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British Light Miniatures: Vintage TV and Radio Classics


This compilation includes many tunes familiar from their use in radio and television programmes - two written specifically for the medium, the rest originating in recorded music libraries. Few started out being regularly available to the record/CD buying public but in recent years original recordings have appeared; few, however, have been re-recorded since the days of 78s and so these are often the first stereo/digital performances. In a few cases, unfamiliar sections will be heard in otherwise well-known pieces as in the original recordings they had to be shortened to fit onto one side of a 78 rpm disc. Some tracks are first recordings anywhere and two tracks are heard in rare orchestral guise, being almost exclusively known before in their military band versions, and in three cases, no performing material has survived and so it has been left to two talented arrangers to reconstruct the works for present day performance.

Ralph Vaughan Williams never restricted himself just to symphonies, concertos and the like, but saw his rôle as writing music for all areas of music-making, instrumental, vocal, and choral, and for professionals and amateurs to play. He took up film music in his later years as much as a new challenge as anything else. The military band also benefitted from several works from his inexhaustible pen, including a quick march based on Sea Songs - Princess Royal, Admiral Benbow and Portsmouth. It dates from 1923, having probably been first heard at the British Empire Exhibition the following year. This version for orchestra was prepared by the composer nineteen years later, and became familiar to television viewers in the 1950s as the theme for Billy Bunter.

Billy Mayerl was born in London and from 1926 ran his own School of Modern Syncopation in the cause of the style of piano-playing that he championed. Thanks to correspondence courses his 'teachings' spread worldwide, and he even counted the future King George VI as a pupil. Among the many pieces he composed and recorded, Marigold (1927), remains his signature tune and best-seller, with 150,000 copies of the sheet music sold in the first twenty years. Not surprisingly, he named his Hampstead home after it.

Gilbert Vinter studied bassoon and composition at the Royal Academy of Music. He held posts as conductor of the BBC Concert and Midland Light orchestras and was a familiar name on the air right up to his death. During the years on the staff of the 'corporation' he put his arranging skills to good use in dozens of selections for use in the many light music programmes prevalent at the time - none better than his Waltzing with Sullivan where he strings together many of Sir Arthur's best tunes in 3/4 time. For the record, major works affectionately plundered include The Gondoliers, Victoria and Merrie England, Utopia Ltd, The Pirates of Penzance and Iolanthe.

As the 'king of British light music' and 'that man who writes tunes', Eric Coates was an obvious choice to compose catchy station signature-tunes demanded by the new independent television companies when they started up in Britain in 1955. Transmission usually began around 5pm, - a far cry from today's 24 hour fare. Coates had written similar pieces for various areas of the BBC empire, but was now approached to write for Rediffusion ( Music Everywhere ) in London, and as here, for Lew Grade's ATV ( Sound and Vision ) in the Midlands.

Daily for over thirty years, a sequence of cleverly woven traditional tunes from the four realms of the United Kingdom endeavoured to wake up a nation - well, at least that part willing to be roused at around 5.30am. It was the brainchild of ex-flautist, writer/broadcaster, Fritz Spiegl, who with the help of his friend and fellow ex-Royal Liverpool Philharmonic member, Manfred Arlan, made this 'arrangement of National airs'. It was finally dropped by the BBC in April 2006 despite a national campaign to save it.

Clive Richardson studied at the RAM and quickly established himself on the popular music scene, working at Gainsborough Pictures on the Will Hay comedies, and other films, and at the BBC providing many of the famous ITMA arrangements of familiar tunes that were so much an integral feature of the programme that played to most of the British population it would seem up to 1949 and the death of its star, Tommy Handley. Holiday Spirit became familiar as the theme of Children's Television Newsreel in the 1950s. Unbelievably, given its popularity, all material for the piece disappeared and this reconstruction was made by John Bell for an edition of Friday Night Is Music Night.

Arnold Safroni was the pseudonym of the novelist, dramatist and composer, A.S. Middleton. Born in Kent, he studied violin, becoming leader of the orchestra at Her Majesty's Theatre in Sydney, Australia, and later with the Carl Rosa Opera company. He wrote salon pieces and military marches, of which Imperial Echoes (1913) is his best known. It lay virtually ignored for the first thirty years of its life before BBC radio chose it to herald their nightly Radio Newsreel programme for the next thirty years or so. When CBC in Canada started up a television service in 1953 it was adopted there too for its nightly news bulletins.

Ivor Slaney trained as an oboist but he is best remembered as a versatile composer and arranger, responsible (anonymously) for many recordings by the 101 Strings, and, credited, as the composer of the scores for two classic, but very different children's TV film series - Sir Francis Drake and The Double-Deckers. Like so many of his contemporary colleagues he contributed extensively to the recorded music libraries. From here came the theme for the earliest TV series featuring Harry Worth and Top Dog which became just as famous through its use as the signature-tune of BBC radio's comedy series, chronicling the world of an imaginary government department in Whitehall, The Men from the Ministry.

Archibald Joyce was known as 'the English Waltz King' and ran a very successful society band playing for the very best balls and parties throughout the country in the years before and after the First World War. He also composed many waltzes and other pieces that were extensively played and recorded. Of the waltzes, Dreaming was the most popular, and a work like Songe d'Automne was even recorded by jazz legend, Sidney Bechet. Unlike his contemporaries Ketèlbey, Haydn Wood and Eric Coates, however, he found it hard to adapt to the changing times and never wrote the suites and characteristic pieces that would have enhanced his career. The waltz, A Thousand Kisses, was so entitled following a remark by a friend at the sight of a beautiful woman coming into the room - "she's worth a thousand kisses!" The piece was obviously a known favourite of Charlie Chaplin who included it in the music soundtrack he later added to his silent classic, The Gold Rush.

Woolf Phillips was born in the East End of London into a musical family. His brother Sid became a successful band-leader. Woolf began his working life with a leading music publisher, although it coul
Disc: 1
Widespread World (Rediffusion London Call Sign)
1 Sea Songs (Billy Bunter)
2 Marigold
3 Waltzing with Sullivan
4 Sound and Vision (ATV March)
5 Radio 4 UK Theme
6 Holiday Spirit (Children's Television Newsreel, Fr
7 Imperial Echoes (BBC Radio Newsreel, CBC Night New
8 Top Dog (The Men from the Ministry)
9 A Thousand Kisses (The Gold Rush)
10 Parisian Mode (What's My Line?)
11 Willow Waltz (The World of Tim Fraser)
12 Non-Stop (ITV News Bulletin)
13 Winter Sunshine
14 Paris Promenade
15 Paris Metro
16 Out of the Blue, "Marine 4-Step or Eva 3-Step" (BB
17 Barnacle Bill (Blue Peter)
18 A Little French Suite: Galop
19 I. Mazurka
20 II. Minuet
21 III. Valse
22 Widespread World (Rediffusion London Call Sign)
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