Monday, 7 July 2008

Jack Beaver: News Theatre

I can just recall seeing newsreels in the cinema – in my day they were an ‘extra’ beside the big film and the ‘B’ movie. I am not sure that I ever went into a dedicated News Theatre although there is a dim memory which suggests that I was taken to one in Glasgow. I could be wrong. They were overtaken by television and then of course, many years later the Internet. Whenever I see an extract from Pathé News on the television, supporting some documentary, I am always impressed. They were quite definitely an art form in their own right.
There was a news theatre at Piccadilly, and the building is still extant – it is used as a night club. However it does not take much imagination to mentally travel back in time to an age when people would have popped in to catch up with the day's or week's events. In my mind's eye I can see the old taxis, with the luggage strapped to the driver’s cab; I can glimpse the Routemaster buses making their way through areas now pedestrianised. I can visualise all the hustle and bustle, the newspaper vendors and the policeman on his beat. Glamorous ladies arriving for a show or an important date at the Ritz…

And that is the mood that Jack Beaver’s evocative piece conjures up for the listener. It was composed for one of the music libraries which were run by a number of London music publishers. It was music that could be used in a film, or a television programme or a radio presentation. Yet this piece, surely better than most, captures the very spirit of what the title suggests. There is a buzz about this music from the very first bar to the last. It is an epitome of ‘London’ light music and musically describes a scene that is well known- at least in the imagination.

Of course we cannot know what news features Beaver had in mind when he named the piece. But it was nothing too heavy; I guess it was not concerned with wars or rumours of wars, but more likely with Wimbledon or Goodwood – or perhaps a Royal progress to some far flung part of the Commonwealth.

It is sad that there is virtually no mention of this fine work in the musical literature (at least that I can find) nor does the Internet help – I managed only four hits on Google. And there is only one recording of this piece presently available –and that is the Queen’s Hall Orchestra conducted by Sidney Torch. It is not clear when it was recorded.


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