The Light Programme: Music in a Classical Vein

in Daily Programme

by Elrik Merlin on Wednesday, 27 July, 2011

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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