Thursday, 22 October 2015

Edward White: Caprice for Strings

One the most characteristic pieces of ‘light’ music is Edward White’s Caprice for Strings. Best known for his imaginative ‘Runaway Rocking Horse’ and the characteristic ‘Puffin Billy’ known to generations of listeners as the signature tune for Children’s Favourites which was broadcast between 1952 and 1966. White was a master of ‘mood music’ which was recorded and kept in libraries for the use of film and radio producers.
In his ‘Caprice’ White creates a beautiful impression of a carefree summer’s day. I do not know quite what the composer had in mind when penned this piece, but for me it is a brisk walk round one of London’s great parks on a lovely summer’s day. All the activities are in full swing.  Perhaps it is the miniature railway in Battersea Park or horses trotting along Rotten Row in Hyde Park? The music never really lets up except for a few bars between recapitulations of the main themes. There is little romance in these pages: it is all activity. There is a hint of 1940s dance music here and there. The musical form ‘caprice’ is a short composition in quick tempo characterised by unusual effects in melody, rhythm, modulation…perhaps calculated to surprise the listener. It was used to great effect by the violinist/composer Paganini. Certainly White’s piece fits the formal bill.

Edward White was born in 1910 in London. He was a musician with wide interests, playing violin in a trio, as well as a number of pre-war dance bands including the Palais Band at the Streatham Locarno. Other instruments White was competent with included the piano and clarinet. After the war, he directed the ballroom orchestra of the Grand Spa Hotel in Bristol as well as working for the BBC. White died in 1994.

This delightful piece is available on CD:-
The Golden Age of Light Music: Grandstand: Production Music of The 1940s, The London Promenade Orchestra conducted by Walter Collins. GLCD 5220

It also appears on YouTube

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