Sunday, 20 April 2008

Malcolm Arnold: Comedy Suite (from The Belles of St. Trinian’s)


I watched the 1950s classic comedy film The Belles of St Trinian’s last night. I have always been a fan of the four ‘original’ films listed below.

The Belles of St Trinian's (1954, the first film)
Blue Murder at St Trinian's (1957, the second film)
The Pure Hell of St Trinian's (1960, the third film)
The Great St Trinian's Train Robbery (1966, the final film of the quartet)

In the first of the series, Alistair Sim plays the dual roles of Miss Fritton, the headmistress who runs her anarchic girl’s school and her criminal brother Clarence. Of course the other stars of this film lend a huge contribution - including George Cole as Flash Harry and Joyce Grenfell as Policewoman Ruby Gates. It is pure fun from start to finish.
The music for all these films were composed by Malcolm Arnold, although I wonder if that is a well known fact. The St Trinian’s School Song for unison voices and two pianos influences virtually the entire score.
Now apart from the collection of DVDs showcasing all four classic St Trinian’s films there are presently two versions of a Comedy Suite (Exploits for Orchestra) with music drawn from the score of The Belles.
The five movements of this work are:-
1.Prelude
2.Train to Trinian’s
3.Flash and Miss Fritton
4.Races and Games
5. Finale

The ‘suite’ was arranged by Christopher Palmer and selects some short musical sections that work rather well as an entertainment. Lewis Foreman notes that there are some 35 orchestral ‘cues’ in this film.
The score calls for a small orchestra with percussion and piano duet. The archetypal ‘theme’ is never far away at any point in this suite.

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