Weedon Weekly: 15th February 2018

Charles Williams

NORMAL SERVICE CAN BE RESUMED!

At last - we have an internet connection again, albeit painfully slow (0.4 meg download). In the interim, I wish I had been able to broadcast a diverting interlude, such as the famous potter’s wheel which the BBC used whenever transmission was interrupted in the 1950s/60s.

My friend Shirley describes her web-browsing activities as a ‘breadcrumb trail’, which I feel perfectly describes the journeys of discovery which can grow out of one visit to the internet. In this case, the breadcrumbs led me to the music behind that video, “The Young Ballerina" composed by Charles Williams. I had forgotten what a delightful piece this is, and I also realised that I know nothing about the composer - although you may well be familiar with what follows. What I have discovered makes me feel quite ashamed of my ignorance.

Charles Williams is perhaps one of the most prolific and successful recent British composers, but because most of his music was written as ‘library music’ (where programme and film makers just pay a modest fee for using the works as background or theme music without any credit to the composer) his name has never achieved the prominence it deserves. During his lifetime (1893 to 1978), Williams composed some of the most iconic broadcast music. He was born Isaac Cozerbreit in London, but opted for the more accessible name as his career developed, first as a freelance violinist playing in theatres, cinemas and symphony orchestras. Only later did he win a coveted place at the Royal Academy of Music to study composition. He followed that with 6 years as an in-house composer for Gaumont British. Then, after the war, he took the baton as conductor of the newly-founded Queen’s Hall Light Orchestra (the very one we hear playing The Young Ballerina). He followed that later by forming his own orchestra, which he led until his death in Worthing at the age of 85.

So what would CW’s CV look like? I’m dumbfounded to learn that we have him to thank for The Dream of Olwen, The Blue Devil’s March, Devil’s Galop (of Dick Barton fame), The Old Clockmaker (used for the Jennings at School radio series - one of my great favourites), the Television Newsreel theme, High Adventure (still used as the theme tune for Friday Night is Music Night), A Quiet Stroll (used for The Farming Programme), Majestic Fanfare (used by Australian Broadcasting Corporation news), and themes for over 50 films, including The Way to the Stars and The Apartment.

Quite a breadcrumb trail! Now I have to resist the lure of enjoying the internet further today and get down to learning some new concert repertoire. But I have a sneaking suspicion some Charles Williams will find its way into it somewhere!

Lovely to be back with you all!

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