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LONDON LIGHT MUSIC MEETINGS GROUP

AUTUMN GATHERING 9th OCTOBER 2022

It was time once again for light music aficionados to meet up at the Lancaster Hall Hotel for our bi-annual wallow in our favourite music ! Because of a train strike the previous day, we were aware that some attendees might experience travelling difficulties, so Tony Clayden decided to delay the start of the meeting to enable latecomers to arrive.

Tony commenced proceedings at 2.15pm with Eric Coates' Spirit of Youth, (from The Three Elizabeths Suite), played by the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra conducted by Reginald Kilbey. This was included to pay homage to her late majesty Queen Elizabeth ll, in whose honour – when she was still Princess Elizabeth – it had been composed in 1944.

It was then the turn of one of our 'regulars' – Anthony Wills – to present a special feature entitled '100 Years of the BBC' – condensed into 45 minutes!. He opened up with the Savoy Havana Band (the first orchestra to broadcast from Savoy Hill), playing Last Night on the Back Porch by Lew Brown/Carl Schraubstader. I well remember this tune as a hit in the late 1950s, when I thought it was new – well, of course, it wasn’t!

Anthony quoted from the BBC Handbook of 1928 which stated that 98% of broadcast music was 'live' – a bit different from today! After giving us further details about the early days, Anthony played a rare recording, (believed to be possibly the only copy in existence), of part of a Radio Two Gala Concert, originally broadcast live from the Colston Hall, Bristol, on 20th July 1985. It featured Richard Stilgoe and Peter Skellern (two of my favourite entertainers).

(Sadly, Skellern succumbed to a brain tumour several years ago, soon after having been granted a final wish to be ordained as a priest).

This concert also featured the BBC Concert Orchestra conducted by Harry Rabinowitz and soloists Robert Docker, Maryetta Midgeley, Mary Carewe and Nick Curtis. The Associate Producer was Anthony Wills – and it won a Monte Carlo Radio Festival Award.

The full list of items played is too numerous to mention here, but it opened with a Gordon Langford arrangement of 19 BBC Signature Tunes, followed by High Adventure by Charles Williams ('Friday Night is Music Night' theme). Peter Skellern sang his big hit You're a Lady, preceded by Richard Stilgoe's 'mickey take' of the same song, entitled This is the Ladies, I’m a Man!

At this point we paused for the first – slightly truncated – break, during which many of the audience very favourably commented on Anthony Wills' programme.
In part two, Tony introduced a special presentation on the late pianist, composer, arranger and conductor, Robert Docker, and we were pleased to welcome his daughter Beverley and son Eric, to talk about their father and his career.

Tony first played us Robert's arguably most-broadcast composition, Tabarinage [Buffoonery] – a favourite on 'Music While You Work' – composed in 1961. This recording featured the RTE Concert Orchestra, conducted by Barry Knight.

Incidentally, Beverley told us that another well-known musician and broadcaster, William Davies, who was a great friend of Bob's, performed the piece on the organ at Bob's funeral.

We learned that Robert Docker was born in Paddington in 1918 and from a very early age, it became obvious that he was destined for a career in music, although there was no other musical influence in his family, or therefore in the genes ! He attended the Royal Academy of Music from 1935-38, during which time he was awarded several medals.

He served with the King's Royal Rifles during WW2 and was sent to Holland in 1944, where he was injured by a bomb. Fortunately his hands were not impaired.

After the war, his many broadcasts included countless piano duets with Edward Rubach – a partnership which only ended when Rubach died suddenly in 1971, whilst undergoing a surgical procedure. We then listened to a commercial recording of the duo performing Robert's 'take' on Waldteufel’s waltz Espana.

For many years, Robert Docker was pianist and chief arranger for the Reginald Leopold orchestra. In 1983 he also formed a sextet for the revived series of 'Music While You Work'. From one of these programmes we listened to Robert's composition Rags to Riches, definitely inspired by the work of Scott Joplin.

We then heard a Docker arrangement of a piece called Song without Words, which was actually a very ingenious arrangement of Happy Birthday! This was particularly appropriate, as in a few days' time, both Beverley and her husband Adam would be celebrating their joint birthdays !

This was followed by Bob's arrangement of the Scottish tune Abbey Craig, featuring the City of Glasgow Philharmonic orchestra conducted by Iain Sutherland.

We then heard Robert's Fairy Dance Reel, an orchestral piece which Fred Hartley (erstwhile head of Light Music at the BBC) published in 1958. This was followed by Richard Rodney Bennett's Murder on the Orient Express featuring Robert at the piano, with the BBC Northern Orchestra, conducted by Robert Farnon –a track from a very rare commercial CD. The next piece was simply called Air – from Air and Jig, also composed by Bob.

Robert Docker suddenly passed away in May 1992, but his music continued to be spasmodically broadcast on BBC Radio. We heard his wonderful arrangement of a selection from the 1947 show Bless the Bride, (composed by Vivian Ellis and A.P. Herbert), performed in the Golders Green Hippodrome on 2nd November 1994. This featured the BBC Concert Orchestra under Iain Sutherland, as part of a 'Friday Night is Music Night' broadcast.

This was followed by the same orchestra, this time under the direction of Barry Wordsworth playing Bob's arrangement of tunes from Paint Your Wagon. It was taken from a Radio 2 broadcast, given at the Regent Theatre, Ipswich, in a programme to mark the fortieth anniversary of the BBC CO, in the late autumn of 1992.

It had been originally intended for the conductor to be Robert Docker. In the event, it became a tribute concert to a highly-regarded and very prominent figure in the world of Light Music; every item on the programme was either a composition or arrangement of his.

We could not conclude this feature on Robert Docker without playing Legend, the piece which really put him firmly 'on the map', in 1949. The recording was taken from another 'Friday Night Is Music Night' broadcast in 1982, once again from the Golders Green Hippodrome and featuring the BBC Concert Orchestra, with the composer doing the honours at the piano. This composition very obviously illustrates Bob Docker's special affection for the music of the Russian composer Sergei Rachmaninov.

Tony thanked Beverley and Eric for their contribution and (as we were running late) we adjourned for a mere five minutes before continuing with the programme.

As I stepped onto the stage to present my part of the programme, Radio Recollections, I noticed that a number of audience members were walking out! I was perturbed by this, as I had some attractive pieces to play. It also showed rather a lack of consideration for the two presenters who were to follow me.

[It appears that more than a few attendees were concerned about the potential difficulties of journeying home, given the erratic state of the railways on that day, so maybe we shouldn't be too hard on them ! – Ed.]

Anyway, I started with the BBC West of England Light Orchestra (conductor Frank Cantell) playing Tony Osborne's Windows of Paris. This used to introduce the radio programme "Roundabout" in the 1960s.

This recording was from one of the last broadcasts by the orchestra, who were soon to be replaced by the 17 piece BBC West of England Players directed (from the piano) by Peter Martin. This was a more financially viable, and indeed up-to-date, combination. We listened to them play Malcolm Lockyer’s Fiddler's Boogie. This was followed by a delightful piece by Geoffrey Henman, entitled Spring Green Lady, an unusual title performed by Reg Pursglove and the Albany Strings.

To conclude my section, I played two compositions by the well-known organist, musical director and regular broadcaster Louis Mordish, both of which were performed by the eight-piece Louis Mordish players. We heard Can-Can Polka and a very interesting novelty called Spectre on the Spree.

Having been 'put back in my box' until next time, it was then the turn of Martin Cleave to give a presentation which he called "Plink, Plank, Plunk" a group of pieces in which the emphasis was on strings played pizzicato rather than bowed. Martin opened with the daddy of them all – Holiday for Strings, composed by David Rose, whose orchestra also performed it. This was followed by Sidney Torch's All Strings and Fancy Free - again conducted by the composer. Next came Toy Violin, written by Charles Williams and played by the Queen's Hall Light Orchestra. Leroy Anderson's Jazz Pizzicato followed - conducted by Frederick Fennell.

To conclude his presentation, Martin played us the theme from the vintage TV series "Juke Box Jury" which was called Hit and Miss. Written by John Barry, it was performed by the John Barry seven plus four (!)

Our final presenter for the afternoon, was Tony Foster. It may be recalled that on a previous occasion, he gave us a presentation on music for Trombones, well, this time it was the turn of the Trumpets, in a feature called "Tonys Trumpets".

He opened with a piece titled, 'Trumpet Talk', composed by Robert Farnon, from the recording Bob made, titled, 'Showcase For Soloists', from Chappells Recorded Music Library, when Bob had composed 12 individual pieces, to hilight many of the finest musicians who had worked with him. 'Trumpet Talk' featured the talents of two now late but great trumpet players, Kenny Baker and Stan Roderick (The latter having been a guest speaker at a Robert Farnon Society Meeting).

This was followed by 'Trumpeters Prayer', from 'Tuttis Trumpets', an idea by Tutti Camarata. As with 'Tuttis Trombones', Camarata assembled an ensemble of some of the finest Trumpet players on America's West Coast, namely Pete Candoli, Conrad Gozzo, Mannie Klein, Joe Triscari, Shorty Sherock and Uan Rasey, all of whom had played on many of the sessions and movie soundtracks, in the Hollywood Studio Orchestras. Trumpeters Prayer was performed by Conrad Gozzo and, it might be mentioned, that this was written in the key of A Major, so as to bring out the beautiful upper register of Gozzo, and due to the control and full tone phrasing he achieved, at the end of the Master take, the entire orchestra broke out into applause!

Tony continued with Eddie Calvert performing, Ray Nobles 'Love Is The Sweetest Thing', from his CD, 'Eddie Calvert, The Man With The Golden Trumpet', A Centenary Tribute, His 29 Favourites, 1951-1961, which was reviewed on our LLMMG Home Page, and is now in the CD Reviews section.

Tony then returned to 'Tuttis Trumpets' for a lively piece called 'Bugle Blues' (By Glen Osser) in a real contrast to 'Trumpeters Prayer'.

For his final item, Tony had selected Kenny Baker again, this time with backing from The Midland Youth Jazz Orchestra, with whom he had played in the Trombone section during the 1970s. Kenny Baker had guested with the MYJO, at several of their concerts, and as both the band members and Kenny had enjoyed playing together very much, he was invited to guest on this, their second recording. The piece featuring Kenny at his very best, was Jacob Jones (By Don Jacoby and Hoyt Jones). The Midland Youth Jazz Orchestra celebrated their 50th Anniversary Reunion the following Sunday, in Birmingham (16th October), which Tony attended, and enjoyed meeting up with fellow musicians again, from his time with the band.

This brought the afternoon's entertainment to a close. Tony Clayden thanked everyone for coming and invited us back to do it all again in the Spring.

The next meeting will be 21st May 2023 – not as previously announced, as the originally-scheduled date would have clashed with the Bank-Holiday weekend, to celebrate the forthcoming coronation of King Charles.

Brian Reynolds 2022

Tony Clayden adds :- If – as we all hope – these pleasurable meetings are to continue, we do need to have the support of more attendees. This event produced a disappointingly smaller number of people than usual, resulting in just about breaking-even financially.

We do realise that the 'knock-on' effect of the previous day's rail strike may have made it difficult for some people to make the journey –and of course we accept that others may be unable to attend due to health or other personal reasons.

However, the fact remains that we have to be able to cover our costs and it is worth mentioning that these will now include increased charges from the venue. It should be realised that every session must be self-supporting – we have no other source of revenue.

So please make every effort to attend our Spring 2023 meeting – and bring your friends – to what promises to be a very interesting afternoon, featuring our guest speaker Derek Holland.

Please refer to our home page for further details.

The next LLMMG meeting will take place at the Lancaster Hall Hotel on Sunday May 21st 2023 – All are welcome, please tell your friends !

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