Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Vivian Ellis: Muse in Mayfair

Mayfair is a part of London that I feel very at home in. I guess it is the expensive hotels and opulent houses. Beginning at Handel’s former residence in Brook Street, the explorer can discover the Church of St George in Hanover Square, hear the nightingale in Berkeley Square, have quick snifter in The Punch Bowl public house before shopping in the Burlington Arcade and indulging in afternoon tea at Claridges or The Dorchester.  Vivian Ellis has captured some of this magic in his charming music. It is not as flamboyant as Eric Coates’ Mayfair Valse from his popular London Again Suite: it is a bustling mood that Ellis majors on.  The work opens with a jaunty, cocky little tune that suggests the once-ubiquitous message boy on a bicycle. The music does expand with a romantic string and woodwind section that suggests lovers sitting in a square. But the message boy is never quite absent. The piece ends with a quiet little upward twist.
Vivian Ellis is probably best remembered for his evocative portrayal of railway travel in the nineteen-fifties with his Coronation Scot: it is one of the most recorded and anthologised pieces of light music. However, Ellis' created much more than one all-time favourite.  Beginning his career as a concert pianist, he was a successful writer and producer of musical comedy, as well as the author of a number of humorous books, such as ‘How to Survive your Operation’. He was onetime president of the Performing Rights Charity.  The most successful of his musical comedies included Mr Cinders, Bless the Bride, The Fleet’s Lit Up and Big BenThis particular genre is largely a thing of the past, and it is highly unlikely that they would or could be revived. However, Vivian Ellis has a number of attractive short orchestral miniatures scattered throughout the light music catalogues.  
It is difficult to work out when Muse in Mayfair was composed however it was probably the late 1940s. It was written for Chappels, most likely as one of a number of pieces for their musical library collection, which would have been used by radio and film producers to give suitable background music. Other works written at this time included The Jolly Juggler and Flight 101Muse in Mayfair was arranged for orchestra by Sidney Torch. The piece was recorded by the Queen’s Hall Light Orchestra in 1948, conducted by Torch.
Muse in Mayfair is currently only available on Guild: The Golden Age of Light Music: Great British Composers Volume 2 GLCD 5203

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