The Light Programme: Music in a Classical Vein

Today’s pro­gramme of Light Music focus­es on the “light clas­si­cal” end of the spec­trum.

We can think of light music as fill­ing a gap between out-and-out clas­si­cal music, and the excep­tion­al qual­i­ty music pro­duc­tion library and film music of the 1940s-50s — the lat­ter fea­tur­ing from time to time on The Light Pro­gramme. It’s a con­tin­u­um with per­haps Sul­li­van at one end (and we’ll hear some of his Over­tures today) and maybe Coates at the oth­er – though it’s dif­fi­cult to define bound­aries. In between are com­posers like Addin­sell, Alwyn, Ketel­bey, Tom­lin­son, Binge and oth­ers, and it’s their music that we’ll be fea­tur­ing today. What these pieces and com­posers have in com­mon, is a “clas­si­cal” approach to melod­ic music. Their work is full of great tunes, and it utilis­es orches­tral forces with as much aplomb as any clas­si­cal com­pos­er. But in gen­er­al (though not always), the music is a lit­tle lighter in tone and feel.

This part of the Light Music spec­trum also includes some won­der­ful dis­cov­er­ies, includ­ing set­tings of clas­si­cal or oth­er pieces. I’ll men­tion two exam­ples here, both by the com­pos­er Ernest Tom­lin­son (b. 1924).

The first is his suite of orches­tral arrange­ments of harp­si­chord pieces by Dr Thomas Arne, which Tom­lin­son called his Geor­gian Suite and orig­i­nal­ly wrote for Boosey & Hawkes’ music library. Com­mer­cial record­ings only reveal one of these pieces, the Gavotte – though there is an avail­able Arne-inspired piece by Tom­lin­son writ­ten imme­di­ate­ly after it called A Geor­gian Minia­ture – and we’ll hear both today. There is one oth­er arrange­ment of a harp­si­chord piece by Arne that is not a part of the set, and that is a set­ting of the Alle­gro from Thomas Arne’s G Major Sonata for Harp­si­chord, some­times referred to as Finale To A Dance Suite and that was used by British Inde­pen­dent Tele­vi­sion in the 1960s between Schools broad­casts. We still do not know who arranged it!

The oth­er pieces I would men­tion by Tom­lin­son that are includ­ed in today’s pro­gramme are the six orches­tral set­tings of Eng­lish folk dances doc­u­ment­ed in John Play­ford’s Eng­lish Danc­ing Mas­ter (1651) that con­sti­tute Tom­lin­son’s First Eng­lish Folk Dance Suite. The dances appear in beau­ti­ful­ly lyri­cal form, with enhanced sub­tle­ty and delight­ful light and shade. This dis­cov­ery I felt like­ly to be of so much inter­est to Radio Riel lis­ten­ers that I’ve added them to the Main Stream.

I should note, inci­den­tal­ly, that the title “The Light Pro­gramme”, in addi­tion to ref­er­enc­ing the BBC radio ser­vice of the same name (which was renamed in 1967), also pays homage to Bri­an Kay’s pro­gramme with the same title that ran on BBC Radio 3 until 2007. Bri­an Kay is one of the key peo­ple (along with Gavin Suther­land, Ernest Tom­lin­son and friends) who has been respon­si­ble for the immense resur­gence of inter­est in Light Music in the 21st cen­tu­ry and the redis­cov­ery of these mar­vel­lous pieces of music. And if you are a lover of Light Music, please do con­sid­er join­ing the Light Music Soci­ety.

Today’s pro­gramme is pre­sent­ed by Elrik Mer­lin and pro­duced by Radio Riel in con­junc­tion with our friends at the Alexan­dri­an Free Library Con­sor­tium of Sec­ond Life. You can lis­ten to the pro­gramme in-world now at, or sim­ply click here to start your play­er, if your brows­er is con­fig­ured to do so. Lis­ten­ers in the Unit­ed States are encour­aged to tune in using this link:
For more infor­ma­tion on the Alexan­dri­an Free Library, cur­rent exhibits and the work of Con­sor­tium mem­bers in gen­er­al, please vis­it the Alexan­dri­an Free Library web­site, or one of their branch­es in-world.

Pho­to: Bren­dan Townsend con­duct­ing the Lare­do Phil­har­mon­ic Orches­tra in a con­cert at the Mar­tinez Fine Arts Cen­ter, Lare­do Com­mu­ni­ty Col­lege

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