Reviews

GLCD 5108 – The Golden Age of Light Music: British Cinema and Theatre Orchestras

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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 (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.

Essex Chronicle 14-07-2006

Guild of good musical variety

Not for the first time, have I focused upon one of the smaller classical Labels available to collectors of CDs in this country.

Guild Records (GmbH) is based in Switzerland.

Having had a long association with their releases, I am more than happy to recommend them, both for their variety and general interest.

For example, one of the series that the company has released is The Golden Age of Light Music.

Admittedly, Guild is not the only company that has explored the treasury of 78rpms, and reissued them on CD.

There are plenty of “nostalgia” editions, but for sheer breadth, the16 volumes is to be admired.

From an introductory volume (Guild GLCD 5101), the series explores each decade, and then some of the big bands and orchestras such as Mantovani (Guild GLCD 5113).

So let me introduce two of the volumes in more detail.

British Cinema and Theatre Orchestras (Guild GLCD 5108) looks back to the times when the big city cinemas had their own pit orchestras that would play during the intermissions (previously during the “silents”).

In this album, the 19 tracks feature pit bands such as the Coventry New Hippodrome, London Hippodrome and London Palladium in some of the easy-on-the-ear numbers including a selection from Jerome Kern’s

Showboat and the very familiar Grasshoppers ‘dance.

I can remember going to a dancing class as a toddler and made to dance to this number – oh, the indignity of it all.

The Golden Age of the 1930s has two volumes linked to it.

The second-(Guild GLCD 5116) introduces some of the same orchestras and other big names of the time (now forgotten) like Edith Lorand and her Viennese Orchestra, Harry Engleman’s Quintet and Barnabas von Geczy and his orchestra.

He probably came from Peckham.

There is an experimental stereo track as a bonus recorded in 1934 with Ray Noble and his New Mayfair Orchestra.

This was the time when popular music was fitted an to the 3 minutes average side of a 78rpm.

But Guild is not just about nostalgia.

Among its latest releases is a winning combination of Dvorak’s celebrated Cello Goncerto, and another shorter work by the same composer, as well as the Cello Concerto in E minor by Victor Herbert (Guild GMCD 7235).

American Cellist, James Kreger, makes a passionate case for this wonderful music, ably partnered by the Philharmonia conducted by Djong Victorin Ya.

Croydon’s Fairfield Hall provides a warm ambience, and however many times you have heard the Dvorak Concerto, listen to that by Irish-born Victor Herbert and find something really dramatic about it.
Chris Green


Forster’s Sunday Citizen, May 15.2005

It takes a Small label to be daring enough to chance a wonderful series like that on the Guild label, “The Golden Age of Light Music,” featuring the dance and theatre bands of the early decades of the last century.

Now there is “British Cinema & Theatre Orchestral” (GLCD 5108) that dishes up 19 examples of such music, all recorded in the 1930s.

Though some might disagree, I personally like the sound of these old recordings, having been brought up an early electric Gilbert & Sullivan recordings.

Included is music from such films and shows as “Show Boat,” “Conversation Piece,” “The Cat and the Fiddle,” and “King of Jazz.”

The players include Commodore Grand Orchestra, Paramount Theatre Orchestra, Regal Cinema Orchestra, and Troxy Broadcasting Orchestra – few or none of which ring any bells for Americans in 2005, but all of which were dedicated (as are the people at Guild) to preserving the music of the era.

Delightful listening for relaxation or for making long car trips seem shorter.

PS: the other sets in this series are equally enjoyable and very nostalgic. Perhaps some GIs might remember dancing to some of these orchestras. Let me know.
Frank Behrens “Arts Writer”


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.
GH

The Cinema Organ Society magazine June issue

Most of us who have an interest in the cinema organ also have an interest in light music, after all it is light music which adapts its self so well to the cinema organ (in the right hands). Light music was the mainstay of many an organist’s repertoire, and it is a pity that the trend no longer seems in vogue. Maybe it is that younger players no longer have access to it either via radio or CD, so it is with enormous delight that I received a CD from Guild Light Music to review. The CD in question is by British Cinema and Theatre Orchestras and transferred with great skill from original 78rpm discs by Alan Bunting. And there are many lesser-heard items amongst the tried and trusted standards. For those of you who cannot survive without the sound of the cinema organ, there are three tracks which feature one. The Grasshopper’s Dance and The Doll Medley both have Al Bollington much in evidence, both as solo and with very clever counter melodies, whilst The King of Jazz selection (arranged by Sidney Torch) has the Regal Marble Arch Christie in the hands of Quentin Maclean dominating the passages it is featured in. Also of interest is Nola, played by the Regal (Marble Arch) orchestra which is a precursor to Torch’s full blown version on Parlophone 20 or so years later, and so obviously his arrangement.

Up and coming cinema organists could do no better than to listen to the wonderful arrangements on this (and other Guild CDs) to get an idea of how well light music could be adapted to the organ, an art that is in serious need of a revival.


Orchestras from the ’30s

Article published May 15, 2005
It takes a small label to be daring enough to chance a wonderful series like that on the Guild label, “The Golden Age of Light Music,” featuring the dance and theatre bands of the early decades of the last century.

Now there is “British Cinema & Theatre Orchestras” (GLCD 5108) that dishes up 19 examples of such music, all recorded in the 1930s.

Though some might disagree, I personally like the sound of these old recordings, having been brought up on early electric Gilbert & Sullivan recordings.

Included is music from such films and shows as “Show Boat,” “Conversation Piece,” “The Cat and the Fiddle,” and “King of Jazz.”

The players include Commodore Grand Orchestra, Paramount Theatre Orchestra, Regal Cinema Orchestra, and Troxy Broadcasting Orchestra few or none of which ring any bells for Americans in 2005, but all of which were dedicated (as are the people at Guild) to preserving the music of the era.

Delightful listening for relaxation or for making long car trips seem shorter.

PS: the other sets in this series are equally enjoyable and very nostalgic. Perhaps some GIs might remember dancing to some of these orchestras. Let me know.
Frank Behrens


MusicWeb International

Guild continues to hand out delightful treats to the light music connoisseur with this spanking new issue in their wonderful Light Music series. This time, it’s the turn of British Cinema and Theatre Orchestras with a concoction of works that recreate the mood from the pre war and immediate post war days. The plethora of artists involved in this release beggars belief and the comprehensive totality of the undertaking continue to confirm Guild’s dedication to the genre.

You would be somewhat surprised to find Albert Ketelbey’s much loved ‘Bells across the Meadows’ in this compilation but it is beautifully done by the London Palladium Orchestra under Richard Cream’s direction. Other memorable pieces here are the works by Percy Fletcher and the emotional selections from the Jerome Kern musicals, especially the immortal ‘Showboat’. Another intriguing feature in this compilation are the orchestra names such as ‘Troxy Broadcasting Orchestra’ and ‘Plaza Theatre Orchestra’ evoking memories of a vanished age.

Guild has used fine transfers for these recordings and they all come up with minimal hiss but outstanding clarity. Yet again, the indefatigable David Ades surpasses himself with fascinatingly detailed notes that really recreate the atmosphere of those bygone days. Another winner in all departments!
Gerald Fenech


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.
Brian Belton


MusicWeb International

An enjoyable, nostalgic by-way, this; well transferred with David Ades’ uncommonly helpful notes once more to the fore. …

It’s good to see some often-passed-by fare on this release. Regal Zonophones nestle close to Parlophones alongside the bigger fish on HMV, Columbia and Decca. And that’s part of the depth of this latest entrant in the Guild Light Music series, to go excavating in the cinema-lined suburbs and return with local bands and theatre orchestras that are now as familiar to us as coelacanths.

A good number of cuts have theatre organ and light orchestra, a popular genre combination in the days before cost cutting swept the orchestra forever out of the cinema. All are British bands, many fronted by prestigious band and theatre conductors, and the recordings take us from early electric discs to almost the outbreak of the Second World War.

Joseph Muscant’s Commodore Grand Orchestra belies its name with some rinkety-dink ersatz jazz – and none too disciplined at that, though Muscant was a big name in the field. One of the most amazing sonorities is that conjured by the inspired combo of organist Al Bonnington – you can almost see the cigarette cards as you say the name – and conductor Arthur Anton in a piece of fluff called Grasshoppers’ Dance. The theremin-like hallucinatory sound picture is bizarre and irresistible – for the length of the disc anyway. The Noel Coward selection is peppy and vibrant and Muscant turns up again, this time with the Troxy Broadcasting Orchestra, to dust down some dancing shoes in Speakeasy (it’s not very Cagney ‘n’ Edward G Robinson).

My erstwhile local, the Walthamstow Granada, once the haunt of Duke Ellington et al had its own band which recorded for Regal Zonophone and it turns in a creditability Handelian number but one of the most enjoyable and adrenalin-laced bands was that of the Palace Theatre conducted by Hyam “Bumps” Greenbaum, well known to those interested in heavier British music. Bags of verve from Bumps. There are moments culled from stage and film, with such as Babylonian Nights, which reeks of gaudy monstrosity but also English pastoral moments as well (Ketèlbey meets VW). Geraldo gives us some easy swing and then there are the evanescent and very real charms of the Chaminade (Frank Tours and the Plaza Theatre). The big finale is the King of Jazz selection – organ, percussion, orchestra and trumpet going Hell for leather.

An enjoyable, nostalgic by-way, this; well transferred with David Ades’ uncommonly helpful notes once more to the fore.
Jonathan Woolf