GLCD 5164 – The Golden Age of Light Music: A Trip to the Library


To the CD in our Shop

Memory Lane Summer 2010

The Tatest three discs from Guild in their Golden Age of Light Music series are as follows: A Trip To The Library – GLCD 5164
Orchestral Gems In Stereo – GLCD 5165
Highly Strung – GLCD 5166
The `Library’ in the title of the first album listed is, of course, the music library. Mood or background music became increasingly important from the 1930s onwards as music publishers, with Chappell’s to the fore, sought to cope with the demand from documentary, film and TV producers. Top composers, musical directors and musicians were recruited and this selection illustrates what a fine body of work they created. For me, the `prize’ amongst this selection goes to the full-length version of The Girl From Corsica but all 28 tracks have something delightful to offer: Fans of the Archers, the radio `soap’, will I am sure be delighted to hear the original of its popular signature tune. `Orchestral Gems in Stereo’ delivers exactly what it says. Some exciting sounds have been superbly captured by Alan Bunting and there is also the pleasure of a rare appearance in the Guild series of Victor Silvester and His Silver Strings who shares the stage with such veterans as Percy Faith and David Rose. Some lively pieces are on offer in `Highly Strung’ but melody is never far away. A generous helping of 29 tracks complete with comprehensive liner notes and gorgeous sound should please all Guild fans and maybe find some new ones.


The booklet with this disc describes the way in which music publishers established collections of recorded music which could be used as background or interlude music for film, cinema newsreels, radio and television. Usually these recordings were not issued commercially unless they had already become popular. Not all of the music here was actually written for this purpose. Arthur Wood’s Suite “My Native Heath” was written in 1924 when he was a staff composer with Boosey and Hawkes. At that time they published such Suites and other items for the use of the many light music orchestras and ensembles that existed then. The back of the sheet music often used to advertise their “orchestral club” which offered a regular diet of such works, and I suspect that this and several of the other items on this disc were first published in this form. That does not mean however that they were not later included in the publisher’s record library and can therefore properly be included here. 

Having said that, what we have here is yet another feast for anyone who enjoys light music of this period. Highlights included George Melachrino’s fantasy “Come landlord fill the flowing bowl”, Kurt Rehfeld’s “Fiddlers’ Frivol” (sic) and Ronald Hanmer’s “Children’s Hour”, but the variety and quality of the music is outstanding. Two of the earlier compositions included are also particularly enjoyable – Arthur Wood’s “My Native Heath” (how different the original orchestration was from that now heard on The Archers), and Rust’s “Life’s Laughter Overture”. Arthur Benjamin’s Overture to an Italian Comedy is slightly out of place here – it would fit well into a “normal” orchestral concert – but it is another gem. However the craftsmanlike quality of all the composers and performers is apparent throughout the disc even in those few pieces that are of somewhat lesser musical interest. It may be worth pointing out that the Melachrino item has had a short vocal section removed, but what remains does not seem noticeably lacking and the disc as a whole is well filled with over 77 minutes of well restored recordings – only a few sound their age and even this is no impairment to enjoyment.

One interesting aspect of this disc is the number of composers and performers who appear under pseudonyms. This has applied to other discs in this Guild series but seems to apply especially here. Thus Clive Richardson writes as Paul Dubois, and Willi Lautenschläger as José Armandola, and amongst the performers Robert Farnon becomes Ole Jensen. This was obviously a normal procedure at that time possibly for contractual reasons but it is good that these bizarre disguises are carefully set out in Guild’s usual meticulous listing. As usual again the notes are excellent, although again as usual not all of the items or composers included are discussed. This is nonetheless a very enjoyable collection, one of the best in the series, yet again reminding us of the glories of the light music genre around the middle of the last century.
John Sheppard