October 10th 2023
at the Lancaster Hall Hotel


It was another sunny, and once again an unseasonably warm day in London, for the second of our bi-annual feasts of Light music at the Lancaster Hall Hotel.

Just the right sort of weather for a huge turn-out, you might imagine ? – No, not a bit of it ! With just over 20 people loyally supporting us, it was easily the lowest attendance of all time and Tony Clayden had plenty to say about this at the end of the meeting – but more of that later.

Opening proceedings on a sad note, Tony paid tribute to two of our long-standing supporters who recently died, David Corbett and Chris Money – both of whom had often made presentations to our group. They were former members of the Robert Farnon Society and had much enthusiasm for Light Music.

Tony also expressed regret at the passing of Rosemary Squires, who had demonstrated her loyalty to the RFS, even asking if she could give a live recital. That concert, which took place at the Bonnington Hotel, will be remembered by many, as well as the fact that she proved to be such a warm and affable lady.

Tony started the musical side of the programme with Gateway To The West by Robert Farnon, performed by Bob and his orchestra – it seemed appropriate, seeing that we were meeting in the West Two district of London !

Then, bearing in mind that the late Chris Money was a great fan of Sidney Torch, he played two Torch compositions, Going For A Ride and Rosie The Red Omnibus, the latter a movement from the London Transport Suite.

This was followed by two items from the orchestra of Harry Davidson The first was Cockney Capers – credited to Peter Crantock, who in reality were the duo of Clive Richardson and Tony Lowry, writing under a pseudonym.

We then heard Davidson’s arrangement of a medley of some of the music from Sullivan’s The Mikado. Both of these were to acknowledge the fact that the late David Corbett was a great fan of Davidson – having written a substantial book about the latter’s career on that long-running BBC Radio programme ‘Those Were The Days’.

It was now time for my ‘Radio Recollections’ feature and, on this occasion, I had chosen to feature my favourite orchestra – the BBC Midland Light orchestra with their two regular conductors, Jack Coles and Gilbert Vinter.

However, before starting, I drew the audience’s attention to a new light music programme on Serenade Radio entitled Evergreen which airs between 9.00 pm and 10.00 pm every Friday. It has clearly been put on as a partial replacement for David Corbett’s programme, which is much missed. Presentation is by Adrian Jackson, who has his own orchestra and has conducted several top orchestras- including the BBC Concert Orchestra.

[As with the former Sunday night Serenade ‘slots’, each edition will be recorded and available on our LLMMG website for a number of weeks thereafter, courtesy of Andy Marriott, head of Serenade Radio. Many thanks are also due to ‘our’ Terry Guntrip for facilitating this].

I opened my presentation on the Midland Light Orchestra with two Jack Coles compositions – Fantan and Girl From Cadiz, a beautiful piece which a couple of members of the audience thought bore a resemblance to Trevor Duncan’s Girl From Corsica – well, maybe!

Next, music from the stage – Chu Chin Chow, to be precise, as we listened to Frederick Norton’s Cobbler’s Song. This was followed by Gilbert Vinter’s Serenade To A Veiled Lady (dedicated to the somewhat secretive teenage daughter of the composer). I had the pleasure of meeting the lady in question some years ago!

After Trevor Duncan’s The Wine Festival, we listened to Harry Parr-Davies’s Pedro The Fisherman, in a snazzy arrangement by the orchestra’s pianist, Harold Rich (a gentleman whose presence has graced our meetings on several occasions). He was the featured pianist in our next item, Safari Fiesta by James Warr. I concluded my presentation with a super upbeat arrangement of Albert Ketelby’s In a Persian Market. I wonder if the maestro would have approved?

At this point we took our first interval.

In part two, we welcomed a familiar face to the top table – that of Steven Wills. He talked about his days as a hospital radio presenter and played a selection of Capital Radio ‘jingles’. Some TV themes followed - such as the Harry Worth theme and the original music from ‘Dr.Finlay’s Casebook’ which was, of course, Trevor Duncan’s March from the Little Suite. That was followed by the ‘Animal Magic’ theme, otherwise known as Las Vegas, by Laurie Johnson, and then another library piece News Scoop, by Len Stevens, used for the signature tune to BBC TV’s ‘Grandstand’.

Turning to ITV, Steven played us the theme from ‘Thunderbirds’ or, to be more precise, a beguine version entitled Tracy Island –(not a lot of people know that)! Peter Yorke’s Silks and Satins followed –although most people (of a certain age) will remember it as the closing theme to the long-running fifties TV ‘soap’ - ‘Emergency Ward Ten’.

Another vintage theme followed, which was entitled Non Stop – which must have made a small fortune for its composer, John Malcolm, as it was regularly heard as the signature tune for the early-evening news from ITN for very many years.

Some people will have recalled the days when the BBC screened interludes –‘The Potter’s Wheel’ was a familiar one. Steven selected two pieces for us – Robert Farnon’s Horn-A- Plenty, and Charles Williams’ Music Box Lullaby, which were not, in fact, employed for this purpose, but – as Steven suggested – would have been most suitable.

This was followed by two examples of cinema music. Steven selected the grand waltz from “The Sound of Music”, better known as My Favourite Things (Rodgers) and the overture to ‘Mary Poppins’ (Sherman and Sherman).

Many film companies had opening fanfares and we were treated to three – “Universal”, ”20th Century Fox” and “Anglo-Amalgamated”.

These were followed by two light-hearted film themes “Carry on Cabby” and “Nurse on Wheels”, both written by Eric Rogers.

Next Steven played us some radio themes, which included the signature tune for “Sing Something Simple” – featuring the Cliff Adams Singers accompanied by the brilliant accordionist Jack Emblow (still with us at the age of 92).

We also heard Desmond Carrington’s signature tune Say It With Music and then Just For Fun, which Don Davis adopted as his opening theme, both featured on BBC Radio 2.

Test Cards (remember them?) often contained obscure pieces that were never heard elsewhere. As an example, Steven played a piece called Chrysanthemum played by the Norwegian Light Orchestra.

On now to film themes and Steven gave us two of my personal favourites. Firstly, Benjamin Frankel’s delightful music to the 1950 film “So Long At The Fair”. It was so popular that it had to be extended-emerging as Carriage And Pair.

Another delightful composition followed, in the shape of Ron Goodwin’s theme for the film “Murder She Said”. However, as this film spawned sequels, the piece was retitled The Miss Marple Theme.

Steven concluded a delightful hour with Henry Mancini and That’s Entertainment.

It was time for our second interval.

Upon resumption of business, André Leon was invited to the top table to present a feature he entitled “The Williams Collection” – various personalities with the same surname. Dealing first with the film music composer, John Williams, famous for “E.T”, ”Star Wars”, “Close Encounters”, etc., André chose two minutes of Princess Leia’s Theme from “Star Wars”. Turning to the guitarist of the same name, André played Cavatina, composed by Stanley Myers, from the film “The Deer Hunter”. André had met both of these ‘Williamses’ – as well as comedy actor Kenneth Williams. I don’t think he composed anything, and anyway “Rambling Sid Rumpo” would hardly be suitable for our meeting!

On now to Charles Williams, the composer, whom André hadn’t met (I don’t suppose he knew Vaughan Williams either, but I digress!)

Upon hearing the name Charles Williams, Tony Clayden proceeded to give us a fluent, unscripted account of his life and career, alluding to his chronic alcoholism, which prevented him from attending important functions, as he was unable to guarantee his sobriety. It was due to this unfortunate situation that he declined to attend a ceremony arranged by Cambridge University, who had wished to confer an Honorary Doctorate of Music upon him; he felt that he was not worthy of receiving that award.

After Tony’s comments, André played Charles Williams’ Blue Devils march – a very early composition which pre-dated his much more familiar pieces, such as The Dream Of Olwen and the Theme from The Apartment - thus bringing his presentation to a conclusion.

Tony then played us Francois Couperin’s Les Barricades Mystérieuses – a feature for four saxes. Although a classical piece written for solo piano a long time before the saxophone was invented, it works extremely well in an arrangement for those instruments. This served as an introduction to our final presenter, Tony Foster who, having presented features on the trumpet and the trombone (of which he is an exponent) at previous meetings, decided that it was saxophones that should be featured on this occasion. He opened with the Syd Lawrence orchestra playing Glenn Miller’s arrangement of In The Mood.

This was followed by Prelude To A Kiss played by the Buddy Rich band and then Haydn Wood’s Roses Of Picardy – probably one of Wood’s most famous and certainly lucrative compositions. The saxophone soloist with Peter Yorke’s orchestra was the brilliant Freddy Gardner, who died so prematurely in 1947, aged only 39.

Next came Tony’s penultimate piece, Dame In Red, played by the Robert Farnon Orchestra and featuring saxophone soloist Roy Willox, who had worked with Bob on many recordings over the years.

To conclude our afternoon’s entertainment Tony Foster played My Favourite Things from “Mary Poppins”, again performed by Syd Lawrence.

The music over, Tony Clayden expressed deep concern over the small size of the audience, which, if repeated, would seriously impact upon our ability to continue holding these events.

It is not feasible that Tony should have to subsidise the shortfall in takings out of his own pocket.

Whilst the Hotel offers a competitive rate for Central London, it has been obliged to increase the charge for the hire of the room and also for teas and coffees.

We could, perhaps, utilise the smaller room at Lancaster Hall or find another location. As an absolute last resort, it may become necessary to discontinue holding these meetings altogether.

These choices will be considered over the coming weeks and the results of our discussions communicated to you via our website.

On this rather melancholy note, Tony brought the meeting to a close, after having expressed the hope that all attendees would be able to support the next meeting, to be held on May 12th 2024, and hopefully the numbers would be greater.

© Brian Reynolds 2023

The next LLMMG meeting will take place at the Lancaster Hall Hotel on Sunday 12th May 2024 – All are welcome, please tell your friends !

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