From the Library: The Light Programme

in Daily Programme

by Elrik Merlin on Saturday, 21 November, 2009

This month’s show in our Light Programme series, showcasing 20th Century British Light Music, today features (with a good many other composers) the work of the multi-talented William Alwyn (1905–1985). As well as a composer, Alwyn was an accomplished artist and poet and was at one time principal flautist of the LSO. As a composer, Alwyn was essentially from the late Romantic line of composers, writing in the same vein as William Walton.
Alwyn was perhaps best known for his film scores, of which he wrote over 70 between the war years and 1962. His classic scores included Odd Man Out, Desert Victory, Fires Were Started, The History of Mr Polly, The Fallen Idol, The Black Tent and The Crimson Pirate. Until recently, these scores were not available on record, but now quite a few are out on CD, thanks largely to the work of Philip Lane, who has reconstructed the scores from the original film soundtracks as written scores were often lost. You can read about some of his work here. In addition to Alwyn, Lane has worked on film music by another of our favourite composers here on The Light Programme, Richard Addinsell. You’ll hear film scores from both composers today, often performed under the baton of Gavin Sutherland.
In addition to Alwyn’s film scores, we’ll hear his Elizabethan Dances, a set of six dance pieces written for the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II — which alternate between modern styles and those of the first Elizabethan period — and his impressive Festival March, commissioned for the Festival of Britain, held on London’s South Bank from May 1951. An artist’s impression of the Festival appears above, and you can watch a public information film on the Festival at the National Archives site here — which is accompanied by Alwyn’s Festival March. The Festival showcased British invention and was intended to provide a “tonic to the nation”. It was attended by over 8.5 million people between May and September 1951.
From the Library is produced in conjunction with the Alexandrian Free Library Consortium, and today’s programme is presented by Elrik Merlin. For more about the work of the Consortium, please click here. You can listen to today’s programme on our Main Stream as follows:
If you want to have the Radio Riel Main Stream playing on your parcel, please set the media music URL to:
If you want to listen off-world, simply click here.

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