Sailing By: 25 British Light Classics

Iain Sutherland Concert Orchestra
Alto ALC 1392

     Probably the best way to introduce the unfamiliar to Light Music is with a disc just like this one: A selection running the gamut of Light Music styles. There are also few better guides through this music than the Iain Sutherland and his Concert Orchestra. Sutherland was, in 2015, awarded the Gold Badge of Merit by the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors for Lifetime Achievement and his unique contribution to British Music and here he takes us through a brilliantly assembled selection of music by British composers, not all of whom are always associated with Light Music. 

     The CD opens with a selection of theme tunes (tracks 1-7) including the ubiquitous Dam Busters March as well as the theme tunes for Dr. Finlay’s Casebook (Duncan’s March from A Little Suite), Dick Barton (Williams’ Devil’s Galop) and, of course The Shipping Forecast (Binge’s Sailing By). These are all quite marvellously played and, for those who may be familiar with particular interpretations of these works, I hope you will find much to enjoy in the small differences from other recordings you’ll find here, making for a very engaging and entertaining listen indeed.

     It would be fair to say that, as far as the selected numbers are concerned, we have a lot of usual suspects to enjoy here from Light Music stalwarts such as Coates, Binge, Williams and Ron Goodwin. What is wonderful about this, however, is the mixture of lesser known pieces, or works by composers whose names aren’t so quickly associated with this kind of music. Take for example the inclusion of Walton’s Spitfire Prelude (undoubtedly one of the composer’s lighter offerings) and Elgar’s Chanson de Matin. Of course, Jamaican Rumba, which rounds off the CD is perhaps the best known composition from Australian emigre Arthur Benjamin, but it is in a minority of light compositions from this composer. 

     We are also treated to two arrangements by current LMS President Peter Hope: Lilliburlero and The Lark in Clear Air, two works brimming with the composer’s inventiveness and in two very different styles. While we’re on the subject of LMS personnel, in fact, many will recall that our former chairman Gavin Sutherland was recently contacted by a Belgian TV show, asking if he could help identify an ear worm that hat been with an 80 year old man for over 60 years. That piece, it turned out, was track 25 on this CD: Intermezzo by Heinz Provost from the film Escape to Happiness and it is lovely to have a recent re-release of that charming work included here.

    This is a rich and varied presentation of a rich and varied musical tapestry- and a genre that is almost entirely exclusive to the UK. The playing is of an extremely high standard and the recording is recorded at quite a high level, so the sound is lively and full of zest. Light Music aficionados, I’m sure, will enjoy, but it makes a most perfect gift for someone you are hoping to introduce to the field of Light Music. An unmissable compilation. DA

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