Once again, the time had arrived for our bi-annual get-together at the Lancaster Hall Hotel for another afternoon of melodious music.

As usual, Tony Clayden welcomed us to the afternoon's entertainment- opening with Elegy by Lindeman, from a brand- new CD by the world-famous harmonica virtuoso Sigmund Groven, who had once again travelled from Oslo to attend our meeting. A courteous and self-effacing man, Sigmund has been welcomed at our gatherings for many years, dating back to the days of the Robert Farnon Society, and is a loyal supporter of our current activities.

The programme continued with an early work by Eric Coates –
his miniature overture The Merrymakers, from a track on another new CD just released by Chandos Records. This features the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by John Wilson, and is Volume One of a projected six-volume set of orchestral works by Eric Coates.
(see our CD review section)

Tony then introduced Anthony Wills, who had prepared an extended tribute to two recently departed musical giants - André Previn and Doris Day. Following a recording of Brian Matthew introducing Anthony's 1983 Radio 2 production of André Previn, Man of Music, we listened to the overture to the film Gigi (Lerner and Loewe).

After telling us about the early life of Andreas Ludwig Priwin, (to give him his birth name), Anthony played Too Darn' Hot from Kiss Me Kate (Cole Porter) featuring Ann Miller and the Boys. Previn not only acted as conductor, but created the orchestral arrangements as well.

Next followed And This Is My Beloved from the 1955 production of Kismet (Borodin, Wright, Forrest), starring Howard Keel, Ann Blyth and Vic Damone. Although Previn was the conductor, we were led to believe that he hated it!

Anthony then played Summertime from Gershwin's Porgy And Bess, featuring Diahann Carroll [who had died just two days earlier], in which Previn was involved as musical supervisor and won an Oscar.

In 1964 André was musical supervisor for the film version of My Fair Lady (Lerner and Loewe) and won another Oscar. So we listened to The Rain In Spain, performed by Rex Harrison, Wilfrid Hyde-White and Audrey Hepburn, although the latter's voice was 'dubbed' by Marni Nixon.

We then heard Dionne Warwick sing the theme from the film Valley of the Dolls (composed by André and Dory Previn).

In the mid-sixties, Previn's career underwent a change of direction as he wished to concentrate on more 'serious' music. He became conductor of the Houston Symphony Orchestra in 1967 and a year or so later he was appointed Principal Conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra. It was not too long thereafter (1971) that he made his famous appearance on The Morecambe and Wise show – and was introduced as "Mr Andrew Preview" by Eric Morecambe !

It was now time to move on to Doris Day and, accompanied by the André Previn Trio, she sang Close Your Eyes – a wonderful performance by a singer who, unaccountably, seldom 'did' jazz ! This was followed by It's Magic written by Sammy Cahn and Jule Styne for the film Romance on the High Seas. Perhaps her most memorable role was in Calamity Jane, from which we then heard [I Just Blew In From] 'The Windy City' , by Sammy Fain and Paul Francis Webster.

Doris then sang Over and Over Again (music by Rodgers and Hart) from the 1962 film Billy Rose's Jumbo accompanied by the MGM Studio Orchestra and chorus who were subsequently disbanded.

To conclude his presentation Anthony gave a brief tribute to film director Stanley Donen who died in February aged 94, by playing Gershwin's
's Wonderful, sung by Fred Astaire, from the soundtrack of Funny Face.

We then went to tea !

In Part Two we were pleased to welcome our special guest, the pianist, organist and composer Roderick Elms, (a familiar name to listeners to 'Friday Night is Music Night'), in conversation with Tony Clayden.

The first item in Rod’s presentation was the Theme from the Apartment by Charles Williams, in which he was the solo pianist. This appeared on the 2003 CD of Williams' compositions, with which Tony had been involved; it was recorded at Watford Colosseum by the BBC Concert Orchestra conducted by Barry Wordsworth, and produced by Philip Lane.
[see also below*]

This was followed by one of Rod's own compositions – Libre, dedicated to Howard Shore (composer of the music to The Lord of the Rings).

We then listened to Dance of the Elves (Gautier Capucon) performed by the celebrated Russian cello virtuoso Mstislav Rostropovitch, accompanied by his daughter Elena. The keyboard skills of Roderick Elms were once again demonstrated in another Charles Williams composition The Dream of Olwen, [from the same CD as mentioned above*].

This was followed by the well-known organ composition – Toccata, from the Organ Symphony No.5 by Charles-Marie Widor; although originally written for solo organ, on this occasion Rod was accompanied by the entire BBC Concert Orchestra (!) in a special arrangement made by Sidney Torch for a Friday Night Is Music Night broadcast.

We then heard another 'Denham Concerto', this time the Spellbound Concerto, (Miklos Rosza) in which Roderick was featured as solo pianist with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.

Next came a Gordon Langford arrangement of With A Song In My Heart (Rodgers and Hart), performed by the BBC Concert orchestra under the direction of Gavin Sutherland. This was followed by a recording of Roderick and his wife Jo, playing a piano duet written for their first wedding anniversary.

We then listened to The Way to the Stars ( Nicholas Brodszky) from Gavin Sutherland and the BBC Concert Orchestra – once again featuring Roderick.

Following that, we heard the title track of a Christmas album - Calypso Carol, in which Bramwell Tovey conducted a brass and wind ensemble drawn from the BBC Concert orchestra. Next came an arrangement based on I Saw Three Ships A-Sailing By entitled Sails At Dawn; both pieces having been written by Roderick.

To conclude Rod's presentation, he was joined by his wife Jo for a brilliant 'live' performance of Scherzo Burlesque by Philip Lane.

Tony thanked Rod and Jo and for their great contributions to the afternoon’s proceedings and Jo then gallantly drew the raffle !

To take us up to the second interval, Tony then played Danza Italiana by Madeleine Dring, featuring Tommy Reilly (harmonica), from yet another brand-new Chandos release, which has been assembled by Reilly's son David and Sigmund Groven from recordings spanning the years 1945-1988.
(See also our CD reviews section)

Opening Part Three, Tony played Autumn Leaves (Joseph Kosma) featuring the George Shearing Quintet with a string choir conducted by Dennis Farnon – Bob's younger brother – who passed away in Holland earlier this year, aged 95. Dennis's arrangement incorporated George’s ingenious short 'quote' from J. S. Bach's Jesu, Joy Of Man's Desiring.

Next on the platform was Martin Cleave, with a feature which he called "Here Is The News", as it consisted of pieces that have a connection with news bulletins. First up was Imperial Echoes by Arnold Safroni, [BBC Radio Newsreel] played by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Gavin Sutherland.

Following that, the Queen's Hall Light Orchestra performed Girls in Grey, composed and conducted by Charles Williams [BBC Television Newsreel] and then Clive Richardson's Holiday Spirit [BBC Children's Television Newsreel], conducted by Robert Farnon.

We then heard the former ITN theme Non Stop by John Malcolm, played by Gavin Sutherland and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Martin concluded with the March Of The Movies (Louis Levy) played by the Gaumont British Symphony.

It was now my turn to take the stage with my Radio Recollections. The first two pieces were from another brand-new double CD featuring off-air performances by the BBC Northern Ireland Light Orchestra under their founder conductor David Curry. I opened with a composition by pianist/composer Cecil Norman, entitled Small Town Parade. This was followed by The Happy Bachelor, a humorous number by accordionist Gerald Crossman. Next we heard La Cannebiere by conductor Raymond Agoult and Fantan composed and conducted by master craftsman Jack Coles with the BBC Midland Light Orchestra.

I then vacated the stage in favour of André Leon, who presented a feature entitled The Decca Decades, with material drawn from the extensive series of that name which André is currently presenting on the internet radio station Radio Six International, to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the founding of Decca Records.

He opened with the Mantovani Orchestra playing the theme from The High And The Mighty by Dimitri Tiomkin in an arrangement by Victor Young. Next we heard the Mantovani Orchestra in Charmaine (Rapee / Pollack, arr. Ronald Binge).

This was followed by Frank Chacksfield and his Orchestra playing their signature tune, The Limelight Theme, written by Charlie Chaplin - as was the next item Smile, performed by the Stanley Black orchestra, who then concluded André's section with the Goldfinger theme (John Barry).

After rounding-off with Rodgers and Hammerstein's The Surrey With The Fringe On Top, (featuring Bob’s hugely talented great-niece Nicola Farnon, who simultaneously sings and plays double-bass, with her jazz trio), Tony brought the meeting to a close.

He invited us to return on May 3rd 2020 when our special guest will be Dennis Wilby (principal trumpet in the BBC Northern Ireland Light Orchestra 1959-1969, and brass band conductor and adjudicator in more recent years).

© Brian Reynolds 2019

The next LLMMG meeting will take place at the Lancaster Hall Hotel on Sunday October 4th 2020 – All are welcome, please tell your friends !

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