A trip down Memory Lane
© Chris Green, February 2017
For all those who said "vinyl" would disappear and CDs take its place, what are they saying now? I wonder how long before we might even see a resurgence of shellac with all the hisses and clicks? Well I have been taking a trip down memory lane thanks to the Swiss-based recording company, Guild. This is not a high profile label, but thanks to the efforts of the company, there has been a steady stream of CDs released over the years that has put back into the public domain recordings made over the years either for 78rpk or LP records. This digital archive gives me a chance to listen once again to tunes that I used to hear regularly on favourite radio programmes.
Many of the digital transfers are sourced from the record libraries that were held by publishing companies. For an appropriate fee, film and later television producers could source suitable music for soundtracks. "Mood music" provided a library with many pieces written by well-known composers, often under a pseudonym. They did not want their serious music contaminated by popular tunes!
Many of the composers were also conductors of popular bands or worked in theatres, and many of them were émigrés who had adopted Britain as their home. So let me invite you into the world of The Golden Age of Light Music. Where to start? I suppose Lightly Classical will do. This follows the typical Guild format of about 23 or 24 tracks per CD (Guild CLCD 5172). Amongst the credited conductors are ones that were household names including Stanley Black (born Solomon Schwartz) , Charles Williams (Isaac Cozerbreit) and Angela Morley (formerly Wally Stott). This compendium ahs pieces which have survived such as Kabalevsky's Comedians Galop and William Walton's Popular Song (from Façade ). None last more than 4-5 minutes with the exception of a selection from Stravinsky's Firebird arranged by the skilled American composer/conductor David Rose.
Cinema Classics (Guild GLCD 5302) does exactly what it says on the CD label with tunes from hit movies such as Alfred Newman's The Robe (the first film I ever saw in Cinemascope), and Miklos Rozsa's Ben Hur . None of the recordings are from the original soundtracks, but are performed by well-known orchestras of an age when light music figured largely in radio programmes; orchestras such as those of Percy Faith, Al Caiola and Robert Farnon.
A Return to the Library (Guild GLCD 5183) is a good example of the resource available in the years both before and after the Second World War to anyone who wanted "mood music" or music to provide a theme tune. You have marches (title- Majestic atmosphere ), animals ( Dog Gone ) and National Character ( Rickshaw Ride and Le Cabaret ). Yes, it is fairly stereotypical and one only has to watch an old newsreel to get a sample of the kind of music that was used. However, amongst the "mood" music there are some gems, not least Ronald Binge's The Watermill - still to be heard in concert programmes and a name from the past Netherlands music scene, Dolf van der Linden (real name David Gysbert van der Linden, 1915-199) whose broadcast frequently on Netherlands Radio with his Metropole Orchestra.
During the Second World War, there were daily radio programmes called Music while you were work. The intention was to provide light musical background for factory workers to help them improve productivity. The programmes, if I recall, were broadcast about lunchtime and another series of reissues in the Guild Library features music from the series. For example, Light Music while You Work (volume 3) (Guild GLCD 5186) includes 26 tracks all lasting the length of a 78rpm side by composers whose names have been largely forgotten with the exception of Johann Strauss II, Franz Lehar and Paul Lincke, all of whose music can be regularly heard from, Vienna on New Year's Day.
And finally to the post-war years with The 1950s (Guild GLCD 5103), David Rose, Emando Ros, Percy Faith and George Melachrino do the conducting honours with Dolf Van der Linden still conducting his orchestra in a succession oF popular tunes most of which have disappeared from the radar with the exception of Marching Strings which I conducted last year and Rodgers and Hart's wonderful Blue Moon. Light music has made a bit of a come-back and so why not give yourselves a treat and investigate the great Guild, series.