Light music concert for composer’s 90th

Ernest Tomlinson conducting his own 'Little Serenade' at the Longridge Band concert in 2012 in the Civic Hall.
Ernest Tomlinson conducting his own 'Little Serenade' at the Longridge Band concert in 2012 in the Civic Hall.
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One of the major figures in British light music and the founder of its now famous library is to be celebrated in a special concert in Longridge next month.

Composer Ernest Tomlinson, whose library of light orchestral music is housed in a barn at his Longridge home, will be 90 in September and the celebration concert is to be given by the Light Music Society (LMS)Festival Orchestra.

Ernest became chairman of the society in 1966, continuing until 2009 when Gavin Sutherland, now musical director of English National Ballet, took over and society members voted for Ernest to become president.

The LMS is now the backing organisation for the library which Ernest began to collect from the early 1970s.

He had discovered that the BBC and many publishers and libraries were destroying this range of music, even the work of living composers.

The collection has grown to more than 50,000 orchestral sets and music is sent to orchestras all over the UK and even some in Europe, Canada and USA.

For his far-sightedness in saving such an important music genre, and for his services to music, Ernest received an MBE from the Queen in her birthday honours list in 2012.

The orchestral concert, which will be held in Longridge Civic Hall on Sunday August 24, is to be conducted by renowned conductor Gavin Sutherland - now Ernests’s successor as LMS chairman - and will be made up largely of members of the LMS and associates.

They are expected to travel from all over the country to be part of the occasion and, with the internationally renowned Mr Sutherland, the orchestra’s leader is virtuoso violinist and leader of Northern Ballet Sinfonia, Geoffrey Allan.

Ernest’s daughter, Hilary Ashton, said: “Not to give too much away, what we feel is an exciting programme includes several pieces by Ernest, some well-known TV and radio themes - Thunderbirds to name just one - film music, the waltz from The Slipper and the Rose, the selection from the musical Show Boat and light orchestral favourites by Eric Coates, Robert Farnon and Haydn Wood.”

Tickets for the concert are available from Hilary who is secretary of the LMS, on 07719205264 or 01200 427066 or email

Born in 1924, Ernest’s musical career began as a staff arranger for a London publisher after graduating in 1947 with a degree of Bachelor of Music for composition.

He was soon in demand for radio, television, stage and recording commitments, providing numerous arrangements as well as, occasionally, his own compositions - the first was broadcast in 1949.

Many of his own works were first heard with his Ernest Tomlinson Light Orchestra, formed in 1955, and his ‘Little Serenade’ (1955) was destined to become a light music standard.

Later the same year his work for the radio play The Story Of Cinderella finally allowed him to become a full-time freelance composer.

His north country roots explain his love of brass bands and choirs, and he has been active in both of these areas.

‘An English Overture’ was originally conceived for brass band, and of special importance have been his suites of ‘English Folk-Songs’ - the first was in 1949 and the second suite followed in 1977.

Many of the individual movements have become recognized in their own right, with wonderful titles such as ‘Dick’s Maggot’, ‘Jenny Pluck Pears’, ‘Woodicock’ and ‘Love-in-a-Mist.’

Other popular works include ‘Concert Jig’ (from the ‘Silverthorn Suite’), ‘Kielder Water’, ‘Comedy Overture’, ‘Mediterranean Suite’, ‘English Pageant Suite’, the ‘Light Music Suite’ (1971) and ‘Passepied.’

Many local singers became part of Ernest’s Ribble Vale Choir which he started in 1989 and which he led until it closed in 1998.

Its expertise and skills, honed by its dedicated leader, covered a wide range of music which was enjoyed throughout the area at many concerts and events during its nine years.