GLCD 5109 – The Golden Age of Light Music: Light Music From The Silver Screen
Music Notes By Chris Green
Just up the road from where I live there is a talented sound engineer. His name is Alan Bunting and together with series producer, David Ades, they have been responsible for compiling a never-ending stream of releases on the Swiss-based Guild label. The series is called The Golden Age of Light Music, and it profiles the wealth of music that was recorded, mainly between 1930 and 1960. This was the heyday of the 78rpm shellac release lasting between three and four minutes which certainly sharpened the talents of composers and arrangers. Filling a disc for that amount of time required the skill of being able to say what you wanted to say but in a style that was recognisable. The advent of the LP changed things, but so did the economic challenges of the Depression and the Second World War when major theatres had to cut their house orchestras in order to survive. The world of light music lost some talented ensembles who would have entertained audiences between films, or given concerts when the theatre was not showing films.
In short, there was an appetite for “light music” – how difficult it is to define what that kind of music is. The essential. ingredients are tunes, easy-on-the-ear harmonies and memorable arrangements, and the producer of the series has obviously had a field day in sourcing decent copies of the hundreds of titles that fill the many volumes issued by Guild Music. Many of them were recorded in the studio, but occasionally the sound recordists would venture into a theatre or cinema to record the music.
What I am going to do is to highlight just some of the releases, but for more information I recommend you go to the Guild website Guildmusic
I am particularly interested in music for films, and so a couple of essential albums are Light Music from the Silver Screen (Guild GLCD 5109) which has 22 tracks each featuring a different film including Spring in Park Lane, The Magic Bow, Shane and The Band Wagon. It would be difficult to say which is a “classic” and which is not, but for durability Dancing in the Dark from the latter release still features in live programmes and reminds us of the great days when MGM musicals were eagerly awaited. British Cinema and Theatre Orchestras are recalled in another release (GLCD 5108). Most included here were London-based but the provinces were not necessarily to be outdone and whether it was Walthamstow or Coventry, there was a house band led by some big names of the time including Hyam Greenbaum and Geraldo. As with all the releases, there are excellent sleeve notes which give you much of the background information.
“Light music” was not necessarily an Anglo-Saxon invention, for there were talented composers in mainland Europe and some of their compositions turn up in arrangements in a third release, Lightly Classical (GLCD 5172). There are compositions by Claude Debussy and William Walton rubbing shoulders with Grieg, Stravinsky and Khachaturian. Sometimes the orchestra is reduced, and one has to remember that these tracks would often be the first exposure for someone to the world of light music and it would often be through hearing them played on the radio. Radio played a significant role in popularising melodies in Britain and the USA, and many of the orchestras featured in Great American Light Orchestras (GLCD 5105) were led by – composer-directors who achieved significant awards like Leroy Anderson, Andre Kostelanetz and Paul Whiteman. Some wrote material for the concert hall in more serious vein but they are included, such as Morton Gould and Meredith Willson.
So there we are: light music is making a comeback, and if you want a memorable tune presented with skill, Guild’s series is as good a place to start as anywhere.
Prof. Chris Green
Essex Chronicle 16-06-2006
Good clean fun”F” WAS for France last week, now it is for fun, and there are plenty of CDs out which provide that.
So, where to start? Well, a series of reissues of old 78rpm recordings from Swiss-based Guild Records provides as good a starting point as anywhere. The company has a Golden Age of Light Music series which covers a range of topics such as Light Music from the Silver Screen (Guild GLCD 5109), Great American Light Orchestras (Guild GLCD 5114), and In Town Tonight – the 1930s (Guild GLCD 5116). Alan Burning has masterminded the transfer to CDs, and soon the ear adjusts to the compressed sound, but fit is the content which interests me. Take the second volume of the 1930s. Here there are 19 tracks, all with exotic titles like Procession of the Sirdar, actually an arrangement of a famous classic, Donna Juanita and La Paloma. The orchestra line-up is an A list from the period such as Percy Faith, Nelson Riddle, Boston Pops, and David Rose.
For me, the most enterprising is the Silver Screen selection with tracks from mainly forgotten films such as Idol of Paris, and The Woman’s Angle. On the other hand, there are some celebrated releases like The Man Between, Shane, Odette and The Glass Mountain. So, for choice, there are plenty more from the same source revealing, as many of us know, that there is a growing nostalgia market.
Delius Society, USA 02/06
By now there are 18 or 19 Guild releases (Distributor: Albany) of Light Music taken from the 78’s and LP’s of producer David Ades and restorer Alan Bunting with occasional assistance from some friends.
The current batch for review includes:
Light Music from the Silver Screen GLCD 5109
Mantovani-By Special Request GLCD 5110
Reflections of Tranquility GLCD 5112
Mantovani-By Special Request-Vol. 2 GLCD 5113
Highdays and Holidays GLCD 5115 In Town Tonfight- The 1930s Volume 2 GLCD 5116
Bandstand in the Park GLCD 5117. ‘
Each of these CD’s has 20 to 27 tracks. I’ll just be able to indicate a few highlights from each.
5109 features recordings from the 40’s and 50’s so the sound even before remastering was good. The opening track is a symphonic treatment of Early One Morning from “Spring in Park Lane” played by Robert Farnon and his Orchestra. This folk tune is one of my favourites, and I was glad to hear this arrangement for the first time. Seascape from “Western Approaches” really sounds like film music and here is played gorgeously by the London Symphony Orchestra under Muir Mathieson. Saga of Odette from “Odette” played by Charles Williams and His Concert Orchestra is another nice one. Williams with pianist Arthur Sandford also offers the Mansell Concerto effectively. It’s from “The Woman’s Angle”. There are such Works similar to, bat not surpassing, the Warsaw Concerto, including the Quebec Concerto from “Whispering City”. It’s Williams again bat with Arthur Dulay at the piano.
All of us of a certain age will recall Mantovani and his “Cascading Strings”. Those lush arrangements were mostly made by Ronald Binge. On 5110 highlights include Sydney Baynes’ Destiny Waltz, Addinsell’s Blithe Spirit-Waltz Theme, El Choclo (Kess of Fire), and Love Here is My Heart with those Cascading Strings in fall cry.
5112 has some tracks where the sound seems a bit bright such as in Shangri-La played by Monty Kelly and his Orchestra. The Danish State Radio Orchestra under Robert Farnon turns up often an these CD’s and two of these winners are Starry Night and Mid Ocean written by Farnon himself. A real surprise was Camarata’s version of Cyril Scott’s Lotus Land. Not to be missed! Composer Bob Haymes, younger brother of singer Dick Haymes, turns up an two pieces: Beyond the Next Hill and La Brilliante both conducted by American conductor Acquaviva and his Orchestra. This one is one of the best in the series.
5113, Mantovani Vol. 2, may not be quite the equal of Vol. 1, but there are some winners anyway. Ancliffe’s Nights of Gladness and Concerto in Jazz by Donald Phillips with Arthur Young at the piano grab your attention.
5115 features music from the Bosworth Mood Music Library 1937-1953. Many publishers maintained their own libraries and among them were Paxton. Chappel, and Boosey & Hawkes. Ketèlbey turns up with In a Chinese Temple Garden and Wedgewood Blue both played by the Louis Voss Grand Orchestra. Busy Business with a nod to The Flight of the Bumblebee is a fun novelty number played by the International Radio Orchestra. Highdays and Holidays by Peter Yorke and again played by Louis Voss gives this album its title. Voss & Co. also play Haydn Wood’s little known Sketch of a Dandy.
From the title of 5116 you’d guess that Eric Coates’s Knightsbridge March has to be here and so it is played by the BBC Dance Orchestra under Henry Hall. Chinese Street Serenade features Alfredo Campoli and His Marimba Tango Orchestra. There is some fancy stick action here. There is an arrangement of Procession of the Sirdar (sec) by Ippolitov-Ivanov, arr. Finck, played by the Commodore Grand Orchestra under Joseph Musicant. Special an this CD is a selection from “Mr. Whittington” played by Ray Noble and the New Mayfair Orchestra. A Bonus track features experimental stereo from 1934 of the last three numbers from the “Mr. Whittington” group. You can hear the difference from the mono recording.
Finally 5117 features bandstand music which may or may not be your cup of tea. But there are some good pieces such as Ketèlbey’s A Japanese Carnival, Walford Davies’ Royal Air Force March Past, a completely unknown An American Folk Rhapsody by American Clare Grundman and played by the Band of the Irish Guards. I couldn’t identify all the tunes bat I did hear “Ort Top of Old Smokey” and “Molly Malone” very briefly. There are some other good ones as well.
The annotations and documentation an all of these releases is first rate as is the sound restoration. Do go for your favourites.
Forster’s Sunday Citizen, Dover, N.H., Sunday 19.2005
First, a little light music from film
I am often asked about recordings that are simply relaxing and can be used as background music to quiet meals or small gatherings.
To the list of what I usually recommend, I must add the series called The Golden Age of Light Music an the Guild Light Music label. Many in this series have appeared in my columns, and now there is “Light Music from the Silver Screen” (GLCD 5109).
There are 22 tracks with “vintage” recordings of music from films such as “The Band Wagon,” “Shane,” “City Lights,” and “Odette.” Most of the titles will be unfamiliar to all bot students of film, but the music to some of these films is quite lovely:
Equally unfamiliar to non-British audiences will be manv of the conductors: Robert Farnon, Sidney Torch, Ron Goodwin, Louis Levy, and the rest. Those who pay attention to opening film credits just might recognize conductor Muir Mathieson, whose name appears on countless British films.
Like the rest of wonderful series, this CD should be in every collection.
Memory Lane, Issue 147 Summer 2005
Two more impressive The Golden Age of Light Music CDs from Guild have been released, GLCD 5108 and GLCD 5109. The first is titled British Cinema & Theatre Orchestras and the second, Light Music from the Silver Screen. It has probably been forgotten now that in the 1920s and 1930s many large theatres and cinemas had their own prestigious orchestra, the latter sometimes featuring the ubiquitous cinema organ. GLCD 5108 provides an interesting selection of music by such orchestras as the Coventry New Hippodrome, the Gaumont State Orchestra and the Regal Cinema Orchestra. For me, the latter with Quentin Maclean at the organ, provide the best track with their “King of Jazz” Selection. GLCD 5109 takes 22 recordings from the mid-1940s to the early 1950s and features some of the lesser-known film Scores played by a. selection of the finest light orchestras available. Tunes such as Dancing In The Dark by the MGM Studio Orchestra may be familiar but other gems, such as La Violetera by Philip Green and his Orchestra, provide unexpected pleasure. Great Sound and authoritative sleeve notes complete two splendid issues.
AMG – ALL MUSIC GUIDE
“Light music” is an extinct term, but one that covers a rich vein of unjustly neglected music. In the “golden age of radio,” it was common for a radio network to employ one or more directors of light music, staff arrangers and conductors whose job it was to lead the house orchestra in pop music and what was then considered “light classics,” short pieces that were not heavy in the manner of classical symphonic music. Guild Light Music is an imprint devoted to reclaiming the lost heritage of Light Music through a reissue program of original recordings, many of which haven’t been re-issued since the era in which they first appeared. This volume, Light Music from the Silver Screen, is taken from pristine copies of recordings made between 1946 and 1953, and at the outset it should be mentioned that the sound quality throughout is consistent and outstanding.
That all but two of these 22 selections originate in England is not an accident. In the U.K., light music easily found its way into the realm of film scoring, with an excellent school of like-minded composers to fill the bill — Robert Farnon, John Addison, Philip Green, Ron Goodwin, and Richard Addinsell among them. Although critics and musicians who dislike anything that smacks of easy listening would ultimately condemn all such music as pap and hackwork, in truth these composers were highly skilled and refined artists whose qualities are unmistakable. Mantovani in particular has been subject of a long-standing disinformation campaign on the part of baby boomer classic rock culturalists, and yet one of the most effective pieces here, John Addison’s Theme from “The Man Between,” is performed by Cyril Stapleton and his orchestra in exactly Mantovani’s signature style. Compiler David Ades’ helpful and informative notes fill in a lot of gaps on this music, uncovering details on these obscure figures, some of them being rather short-lived, ill-fated, and fascinating characters.
Those with no interest in light music, then they should not feel compelled to drink at this sweet and soothing spring. By turn, prejudices about music should not prevent the adventurous listener from finding his/her way in music of which the standard of excellence is highly placed. Light Music from the Silver Screen should prove a desirable and satisfactory compilation for those already interested in music of this rarified flavor, especially film music fanciers.
Here is a collection of music from films all made around 1950 and recorded at the time. Those who are old enough to have been movie-goers in those days may find listening to this disc a wonderful nostalgic trip. In fact you would not necessarily need to have been to the cinema because some of the music from these films became very well known in its own right; through gramophone records and wireless. Also, there were large sales of some of the popular numbers in the form of sheet-music piano arrangements. It was a time when there were a lot more pianos in homes than there are today.
But this is not just for old nostalgics. What struck me was the quality and volume of talent that went into both composing and playing this music. OK, there is a fair amount of derivative and sometimes sentimental tosh, but even that is skilfully done. The best music is very good indeed and I found it immensely enjoyable.
An important feature of this collection, as explained in the booklet by David Ades who is responsible for it, is that there was not an intention to produce a “Best of … CD”. There are plenty of such compilations around. Consequently there are many tracks here that are on CD for the first time. A positive example of this policy is the selection from the film The Glass Mountain. It was the music that made the picture famous rather than its content and the hit extract that everyone knew was The Legend of the Glass Mountain. On this disc we get the Song of the Glass Mountain, a worthier piece of music in my opinion. There are wonderfully evocative, beautifully orchestrated nature sounds and lyrical cor anglais and horn solos, splendidly rendered by Sidney Torch and his orchestra. Another result of the policy is that one of the biggest film music hits of the period, The Dream of Olwen from the 1947 film, While I live, is not included.
In addition to music that owes much to swing, big band and jazz, there is a fair selection of that popular sub-genre in film music; the piano concerto. The vogue was started by the most famous example of all, the Warsaw Concerto by Richard Addinsell from the 1941 movie, Dangerous Moonlight. Here, we get, among others, Andre Mathieu’s Quebec Concerto from Whispering City. Within this genre you can be pretty sure that you will be able to indulge in a good dose of pastiche Grieg, Rachmaninov or Liszt – or a combination of all three.
There should be something for everybody in this compilation of music that in many cases has deservedly outlived the films for which it was written. In the field of historical movie music the CD is a worthy addition.
GLCD 5109 – LIGHT MUSIC FROM THE SILVER SCREEN
The ninth release in Guild’s invaluable series of Light Music collections focuses on the famous movies that graced the screen in the immediate pre and post war years. Again this is a deeply nostalgic album that brings together some of those memorable themes that will definitely bring a wistful tear to the eye of those who lived through those tumultuous years.
The themes are played by a collection of excellent orchestras such as the MGM Studio Orchestra under the baton of Robert Farnon, the legendary Queens Hall Light Orchestra, the Melachrino Strings and the concert orchestras of Charles Williams, Sidney Torch and Philip Green. Although some of the films may not be so familiar today, one cannot overlook such classics as ‘Shane’, ‘Odette’ and ‘City Lights’ which are all represented here in various forms and guises.
David Ades provides all the necessary biographical information that the seasoned collector needs to know and the transfers are, as usual with this series, of a crystal clear nature. There is nothing much to add to the plaudits of this collection although those who are collecting the series will definitely snap this up immediately. I just can’t wait for the next issue.
In Tune International – January 2005
GLCD 5108 – BRITISH CINEMA AND THEATRE ORCHESTRAS
GLCD 5109 – LIGHT MUSIC FROM THE SILVER SCREEN
GLCD 5110 – MANTOVANI – BY SPECIAL REQUEST
What a splendid way to start a musical New Year! Three contrasting compilations from the enterprising Guild Light Music label and more opportunities for David Ades and Alan Bunting to strut their stuff’. Very pleasant memories of yesterday’s entertainment scene in Britain are evoked by BRITISH CINEMA & THEATRE
ORCHESTRAS, an intriguing compilation of 78 rpm records by London and provincial based ‘pit bands’ in their heyday from the late 1920s through the 1930s. The unique sound of a cinema/theatre organ is heard on several tracks in unison with the orchestral playing and a fascinating combination results. The UK’s major record labels had sufficient faith in these ensembles to put them on disc and justifiably too as the level of musicianship was immensely impressive. In my own West Midlands ‘neck of the woods’ the Coventry New Hippodrome Orchestra under the direction of William Pethers was considered the finest outside the pit band at the London Palladium. I am delighted to see their recordings (possibly made in the Coventry theatre) of selections from ‘Showboat’ and ‘The Vagabond King’ in this set.
The several different orchestras on display all perform with verve and vitality making their music travel across the years with an undiminished freshness. Alan Bunting has worked his customary magic in bringing this music to compact disc with a startling clarity. A delicious slice of nostalgia!
I am happy to bestow similar praise on LIGHT MUSIC FROM THE SILVER SCREEN, spanning the years 1946-1953. British and American orchestras are featured in David Ades’ sparkling compilation of LP and 78 rpm recordings. While the music from the 1930s on the previous disc was before my time, these recordings date from a period when I first began to appreciate and admire popular light music on radio and records. Leading names of the period participating in this collection include Charles Williams, Sidney Torch and George Melachrino. Robert Farnon leads off with his arrangement of the traditional air EARLY ONE MORNING, featured in the early Fifties film SPRING IN PARK LANE. I am pleased to see listed two recordings by the marvellous MGM Studio Orchestra, DANCING IN THE DARK from ‘The
Band Wagon’ and ADORATION from ‘Lili’. Conrad Salinger’s gorgeous arrangement of the former title still
sends shivers down my spine and so for that matter do the emotional strains of CALL OF THE FARAWAY HILLS, the Victor Young theme for the great western ‘Shane’. It is played here by Ron Goodwin and his Concert Orchestra. This 78 minute disc is a pleasure to hear and to recall images of many fine films.
I can well remember envying my best friend’s father when, back in the early 1950s, he started collecting records by Mantovani. In due course I got to hear some of those discs and realised that ‘Monty’ was a brilliant conductor in charge of an outstanding group of musicians. Only in the last few years have I fully appreciated the depth and scope of Mantovani’s music from the early years of his career. Adding to my education is Guild’s fine compilation of 26 recordings from 1943 to 1953 under the title MANTOVANI – BY SPECIAL REQUEST. Given the famous string sound image of Mantovani a Ia CHARMAINE, as conceived by Ronald Binge, it is intriguing to hear a quite different orchestral sound on BEGIN THE BEGUINE from 1943 which opens this superb collection. A saxophone section, full brass plus strings and rhythm would baffle me in a blindfold test but that was Monty vintage ‘43, and very nice too. Many more gems follow in a range of musical moods. Great entertainment!
Just to remind those not already familiar with previous Guild releases, the discs are most attractively packaged with delightful coloured artwork on the front cover, authoritative liner notes and a listing of song titles, composers etc. At the risk of repeating myself, this is the perfect way to build a light music collection of real quality.
Review By Jonathan Woolf
Here’s another in Guild’s far trawling selection. The company has a capacious but finely woven net and manages to surprise through inventive programming and, as here, unusual and lesser-known items from the Decca, Parlophone, HMV and Columbia catalogues. There are also a few MGMs here as well to add a more concentrated American spice.
Though not all the items were specifically composed for films they achieved some degree of fame in that format – enough, at least, to be immortalised on shellac. All date from the immediate post-War years. It’s a necessarily disparate collection with a fair sprinkling of styles and idioms but all played with panache and élan by some of the best such bands in the business – as a look at the roster call of talent in the head note will show. The MGM Orchestra’s big fat trumpets punch out Arthur Schwartz’s Dancing in the Dark and under Hans Sommer they let rip their jazzier credentials in Adoration. Ron Goodwin and his Concert Orchestra contribute a number from Shane and then the appositely weird John Addison score for The Man Between where Dave Shand’s disembodied saxophone sends shivers up the spine. Mischa Spoliansky, then a London resident, fuses a butch orchestration with vampish piano in his score for the Idol of Paris and Philip Green’s band turns on the Spanishry in La Violetera.
One doesn’t hear so much of Guy Warrack these days but his stirring March from Men of Arnhem is certainly tinged with gaunt nobility. It’s programmed next to music from The Magic Bow, the Stewart Grainger Paganini biopic played on the soundtrack by Yehudi Menuhin (I’m not quite sure now but it was either Menuhin or Frederick Grinke who “played” Grainger’s bowing arm in the film). Here we have Philip Green’s version with an altogether lighter player, Palm Court maestro Reg Leopold. Andre Mathieu’s Quebec Concerto has made at least one appearance over the last few years. He wrote it at fourteen, believe it or not, and obviously in love with Rachmaninov. It fits into the genre of pocket battleship piano concertos – a well nigh endless list – with particular affection and considerable cleverness. This is just part of it but Arthur Dulay sets to with vigour.
Pretty good transfers and notes – and a variety bandbox of pleasurable and entertaining listening.