Sunday 12th May 2024
at the Lancaster Hall Hotel


Once again it was warm and sunny as we arrived for our bi-annual feast of light music. As usual, Tony Clayden welcomed us all to the Lancaster Hall Hotel.

This year is the centenary of the birth of several notable Light Music composers and Tony opened the proceedings with a familiar composition by Trevor Duncan – High Heels. This was the composer's first big success, dating from the very late 1940s.

Tony went on to talk about Duncan's career. He was born in London as Leonard Trebilcock – a name which he shortened to Trebilco. Virtually self-taught musically, he went to work for the BBC as a sound engineer, an organisation which frowned on its employees having their compositions performed on air. Therefore, for the purposes of his music, he assumed the name Trevor Duncan. Although concentrating in Light Music, Trevor occasionally wrote in other genres and Tony played us a jazz composition called Bored With It.

Our second subject was Ernest Tomlinson and Tony played us Alla Marcia from his Silverthorn Suite – possibly the only piece named after a telephone exchange – the composer’s then-local one ! (My local exchange was called Imperial and I wonder if Imperial Echoes could have any connection? Probably not!). We then heard Dick’s Maggot from the First Suite of English Dances.

Wally Stott [later known as Angela Morley) was our third centenarian and Tony played us the theme from Hancock’s Half Hour. Written especially for the famous BBC radio series, we listened to the full-length version, which was never commercially available. Tony thanked Anthony Wills for having provided an internet link to this recording.

Then followed another familiar Stott composition, Rotten Row, named after the well-known track in London's Hyde Park, used by riders to exercise their horses.

We then welcomed Martin Cleave to the table. His theme was Other 'Kings' Of Light Music.
[This was a reference to the name often ascribed to Eric Coates – 'The Uncrowned King Of Light Music'].

The first subject was Cedric King Palmer – a prolific broadcaster. In the fifties, when his orchestra was simply billed as the King Palmer Light Orchestra, he was a regular contributor to 'Morning Music'. As an example of his work, Martin played Tinkerbell -performed by the London Promenade Orchestra conducted by Walter Collins.

The next 'King' was conductor and pianist Felix King, who directed a nine piece dance band at various London restaurants. His ensemble played on 'Music While You Work' regularly in the 1950's but it was reduced to a quintet after Felix changed restaurants.

From time to time he compered 'Housewife's Choice' as well as appearing on 'Piano Playtime' – which he was allowed to introduce, as he possessed a suave, silky voice. By the mid–sixties he was broadcasting with a large string orchestra with which he also made commercial recordings.

He composed a piece called Buono Samba, but in the absence of a suitable recording, Martin Cleave had intended to play it on the hotel's piano. However, this did not happen as the hotel declared the piano as unable to be used, due to requiring the attention of a piano tuner. Hmmn!

So, Martin concluded his presentation by spotlighting the talents of Reginald King, firstly playing his signature tune Song of Paradise performed on the piano by Mark Babbington. Then we listened to the maestro himself as he played his Summer Breezes.

To conclude the first section of the show Tony played the 'Ski Sunday Theme' [Pop Goes Bach] by Sam Fonteyn, after which we went to tea.

When we returned suitably refreshed, it was time for me to present my usual spot – Radio Recollections. I started with a recording given to me by the BBC Sound Archives some years ago – an edition of 'Morning Music' from 1954. It featured Jack Leon and his orchestra and I played the opening march by Abraham Holzmann, entitled Blaze of Glory.

This was followed by one of my own compositions – Souvenir de Montmartre played by Frank Chacksfield and the BBC Radio orchestra. Staying in waltz time, we listened to The Willow Waltz by Cyril Watters. This tune was used in an early sixties drama serial 'The World of Tim Fraser'. It won an Ivor Novello award for the best piece of Light Music of the year. Unusually, it was played on this recording by a dance band –Syd Dean and his Band, but using the Glenn Miller sound, it really worked.

The remaining three pieces were played by Ralph Elman and his Bohemian Players. The first one was Exotica by Brian Couzens, followed immediately by Carriage And Pair, by Benjamin Frankel, originally written for the film 'So Long At The Fair'. Finally we listened to Winter Sunshine by George Melachrino.

Incidentally, Ralph Elman was a virtuoso violinist, leading several orchestras, including that of Ron Goodwin. His cousin was the internationally famous violinist Mischa Elman.

That concluded my part in the programme. As I left the stage, my place was taken by former BBC producer Anthony Wills, with a presentation about his favourite musicals of the 1960s.

His first choice was the tuneful 'Bye Bye Birdie' from which he played A Lot Of Livin’ To Do – music by Charles Strouse and lyrics by Lee Adams. The singer was 60s pop star Marty Wilde, now in his 80s and still touring. The late Alyn Ainsworth – another centenarian for 2024 – conducted the orchestra. [He had become very well-known as the erstwhile Musical Director of the BBC Northern Dance orchestra].

Turning to 'Stop The World I Want To Get Off', we listened to Gonna Build A Mountain performed by Anthony Newley, who co-wrote the show with Leslie Bricusse.

Next, from a remake of the 1945 musical 'State Fair' – Rodgers and Hammerstein's only film score, we heard It Might As Well Be Spring, sung by Anita Gordon.

'The Boys from Syracuse' (Rodgers and Hart this time) was originally premiered on Broadway in 1938 and finally reached London in 1963. We heard the voices of Bob Monkhouse and Ronnie Corbett singing Dear Old Syracuse.

One of Rodgers and Hammerstein's last shows was 'Flower Drum Song' – which reached London in 1960. Anthony played us I Am Going To Like It Here, sung (in a studio recording) by Sarah Brightman. The orchestra was conducted by Mike Reed.

Frank Loesser's musical ‘How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying’ opened in London in 1963. As Anthony didn't have a recording of the London show he played us the Broadway Company's version of its hit number I Believe In You, performed by Robert Morse and Company.

Anthony then played us Go Into Your Trance from the Noel Coward-inspired show 'High Spirits' performed by Cicely Courtneidge and Company.

Returning to the Big Screen we heard Thoroughly Modern Millie from the film of the same name, sung by Julie Andrews. The musical director was André Previn.

There followed The Girl I've Never Met by Michel Legrand – from the French film 'The Young Girls of Rochefort', sung in English.

To conclude his presentation, Anthony played us another song from the pen of Leslie Bricusse, the film being 'Dr. Dolittle'. In a performance by Richard Attenborough, we heard I've Never Seen Anything Like It In My Life.

Tony Clayden thanked Anthony for playing a selection of songs that were largely unfamiliar to many of those present.

We then took our second interval.

Part Three was devoted to our special guest, Ronald Corp, the noted conductor and composer.

He was interviewed by Martin Cleave, who began by asking him what were his favourite pieces of light music. He said that he particularly liked Puffin' Billy by Edward White, played (naturally) by the New London Orchestra, which Ronald actually founded.

Another favourite, to which we listened was Ronald Binge's much played Elizabethan Serenade. Although this piece must have made a fortune for the composer, I suspect that Mr. Corp was unaware that Ronald Binge didn't actually like the piece very much. [However, it was a pivotal moment in Binge's composing career, which really 'took-off' as a result of its huge popularity – ed.]

We continued with Keep off the Grass (from 'The Toreador') and Gounod's Funeral March of a Marionette - otherwise known as 'The Alfred Hitchcock theme', because of its use as the signature tune for the famous TV series.

Back in the 1990s, Ronald Corp delighted the Light Music fraternity with six compact discs of our favourite genre – four being of English music and the other two being of American and Continental music respectively.

Martin asked him whether there was any possibility of any more – but Ronald replied that such a project wasn't financially viable- particularly as the original, much cherished discs didn't actually sell as well as had been hoped-for.

On being asked about his career in music, Ronald was very forthcoming. He apparently was composing music before he even had piano lessons as a child, and it was always his fervent wish to compose for the rest of his life.

He has produced a considerable number of works, which include several symphonies and choral works. He never had any particular interest in conducting – although, as we know, that’s what he became ! He currently conducts two choirs–and when not making music, he is an ordained Anglican Priest!

Two other pieces from the Ronald Corp CDs were played – at Tony Clayden's request - Scène Du Bal by Joseph Hellmesberger and Pas De Quatre by W. Meyer Lutz.

Following Ronald Corp's presentation Tony told us that he and André Leon are working on a light music programme to be broadcast on 'Serenade Radio' on August Bank Holiday, which will be presented by André.
This will commemorate the three Light Music centenarians - Trevor Duncan, Ernest Tomlinson and Wally Stott / Angela Morley.

Tony then concluded the session with Robert Farnon's Westminster Waltz.

Before closing the afternoon, Tony announced that when we reassemble next October, our special guest will be Hilary Ashton – daughter of Ernest Tomlinson - who will deliver a special presentation about her father's life and work.

© Brian Reynolds May 2024

The next LLMMG meeting will take place at the Lancaster Hall Hotel on Sunday 13th October 2024 – All are welcome, please tell your friends !

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