Monday, 11 September 2017

Sidney Torch: Shooting Star

I am not sure that I agree with David Ades’ liner notes for the Guild Light Music Series ‘The Hall of Fame Volume 2’ (GLCD 5162) when he writes that ‘Shooting Star’ is probably the best-known work from Sidney Torch’s pen. I would have suggested the equally delightful ‘On a Spring Note’ as the favourite.

Certainly, ‘Shooting Star’ has all the attributes of a successful piece of light music – ‘a strong, catchy main theme, supported by a melodic middle theme with contrasting tempi…’ Add to that, a truly professional orchestration, a surprisingly challenging work for performers and the creation of a happy and delightful mood.
The work was composed shortly after the end of the Second World War and was issued by Chappell’s in 1947. The piece was released the following year on Columbia DB 2456 played by the Queen’s Hall Light Orchestra, conducted by the composer. The ‘flip’ side was the equally popular ‘The Dance of the Ostracised Imp’ by Frederick Curzon.
One of the things that is not clear is to what the title refers to. Train enthusiasts will recall the eponymous Britannia Pacific Locomotive No. 70029, built in Crewe in 1952 and scrapped in 1967. Too late to have inspired this piece, alas. I did see it, in 1967 at Carlisle Kingmoor loco shed. It is also unlikely to be the old Great Western locomotive, 'Shooting Star', which was scrapped in 1871.
I am inclined to ignore the influence of the obvious meaning of ‘Shooting Star' as a meteor. The music just does not seem to be ‘cosmic’ in its design and effect. Finally, USAF jet trainer aircraft of that name were in service when the piece was penned, but there is something about this music that is decidedly English and un-military.
I see it as a celebration of a ‘star’ of stage and screen, one who recently risen into public view, but still must secure a reputation. It is a romantic piece, full of verve, energy and optimism for the future. 

Soon after ‘Shooting Star’s’ release the piece was used as a theme tune on BBC Television for their ‘Kaleidoscope’ feature. Out of interest, this was a successful light entertainment series that ran from 1946-53. Initially, it was a half-hour programme, but owing to its popularity, it was latterly increased to an hour. There was an ‘collector’s corner’ with antique expert Iris Brookes, a ‘How-to’ feature, ‘Meet you Favourite Author’ and a series of short detective plays, designed to test the listener’s skill in solving a mystery.  Kaleidoscope was where comedian Tony Hancock had his first television success.

Sidney Torch’s ‘Shooting Star’ can be heard on Marco Polo 8223443 and on Guild GLCD 5162.. 

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