testcardThe test card is a fading memory now that television is broadcast 24 hours a day. But on the occasional days that I was allowed sick time off from school (typically with very minor illnesses – and what a wonderful sense of freedom those days held) I remember that the afternoons were typically empty of any TV content but the test card – and the light orchestral music that accompanied it. Similar music was used to fill the gaps in between schools programming in the mornings, and as the start-up theme music for various independent television broadcasting companies around at the time. This was “production music”, recorded specially for the purpose and not available anywhere else. It was recognizably light music, but often with a more contemporary feel than classic light music on the radio. I remember in particular the optimistic, somewhat angular marches that seemed to me to exude “progress”.

An example is Gordon Langford’s March from The Colour Suite (of which only one other movement out of a projected five was actually composed). Langford (born 1930) made his name as a versatile BBC arranger in the 1960s, but he has also been a regular composer of band, orchestral and film music as well. This March is one of at least three pieces Langford composed for production use, the others being Royal Daffodil and Hebridean Hoedown. All three were originally recorded by the Stuttgart Studio Orchestra, made up of German session musicians.

The March starts with a fanfare, then moves into the forward-thrusting main theme, which is repeated four times with increasingly layered orchestration. There’s a bridge passage and two more repeats of the theme before a longer, more diverse bridge section leads back to a triumphant final statement of the theme and a short coda. It’s really the skillful building up of the orchestration and the parallel harmonic shadowing of the distinctive main melodic line that brings the piece to life.