When the Guild label issued GLCD5101 – The Golden Age of Light Music, An Introduction – in 2004, I, for one, didn’t anticipate celebrating the appearance in 2008 of the 50th volume in this magnificent series. The quality of the contents has remained high, and I understand there is excellent material for many more volumes to come.

Very well transferred from the original 78s and LPs by Alan Bunting, and compiled by the tireless David Ades – who has also contributed every booklet essay – this series has given great pleasure to very many listeners. Much of it is unavailable elsewhere and some appears for the first time other than on discs supplied by music libraries.

Interested readers may like to know about the Robert Farnon Society, established in the UK in 1956, which publishes a substantial quarterly magazine, “Journal into Music” which focuses on light music of all types from around the world, and whose website,, contains much useful information.

STRING FEVER – The Golden Age of Light Music Vol. 50 – Guild Light Music mono GLCD5150; 77:19 []:

This excellent selection of tracks focuses on the string sound of well-known light music orchestras, a few of which are highlighted in this review.

Robert Farnon (1917-2005) was a Canadian composer and conductor much admired by all shades of musician. While older brother Brian played with Spike Jones, and younger brother Dennis wrote the music for among others Mr Magoo, Bob Farnon played lead trumpet for Percy Faith in Toronto and between times composed and arranged, completing two symphonies before the war. In 1944 he arrived in the UK as conductor of the Canadian Band of the Allied Expeditionary Forces who gave concerts to the Allies along with Glenn Miller’s US and George Melachrino’s UK bands. After the war he settled in the UK, writing film scores and arrangements, backing many famous singers of the day, and completing his Third Symphony shortly before his death in 2005. He made a large number of highly regarded recordings for Decca. The recording of “Windy Corner” is an example of his fine conducting skills.

George Melachrino’s career started with work in dance bands in the 1920s where he played violin, viola, clarinet, saxophone and sang. After the war, his string orchestra was hugely popular, and he made 50 LPs before his death at the early age of 56. Attracting many fine string players, Melachrino achieved really fine sounds in his recordings.

Morton Gould was another musician with a broad spectrum of musical interests, light music with his orchestra and, for example, a fine recording of Carl Nielsen’s Second Symphony with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. His contribution here is a catchy number, “El Relicario”, highlighting the high quality of player he attracted.

Meredith Willson, another American with broad tastes, and some of whose compositions appear on a recommendable Naxos American Music CD, played in the New York Philharmonic as a young man, and wrote symphonies as well as “Chicken Fat”, a song for JFK’s youth fitness programme. “Sneezing Violins” played on this CD is happy little novelty piece, a real spirit-raiser.

Sidney Torch was a theatre organist, composer, conductor and arranger of great talent, whose reputation, somewhat fearsome, with his own and the Queen’s Hall Light Orchestra is legend. The quality of the ensemble he achieved is breath-takingly good, “All Strings and Fancy Free” and “Up with the Lark” showing this to excellent effect.

Helmut Zacharias was another classically trained musician, a very fine violinist, and prolific recording artist. One of the leading jazz violinists in the 1950s, his recording of “I want to be happy” spotlights his singing tone.

Fans of Billy Mayerl will be delighted to see here an arrangement for orchestra of “Busybody”, played here by one of Germany’s many radio orchestras, the Stuttgart one under Kurt Rehfeld, himself a composer of light music.

The CD ends with the Frenchman Roger Roger playing with his orchestra one of his own compositions, the amusing “Music Hall”, a finish to a programme guaranteed to lift the jaded spirits.

String Fever Tracklist:

1. String Fever (Rene Costy, Rene G.F. Heylbroeck) EMILE DELTOUR AND HIS ORCHESTRA
2. Poinciana (Nat Simon, Buddy Bernier) LEROY HOLMES AND HIS ORCHESTRA
4. The Epic Waltz (Theme of “The Big Prevue Show”) (R. Ellis, arr. Angela Morley) JEFF MORLEY AND HIS ORCHESTRA
5. Fiddlin’ The Blues (Sidney Schwartz) DAVID CARROLL AND HIS ORCHESTRA
6. Windy Corner (Bruce Campbell) DANISH STATE RADIO ORCHESTRA Conducted by ROBERT FARNON
7. Pedrillo’s Buggy Ride (Julius Steffaro,) HILVERSUM RADIO ORCHESTRA Conducted by HUGH GRANVILLE
8. Tillie’s Tango (James R. Mundy, Gladys Bruce) ACQUAVIVA AND HIS ORCHESTRA
9. Stampede (Johannes (Johnny) Steggerda) DOLF VAN DER LINDEN AND HIS ORCHESTRA (as ‘VAN LYNN’ on LP label)
10. All Strings And Fancy Free (Sidney Torch, birth surname Torchinsky) SIDNEY TORCH AND HIS ORCHESTRA
11. Why Shouldn’t I (Cole Porter) RICHARD HAYMAN AND HIS ORCHESTR
12. El Relicario (Jose Padilla) MORTON GOULD AND HIS ORCHESTRA
13. Left Bank (C’est A Hambourg) (Margueritte Angele Monnot, arr. Laurie Johnson) LAURIE JOHNSON AND HIS ORCHESTRA
14. Caminito (Gabino Coria Penaloza, Juan de Dios Filiberto) WERNER MULLER AND HIS ORCHESTRA
15. Busybody (Billy Mayerl) STUTTGART RADIO ORCHESTRA Conducted by KURT REHFELD
16. Leap Year Waltz (from “The Dancing Years”) (Ivor Novello) MICHAEL FREEDMAN AND THE DEBUTANTES
17. Up With The Lark (Robert Busby) QUEEN’S HALL LIGHT ORCHESTRA Conducted by SIDNEY TORCH
18. Tico Tico (Zequinha da Abreu) LUIZ ARRUDA PAES AND HIS ORCHESTRA
19. Dream Street (Mario Ruiz Armengol) MARIO RUIZ ARMENGOL AND HIS ORCHESTRA
20. By The River Sainte Marie (Harry Warren, Edgar Leslie, arr. Gordon Jenkins) GORDON JENKINS AND HIS ORCHESTRA
22. Green Eyes (Nilo Menendez, arr. John Gregory, real name Giovanni Gregori) CYRIL ORNADEL AND HIS ORCHESTRA
23. Sneezing Violins (Meredith Willson) MEREDITH WILLSON AND HIS ORCHESTRA featuring ALBERT PRATZ, violin
25. Lotta Pizzicato (Frank De Vol) FRANK DE VOL AND HIS ORCHESTRA
26. Perfidia (Alberto Dominguez) DON AMORE AND HIS ORCHESTRA
27. Cascade Of Stars (Osmar Hector Maderna) MUSIC BY CAMARATA

GOING PLACES – The Golden Age of Light Music Vol. 51 – Guild Light Music mono GLCD5151; 78:45 []:

Around the world in Light Music is an apt description to this 51st volume of the Guild Light Music series.

Lovers of the music of Carl Nielsen will know the conductor Thomas Jensen whose recordings of Nielsen’s symphonies with the Danish Radio Symphony Orchestra for Decca and Tono are legendary. He had a career with lighter fare, too, and the recording with his “other” orchestra, the Aarhus Civic Orchestra entertains us with “Aarhus Tappentreg” or “Aarhus Tattoo” which will have listeners tapping their toes.

The British-born American composer and conductor David Rose produced some enduringly popular numbers including “Holiday for Strings”, “The Stripper” and music for highly popular TV series including “Bonanza”. “Moon of Manakoora” by Alfred Newman comes from the 1937 film “The Hurricane” starring Dorothy Lamour, and sets an effective scene. Ray Martin, Vienna born but forced to emigrate in 1937, became one of the UK’s finest composers and conductors of light music, conducting the BBC Variety Orchestra and holding an important position at EMI. He moved to the US in 1957 working at the highest level in Hollywood and Broadway musicals until 1972. His contribution here is a very atmospheric “London by Night”.

Bob Farnon’s “Taj Mahal” is another piece brimful of atmosphere, while Morton Gould’s “El Rancho Grande” from quite another part of the world paints a brightly coloured picture. Compositions inspired by Mexico and countries further south were very popular, and several are included here including Dolf van der Linden’s recording of “Mexican Interlude”; a fine conductor and arranger, he was asked to create the Metropole Orchestra in 1945, specifically to provide light music for a war ravaged Holland. Eric Robinson and Peter Yorke both had large orchestras with which to work, and the musicians who played for them will have also played for London’s symphony orchestras. Their tracks are devoted to Music of the Four Countries, England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

In addition to Morton Gould, American composers here include Kermit Leslie with “Enchanted Isle”, Monty Kelly, who played with Paul Whiteman, whose piece, “Monte Carlo”, is a lovely Mediterranean sketch as is Leroy Holmes’s “Mediterranean Serenade and Richard Hayman, whose “The Poor People of Paris” evokes your own short story for accompaniment and who was chief arranger for the Boston Pops for 30 years, and is one of the few here still conducting today!

This is another excellent themed compilation by David Ades, very well transferred by Alan Bunting, a musical world tour.

Going Places Tracklist:
1 Fantasy On National Airs (Max Saunders) BBC TELEVISION ORCHESTRA Conducted by ERIC ROBINSON
2 Going Places (Jackie Brown) QUEEN’S HALL LIGHT ORCHESTRA Conducted by SIDNEY TORCH
3 Enchanted Isle (Kermit Leslie & Walter Leslie real surnames Levinsky) KERMIT LESLIE AND HIS ORCHESTRA
4 Mexican Interlude (David Bee) DOLF VAN DER LINDEN AND HIS ORCHESTRA (as ‘VAN LYNN’ on LP label)
5 Park Avenue Waltz (William Hill-Bowen) THE MELACHRINO STRINGS Conducted by GEORGE MELACHRINO
6 Cabaret Time In Paris (Selection) NORRIE PARAMOR AND HIS ORCHESTRA
7 Moon Of Manakoora (Alfred Newman, Frank Loesser) DAVID ROSE AND HIS ORCHESTRA
8 El Rancho Grande (My Ranch) (Ramos) MORTON GOULD AND HIS ORCHESTRA
9 Streets Of New York (Victor Herbert) WERNER MULLER AND HIS ORCHESTRA
10 Call Of The Casbah (Joyce Cochrane, arr. Laurie Johnson) LAURIE JOHNSON AND HIS ORCHESTRA
11 Monte Carlo (Whiting, Harding) MONTY KELLY AND HIS ORCHESTRA
12 Mediterranean Serenade (Alain Romans, Jacques Larue) LEROY HOLMES AND HIS ORCHESTRA
13 Viennese Lantern Waltz (also known as Lights Of Vienna) (Juan R. Delgado) RED NICHOLS AND THE AUGMENTED PENNIES
14 Southwest Territory (Frank De Vol) FRANK DE VOL AND HIS ORCHESTRA
15 Scherzo: Avignon (trad, arr. Ronald Hanmer) BBC MIDLAND LIGHT ORCHESTRA Conducted by H.G. BURGESS
16 Adios Mexico (Fred Hartley) FRED HARTLEY AND HIS ORCHESTRA
17 Taj Mahal (Robert Farnon) QUEEN’S HALL LIGHT ORCHESTRA Conducted by ROBERT FARNON
18 Fiesta Argentina (Oliphant Chuckerbutty) THE LOUIS VOSS GRAND ORCHESTRA
19 Mediterranean Cruise (Billy Mayerl) STUTTGART RADIO ORCHESTRA Conducted by KURT REHFELD
20 Cryin’ For The Carolines (Harry Warren, Sam Lewis, Joe Young) GUY LUYPAERTS AND HIS ORCHESTRA
21 The Poor People of Paris (La Goualante Du Pauvre Jean) (Marguerite Monnot) RICHARD HAYMAN AND HIS ORCHESTRA
22 Irish Fantasy – Songs To Remember No. 4 (arr. Peter Yorke) PETER YORKE AND HIS CONCERT ORCHESTRA
23 Persian Nocturne (Robert Stolz) ROBERT FARNON AND HIS ORCHESTRA
24 London By Night (Carroll Coates) RAY MARTIN AND HIS CONCERT ORCHESTRA
25 Aarhus Tappenstreg (Aarhus Tattoo) (C. C. Moller) AARHUS CIVIC ORCHESTRA Conducted by THOMAS JENSEN

FROM STAGE AND SCREEN – The Golden Age of Light Music Vol. 52 -Guild Light Music mono GLCD5152; 77:37 []:

Some of the world’s most loved music has come from the theatre and the cinema, and the selection here comes from the early days of the talkies up until the mid-1950s.

Early numbers include “It’s only a paper moon” with David Rose holding those rhythms in check so naturally and “As Time Goes By” from Casablanca with Ron Goodwin, whose career lasted into the 21st century. Goodwin was a very busy musician, conducting and composing; he has many film scores to his name, including the other score for “Battle of Britain” and the rousing theme he write for “633 Squadron”.

Charles Williams, like Sidney Torch, was much associated with the Queen’s Hall Light Orchestra, and had a long and distinguished career in light music. His track on this CD is music by Benjamin Frankel, who wrote the score for “A Kid for Two Farthings”; “Carriage and Pair” is a far cry from the gritty symphonies he wrote, the horses’ bells accompanying the jogging rhythms. George Melachrino wrote several Waltzes still very popular today, the one for “Dark Secret” with an undercurrent of mystery. The two Franks, Chacksfield and Cordell, were hugely successful, the former recording prolifically for Decca selling many millions of LPs, the latter, born down the road from my home, and at one time Musical Director of EMI, relinquishing that post to concentrate on writing for the cinema. Their orchestras make a splendid sound.

The Philharmonia Orchestra, Klemperer’s and Karajan’s band, recorded quite a bit of music for film, here the great doyen of film music conductors, Muir Mathieson, leading this fine orchestra in Richard Addinsell’s music for “The Passionate Friends”, a David Lean film which is now more popular with film buffs than on its original release 60 years ago.

Another prolific musician was Louis Levy, whose list of films of which he was music director is simply huge. His substantial track is “The Card Ballet” from the film “Let’s be Happy”, with his Associated British Studio Orchestra, a splendid piece from the mid-1950s.

“The Glenn Miller Story” and “Guys and Dolls” – both Hollywood hits – have unforgettable melodies, the latter here conducted by Geraldo, who studied piano and organ at the Royal Academy of Music in London before playing for silent films. Gerald Bright became “Geraldo and his sweet music”; Alfredo Campoli, on the other hand, really did have Italian parents and it is not true that he was, in fact, Fred Campbell

Percy Faith is another of those music directors with an enormous discography, and huge fan base, too. Canadian born, he passed his baton to Bob Farnon, who contributes a beautiful performance of “Secret Love” from “Calamity Jane” with his own orchestra on this CD, and went to work in the US. After a brief period at Decca, he worked for Mitch Miller at Columbia providing arrangements for many famous singers, including Doris Day and Tony Bennett. Here he provides a piece by Georges Auric, the French composer who wrote for many British films, “The Moulin Rouge” theme, and that wonderfully energetic number from “My Fair Lady”, “Show Me!”

Morton Gould gives a slinky “Old Devil Moon”, that wonderful Burton Lane number from “Finian’s Rainbow” and Alfred Newman conducts Victor Young’s Singing Strings in his theme from “Anastasia”.

This is a very rewarding collection of orchestras from the U.S. and the UK showcasing their talents, again well transferred by Alan Bunting and superbly annotated by David Ades.

From Stage and Screen Tracklist:
1 June Is Bustin’ Out All Over (from “Carousel”) (Richard Rodgers) GEOFF LOVE AND HIS ORCHESTRA
2 “Glenn Miller Story” – Theme from the film (Henry Mancini) JACKIE BROWN AND HIS ORCHESTRA
3 “Guys and Dolls” Selection (Frank Loesser, arr. Roland Shaw) GERALDO AND HIS NEW CONCERT ORCHESTRA
4 It’s Only A Paper Moon (from the film “Take A Chance” 1933) (Harold Arlen) DAVID ROSE AND HIS ORCHESTRA
5 Secret Love (from film “Calamity Jane”) (Sammy Fain arr. Robert Farnon) ROBERT FARNON AND HIS ORCHESTRA
6 “Anastasia” – Theme (Alfred Newman) THE VICTOR YOUNG SINGING STRINGS Conducted by ALFRED NEWMAN
7 “The Dancing Years” Selection (Ivor Novello, arr, Sidney Torch) SIDNEY TORCH AND HIS ORCHESTRA
8 As Time Goes By (“Casablanca”) (Herman Hupfeld, arr. Ron Goodwin) RON GOODWIN AND HIS CONCERT ORCHESTRA
9 Old Devil Moon (from “Finian’s Rainbow) (Burton Lane, arr. Morton Gould) MORTON GOULD AND HIS ORCHESTRA
10 The Wedding Of The Painted Doll (Arthur Freed, Nacio Herb Brown) FRANK CHACKSFIELD AND HIS ORCHESTRA
11 The Song From “The Moulin Rouge”(Georges Auric, arr. Percy Faith) PERCY FAITH AND HIS ORCHESTRA
12  Show Me (from “My Fair Lady”) (Alan Jay Lerner, Frederick Loewe – arr. Percy Faith) PERCY FAITH AND HIS ORCHESTRA
13 The Song From “Desiree” (Alfred Newman – arr. Frank Cordell) FRANK CORDELL AND HIS ORCHESTRA
14 “Samson And Delilah” Film Theme (Victor Young) THE PARAMOUNT SYMPHONY Conducted by VICTOR YOUNG
15 “Dark Secret” – Theme Waltz (George Melachrino) THE MELACHRINO STRINGS Conducted by GEORGE MELACHRINO
16 Carriage and Pair; Long Forgotten Melody (Benjamin Frankel) CHARLES WILLIAMS AND HIS CONCERT ORCHESTRA
17 “Obsession” – Themes from the film (Nino Rota) SIDNEY TORCH AND HIS ORCHESTRA
18 “The Passionate Friends” (Richard Addinsell, arr. Leonard Isaacs) PHILHARMONIA ORCHESTRA – MUIR MATHIESON
19 The Card Ballet (“Let’s Be Happy”) (Brodszky, Sendrey) ASSOCIATED BRITISH STUDIO ORCHESTRA – LOUIS LEVY

— Reviews by Peter Joelson