After two years enforced absence from the Lancaster Hall Hotel, we were, at long last, able to resume our light music meetings, on the 10th October.

To our relief, most of the 'regulars' were able to make it – plus a few people visiting for the first time. We hope they will come again.

Tony Clayden opened proceedings with three Light Music classics. In view of our origins in the Robert Farnon Society, it was appropriate that we began with 'Manhattan Playboy', conducted by Iain Sutherland.

This was followed by Ernest Tomlinson's 'Alla Marcia' from his 'Silverthorn Suite' – no doubt appreciated by the contingent from the Light Music Society who were present. Tony commented that this is probably the only instance of a composition having been named after a telephone exchange ['Silverthorn', the local exchange in Chingford, north-east London, where Ernest was living at the time].

Tony concluded his opening section with Peter Hope's 'Jaunting Car' from the 'Ring of Kerry Suite' – again under the baton of Iain Sutherland.

Peter Hope recently celebrated his 90th birthday, and he is, of course, President of the Light Music Society, a position he assumed following the passing of Ernest Tomlinson. This suite won an Ivor Novello Award for its composer, and is probably his best-known opus.

It was then a case of 'trombones to the fore' as Tony Foster came to the stage to present a feature on trombones – an instrument of which he is an exponent, having been an amateur player for many years since his days in the The Midland Youth Jazz Orchestra.

He opened with the Don Lusher Big Band playing 'Without a Song' in an arrangement which also featured flutes. American Trombonist, Urbie Green was the next featured artist, with a recording featuring an ensemble of Trombonists in New York, titled 21 Trombones, playing an arrangement for the ensemble of Hoagy Carmichaels 'Stardust'.

There followed another American Trombone ensemble, called, Tutti's Trombones, featuring some of the finest Trombonists on the West Coast of the USA, who had worked on many of the famous movie soundtracks in the Hollywood studio orchestras, and who had played on studio recordings backing the likes of Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, and Peggy Lee etc. This featured the Woody Herman Classic, 'Four Brothers', written originally for the saxophones, but orchestrated specially for the Trombones for this recording.

To conclude his presentation, Tony Foster played us 'Holiday for Trombones' from the David Rose Orchestra, which was composed as a sequel and companion-piece to Rose's more famous 'Holiday For Strings'.

It was then the turn of former BBC Radio Two producer Anthony Wills to come to the top table. He chose the theme 'Black is Beautiful' – to co-incide with Black History Month – with a selection of songs performed by prominent African-American female vocalists. He started with a 1962 recording of Cole Porter's 'I Concentrate on You', performed by Lena Horne; this was followed by 'So many Stars' [composed by Sergio Mendes with lyrics by Alan and Marilyn Bergman], sung by Natalie Cole. Next came 'C'est si bon', in a 1953 recording by Eartha Kitt, followed by Sarah Vaughan performing a vocal version of Leroy Anderson's 'Serenata'. [One only ever hears the main 'chorus' section of this piece when it is sung. I wonder if lyrics were ever written to the 'verse' part of the tune?]

The selection continued with 'Here I am , (Bacharach/David), performed by Dionne Warwick, who is the only artiste in the group still alive and now aged 80. After this came 'My Baby Just Cares For Me' (Donaldson/Kahn) from a 1957 recording by Nina Simone. The programme concluded with 'My Shining Hour' (Arlen/Mercer); Anthony gave the audience a bit of a 'head-scratcher' by requiring them to guess the name of the artiste, who was Diahann Carol.

This brought the first section of our show to an end. Tony read some apologies for absence – several members had intended to come but changing circumstances had decreed otherwise. We then went to tea.

In part two, it was my pleasure to introduce and interview our special guest, Dennis Wilby – a trumpet player with a long career in music, which included two years as principal cornet with the Band of the Royal Army Service Corps, in the mid-fifties, (which was a rather rewarding way of doing his National Service!).

Having left the army, he quickly found employment as principal trumpet with the BBC Northern Ireland Light Orchestra in Belfast, a position which he held from 1959 to 1969, during which time he also became Chairman of the orchestra.

Although various guest conductors came to visit the orchestra, the majority of sessions were conducted by their founder, David Curry – said to be the only leprechaun ever employed by the BBC ! World- famous for his compositions and arrangements of Irish traditional music, he was a hard task-master who expected all musicians to be present ten minutes before the official starting time. Latecomers were sometimes sent home!

Dennis told us that he got on well with Curry and sometimes played billiards with him. On one occasion, he played golf with him – and beat him. An enraged Curry then threw his clubs in the river – leaving officials the task of retrieving them!

Curry retired at the end of 1965 – at least, this was the official line! He was actually sacked after turning up at a public concert too intoxicated to conduct! He was given several months of what was termed 'Gardening Leave' during which time Arthur Anton – who was well-liked – conducted the orchestra.

In 1966, Terence Lovett was appointed conductor; he could sometimes be difficult and had a tendency to 'pick on' certain members of the orchestra. Dennis told me that on one occasion certain musicians complained to him (as orchestra Chairman) of Lovett's tendency to exceed the specified rehearsal times. He passed-on this fact to Lovett, who immediately demanded to know the identities of the complainants – which Dennis (quite rightly) refused to give him.

Lovett didn’t actually like light music very much and negotiated a considerable increase in the size of the orchestra, to enable it to play classical music.

Despite this, Lovett did not stay for long and Stanley Black took over in 1968, but recording commitments meant that he, too, left after a year. At about this time, the 'troubles' in Northern Ireland were escalating and Dennis decided that it was time to move on, and returned to playing in brass bands – something that he had done prior to conscription.

In 1972, Dennis took over the conductorship of Grimethorpe Colliery Band from long-serving George Thompson. In theory, this ought to have been a prized appointment, Grimethorpe being one of finest bands in the world. However, Dennis described them as 'horrible'.

Not only were they uncooperative and disruptive but on one occasion, when playing at an indoor evening concert with a choir, they told Dennis, at the interval, that they were not going to play the second half of the concert as the pubs would be shut! Some choice words were uttered and the second part of the concert went ahead.

Dennis moved on after about a year and enjoyed much happier relationships conducting Wingates Temperance Band and the James Shepherd Versatile Brass.

He was destined to be reunited with Grimethorpe when he played "Arthur Mullins" in the 1996 film 'Brassed Off' !

Dennis spent the latter part of his career playing in brass bands or as a adjudicator at major brass band competitions – including the National Championships at the Royal Albert Hall.
My talk with Dennis was punctuated with the following tracks from a new double CD of the erstwhile BBC Northern Ireland Light Orchestra.

The Jesters by (Albert Cazabon)
Small Town Parade (Cecil Norman)
Medley: Stairway to the Sea (Cieffi)
............Don’t Laugh at me(Norman Wisdom)
............Inn for Trouble (Philip Green)
Le Gabri Mexicaine (Roger Roger)
Pat’s Favourite (trad. arr. David Curry)
Estorella (Ronnie Munro
Flywheel (Ronnie Munro)

To illustrate Dennis Wilby's brass band work we played a piece called 'Gentleman Jim' (John Carr) featuring the James Shepherd Versatile Brass –conducted by Dennis.
Incidentally, Dennis Wilby's autobiography makes excellent reading and is available from Amazon:
Tony Clayden then thanked Dennis for a very interesting contribution to our meeting, and for his patience in having had to wait for two years to be our guest, due to the lockdown.

We then took a 10 minute break.

Opening the third part of the show André Leon introduced his friend, the producer, Tris Penner to talk about a couple of CDs which Tris had produced many years ago called 'The Sound Gallery, vols. 1 and 2'.

They played the opening theme of the BBC Radio 2 programme 'Pete Murray’s Open House' – 'Brass and Bells', and then 'The Call of the Faraway Hills', originally featured in the 'western' film 'Shane'.

This was followed by 'The Blarney Stone'* from the Dave Allen Show and Nightrider from a TV advert for Cadbury's Milk Chocolate, after which we heard 'The Good Word' by Tony Scott, familiar to many as the theme from TV's "Nationwide".

Brian Fahey's 'At the Sign of the Swinging Cymbal' came next, in its original version. This piece has always been used as the signature tune of BBC Radio’s 'Pick of the Pops' although the arrangement which is now used is the revised version, made many years ago, and also conducted, by the late Barbara Moore, whose death was announced recently at the age of 89. André's feature concluded with a baroque style piece entitled 'Here Comes the Sea' played by the Baroque Chamber Orchestra.

The final section of our show was presented by Martin Cleave who spoke about the brilliant piano duettists, Rawicz and Landauer. Martin has made a special study of this duo, who were very popular when frequently featured on the BBC Light Programme, and played their signature tune 'Spinning Wheel' (Marjan Rawicz) followed by 'Liszt in Rhythm'.

Turning to the music of Eric Coates, Martin played the 'Knightsbridge March' [in a very different interpretation from Coates' original], Leroy Anderson's 'Serenata', Robert Farnon's 'Manhattan Playboy' and, rounding off a very entertaining sequence, Edward German's 'Merrymakers Dance' from his Nell Gwynn Dances.

To conclude the afternoon's entertainment, Tony Clayden played us what was, for me, perhaps the most attractive piece of the afternoon – Ronald Binge's rarely heard 'A Flash of Strings'.

Tony then thanked all who had taken part and then thanked the audience who had ventured back to us. He then invited us to reconvene on Sunday May 8th 2022 (Covid permitting!).

Brian Reynolds

* As we were about to publish this report, the sad death has just been announced, at the age of 84, of Alan Hawkshaw, who composed this piece for the KPM music library. It was originally entitled ‘Studio 69’, referencing the year in which it first appeared. An obituary for this versatile and talented musician will follow on the LLMMG website in due course. TC

The next LLMMG meeting will take place at the Lancaster Hall Hotel on Sunday May 8th 2022 – All are welcome, please tell your friends !

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