I first came across Clive Richardson when a very good friend suggested that I listen to the London Fantasia, which was a wartime work and purported to be ‘a day in the life of a city being blitzed’. It is a piece I have yet to hear. However, many of his delightful pieces have come my way including Naval Splendour, Girl on the Calendar, Beachcomber and Running off the Rails. One of my favourites is Melody on the Move. This work was composed around 1946 and was recorded by the Queen Hall Light Orchestra in the late 1950s.
In 1958, the BBC produced a breakfast-time light music programme entitled ‘Melody on the Move’ on the ‘Light Programme’, which is now Radio 2. The music was performed by a different house orchestra from the BBC. The programme ran until the early 1960s. The theme tune was, naturally, by Clive Richardson.
The Robert Farnon Society ‘page’ on Clive Richardson has noted that the composer confessed that the ‘Dorabella’ variation from Elgar’s Enigma Variations was the inspiration for this delightful piece.
Structurally the work would appear to be in ternary form preceded by a short introduction. The vibraphone announces a melodic phrase which is largely made up of descending thirds with the odd major second thrown in for good measure. There is a little section of some four bars repeated before the main theme enters as patterns of light staccato chords. This is busy chattering music played by the woodwind. The phrases are of irregular length with the third being the longest and rising quickly to a climax. These phrases are repeated with minimal alteration. The first ‘episode’ is based on similar material although now transposed into the B flat. The ‘vamping’ pattern of four bars is repeated before the next episode in Eb major presents the romantic tune with the strings to the fore. This makes a large number of modulations. The main theme is reprised in its original key before the work concludes with an enigmatic coda.
The thing that strikes about Melody on the Move is the orchestration. So often, light music composers are accused of writing in clichés. However Richardson has a sure understating of instrumental colour and turns what is a fine piece when played on the piano into a magical score. A lot of the credit for this is the skilful use of the percussion.
There are arrangements of Melody on the Move for a number of resources. The version heard on Hyperion under the baton of Ronald Corp was made by Ronald Hanmer (1917-1994). The piano version also dates from 1946 as well as one for military band by W. Duthoit.
Clive Richardson’s Melody on the Move can be heard on YouTube. A modern day performance is available on Hyperion British Light Music Classics Volume 3 CDA67148.