Reverie: The Music Of Angela Morley

Though Angela Morley had relatively few credits to her name by the mid-1970s, she had been a significant figure in the light music industry for over thirty years. It was certainly not the case that she lacked talent or ambition, but that Morley herself only came into being in 1970; before then, she was known as Wally Stott. Born in Leeds on 10th March 1924, Stott came from a musical family and his earliest memory ‘was of sitting on the floor surrounded by records of the bands of Jack Payne and Henry Hall and playing them on our enormous wind up gramophone. My dad played the ukulele-banjo that he used to let me tune for him, using his pitch pipe, to either G-C-E-A or A-D-F#-B. My mother had a contralto voice and sang: There is a Lady Passing By and, her favourite, Big Lady Moon.’ An interest in the violin was soon replaced by the piano, although the sudden death of his father in 1933 meant that Stott’s lessons were abruptly ended. Nevertheless, he subsequently taught himself to master it as well as the alto saxophone.

At the outbreak of the Second World War, Stott left school to become the saxophonist with a dance band and later joined the Oscar Rabin Band in 1941; three years later, he became a part of Geraldo’s Orchestra. Discovering that he had a remarkable gift for arrangement, Stott found work with the BBC, and later studied composition under Mátyás Seiber and conducting with Walter Goehr.

During the War, Stott met Peter Sellers, who offered him the job of conducting the background music for The Goon Show in 1952, and in 1954, he composed the theme tune for the new radio show – Hancock’s Half Hour. At the same time, Stott was also appointed musical director for Philips Records and was working with stars such as Shirley Bassie, Frankie Vaughan and Mel Tormé, who recalled that From the first downbeat, I knew I was in the presence of a major talent.’ From 1967 to 1970, Stott also worked as an arranger for Scott Walker’s solo albums, with Walker remarking, ‘Working with Wally Stott on Scott 3 was like having Delius writing for you.’

Venturing into the world of film, Stott composed scores for The Heart of a Man (1959), Peeping Tom (1960) and The Looking Glass War (1969) among others. Memorable tunes such as Rotten Row and A Canadian in Mayfair, rightly cemented his reputation and as Tony Osborne, himself a successful arranger and composer remembered, We all looked up to Wally because we knew that he was second only to Robert Farnon, and it was a pretty close run thing at that!’

Above: The opening and closing themes from The Looking Glass War (1969)

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All In The Golden Afternoon: Alice Liddell’s Adventures

‘I hope I’m not ungrateful, but I do get so tired of being Alice,’ Mrs Alice Hargreaves told her son Caryl, shortly before her death in November 1934. Since childhood, she had been known as the inspiration for Lewis Carroll’s 1865 children’s book, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Born Alice Pleasance Liddell on 4th May 1852, Alice was the third child of Lorina and Henry Liddell, the headmaster of Westminster School. In 1855, Alice’s father was made Dean of Christ Church College, Oxford and so the family, including the children’s governess, Miss Prickett, left London for the Dean’s lodgings in Tom Quad. The Liddells became noted society hosts at Oxford, with Mrs Liddell earning herself the nickname ‘the kingfisher,’ on account of her desire to make connections that might better the future marriage prospects of her daughters.

At Christ Church, the Liddell family made a significant acquaintance that would have a notable impact upon them, Alice in particular. The Dean befriended a young mathematics don named Charles Lutwidge Dodgson. A keen photographer, Dodgson’s preferred subjects were young children, usually depicting historical figures or scenes from literature. Pictures of children were especially loved by the Victorians, often appearing on greetings cards and advertisements as they were thought to convey an image of innocent beauty and purity. Sharing Dodgson’s enthusiasm for photography, the Dean asked him if he might photograph his own children; the Liddell children would pose for Dodgson several times over the next decade.

But the Liddell’s friendship with Dodgson also extended to outings, picnics and boat trips. On 4th July 1862, Dodgson and another Christ Church man, the Reverend Robinson Duckworth, took Alice Liddell and her sisters Lorina and Edith on a trip along The Isis from Oxford to Godstow. As Duckworth rowed, Dodgson regaled the children with marvellous tales, as he had many times before. Yet the one he told that afternoon as the sun glistened on the river, somehow surpassed those that had come before; so much so that Alice, upon whom it had made a great impression, asked him if he would write it down for her. Dodgson described it in his diary as a ‘white stone day,’ a term he used for one that was special to him. Alice herself remembered many years later:

‘Most of Mr. Dodgson’s stories were told to us on river expeditions to Nuneham or Godstow, near Oxford. My eldest sister, now Mrs. Skene, was “Prima,” I was “Secunda,” and “Tertia” was my sister Edith. I believe the beginning of “Alice” was told one summer afternoon when the sun was so burning that we had landed in the meadows down the river, deserting the boat to take refuge in the only bit of shade to be found, which was under a new-made hayrick. Here from all three came the old petition of “Tell us a story,” and so began the ever-delightful tale. Sometimes to tease us—and perhaps being really tired—Mr. Dodgson would stop suddenly and say, “And that’s all till next time.” “Ah, but it is next time,” would be the exclamation from all three; and after some persuasion the story would start afresh. Another day, perhaps, the story would begin in the boat, and Mr. Dodgson, in the middle of telling a thrilling adventure, would pretend to go fast asleep, to our great dismay.’ Continue reading

Lily Of The Nile: The Dynasties Of Princess Fawzia

When she died on 2nd July 2013, few could have appreciated the vast and extraordinary changes Princess Fawzia had witnessed during her 91 years. ‘Twice in my life, I lost the crown,’ she acknowledged, recalling her time as an important figure across the Islamic world. Her wealth of experience had taught the Egyptian Princess that the power behind great crowns could be both ephemeral and illusory, and so for her, their loss did not ‘matter.’

The eldest daughter of King Fuad of Egypt, and his second wife Nazli Sabri, Fawzia was born at the Ras el-Tin Palace in Alexandria, on 5th November 1921. Rarely leaving the confines of the palace, and brought up by her English nanny, Fawzia’s childhood was both sheltered and rarefied, leading the Egyptian writer Adel Sabit to comment, that she grew up a ‘supremely naive, over-protected, cellophane-wrapped, gift-packaged little girl.’

In April 1936, following King Fuad’s death, Fawzia’s older brother Farouk ascended to the throne, and the new King’s advisors were eager to strengthen Cairo’s relations with Tehran. With Egypt keen to assert its status in the region, particularly following the signing of the Treaty of Saadabad with Iran, Turkey, Iraq, and Afghanistan in July 1937, a match was suggested between Fawzia, and the son of the Shah of Iran. The prospect of Crown Prince Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi’s marriage was welcomed by his father, a soldier who had assumed power by overthrowing the Qajar dynasty in 1925. The Shah was minded to cement his own royal legitimacy and a union with the regal and established Muhammad Ali Dynasty of Egypt seemed ideal. Despite the Egyptian Prime Minister’s warning that a marriage between the Sunni Princess and Shia Prince was a ‘recipe for disaster,’ secular diplomacy won out over tradition, and their engagement was officially announced in May 1938. The couple married in March 1939 enjoying the splendour of two royal weddings, a Shi’ite ceremony in Fawzia’s new home of Tehran, following a Sunni union in Cairo with her Prince, the heir to the Peacock Throne.

Above: The Royal Wedding in Cairo (1939)

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