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Aspidistra meets Ernest Tomlinson

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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.

With his close links to the BBC, he spotted early on that a great deal of archive material was being destroyed at Broadcasting House. Public libraries also believed that there was no need to preserve any of this sheet music, while simultaneously the music publishers found it more and more difficult to get by and many changed hands repeatedly.

Running a well-organized music archive became less lucrative and many archives were abolished because of the pressures on publishers. Because they continued to receive their income from royalties regardless, there seemed little need for them to hang on to the sheet music, especially when orchestras kept hold of their own parts and when broadcasting of existing recordings generated most the revenue. 

Certainly a lot of music was lost but fortunately, Ernest stepped in and volunteered to keep any rejected scores in his own home next to his already substantial collection. This labour of love has now turned into the vast but still growing collection of the Library of Light Orchestral Music.

On our visit we were most impressed with the wealth of material and its efficient organization. It was stimulating to talk with this amazingly sprightly octogenarian visionary and we were thrilled when he offered to arrange one of his compositions especially for Aspidistra.

Monday, 29 May, 2006