In 1952-53 and 1953-54, the violinist, Tom Jenkins, won the Daily Mail National Radio Award for Most Popular Musical Entertainer. The award was based on a poll conducted in depth across a wide section of the listening public, covering both radio and television entertainers. With an estimated fifteen million listeners in the 1950’s, it was hardly surprising that the star of ‘The Grand Hotel’ Palm Court Orchestra should receive such a formal recognition of his success. Around the same time, The Palm Court Orchestra celebrated its 450th broadcast! Such was the popularity of light orchestral music at its height! The BBC ran the ‘Light’ programme and many orchestras and ensembles to perform on it for many hours a day. Incidentally, Tom Jenkins was born in south Leeds and moved to Morley when only two years old, and by his early teens had already made quite a name for himself as a soloist.
Musicians such as Albert Sandler, Reginald Leopold, Max Jaffa, Albert Sammons, Eric Robinson, Frank Gomez and Standford Robinson were well-known household names due to the ‘wireless’ and 78rpm recordings. The four-minute length of most light music compositions fitted well onto these discs.
However, prior to this mass media medium, light music was still a great part of the Spas and Watering places of England! Many seaside and spa towns offered live music in many forms from trios to full orchestras, and were directed by great names such as, Adrian Boult, Malcolm Sargent, Henry Wood, Thomas Beecham, John Barbirolli, Basil Cameron, Dan Godfrey, Jean Riviere and many more.
The Palm Court, of course, was literally, just that! It was a follow on from the Court musical entertainment for the rich of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries to the railway travelling public of the nineteenth century, where, in the great ‘Palaces of Entertainment’, live music flowed from within, surrounded by palm trees, aspidistras and the like!
There were many composers at this time fulfilling the need for this popular music, and, other than a handful of names, most have been forgotten, though their melodies live on! The 1930’s to the 1950’s, through the ‘wireless’ and recordings, revived this interest with great names such as Eric Coates, Robert Farnon, Vivian Ellis, Ernest Tomlinson, Ronald Binge, Percy Fletcher and many more to follow, such as Carl Davies and John Williams.
The music performed is mostly from the conductor’s large and still growing, orchestral library of music collected over the past forty-eight years from places where orchestras had existed, such as Blackpool Winter Gardens, Torquay, Swansea, Birmingham, Settle, Bourneville, Hull, Leeds, Harrogate, Morley and many more places, with some pieces having not been played for many, many years. The most recent collection is from the conductor’s home-town of Morley, Yorkshire, where his mother’s cousin’s wife’s father – Ted Barham – ran an orchestra for many years! The collection consists of over 350 pieces dating from early 1900’s to 1950’s, including pre-WWI German pieces to danceband numbers with saxophones. Ted Barham’s brother-in-law, Jonny Speight was Howard Rogerson’s first clarinet teacher in 1959!
The Promenade Concert Orchestra perform in Morecambe with a large orchestra, whereas, often, the orchestra would have been 8 to 15 players. Indeed, Tom Jenkins’ own Palm Court Orchestra in the ‘Grand Hotel’ had eight string players and a Mustel organ to fill in the wind and brass contributions, though the piano was also often used to do the same thing!