accompanied the closing credits of what had been a heart-warming tribute to a great musical talent. Robert Farnon will be missed but his music and immeasurable influence lives on. Peter Edwards Editor: the above article has been slightly adapted from a feature which first appeared in the Light Music Society’s Newsletter – our grateful thanks to Peter and the LMS for kindly allowing us to reproduce it here. Regular JIM contributor Murray Ginsberg has known Bob Farnon since those far off days of wartime, and he also listened to the Radio-2 Tribute …. Bob’s early influences in Toronto by MURRAY GINSBERG I enjoyed David Jacobs' tribute to Bob Farnon on Radio 2 June 5 except that in my opinion it was far too short. There was so much important information omitted that I felt short changed. It was wonderful however, hearing Bob speak on a variety of topics, particularly when he mentioned the Toronto violinists, who because of a special teacher, had a "softer" sound than most other string players. That teacher was Luigi von Kunits, who came to Chicago from Vienna in 1898 to become the concertmaster of the Chicago Festival Orchestra. In 1912 he came to Toronto to head the Canadian Academy of Music, which went on to become locally celebrated for its string playing. In 1922 a group of Toronto musicians who wanted to perform symphonic music as a diversion from their regular employment as theatre pit players, persuaded von Kunits to organize a New Symphony Orchestra in the city. The musicians, a number of whom were students of von Kunits, knew he could train an orchestra. Von Kunits was confident that, especially with his students in tow, Toronto had enough skilled players for the New Symphony Orchestra. For the players it was a joyous time. At last they were able to play their beloved Mozart, Beethoven and Brahms. Playing accompaniment to vaudeville acts or music to the flickering images on the silent screen seemed less onerous, as long as they could spend some happy hours with von Kunits and the New Symphony Orchestra. And under von Kunits' influence, each player developed his or her artistry with a power and colour and authority seldom heard surpassed by the best touring orchestras. My own coming of age in the Canadian music business in Toronto, during the late 1930s and early 1940s, had almost everything to do with the strictly popular music of the time. I had never heard of Luigi von Kunits. But other students, those who played string instruments, were directed towards classical music, the music of the great composers. In the 1930s and 1940s there were many more fine violinists emerging in Toronto than a city of its size should normally produce. I often wondered what were the conditions during those early years that allowed the extraordinarily large number of top calibre violinists such as Albert Pratz, Hyman Goodman, Sam Hersenhorn and others to surface? Was it the fierce competition to be the first to reach the pinnacle of recognition? Or was it anxious insecurity to clamber over ghetto walls in order to earn society's respect? Whatever the reason, even though the New Symphony Orchestra, (whose title in 1926 was changed to Toronto Symphony Orchestra), was far from internationally famous, English-speaking Canada's largest big city was already becoming known in the world's musical communities for its excellent string players. TSO violinist Harold Sumberg who played in Percy Faith's CBC radio orchestra between 1938 and 1940, recalled: "I played on Percy's very first show. In fact, I did all his shows. His string writing was so spectacular that only the best violinists could play the parts. And he had the very best of Toronto's fiddlers, mostly from the Toronto Symphony." When Luigi von Kunits left Toronto in 1931 to bring his magic to other musical communities in the world, other teachers filled the gap left by the irrepressible giant from Vienna. The Toronto Symphony Orchestra, now under the baton of Ernest (later to become Sir Ernest) MacMillan, continued to flourish, especially the violinists. In fact, more than one internationally acclaimed guest conductor who appeared with the Toronto orchestra declared, "The first violin section of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra is one of the finest first violin sections in the world." Heady praise indeed. I think that's what Bob Farnon meant when he referred to their sound. Following receipt of the above letter, the Editor contacted Murray Ginsberg to ask about Louis Waizman. Over the years, Waizman has been mentioned on many occasions as having been involved in Robert Farnon’s early musical education. What did Murray recall about him? I first met Waizman (pronounced Wyzman) when I began to work at the CBC in 1949. I used to see this nice little man with white hair and a white moustache just as I came through the doors of the CBC building at 354 Jarvis Street in downtown Toronto. He was always smoking a cigarette whenever I saw him. He spoke with a German accent, and was a refugee from either Germany or Austria, I'm not sure which. When Geoffrey Waddington, the head of CBC music discovered him living in Toronto he immediately appointed him music librarian who could be called in at a moment's notice if an old score or a new arrangement being rehearsed needed correction. Originally a school for girls, the CBC building was taken over by the Canadian government in the 1930s and converted to a broadcasting and administration centre. I'm not certain if Waizman actually knew Luigi von Kunits, but I do know that a number of Toronto musicians, not only Bob Farnon but Percy Faith as well, and others, studied orchestration with him. An interesting story about Percy Faith: Percy had studied piano with Frank Welsman at the Toronto Conservatory of Music. In 1923 he was considered good enough to appear as soloist with the Conservatory orchestra, playing Lizst's Hungarian Fantasy at their annual concert in Massey Hall. An injury to his hands, which took place when he was a teenager when he rescued his sister from a fire (her apron had caught fire at the kitchen stove), had placed limitations on the ultimate future of his piano playing. Percy went on to study with Louis Waizman, and he patiently honed his arranging craft. Soon enough he was writing arrangements for anybody who was willing to pay for a magnificent orchestration by Faith. He conducted his first radio show in 1931, and he joined the CBC network in 1933, as conductor and arranger. Between 1938 and 1940 he arranged for and conducted "Music by Faith", which also went down to the USA on the Mutual Broadcasting System. (Some listeners in Canada who didn't have a clue as to who or what Faith was, thought "Music by Faith" was a religious show.) On David Jacobs' June 5 Radio Two show, Bob also mentioned Toronto-born Steven Staryk, one of the TSO's most illustrious alumni, whose brilliant career as concertmaster, soloist and teacher, for more than forty years prompted a generation of critics to sing his praises in major orchestras: the Royal Philharmonic of London, the Concertgebouw of Amsterdam, and the Chicago Symphony. Even more spectacularly, he had been successively recommended for these positions by such illustrious figures as Sir Thomas Beecham, Raphael Kubelik and George Szell. I knew Steve well. In fact I'd written an article about him for Air Canada's magazine (I forget its title) whose passengers might glean some interesting information about one of Canada's luminaries. The last time I heard from Steve, in his late seventies, he lives in semi-retirement in Scottsdale, Arizona. But what a legacy he left! Staryk has served on the faculties of ten universities and conservatories, and has received flattering praise from violinist/ colleagues David Oistrakh, Zino Francescatti and Henryk Szeryng for "his masterful playing and decisive and everlasting contribution to heighten pedagogic standards of today and tomorrow." He has also recorded a vast repertoire of violin literature. More than 190 entries listing Staryk are found in Creighton's Discopaedia of the Violin, including some forty-five LPs on twenty different labels, and no less than sixteen world premieres of new music: he ranks among the most prolific of recording violinists. His list of awards, medals and distinctions is endless. And to think of the reason he left the Toronto Symphony Orchestra! In 1953 during the Senator Joseph McCarthy hearings on rooting out communists in America, the Toronto Symphony was invited to perform in Detroit, just across the US-Canadian border, about 250 miles from Toronto. The US government appealed to Ottawa to help seek out any communist sympathizers in the orchestra. Would you believe they found six members who were deemed unworthy of entering the United States, and Steven Staryk was one of them. I wasn't in the orchestra at the time but I knew every one of the six. The fact that Canadian-born Staryk's parents came from the Ukraine was enough to seal his fate. I must say that Steve was as much a communist as you or I. His protestations fell on deaf years. When the Royal Canadian Mounted Police labelled him a pinko, he, along with the other five, beseeched conductor Sir Ernest MacMillan to support them. Even though music and performance was the only true religion of each member named, the orchestra still performed in Detroit, without the "Symphony Six" as the newspapers labelled them. Staryk was so disgusted with the treatment he'd received that he went to England where he wound up as the concertmaster of Sir Thomas Beecham's orchestra. The rest is history. Editor: it was pleasing to note that the respected Daily Telegraph writer Gillian Reynolds made the Radio-2 Tribute to Robert Farnon her ‘Pick Of The Day’. She wrote: "…. this is an affectionate 90-minute tribute by David Jacobs to the much loved Canadian composer and conductor who died recently. (Brian Kay’s, on Radio 3 a month ago, was a real treat.) Farnon’s music, I bet, will go on playing in many memories for a long time yet."