Saturday February 28th
Saturday February 28th saw the launch of probably the most important book ever written about the 1934-1991 association between BBC Radio, TV and the music of .Old Time dancing. Encompassing the oprchestras of Harry Davidson, Sydney Thompson, Sydney Bowman, Sydney Davey, Bryan Smith and the Dancetime Orchestra of Savoy Records, this extremely detailed volume covers the radio and TV programmes of "Those Were The Days", "Time for Old Time" etc. through to "Sequence Time" with Bryan Smith. I have had little time to do more than skim through this 600-page tome, but it has already brought back many good memories of my 60 years in Old Time dancing.
A thoroughly-recommended read.
The official launch of the book took the form of a mixed Old Time & Modern Ballroom dance evening, held at the Lion Hotel, Shrewsbury. The event was organised by Bob Fowke of the publishers YouCaxton, the music being provided by the Footloose Dance Orchestra, comprising members of the English Light Music Society. The evening was graced by the presence of the Lady Mayor of Shrewsbury, Mrs Karen Tomlinson, and attracted over 200 dancers and spectators, the event proceeds being in aid of the Severn Hospice. A very enjoyable evening was held by all, with many comments about the attractiveness of Old Time, and the friendly attitude of the Old Time dancers present.
English National Old Time Dance Society
On Saturday 28th February 2015, in the beautiful Robert Adams Ballroom in Shrewsbury, the YouCaxton Group of publishers held a lavish Book launch event for David Corbetts new book - 'Those Were The Days'. This book is the fantastic story of Old Time Music and Dancing as was broadcast by the BBC from 1943 onwards.
The Music for the event was played by the fabulous *Footloose Dance Orchestra* who specialize in playing the classic vintage style music.
No 1 ORIGINAL MUSIC
As most of us know, only some dances have their own original music specifically composed for them, and in the vast majority of cases other music can be played to accompany them.
A list of some of the older dances in this category include the Doris Waltz, Valse Superbe, Tango Waltz, St. Bernards Waltz, Boston Two Step, Royal Empress Tango, Latchford Schottische, Esperano Barn Dance, and the Maxina but by far the best known to the general public must be the Veleta. It's also unusual in that both the steps and the music were devised/composed by Arthur Morris.
The Old Time Revival brought more original music. Some was short-lived like the Festival of Britain Waltz and the Coronation Waltz whose popularity did not live up to the prestigious events which inspired their titles.
A few may remember Jack Hardy and his Little Orchestra which broadcast from the North of England. In fact he wrote the original music for both the
Truro Gavotte and the Seaside Saunter. neither of which had a long innings.
A more well-known composer, Archibald Joyce, commonly acknowledged as "The English Waltz King" was intimately involved in the Old Time Dance scene.
Not only did he conduct his own waltz 'Song d'Automne' on the one hundredth performance of "Those Were The Days" in 1946 but he provided the original music for two dances in the immediate post-War years.
The University Waltz owes its origin to the Boat Race of 1949, which was generally accepted as being the most thrilling ever rowed. Archibald Joyce dedicated his
'Song of the River' to the universities to mark his appreciation of the thrilling race. In this case it was the tune which preceded the dance because Netta Brooke arranged steps to suit 'The Song of the River', and the result was the University Waltz which in effect had it's own original music. This new waltz was first presented at a memorable Old Time Ball at the Locarno, Streatham Hill, in London in May 1949 when the seventy-six year old Archibald Joyce conducted the orchestra. A recording of this waltz can be heard on the Marco Polo label dedicated to the works of Archibald Joyce. Before we leave this grand old gentleman, we must mention his 'Marie Mazurka' which Harry Davidson got him to compose for the dance of the same name, and which Harry recorded on a '78'. It was a great tune but the dance didn't find favour for long.
We need to turn the clock on a few years to when that stalwart of the Dance Time Orchestra was both arranging and composing. Ray Downes was responsible for the original music for two saunters. Strictly speaking the Clarendon Saunter, still danced today, didn't have any original music but Harry Davidson asked Ray to compose music for this dance, and Ray came up with the delightful 'Bouquet for Pamela'. Harry recorded this for Columbia. A few years later Ray Downes composed the original music for the Kingsway Saunter - and there are no caveats here!
Probably an even bigger beast comes on the now in the shape of Bryan Smith whose orchestra was the last Old Time ensemble to grace our airwaves in the early nineties. What's more he was a prolific composer who also added to the cannon of original music. Two of his which Sidney Davey played on 'Those Were The Days' were the St. Alban's Waltz and the Whitman Waltz, and like Joyce and Downes, they sounded as if they might have been written in the early years of the Twentieth Century.
Here's something rather special and unusual. To celebrate the twenty-fifth anniversary of 'Those Were The Days' in 1968, the programme's team produced a new dance which was appropriately named 'The Days that were Waltz. Holland and Sylvia Brockbank, the M.C. and Dance Hostess from Bournemouth, devised the steps; Bill Crozier, compe're , composed the music, and Sidney Davey arranged it for his orchestra.
I'm ending with a coupling which my friend Mike Cooper can tell us about in detail. It involves the dance tune, 'Underneath the Stars', composed by the American, Herbert Spencer, in 1915.
Whereas our cousins the other side of the Atlantic had no difficulty in dancing a slow foxtrot to this tune, we in Britain, apparently, were uneasy with this coupling. However, because this tune was so popular over here too, our dance experts were looking for a dance that would fit the bill. It was A.J. Latimer, a Dancing master of his day, and of course the first Master of Ceremonies on 'Those Were The Days', who first put steps to fit 'Underneath the Stars'. This is how the Saunter was born - though, I'm sure, Mike will give us more accurate and precise details.
Music & Dances
It was such a wonderful surprise to hear this Orchestra play some superb musical arrangements to perfection just as they were once played by the great Old Time Orchestras mentioned in David's New Book.
With over 200 people in attendance, our Old Time Leaders & M.C. was our Societies President 'Fred Boast' and his wife Joyce, supported by other Committee Members and Society Members.
A Fantastic night of Dancing was had by everyone, which went on till after Midnight.
The Footloose Dance Orchestra played some really excellent music and is a Class Act and we hope to work with them again in the future at one of our 'Old Time Balls'.
A TRIP DOWN MEMORY LANE
Growing up in a small Village with limited social outings, my parents used to take me with them to the weekly dances at the local village hall and so began my love for all styles of dance, in particular Old Time.
Dancing was in it's heyday during my teenage years allowing me to indulge my passion further.
It was the highlight of my week to rush home from work, wash and change quickly and head into Leicester to the DeMontfont Hall and dance the night away to the Big Band sounds of the era, one of which was Sidney Thompson.
Luckily Kathleen shared my love of dancing which continued unabated into our married life and resulted in us qualifying as teachers in all styles including Old Time Dancing. Initially we hired a local hall, (which coincidently is where we run our Old Time Dances now), holding buffet dances at the grand price of 35pence per person and regularly attracting around 100 dancers. We realised there was a demand for regular dances and tuition and went on to open a dance school in Leicester starting in 1977 with the Victoria Gallery and subsequently moving on to the Savoy Studio.
Old Time is unique with it's Traditional Dances and Beautiful Original Music needs to be showcased as such, to today's generation of dancers, encouraging them to enjoy and embrace the experience of a genteel age with us.
It is up to us now to work together to go back to our roots and restore Old Time to it's former popularity and glory, giving it the opportunity to move forward with renewed optimism.