Elizabethan Serenade

NovelloWritten in 1951, Elizabethan Serenade is probably Ronnie Binge’s best known composition. It was used as the theme for the popular 1950s radio series Music Tapestry, and as the play-out for the British Forces Network radio station. The piece won an Ivor Novello award in 1957 and has been played in most countries of the world. It was later used as the signature tune to Music In Miniature on the BBC Light Programme.

A version with lyrics by poet Christopher Hassall called Where the Gentle Avon Flows was recorded by several choirs, and the work also had lyrics added in German, Czech, Norwegian, Swedish, Finnish, Dutch, Danish and French, and in 1970, a reggae version called “Elizabethan Reggae” by Boris Gardiner & the Love People was released.

When it was first played by the Mantovani orchestra in 1951, it was simply titled Andante Cantabile, although the original orchestral manuscript written in the composer’s own hand show the title as The Man In The Street.

Mike Carey writes up the story as Ronnie told it “It owed something to Walter Eastman, who as head of the publishers Ascherberg, Hopwood & Crew,  had offered Ronnie much encouragement when he returned full-time to the world of music after the war. When he heard it for the first time, Eastman telephoned Ronnie and said enthusiastically: That’s what I call a tune, I think we’ve really got something here. Damned if I know what you’re going to call it – sounds like some sort of Elizabethan serenade! So Elizabethan Serenade it became.”

And in 2012, the year of the Queen’s Jubilee, that name came into its own. As one website put it: “The song of the day is Ronald Binge’s Elizabethan Serenade.”

It was played at the official Jubilee concert, at The Last Night of the Proms, and by most of the major British orchestras that year, including the National Children’s Orchestra, and later released on several CDs. Celebratory concerts around the country marked the Jubilee with Elizabethan Serenade, including Malvern, Stroud, Cardiff, Stratford on Avon, Derby, Taunton, Blackpool, and many more.

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