Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Claude Vane: Dig Dipper – a light music masterpiece

Who was Claude Vane? Well he seemed to be one of those composers who had more than one pseudonym. His real name was Rufus Isaacs – but he was also known as Kenneth Essex, Derek Dwyer and Howitt Hale!
I have long thought that Vane’s Big Dipper is one of the best pieces of so called light music in the repertoire and have always been surprised that it does not seem to be recorded all that often. Many of Vane’s (Isaacs) pieces have a holiday or sea-side feel to them and this one is no exception. I cannot hear this music without thinking of Morecambe, Blackpool and Manchester. Whether it is the old ‘Grand National’ at the Pleasure Beach or’ Bob’s Coaster' at Belle-Vue this music is the ideal companion. There is a romantic note in this score too – almost certainly alludes to the ‘brave’ young man accompanying his girlfriend and trying not to show his fear!

Looking down the long slope from the top the ‘rider’ can see all the ‘fun of the fair’ below as they whip round the sharp right and left hand bends. Down below simpler souls are having fun on the miniature railway or the pedal boats whilst casting an envious glance at the braver folk on the ‘big ride.’
The music itself is highly charged: there is hardly a moment of rest in this piece as the car speeds up and down. In fact the only thing the composer has not given, is a musical picture of the long haul to the top of the structure- he has only described the descent, pell-mell to the bottom.
Like so many pieces of light music one is amazed at the quality of the orchestration as well as the imaginative turns of melody and syncopated rhythms.
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Dig Dipper can be heard on Guild GLCD 5115 where a short extract can be heard (Track 21)

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