The Floral Dance and The Lute Player

Katie Moss’s 1911 song “The Floral Dance” was first recorded by Peter Dawson in 1912, and its popularity has endured. Dawson recorded four commercially released versions of it, and two broadcasts survive. The first recording of September 1912 was followed by a 10” version on the cheaper Zonophone label before the end of the year. His later electrical version was coupled with Frances Allitsen’s “The Lute Player” in 1927, a coupling that was repeated in 1934. The pairing of the two songs seems to have been so popular on HMV that other labels emulated it – Frederick Ranalow on Metropole, and Robert Easton (under the nom de disque Graham Stewart) for Broadcast Twelve.

When Dawson’s first recording of the Floral Dance was released it was coupled with Slaughter’s “The Dear Homeland,” sung by the baritone Thorpe Bates. Thomas Thorpe-Bates, FRAM, FGSM (London, 11th February 1883 – London, 23rd May 1958). Bates studied at the Guildhall and the Royal Academy of Music. He married Edith Helena Leech, and by 1935 they had a son and a daughter. He sang as principal baritone at provincial Music Festivals, Choral Societies, Promenade Concerts and the Hallé and Brand Lane Concerts, Manchester. He played in “The Yankee Princess” in New York in 1922. He also appeared in “The Maid of the Mountains,” “The Rebel Maid” and many other plays. As of 1935 he lived at Westerley, 10 Salmon St, London NW9. Bates’s daughter was the actress Peggy Thorpe-Bates, perhaps best remembered as one of three actresses who played Hilda Rumpole in the TV adaptations of John Mortimer’s “Rumpole of the Bailey” novels.

Frederick Baring Ranalow, FRAM (Dublin, 7th November 1873 – London, 8th December 1953) was taken to England at a young age, becoming a chorister at St. Paul’s. He was educated at the Royal Academy of Music. He married Lilian Mary Oates, with whom he had, by 1935, produced a son and a daughter. He became a professor at the RAM with a focus on opera. He appeared at the Queen’s Hall and the principal festivals of the UK and at the Royal Albert Hall. He also composed light songs. He took many parts in the Beecham Opera Company, and played Macheath in the Beggars’ Opera over 1400 times. He toured Australia and New Zealand with Nellie Melba. He also appeared in several films including Autumn Crocus (1934). His recreations are listed as golf and motoring, and he was a member of the Garrick club. He lived at 12 Argyll Road, Kensington W8.

Ranalow’s recordings, though extensive, are little remembered now. He recorded for HMV, Columbia, Edison Bell, Vocalion and Metropole. He was Sharpless in the complete English Madam Butterfly with Rosina Buckman, and took part in the acoustic recording of the Beggars’ Opera under Richard Austin. He recorded excerpts from Ethel Smyth’s “The Boatswain’s Mate” with Rosina Buckman – they had been in the premiere together. He also took part in the complete acoustic HMS Pinafore of 1922-3 singing part of Sir Joseph Porter’s role.

Ranalow’s operatic repertoire included Prince Igor, Figaro, Sachs, Papageno and roles in La Boheme, Falstaff, Segreto di Susanna, Tannhauser and Tristan. After his marathon run in the Beggars’ Opera from 1920, he turned more to light opera.

Robert Easton (Sunderland, June 8th 1898 – 26th May 1987) was a British bass of the mid–twentieth century. As a boy, he sang in his local church choir. He joined the BEF in 1915, and was severely wounded while on service in Flanders. He had a long convalescence, and had a leg amputated. After that he wore an artificial leg. He claimed to have drifted into singing, eventually studying in London with Bozelli, Norman Notly, Harry Plunket Greene and Dinh Gilly.

In 1922 he sang in several concerts with the National Sunday League. He made his Prom debut in 1926, where one of the items he sung was “I am a roamer” from Mendelssohn’s “Son and Stranger” – this was to become a regular feature of his concert programmes. His range enabled him to cope with ease in the wide two-octave leaps and even at a rapid speed his impeccable enunciation made the words clear. In 1929 he replaced Harold Williams in the annual Crystal Palace performance (under Beecham) of “Messiah”. Between 1933 and 1939 he sang at Covent Garden, appearing as Sparafucile, Titurel, the King in Aida, the Father in “Louise”, Colline and Fafner. In 1938 he was chosen as one of the 16 soloists in Vaughan Williams’s “Serenade to Music.”

Easton was a versatile singer, equally successful in opera, oratorio, recitals and as a concert artist. He was a true basso profondo, with a highly individual, instantly recognisable, dark timbre and rapid flickering vibrato. His range was from F# above middle C, down to a low Bb below bottom C. He was one of Columbia’s exceptional trio of ‘profondos’ in the inter-war years, along with Norman Allin and Malcolm McEachern. He recorded for Vocalion between 1923 and 1925 and then for Broadcast and Regal Zonophone. For these labels he had to use pseudonyms, so he also appears as Robert Merlyn, Robert Raymond and Graham Stewart.

In 1930 he was chosen by Beecham to sing Mephistopheles in the English language recording of Gounod’s “Faust” with Licette and Nash. He also sang in Stanford Robinson’s complete recording of Stainer’s “Crucifixion.” In 1938 he was involved in the famous “Lisa Perli” deception, and featured as Colline in Beecham’s recording of Act 4 of La Boheme.

After 1940 Easton confined himself to broadcasts, concerts and oratorios and during the 2nd World War made concert tours with ENSA and CEMA, appearing in France, Belgium and Germany, as well as in Britain. A 1969 broadcast showed him to have lost no vocal quality over the years and he continued to make occasional concert appearances as late as 1985, mainly for the Council of Music in Hospitals. He was a frequent festival adjudicator, on one occasion according a prize to Janet Baker.

He spent his later years at his home in Haslemere, Surrey with his wife of 60 years, and his daughter Margaret.

Mediafire link for Floral Dance and Lute Player recordings

(These are zip files – left click the link, download the files, then unzip when downloaded)

Slaughter – The Dear Homeland
Thorpe Bates, baritone with anonymous pianist
Matrix Ai 6268f (single-side number 02394)
Recorded 13th May 1912, 81rpm in Eb major
Moss – The Floral Dance
Peter Dawson, bass-baritone, with Kennedy Russell, piano
Matrix z 6557f (single-side number 02426)
Recorded 10th September 1912, 81rpm in Db major
Both from His Master’s Voice C 441

Moss – The Floral Dance
Allitsen – The Lute Player
His Master’s Voice C 1313
Matrices Cc 8106-X, Cc 8101-VA (single-side numbers 2-02207, 2-02208)
Recorded 14th January 1927, 78rpm in Db major and C minor respectively
Peter Dawson, bass-baritone
Gerald Moore, piano

Moss – The Floral Dance
Allitsen – The Lute Player
Broadcast Twelve 5032
Matrices LO116X, LO117
Recorded September 1928, 78rpm in Bb major and B minor respectively
Robert Easton, bass (credited as Graham Stewart)
with harp, piano and violin accompaniment

Moss – The Floral Dance
Allitsen – The Lute Player
Metropole 1126
Matrices 1538-2, 1539-2
Recorded c1930, 78rpm in C major and C minor respectively
Frederick Ranalow, bass-baritone
with Orchestra

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