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TOMLINSON: Silverthorn Suite / Little Serenade

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Ernest Tomlinson


Long regarded as one of the leading figures in the field oflight music, Ernest Tomlinson was born at Rawtenstall, Lancashire on September19, 1924 into a musical family. He started composing when he was only nine, atabout the same time that he became a choirboy at Manchester Cathedral, where hewas eventually to be appointed Head Boy in 1939. Here, and at Bacup andRawtenstall Grammar School his musical talents were carefully nurtured, and hewas only 16 when he won a scholarship to Manchester University and the RoyalManchester (now Northern) College of Music. He spent the next two yearsstudying composition, organ, piano and clarinet until, in 1943, the war effortdemanded that he leave and join the Royal Air Force. Defective colour-visionprecluded his being selected for aircrew and the new recruit, having hisrequest to become a service musician turned down on the grounds that he was toohealthy to follow such a career, found himself being trained as a WirelessMechanic, notwithstanding that many of the components he was required to workwith were colour-coded! (The future composer, however, was duly delighted withhis assignment, which he thoroughly enjoyed and which almost certainlycontributed to a later interest in electronic music). He saw service in Franceduring 1944 and 1945, eventually returning to England where, with the cessationof hostilities, he was able to resume his studies. He finally graduated in1947, receiving the degree of Bachelor of Music for composition as well asbeing made a Fellow of the Royal College of Organists and an Associate of theRoyal Manchester College of Music for his prowess on the King of Instruments.


Ernest Tomlinson then left the North of England and headedsouth to London where, for several years, he worked as a staff arranger forArcadia and Mills Music Publishers, providing scores for radio and televisionbroadcasts as well as for the stage and recording studios. He maintained hisinterest in the organ by taking up a post at a Mayfair church, butincreasingly, composing came to play the dominant role. He had his first piecebroadcast in 1949 and by 1955, when he was able to earn his living entirely bycomposing, he was to be heard on the radio with his own Ernest Tomlinson LightOrchestra and later, with his group of singers. While not neglecting thelarger-scale forms, including several works in symphonic-jazz style, the firstof which, Sinfonia '62, won the million-lire First Prize in the Italiancompetition for "Rhythmic-Symphonic" works, three concertos, aone-act opera Head of the Family, a ballet Aladdin, Festival of Song for chorusand orchestra as well as a substantial and varied body of works for choir andmusic for brass and wind bands, it was as a writer of light orchestral piecesthat he was to become best-known. In this area, he has produced a considerablenumber of works ranging from overtures, suites and rhapsodies to delightfulminiatures, of which Little Serenade is probably the most popular.


From the time that he first directed a church choir when hewas just 17, Ernest Tomlinson has been active as a conductor, firmly believingthat involvement in performance is vitally important for a composer. From 1951to 1953, he was musical director of the Chingford Amateur Dramatic and OperaticSociety in Essex. In 1976, he took over the directorship of the Rossendale MaleVoice Choir from his father, Fred, a post he held for five years, during whichtime he led the singers to victory in their class in each of the three years ofBBC Television's Grand Sing Competition. Not long afterwards, in associationwith the Rossendale Ladies Choir and its conductor Beatrice Wade, he helpedform the Rossendale Festival Choir which quickly went on to win a number ofcompetitions. Then, at the official retiring age of 65, he founded yet anothernew group, the Ribble Vale Choir, with which he is still actively involved.


In the orchestral field, he has often conducted performancesof his own works, one of the most notable occasions being in 1966 when he wason the rostrum in the Tchaikovsky Hall, Moscow for his Symphony '65, played bythe Moscow Radio Symphony Orchestra and Big Band - the first time a symphonicjazz work had been heard in Russia. In his home country, he was responsible forthe founding of the Northern Concert Orchestra, with whom he gave numerousbroadcasts and concerts, the emphasis being on the light orchestral repertoire.


A man of boundless energy, Ernest Tomlinson has also foundtime to serve for several years on the Executive Committee of the Composers'Guild of Great Britain and was its Chairman in 1964. In addition, he has been acomposer-director of the Performing Rights Society since 1965. In 1984, hefounded The Library of Light Orchestral Music, which is housed in a huge barnat his farmhouse home near Longridge, Lancashire, and currently contains around10,000 pieces, including many items that would otherwise have been lost. Andfinally, his wartime training has been put to excellent use in his ability toutilise technological developments within the musical sphere, be it byrealising scores electronically or by perfecting computer publishing andcataloguing systems.


Much respected by fellow professionals in the musical world,as witness his receipt of the Composers' Guild Award in 1965 and two IvorNovello Awards (one for his full-length ballet Aladdin in 1975, the other forservices to light music in 1970), Ernest Tomlinson's services have been calledupon in other areas as well. A keen sportsman, he played wing-three quartersfor the prestigious Saracens Rugby Union Club and then for Chingford in Essex.

For many years he could be found padded up and ready to do battle on behalf ofEynsford village cricket team in Kent and, later, his home town of Longridge inLancashire. He still enjoys an early morning cycle ride, while for relaxation(!) he lists do-it-yourself, electronics and, last but by absolutely no meansleast, the joys of family life - of which, with a wife, four children and eightgrandchildren, there are many.


This, then, is Ernest Tomlinson: composer, conductor,organist, administrator, librarian - and consultant for Marco Polo's BritishLight Orchestral Music series.


[1] LITTLE SERENADE: This delightful miniature, one of thecomposer's most popular pieces, began life as part of The Story of Cinderella(of which more later), dating from 1955. It occurs early in the tale wherePrince Charming meets Cinderella though, of course, she is as yet unaware of histrue identity. He is struck by her beauty and charm and offers her a serenadewhich duly develops into a love duet. Ernest Tomlinson subsequently adaptedthis extract as an independent concert item, in which guise it has beenperformed countless times. It has been used as a signature tune for at leastfive different programmes and the composer himself reckons to have made atleast thirty assorted arrangements.


[2] AN ENGLISH OVERTURE: "Don't tell anyone", saysErnest Tomlinson, "but this [work] was originally written for brassband" - specifically, Foden's Band conducted by Harry Mortimer. It wasknown then as Overture on Famous English Airs but the composer decided tochange the title when he transcribed it for orchestra. "Was I right?",asks the composer, seemingly uncertain of his decision to amend thenomenclature. The answer probably
Item number 8223413
Barcode 4891030234130
Release date 05/01/2000
Label Marco Polo
Media type CD
Number of units 1
Composers Tomlinson, Ernest
Tomlinson, Ernest
Conductors Tomlinson, Ernest
Tomlinson, Ernest
Orchestras Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra
Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra
Disc: 1
Sweet and Dainty
1 Little Serenade
2 An English Overture
3 Fairy Coach
4 Cinderella Waltz
5 Kielder Water
6 Alla Marcia
7 Canzonet
8 Concert Jig
9 Kettledrum
10 Chipping Lane
11 Newcastle
12 Up Goes Fly
13 Love-in-a-Mist
14 Catch Me If You Can
15 Nocturne
16 Hornpipe
17 Gaelic Lullaby
18 Nautical Interlude
19 Sweet and Dainty
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