Saturday, 16 January 2016

Archibald Joyce: A Thousand Kisses Waltz

Archibald Joyce (1873-1963) has been dubbed the ‘English Waltz King’ and the ‘English Waldteufel’. However, Philip Scowcroft has suggested that he is ‘not quite an answer to the Strausses.’ The reason given is twofold: Firstly the very best of waltzes by the Strauss family are ‘miniature tone-poems’ thus making them ‘significant concert pieces’ whereas the present waltz is an entertainment, and secondly, the sound world of Joyce is nearer to the French waltz than the Austrian. I would go further and suggest that Archibald Joyce’s music much ranges wider that that particular dance form, and that all his music has something undefinably English about it, rather than Continental.
The programme notes provided in the Naxos/Marco Polo recording gives the story as to how the waltz came to be written. Apparently a friend of the composer remarked on seeing an attractive lady enter the room – ‘What a lovely girl! She’s worth a thousand kisses’. And this remark became the inspiration for the waltz.  Further, as the waltz is dedicated to a certain Miss Madge Slowburn, it is thought that she may have been the lady in question.

After an introduction, the gorgeous main theme is heard a number of times with its beautiful wistful melody. Like all waltzes of this kind, it is presented as a kind of rondo, with varying short episodes between statements of the main theme.
‘A Thousand Kisses Waltz’ was composed around 1910 and was published by Ascherberg, Hopgood and Crew Ltd.  It has been arranged for piano, military band and orchestra.

This waltz appealed to Charlie Chaplin, who made use of it in the later soundtrack for his 1925 silent film The Gold Rush for the ‘saloon dance scene.’

One final thought. It is reported on the internet that Madge Slowburn (perhaps the same lady) who was born around 1886, married a gentleman called Charles Gordon Mills at St Mary’s Church, Wimbledon on 18 January 1915. Charles was a Second Lieutenant in the Coldstream Guards. After the wedding he reported back to France. On 25 January he was killed in a mined trench in France, aged only 19. He had been married for only 7 days. 

Archibald Joyce’s 'A Thousand Kisses Waltz' has been released on the Marco Polo label and has been uploaded to YouTube.

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