On a bright but rather chilly October Sunday, several dozen supporters of the – sadly – almost forgotten genre of light music assembled at the Lancaster Hall Hotel, for an afternoon of glorious, heartwarming music.

As usual, Tony Clayden welcomed us to the proceedings and played the first item - George Gershwin's Lady be Good, performed in Bob Farnon's brilliant arrangement which he and his orchestra, together with George Shearing, recorded at the CTS Studios, Wembley, in 1993, during a session which Tony had been fortunate enough to attend.

This was followed by a composition entitled Windjammer Overture. No – not the one by John Ansell, but by Morton Gould and played by the Cinemiracle Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Jack Shaindlin. This unreleased track was intended to appear on the projected Volume 4 of 100 Greatest American Orchestras, upon which the late Alan Bunting was working when he passed away in early 2016.

As many will know, the new CD of previously unrecorded works by Haydn Wood is – finally – almost ready for release and we have been assured by Vocalion that it will be available before Christmas. So, Tony played us a 'preview' track – The Romany Life Overture , performed by the BBC Concert Orchestra, conducted by Gavin Sutherland.

It then fell to me to make my presentation of vintage radio recordings from the 1960s, when light orchestras still dominated the then BBC 'Light Programme'. I began with one of my own compositions, Souvenir de Montmartre, played by the BBC Radio Orchestra conducted by Frank Chacksfield. This was followed by a lovely Fredric Bayco composition, Lady Beautiful - performed by Reg Pursglove and the Albany Strings. We then turned to the music of Ron Goodwin for his Messenger Boy, performed by Ralph Elman and his Bohemian Players. It was this orchestra which also played my final item, the delightful George Melachrino composition - Winter Sunshine – appropriate for the day’s weather !

Martin Cleave was our next presenter. He is of a later generation which was not 'brought-up' on this kind of music, so he does not have 'nostalgic memories' as so many of us do, but greatly enjoys it ! His opening item was Horse Guards ,Whitehall by Haydn Wood, played by Sidney Torch and the Queen's Hall Light Orchestra. Martin followed this with a piece called Parakeet by Lobsa, featuring Semprini and his orchestra. To conclude , he played Down the Mall by John Belton (the pseudonym of Tony Lowry and Douglas Brownsmith)- played by Charles Shadwell and his orchestra.

As Martin left the stage, his place was taken by David Corbett, who has become somewhat of a celebrity in the last eighteen months, hosting his excellent "Light Programme" on Serenade [Internet] Radio every Sunday evening. David opened his presentation with Kenneth Baynes' Ad Infinitum from a 1959 radio broadcast by Raymond Agoult and his Players. (Kenneth was at one time Assistant Head of the Light Music Department at the BBC, and was the son of Sydney Baynes, composer of the famous waltz Destiny). This was followed by a catchy Farnon composition entitled Playtime performed by the Danish State Radio orchestra conducted by Ole Jenson (really Bob Farnon).

In complete contrast, David played Carl Friedman's Slavonic Rhapsody No.1, performed by the Harry Davidson orchestra conducted by Sidney Davey. To illustrate the fact that Albert Ketelbey didn't just compose slow, sentimental pieces, David played his Wedgwood Blue in a performance by the New Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Bob Sharples. David's programme concluded with The Main Event by Michael Sarsfield.

Taking us up to our first interval, we listened to John Ireland's Minuet from 'A Downland Suite', which appears on a brand-new release of English Music on the Dutton Epoch label.

Suitably refreshed, we resumed the afternoon's entertainment and Chris Money came to the table to talk about Sidney Torch, a complicated and sometimes temperamental man, but a brilliant cinema organist and latterly composer and conductor. As examples of his work, Chris played us On a Spring Note, London Playhouse, All Strings and Fancy Free and Meandering.
Sidney Torch was the creator of the BBC's Friday Night Is Music Night. After many years 'at the helm', he retired to Eastbourne, but after his wife's death, he sadly took his own life.

Next on the assembly line of presenters was Stephen Wills, whose professional contributions are always welcome at our meetings. He opened with Steve Race and his orchestra playing Trevor Duncan's March from A Little Suite, remembered by many as the theme from the original TV series of Dr. Finlay's Casebook. Next came Frank Chacksfield and his orchestra with the maestro's Cuban Boy - a composition recently given a new lease of life in the TV comedy series 'Still Game'. After playing Paul Lewis's Autumn Love, Steven concluded his presentation with the Spring and Autumn Theme from the Johnny Keating orchestra.

To bring part two of our programme to a conclusion, Tony played us three Continental recordings, from CDs which he regularly receives from a former Robert Farnon Society member who lives in [former East] Germany, Frank Pinnow. These were Rendezvous (Aletter), by the Hans-Georg Alt orchestra from Germany, Schon Rosemarin (Kreisler) by the Dalibor Brazda Orchestra from the Czech Republic and finally Vanessa (Bernie Wayne) played by Jan Corduwener's orchestra from Holland.

After the raffle, we took our second interval.

It was now time for the high spot of the afternoon, our special guests, the Aspidistra Drawing Room Orchestra - seven skilled musicians, one of whom, Liz Menezes is a fine singer as well as a first-rate violinist. On occasions such as this, she is usually joined by Camilla Cutts, but sadly she was indisposed, and the vocal duets were rendered as solos by Liz.

The programme was as follows:

Bows and Bells (Sydney Del Monte)
Cafe Bonheur (Henry Krein)
Balad Pour Adeline (De Senniville)
Da Capo (Georges Boulanger)
Stringing Along (Eddie Tower)
When I grow too old to dream (Sigmund Romberg)
Romance de Neva
Loving You (Yellen, Shapiro)
Belle of Brazil (Edward Rubach)
Stars of Ecstasy (Louis Ganne)
Hard -hearted Hanna (Agar,Yellen)
Mississipi Melody (Ernest Tomlinson)
Love Light (Haydn Wood)
Slumber Song (Schumann)
Rhythm on Rails (Charles Williams)
Side by Side (Harry Warren)
Aus Eigensinn (Heinz Munizonius)

This splendid performance by the orchestra, under the direction of Adam Bakker, brought our afternoon's entertainment to a close. Tony thanked the orchestra and the various presenters.

He informed us that the Spring meeting will take place on May 5th, when our special guest will be pianist Helen Crayford, who often played the 15 minute 'At the Piano' interludes on Radio 2, in the 1990s. She will present one of her 'Rags to Riches' concerts, which she has given all over Britain and abroad.

Brian Reynolds

The next LLMMG meeting will take place at the Lancaster Hall Hotel on Sunday May 5th 2019 – All are welcome, please tell your friends !

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