A CONCERT BY THE ROYAL AIR FORCE SALON ORCHESTRA
AT THE REGENT HALL, OXFORD STREET, LONDON on 5TH NOVEMBER 2021
FEATURING:

THE MUSIC OF FRED HARTLEY

Fred Hartley (1905 – 1980) was born in Dundee and was a pianist, arranger and musical director, famous for his light music compositions, and skilful arrangements. He led small musical ensembles which broadcast regularly for the BBC from the early thirties until the fifties, when he emigrated to Australia. For some years after the war, Fred was Head of Light music for the BBC.

Amongst his many compositions, which were part of the fabric of the old “Light Programme” are Rouge et Noire. Dreamy Afternoon, Hampden Roar, Whiskey Galore, Zsa Zsa, Leapfrog, Alpine Festival, A Garden in Granada, Tickled Pink, Life is Nothing Without Music (his Signature tune). A few of his pieces were written under the pseudonym of ‘Iris Taylor’.

The Royal Air Force Salon Orchestra, consists of six string players and a pianist and was therefore the perfect combination to emulate the Fred Hartley style (a close-harmony string ensemble). The orchestra’s programme (perhaps inevitably) gave emphasis to Hartley’s arrangements, but included four of his original compositions ‘Russian Fantasie’, ‘In a Dream’, ‘At the Whispering Pool’, ‘Whiskey Galore’ (This item has nothing to do with the 1949 film of the same name, although the orchestra seemed to think otherwise.)

The other numbers in the programme (all arranged by Fred Hartley) were the delightful Cocktail of Happiness (Wynford Reynolds), Kashmiri Song (Amy Woodforde-Finden), Greensleeves (Trad.),The Blue Danube (Johann Strauss ll), These Foolish Things (Jack Strachey), Five minutes with Waldteufel (Emile Waldteufel),My Love is like a red, red rose (trad) Tango of the Night, (Jose Payan).

When Fred Hartley emigrated to Australia he left behind a legacy of recordings (78s) of his ensemble and several LP records (mostly piano solos). Unlike most bandleaders, he did not seek to immortalise many of his compositions on record, which was a pity. His own ensemble was fortunate to include some star musicians, such as Reginald Leopold and Sidney Sax and it was Sax who kept the Hartley sound on the airwaves for many years by forming his own group, The Harlequins (a contraction of Hartley Quintet) and just like Hartley, incorporated a tenor saxophone (doubling clarinet) which was used to bolster the ‘block’ sound of the closely harmonised strings. I am actually fortunate enough to have a complete recording of one of Fred’s broadcasts in 1943.

When Fred Hartley died in 1980, Max Jaffa was asked (at very short notice,) to present a thirty minute obituary on Radio 2, in which he was joined by Reginald Leopold.

The Royal Air Force Salon Orchestra, making their first appearance at Regent Hall, gave a brilliant performance of Fred Hartley’s works and arrangements and I was delighted that, at a time when light music is in decline, a complete concert should be devoted to it. I have to admit that I was worried that as the name of Fred Hartley would be unfamiliar to many people, there might be a low turnout. Not a bit of it! The hall was packed and the audience really showed their appreciation with chants of ‘more’! Well, I understand that this was intended to be the first of a series of light music concerts!

BRIAN REYNOLDS
November 2021

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