About the Light Music Society



The term Light Music covers an enormous range of music. 

  • Operettas by Gilbert & Sullivan, Lehar, Offenbach, Strauss
  • Waltzes, marches, polkas, galops by the Strauss family, Waldteufel, Lumbye and others
  • The marches of Sousa, Alford, 
  • Tuneful orchestral music by Eric Coates, Haydn Wood, Robert Farnon, Ernest Tomlinson, Ronald Binge …
  • Palm Court music
  • Symphonic jazz
  • Ballet music
  • Show music
  • Arrangements of popular songs
  • Film music
  • Television music
  • The lighter opuses by classical composers

The list is endless!

We think of Light Music as music with an immediate appeal – music with melody – music to entertain – music to enjoy!

A specific Light Music genre is hard to define. The seaside and spa orchestras that abounded in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, as well as the smaller palm court ensembles that played for tea dances in large hotels, were a significant factor in the demand for short, approachable pieces. This music gained popularity in the late 1920s when BBC radio broadcasting was introduced and increased mass appeal with the launch of the BBC Light Programme in 1945. Light orchestral ensembles broadcast daily, in programmes with titles like Music While You Work, Melody Hour and Friday Night is Music Night. The BBC had yearly Light Music Festivals with concerts broadcast in the UK and abroad. They commissioned new compositions for these events and had a whole department devoted to programming. 

In this heyday of Light Music the Light Music Society was founded, in 1957, with the composer Eric Coates as the first President. The aim of the society was to champion such music throughout the world. For more than twenty years the society was very active. There were regular meetings and concerts in London, competitions, magazines and social events. Composer Ernest Tomlinson became Chairman in 1966 and he and other members of the society helped to keep this music “on the air” during this time.

As the broadcasters changed their programming in favour of popular music opportunities for broadcasts of the lighter orchestral repertoire became fewer. The new delineation of the radio channels into Radios 1, 2, 3 and 4 during the 1960s was a significant factor in this decline. Although Radio 2 was originally named as the channel for light music it was soon considered too highbrow for the targeted audience, just as it was thought to be too lowbrow for Radio 3. Many light orchestras were disbanded. The BBC, music publishers, orchestras, theatres and libraries began to discard their collections of Light Music. Ernest Tomlinson was horrified to discover that music, much of it written by living composers, was simply being discarded as if it were of no value. He began to collect and save whatever he could and stored it in the barn adjoining his Lancashire home. This was the beginning of what eventually became the Library of Light Orchestral Music. 

The Light Music Society and the Library of Light Orchestral Music aim to keep Light Music in the public consciousness.