Sunday, March 12, 2017

Born Today March 12 (Not So Silent Edition): Thomas Augustine Arne


English composer Thomas Augustine Arne was born in Convent Garden, London, UK on this date to an Catholic mother and an Anglican father.  Despite that his grandfather and father, both ulpholsterers, had fallen on hard times (his grandfather actually died in a debtors prison), his father had saved enough monies back to have young Thomas educated at Eton.  The young Arne showed a very early interest in music and smuggled a spinet into his room to practice on during the night when the rest of the family slept.  He also would dress up as a liveryman to gain access to the opera, which eventually lead to his having an apprenticeship of sorts with musician and composer Michael Festing; who among other things, taught Arne to play the violin.  When he finished school, he was articled to a solicitor for a period of three years.  He had, though, continued to work with Festing; a situation that his father found out about.  Festing was mostly likely the person responsible for persuading Arne's father to allow him to leave the legal service and pursue a career in music instead.  What Arne is by far and away most famous for is his composition Rule Britannia; he also penned A-Hunting We Will Go and a version of God Save The King (which in movies, he is also credited for when it is listed as God Save The Queen).  Three partial-sound or full sound films made use of his Rule Britannia and one short featuring "Hunting" were made in the late 1920's.  The first of these is a very famous, one could say infamous, film:  the Paramount produced, William A. Wellman directed (at least most of...) Wings, starring Clara Bow and Charles Rogers.  The film was made in 1927, but not released formally until 1929.  The mono musical score and sound effects were furnished by Western Electric.  The Divine Lady (1929) was also a partial sound film.  The first full sound film featuring his music also came in 1929, with the Mickey Mouse short animation When The Cat's Away, featuring sound from the Powers Cinephone Sound System; this marks the first use in a film of A-Hunting We Will Go.  Finally, the first all sound feature film to use the work was Disraeli (1929). Rule Britannia was used next in King Of Jazz  in 1930.  Of course, over the decades, such well known music has been used in dozens of films from the likes of The King and I  to Minions.  The most recent use came last year in the series The Crown.  Arne died at the age of 67 close to the place of his birth in London on the 5th of March, just shy of his 68th.  He is buried in St. Paul's, Covent Garden, a church designed by the renowned Inigo Jones; it is known as "The Actors Church."

Scene from When The Cat's Away (1929)

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