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Programme Notes

  • About Albert Ketèlbey

    Monday, 29 May, 2017
    Although he is regularly described as ‘Britain’s first millionaire composer’ and was both popular and prolific in his prime, only a handful of people attended Albert Ketèlbey’s funeral in 1959. Just as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle regarded the Sherlock Holmes stories as much less important than his long-forgotten historical and spiritualist writings, so Albert Ketèlbey really wanted to be known as a composer who would be mentioned in the same breath as his ‘classical’ contemporaries – Edward German, Gustav Holst, and Arthur Sullivan in symphonic mode.
  • About the Composers

    Monday, 25 May, 2015

    A cloud of oblivion has fallen on most composers of Palm Court Music. We have to be grateful that at least some of their compositions have been preserved. Today, such skilful composers would almost certainly have their own webpage and we would be able to look them up on Wikipedia. Sadly these composers lived before such technologies existed and we know little or nothing about most of them.

  • IVOR NOVELLO (1893-1951)

    Monday, 30 May, 2016
    David Ivor Davies’s mother, Clara Novello Davies, was a prominent voice teacher. From her, he obtained both musical genes and what is still one of the most recognizable stage names in the history of British light music. In 1914, the patriotic song ‘Keep the Home Fires Burning’ made him rich and famous at only 21 and he never looked back. Notably handsome, he also starred in silent films as well as in his own steadily increasing output of successful operettas and musical comedies.
  • A Belgian Surprise

    Monday, 7 May, 2012

    For most of us, Belgium is a small neighbouring country about which we know surprisingly little. We might joke that there is, in fact, not very much to know about Belgium and that even the winner of Brain of Britain would be hard pressed to name seven famous Belgians.

  • Ole Bull, Virtuoso Violinist, Composer and Norwegian Nationalist. (1810-1880)

    Monday, 30 May, 2011

    His name might not be all that familiar on these shores but in Norway everybody knows Ole Bull. In fact a few generations ago everybody here too, would have heard of Ole Bull and equally so in the rest of Europe and in the States. His reputation was on a par with that of Paganini and deservedly so, while his looks were certainly much better than Paganini’s. His marketing endeavors were  probably on a par with those of André Rieu but more idiosyncratic and unassisted  by modern media.  He was an extremely talented violinist and extremely charismatic personality.

  • Just Married - 100 years ago !

    After qualifying from the Royal college of Music, Haydn Wood, already celebrated as a child prodigy violinist, was employed by Madame Albani, most famous soprano of the era - referred to as ‘the Peerless Queen of Song’ - to accompany her on a world tour. Haydn performed virtuoso violin solos incorporated in the programme as well as the obbligato lines when Madame Albani sang.

  • The First Hit Record

    George Washington Johnson is one of the most fascinating unsung heroes in recording history. He was probably the first African-American to record, and certainly the first to become widely successful as a recording artist (in the 1890s).

    However, he has been passed over in the history books, perhaps because of embarrassment about the songs he sang. The first successful black recording artist was, after all, billed as “The Whistling Coon”.

  • Aspidistra meets Ernest Tomlinson

    Monday, 29 May, 2006

    A couple of weeks ago, a small delegation of the Aspidistra Drawing Room Orchestra travelled to Lancaster farm near Preston - the home of Ernest Tomlinson, founder of the Light Music Society. He has a vast amount of experience in composing and arranging music dating back from before the war and was the first to realize the precarious future of Light Music.

  • Two Great British Composers

    Charles Ancliffe (1880-1952) and Charles Williams (1893-1978)

    As a Palm Court Music composer par excellence, it is rare for an Aspidistra Concert not to feature at least one work by Charles Ancliffe. Although his compositions are usually scored for full symphonic forces, they actually seem to gain in elegance when performed in smaller ensemble.

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