Elizabethan Serenade: The Best of British Light Music

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The Best of British Light Music


[1] By the Sleepy Lagoon - Eric Coates(1886 - 1957)

The English composer Eric Coates was amaster of light music, providing material that has formed a stratum in Britishmusical consciousness through much of the twentieth century. Born in Hucknall,in Nottinghamshire, he studied first in Nottingham and then at the Royal Academy of Music in London,where he was a viola pupil of the great Lionel Tertis and a composition pupilof Frederick Corder. His early professional experience was in theatreorchestras and, for a time, as member of the Hambourg Quartet, but, after aspell of service in the Queen's Hall Orchestra, he turned his attentiondefinitively to light music, winning enormous popularity. His By the SleepyLagoon, a valse serenade written in 1930, is very familiar to addicts ofthe BBC programme Desert Island Discs, for many years an introduction tothe voice of Roy Plomley and now to that of Sue Lawley.


[2] Robin Hood Suite: March of the Bowmen -Frederic Curzon (1899 - 1973)

Dedicated to Marian, his wife, thethree-movement Robin Hood Suite appeared in 1937, the year of Frederic Curzon'smarriage. Donald Curzon has no hesitation in regarding this work as a turningpoint in his stepfather's career, and considers it a 'bench-mark' for all thatwas to follow. Named after the legendary -or, as some scholars would have it,not so legendary -outlaw who inhabited Nottinghamshire's sherwood Forest inmedieval times, robbing from the rich to give to the poor, it represents thecomposer at the height of his melodic inspiration. The very popular March ofthe Bowmen strongly suggests that the archers of Sherwood Forest were no raggle-taggle band of ruffians, but closerelations of the Yeomen of England. It is all good, stiff-upper-lip stuff. Thestandard English march format is followed, with a stirring main tune followedby a contrasting theme, broader and more regal in feel. Both sections are thenrepeated, the second being slowed down and given a grandiose, ceremonialrendition.


[3] Bells across the Meadows - Albert Ketelbey(1875 - 1959)

Born in Birmingham and later a student at Trinity College in London, Albert Ketelbey was a versatile performer, winningenormous popularity for some of his descriptive pieces and providing a wealthof music for the silent films. One of his most popular compositions, Bellsacross the Meadows was written in 1921. To modern-day audiences, this workoffers an aural equivalent of a Myles Birket Foster painting of by-gone scenes-rose-entwined thatched cottages standing amidst gardens full of hollyhockswith a gentle brook bubbling on its rustic way and cows grazing peacefully inthe pastures beyond. Did such idyllic images ever really exist? It is nice tothink that they did and Bells Across the Meadows certainly helps tosustain this belief.


[4] Coronation Scot - Vivian Ellis (1903 - 1996)

Vivian Ellis is one of Britain's great song-writers. With such a melodic gift backedby all the right attributes -harmonic resource, sense of design, ability to seta scene, and impeccable workmanship -it was natural that his output has alsoincluded a number of light orchestral compositions.

Vivian Ellis was born in Hampstead, London, into a musical family. His grandmother was a pianistand composer, writing, amongst other things, a comic opera, and his mother wasa fine violinist. He studied composition and piano at the Royal Academy ofMusic, the latter under Myra Hess. Recognising that his talents lay in 'light'rather than symphonic fields his first employment was as a reader anddemonstrator for the London publisher Francis, Day and Hunter. His ownskill as a song-writer was recognised by his late teens and there began aprolific output of songs and other musical numbers for the stage, working withthe great artists of the day, including Jack Hulbert, Francis Day and SophieTucker. He was only twenty when the great impresario C.B. Cochran invited himto write for his 1930 Revue and thus began a long and fruitful relationship.

The constant turnover of new revues and musical comedies that characterisedtheatre in the pre-war era found Ellis in his element.


[5] Sketch of a Dandy - Haydn Wood (1882 - 1959)

A Yorkshire-man by birth, Haydn Wood movedwith his family to the Isle of Man at the age of two. Aviolinist and composer of prodjgious early talent, he studied at the RoyalCollege of Music in London, with composition lessons from Stanford,and he went on to study the violin further in Brussels with Cesar Thomson. A versatile and prolific composer, often in a lightervein, with many sentimental ballads to his credit, Haydn Wood enjoyed a longand successful career. His delightful miniature, Sketch of a Dandy, datingfrom 1950 shows, that age had done nothing to diminish the 68-year-oldcomposer's gift for creating simple, pleasing melodies accompanied byoccasionally piquant harmonies. Wood provided his own brief scenario for thistitle gem of light music:

"Conjure up in your mind the gaynineties and picture a dandy taking his morning constitutional down Bond Street on a beautiful day in Spring. He meets one of hischarming lady friends and exchanges pleasantries with her. He reluctantlyleaves her and strolls on his way."


[6] The Westminster Waltz - Robert Farnon (b. 1917)

Canadian by birth, Robert Farnon had anactive career in broadcast music in his native country before the war andmilitary service that took him to England as conductorof the Canadian Band of the Allied Expeditionary Forces. Here he won immediatepopularity for his compositions, arrangements and performances, much in demandas a musical director and as an exponent of light music. Probably thebest-known of all Farnon's compositions, the exhilarating Westminster Waltz datesfrom 1956, and was the recipient of that year's coveted Ivor Novello Award forlight music. No prizes are offered for recognising the source of the veryopening bars, but the lilting main theme is 100% original Farnon. Theclose-harmony scoring of strings and woodwind and skilful use of sequences arewholly typical of the composer, serving as unmistakable stylistic fingerprints.


[7] Little Suite: March - Trevor Duncan (b.


Trevor Duncan, a veteran composer, balanceengineer wit~ the BBC, describes his Little Suite as absolute music. Theuse of the march by BBC Television for its Dr. Finlay's Casebook seriesresulted in numerous commercial recordings. The Scottish setting for the Finlaystories convinced listeners that the inspiration came from north of the border,but Duncan insists that he was thinking of England, not Scotland, when he penned this miniaturemasterpiece.


[8] Sailing By - Ronald Binge (1910 - 1979)

About the most difficult thing to composeis a tune which is both simple and memorable. Easy-to-Iisten-to easy-to-forgettunes abound, but Sailing By has that extra quality that mak
Disc: 1
The Dam Busters March
1 By the Sleepy Lagoon
2 Robin Hood Suite: March of the Bowmen
3 Bells across the Meadows
4 Coronation Scot
5 Sketch of a Dandy
6 The Westminster Waltz
7 Little Suite: March
8 Sailing By
9 Jamaican Rumba
10 London Suite: Knightsbridge March
11 In a Monastery Garden
12 Little Serenade
13 Roses of Picardy
14 Puffin' Billy
15 Elizabethan Serenade
16 Tom Jones Waltz
17 Vanity Fair
18 Marigold
19 In a Persian Market
20 The Dam Busters March
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