Reviews

GLCD 5137 – The Golden Age of Light Music: Light Music While You Work – Volume 2

Various

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Klassik.com November 2007

Leichte Musik als Taktmesser der Arbeitsmaschinen
Lenkt Musik von der Arbeit ab oder fördert sie die Produktivität? Zumindest ist David Ades Kompendium mit Musik für das BBC Radioprogramm Light Music while you work fast zu schade, um sie während der Arbeit zu hören.
Unter den Auspizien von ‚Guild Light Music’ bringt David Ades seit gut zwei Jahren Kleinodien leichter Musik meist britischer Couleur in einer Schnelligkeit und Frequenz heraus, als müsse man um deren Verfallsdatum fürchten. Doch keine Sorge, Ades kriegt sie alle – auf CD. Den staubigen Archiven entrissen, klangtechnisch aufbereitet und ediert, reiht er die schönsten Preziosen auf den Silberling. Und ab und zu muss er auch den Wiederholungstäter geben. Wie in diesem Fall. Der große Erfolg der CD‚ Light Music while you work’ hat Ades geradezu gezwungen, eine zweite Folge dieses geschichtlich nicht ganz unrelevanten Repertoires herauszubringen. Wie bereits in Folge 1 so schneidet der Titel der CD ein für die leichte Musik äußerst relevantes Thema an, nämlich die Rolle und Aufgabe der leichten Musik während der Jahre des Zweiten Weltkriegs. Ein Kapitel in der Geschichte Großbritanniens während des Kriegs, das bei aller Fröhlichkeit der Musik selbst doch nach wie vor nachdenklich stimmt. Am 23. Juni 1940 begann die BBC mit der Übertragung eines ‚Music while you work’ genannten Programms zur moralischen Unterstützung der arbeitenden Bevölkerung in den kriegsunterstützenden Fabriken. Zunächst sendete die BBC leichte Klassik, ‚live’ gespielt von Solointerpreten, Tanzbands oder auch Militärkapellen. Es stellte sich aber heraus, dass die Fabrikarbeiter Musik bevorzugten, die sie kannten und selber gerne mitsangen. Diesem immensen Anliegen konnte die BBC nicht nachkommen und so sprang die Decca ein. Die Firma produzierte auf einem eigenen ‚Music while you work’-Label Schallplatten mit dem gewünschten Repertoire, und dies weit über Kriegsende hinaus. Bis die letzten Scheiben im Januar 1947 auf den Markt kamen, waren fast 400 78er-Platten erschienen. Wenn diese Musik die Fabrikarbeiter nicht unbedingt zur Produktionssteigerung anregten, so zumindest dürfte sie ihre Laune erheblich gesteigert haben. David Ades hat einmal mehr 26 Aufnahmen aus dem ‚Light Music while you work’-Katalog der Decca ausgewählt und präsentiert sie mit Hilfe von Alan Bunting, der das Material einmal mehr restauriert hat, in guter, plastischer Tonqualität. Einund ausgeleitet mit der speziell von Eric Coates für dieses Radioprogramm komponierten Erkennungsmelodie ‚Calling all Workers’, vom Komponisten 1940 selbst eingespielt, offerieren sie den Hörern eine bunte Auswahl an die Arbeitskraft vermeintlich ankurbelnden Muntermachern. Da ist eine Bearbeitung von Tschaikowskys Walzer aus ‚Dornröschen’ ebenso zu finden wie Arrangements und Bearbeitungen von Stücken von Franz Lehar, George Gershwin, Johann Strauß, Franz Schubert, Paul Lincke, Kurt Weill, aber auch drollige Juwelen von Katy Moss, Sherman Myers, Raymond Scott, Jack Strachey, Harry Warren, Percy Fletcher u.a. Orchestral auf den Punkt gebracht von Harry Fryer, Harry Davidson, Richard Crean, Wynford Reynolds (dem eigentlichen Initiator des Radioprogramms), Phil Green, Ronnie Munro, Harold Collins, Reginald Burston und Reginald Pursglove. Musik, die fast zu schade ist, um sie während der Arbeit zu hören.
Erik Daumann

Memory Lane Spring 2008

Light Music While You Work Volume 2 – Guild GLCD 5137 This is another sparkling CD from Guild based on the Decca recordings made to supplement the popular BBC programme of the same name than ran for many years.
Some of the performers who were included in Volume 1 are featured again along with a few new names, including Wynford Reynolds who is credited with the original idea for the programme. His contribution, Lehar In The Ballroom is first dass and other excellent interpretations are provided by Richard Crean, Reginald Pursglove and Harold Collins. But my own favourite artiste this time is Phil Green who swings gently with both a Studio Orchestra and his own Theatreland Orchestra. All the recordings date from the 1940s but you wouldn’t know it based an the excellent quality of the transfers.
GH

MUSICWEB FRIDAY DECEMBER 07 2007

The radio show “Music while you work” ran for 27 years from 1940, and for two shorter periods in the 1980s and 1990s. The formula was simple – half an hour of uninterrupted music suitable to be played in factories to relieve the workers’ boredom. As half an hour a day was not always sufficient for this, the Decca company issued a series of records similar in type but which could be played between broadcasts. The orchestras chosen were not necessarily those who took part in the broadcasts but their style and choice of music was very similar.

This is the second of Guild’s selection of these recordings. It starts and ends with a brief extract from the signature tune to the broadcast: Eric Coates’ “Calling All Workers” March, conducted with characteristic dash by the composer himself. The 24 pieces forming the programme embrace a mixture of styles, from somewhat stiff and even eccentric performances or arrangements of popular classics such as the Waltz from Tchaikovsky’s “Sleeping Beauty” and the “Emperor” Waltz, to more up to date pieces such as “Toy Trumpet” and “Fashionette”. There are selections from films and shows, including “The Dancing Years”, “Girl Crazy” and “Lady in the Dark”, and novelty numbers such as Harry Davidson’s version of “Turkey in the straw”. What they all have in common is a brightness and very forward projection of the music. This is both very evocative of the period and very wearing to listen to in more than small quantities. Certainly even now it does help to take the mind off such tasks as ironing or washing up – I have tried it with both – but its main interest musically is essentially historical. The sound of the orchestras of the period now seems to be beyond recall, both in terms of the individual instruments, especially the oboes, and of the clipped crisp articulation generally favoured at that time. Such a change, over such a relatively short period is as good an indication as I have found of the difficulties facing those aiming more widely at Historically Informed Performance.

Clearly this disc will appeal to fans of the music of that period, or of the various artists featured here whose recordings are otherwise hard to come by, but I am doubtful of its wider interest. Taken a few tracks at a time, however, it does have an appeal all of its own for the curious and the nostalgic.
John Sheppard


Journal into Melody Issue No. 174 December 2007

The enthusiastic response to Guild’s first dip into the catalogue of music recorded in the 1940s for Decca’s Music While You Work label (on Guild GLCD 5128) has meant that a second volume simply had to follow. This time there are some new names, but the general concept follows the pattern that was fully explained in the booklet notes for the earlier collection.

In summary, the title ‘Music While You Work’ was the name of a BBC radio. programme that was first broadcast at 1O.30am on Sunday 23 June 1940. It soon became something of an institution in British broadcasting, where it was to remain in the schedules for an unbroken run of 27 years. It was resurrected for short runs in the 1980s and 1990s before the very last broadcast was heard in 1995.

The man credited with the original idea – and its successful implementation – was Wynford Reynolds (1899-1958). ‘Live’ musicians were usually engaged for the programme, ranging from solo performers such as organists, to small groups, dance bands, light orchestras and military bands. The shows were aimed at factory workers during the Second World War, and it was hoped that the choice of music would relieve the boredom of many repetitive tasks and thus assist productivity.

However the factories soon realised that they needed to provide such music throughout the day, and gramophone records were the obvious answer to fill those periods when suitable music was not being broadcast by the BBC. Someone at Decca proposed that a special series of 78s would suit this purpose admirably and their own “Music While You Work” label was born; sensibly they sought Wynford Reynolds’ advice from the outset, and he even made some of the 78s with his own orchestra. These were not intended to be an accurate carbon copy of the BBC broadcasts, and the orchestras on the Decca records (mostly their contract artists) did not necessarily also perform on the radio. But they did succeed in conveying the ‘feel’ of the programme and have provided a fascinating subject for collectors to study over the years.