Saturday, 10 May 2008

Edward White: The Runaway Rocking Horse

I was in a rather nice antique shop ‘somewhere in England’ and spotted a lovely example of a Victorian rocking horse. He was well kept, had been tastefully restored and clearly been the object of considerable love and devotion. I never had a rocking horse and was sorely tempted to shell out for this one. Only the thought of ‘where to put it’ and the fact that my size militated against riding it, made me walk out of the shop with my credit card unused.
Also, I was at a Victorian Fair over the Bank Holiday weekend and amongst the treasures there was a genuine steam-powered carousel – complete with a showman’s organ playing hits from Lennon & McCartney! A little bit inappropriate perhaps – but thoroughly enjoyable.

Both of these things made me think about Edward White’s The Runaway Rocking Horse -which is actually one of my favourite pieces in the ‘light’ music genre. If any work proves that the light music composer was often a superb musical craftsman, it is this piece.
My sentiments about the roundabout and the toy are reinforced by this short work. And I guess that most adults will have fond memories of a Rocking Horse even if they did not possess one. The course of the music makes it very easy imagine the wooden horse jumping off his rockers (or the cranks) and going for a canter into some romantic English landscape. The music describes the little horse playing by himself. He gallops and trots and jumps. But soon he begins to tire. There is one last frolic and then, as if by magic, he is back on his wooden frame. The piece ends with a little sigh.

Edward White was widely involved in music making, although with little in the way of a formal musical education. He was a violinist in a variety of palm court ensembles and dance bands and eventually played on clarinet and the saxophone. He served in the RAF during the Second World War and after his demob he ran a ballroom orchestra at the Grand Spa Hotel in Bristol. Not content with just paying music, he set up a publishing company, Musicus Ltd, and finally began to compose music.
Perhaps his most famous work is Puffin’ Billy which was used as the signature tune of the BBC’s Children’s Favourites with Derek MacCulloch.

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