If you enjoy some of the popular drama series on television – Midsomer Murders, Foyle’s War, House of Cards – among numerous others for which Jim Parker has composed music, you will already have heard just one element of his compositional activity. Nevertheless, as Jim observes in the booklet notes, much of the music written for television disappears with the programmes themselves, so the opportunity to rescue some of it is clearly welcome.
A South American Journey is a five-movement work originally scored for recorder and harpsichord and written in memory of the composer Stephen Dodgson. In this recording the music has been re-scored for recorder, string quartet, double bass and harp, which suites the overtly Spanish flavour of the music especially well.
Bonjour M. Grappelli for string quartet is a four-movement work that makes use of some previously composed music for television. The opening movement, that gives the work its overall title, and the final movement “Au revoire, M. Grappelli”, are heart-warming tributes to the celebrated jazz violinist. The deliciously and unashamedly romantic second movement, “Elegy” makes use of a melody that was the theme tune for the TV series “Body and Soul”. “Hurdy Gurdy” is the title of the idiosyncratic and sometimes quirky third movement that stated life as a song in the television musical “Petticoat Lane”.
The first performance of Three Diversions was given in a concert at the Royal Northern College of Music to celebrate the opening of the Ida Carroll Walkway. The scoring is as for South American Journey. The first movement, “Spring Dance”, has the lively feel of a reel, while the second, “Paean” is a flow of melody and counter-melody over lush harmonies. Both movements develop themes previously composed for the TV series “Parnell and the Englishwoman”. Based on the traditional song “The Leaving of Liverpool” the final movement ‘A Leave-Taking” is in memory of the composer Antony Hopkins. It is a set of continuous variations with a lively part for the sopranino recorder.
Hoofers (show business slang for dancers) is the overall title and that of the last of these four pieces for oboe and piano. The Flying Scotsman is an enthusiastic musical depiction of an approaching and passing train; the relentless piano accompaniment and oboe multiphonics providing evocative locomotive sounds. Banjolele is inspired by one of P G Wodehouse’s Jeeves and Wooster stories in which Wooster is evicted from his lodgings for incessantly playing the instrument – it’s all there in the music! Though reworking a theme used in “Midsomer Murders”, “The Lonely Ballerina” here depicts a retired dancer’s reminiscences with elegant yet wistful arabesques. A television musical about the life of Margaret Kelly, better known as Miss Bluebell, and the Bluebell Girls of The Lido nightclub in Paris are the source of this ebullient rondo. Frothy music that inhabits the world of Poulenc and Milhaud and concludes a thoroughly entertaining CD, which very evidently totally engaged the players who are on impressive form.