Monday, July 04, 2022

Herman Darewski Conducts

Herman Edward Darewski was a composer of what was then called "light music".  Lets take a quick detour to explain what that actually was. These are short orchestral pieces, often just 3 or 4 minutes in length. The genre in many ways is the predecessor of both the easy listening and beautiful music genres. But light music itself has roots predating the arrangements of Mantovani, and Percy Faith going back easily into the 1800s. 

So when you see a reference to the radio program "BBC Light Programme", that is indeed the "light" in question. The BBC Light Programme ran from 1945 to 1967 which is really quite late in the heyday of the genre. More here. But in some ways it's also the antecedent of lounge music, Muzak, exotica and other more novel instrumental music; so there may be gems to mine in that crate. It's a big category.

But back to Darewski. He was born in Minsk when it was still part of the Russian empire, over 30 years before the revolution. Today it's part of Belarus, but he would probably have considered himself ethnically a "white Russian" though he and his older brothers lived most of their adult lives in London. Different biographies confuse him and his brothers with his father, Edouward Darewski. Nonetheless, his little brother Max, and older brother Julius had their own separate successful music careers.

Maximilian Arnold Darewski [LINK] was a musical prodigy in his own right. Julius did compose some tunes, but found more success as a variety agent. I did find some sheet music for "You Never Know" from 1915 with two different Darewski's on the cover. Even though Julius was Max's agent he didn't' manage to squeeze the third Darewski in.

But since I'm writing about Herman Darewski, you already know it's because he did a turn on the radio... actually two of the brothers did. They were a musical family, dad being an actual music professor. Max was a novelty, a child musician, while he performed for the British crown, he was not an enduring success like Herman, or Julius. Max was born in 1894 in Lancashire, England. Max's radio references are few. A 1926 issue of Wireless World records a performance by Max and a Geoffrey Gwyther on the Saturday Night Revue broadcast on 2LO and 5XX. (An issue of the law times from 1923 also lists his bankruptcy.) The book Entertainers in British Films by Denis Gifford lists Max on film in 1907 as "boy conductor" when he would have been about 13 years old. He recorded some sides for Zonophone in 1925. I found some listings for his performances at dance halls and in theaters into 1926. He died in 1929. An issue of The Linguist, a decade after he died, mourned that his name was mispronounced "Darooski" on the radio.

But Herman is the most interesting figure here. He first appears in the BBC Radio Times in June of 1925 on 6KH in Hull. There are no notes about the appearance. The listing only refers to the "Hull Programme" and that it's relayed from "the Spa, Bridlington". I actually first found his name in a much later broadcast schedule in a 1937 issue of The Indian Listener [LINK] and there he was in Transmission IV at 11:55 PM on BBC Ballroom. "Dancing to-night to Herman Darewski and his new Melody Rhythm Band. (admission by radio only)."  Call signs are variously given as below:

17.79 Mc/s
15.26 Mc/s
11.75 Mc/s
15.8 Mc/s
9.51 Mc/s
15.14 Mc/s
9.58 Mc/s
21.53 Mc/s
GSH 21.47 Mc/s

In 1900 Herman became a composer for a music publisher in London. By 1916 he already had his own eponymous music publishing company: Herman Darewski Publishing Co. He was publishing his own sheet music and also scores by other musicians. [LINK] He was composing and promoting theatrical revues. In 1917 he wrote a popular WWI play, "The Better Ole." Times were difficult in WWI. The Musical Times posted an add asking for donations to be sent to the YMCA in Bloomsbury Square, but also specifically donations of musical instruments and music to Herman Darewski at the same address.  

After the war things perked up for Herman Darewski. In 1919 he published the The Darewski Jazz Chart: Learn to Jazz at Home, an odd pamphlet about both jazz and jazz dancing complete with diagrammed dance steps. He formed his first band in 1920 for a 2 week engagement at the Alhambra Theatre of Variety, in Leicester Square. That success was followed by a similar booking at the Coliseum in London.  By 1921 his name was of such note that he could trade barbs in the Daily News with Sir Hugh Allen on the topic of "beastly" popular music. That year is also his earliest known broadcast in April of 1921 on PCGG, also known as the Dutch Concerts station. The April 16th issue of Wireless World recorded the event:

"As a development of the Hague concerts a scheme has now been inaugurated under which Mr. Herman Darewski, the composer, will give Nederlandsche Radio Industrie the opportunity of transmitting by wireless from their station at the Hague his latest musical successes. The concerts are expected to reach a radius of 500 miles from the Hague. Transmissions take place on Sundays from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. G.M.T. and Thursdays from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. G.M.T. on a wavelegnth of 1,100 metres."
PCGG was a very early European radio station. The station was founded by Dutch radio pioneer, engineer Hanso Idzerda, inventor of the triode IDZ tube. He began broadcasting regularly on November 6th, 1919. In 1922 the Daily Mail decided to sponsor Idzerda's station. In 1924 they revoked their sponsorship and PCGG went bankrupt, PCGG's license was revoked by November of that year. Mr. Idzerda died in 1944. During the German occupation. A V2 rocket failed at launch, and crashed near his home in Scheveningen. He went to investigate and was warned off by German soldiers. But curiosity got the better of him and he came back later to look at fragments. He was arrested and executed. His family did not learn his fate until after the war.  [LINK]

Anyway back to Herman. In 1924, about the same time that the PCGG license was revoked, he was named Musial director at the Bridlington Spa Royal Hall, a concert venue in a resort town. It was in this post-WWI era that he transitioned from conducting more theatrical revues to "light music." He left Bridlington Spa to become the resident bandleader at Empress Ballroom in the Winter Gardens, Blackpool for the summer seasons of 1927 - 1929. That year he also began recording for Parlophone's red label. In 1930 he returned to Bridlington where he remained until the outbreak of World War II.  By 1931 his fame was such that he copyrighted and sold an illustrated, 31 page pamphlet Herman Darewski's Wonder Way Music Tutor for Children and Grown Ups. One listing notes that it was written in collaboration with Geoffrey Clayton. He was 48 years old and arguably at the height of his fame.

In 1937 the BBC even referred to that year as his 11th consecutive season at the Spa Royal Hall. (Though the math on that is somewhat dubious.) His orchestra, the Melody Rhythm band consisted of sixteen members. On August 19th be broadcast live from the Bridlington Spa Royal Hall at 11:15 PM. The listing in the Radio Times recalled that  he had traveled to London just a couple weeks prior to host a program of his own hits, with G. H. Elliott. He was a minstrel-era black-face singer... let's not get into it. Even the BBC pops up a little warning if you want to read the Radio Times from that era. His last appearance in the Radio Times was in the Fall of 1941 on the  Forces Programme and Home Service, the description notes that he has composed over three thousand songs and speaks of his career. More here.

His wife actress Madge Temple was a successful actress in her own right died in 1943. He seems to have stopped performing in public around this time. His son Neville Lawrence Darewski was the first generation of Darewski not to pursue a music career. He went into the military in WWII, and died serving with the Italian partisans in 1944. You should probably Google that. Herman died in 1947 at the age of 64 having outlived all of his own family with the possible exception of Julius... I can't find an obituary for him.

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