The London Studio Players

Reginald Leopold and the Palm Court Orchestra rehearsing for 'Grand Hotel'

Albert SandlerWith the country at War during the early 1940s it was inevitable that with so many musicians unavailable due to military service, the BBC 's commitment to provide quality musical entertainment was becoming more difficult to attain, as only orchestras and ensembles comprising musicians ineligible for service were available. So, in order to maintain standards and to discourage top players from free-lancing, the BBC formed the London Studio Players in 1941, comprising the finest players available, many of them, like Reginald Leopold and Albert Sandler (pictured left), big stars of their day. Combinations already established such as the Fred Hartley Sextet and the Albert Sandler Trio automatically became part of this pool. According to BBC files, Fred Hartley (pictured below right) was appointed Artistic Director of the players on 14th July 1941 - Actually, it might be more accurate to say that he appointed himself - as he was already Head of Light Music!

Fred HartleyAlthough the new orchestra regularly performed as the London Studio Players (often under the direction of Albert Sandler) it's main raison d'etre was to provide a nucleus for larger combinations such as the London Theatre Orchestra or the London Light Concert Orchestra or to provide musicians for the many smaller ensembles such as the Novelairs, The Harlequins or The Palm Court Orchestra (for Grand Hotel).

When originally established, the orchestra's broadcasts were intended to be predominently for overseas consumption with a ratio of 8:3 (overseas to home) but after the war, the balance changed in favour of Home broadcasts. Initially, 18 players were retained on part-time contracts, although by 1954 this had grown to 23 (five of whom were employed on a full-time basis.) In 1955 the 'Unit', as the London Studio Players came to be known, was increased to 29 part-time players. With the increase of pop music broadcasts in the early sixties came the first signs that light music was not immortal. With less broadcasts allocated to this type of music the BBC came to the conclusion that Reginald Kilbeythey had more staff orchestras than they needed and sought to disband the Studio Players. However, recommendations to this effect were turned down following vigorous complaints from the Musicians' Union. Nevertheless, the orchestra's complement was reduced to 26 in 1962 and 18 in 1965, by which time the orchestra was basically of strings. Some readers will recall a delightful series in which the London Studio Strings were featured - Strings by Starlight - which was conducted by cellist Reginald Kilbey (pictured left). The number of personnel remained static at 18 or 19 until the early eighties when the BBC decided to discard most of its light orchestras plus the Scottish Symphony Orchestra. The prolongued industrial action which followed, saved the Scottish Symphony but the light orchestras were not so lucky. The Scottish Radio Orchestra, Midland Radio Orchestra and Northern Radio Orchestra were all disbanded and the Northern Ireland Orchestra was absorbed into the Ulster Orchestra. The axe also fell upon the London Studio Players; the only consolation was that the musicians displaced were given a contract which guaranteed a stipulated number of engagements for five years. With all of the 'outside' light orchestras long removed from the airwaves, the BBC had effectively declared light music a dead art form, with complete disregard for those for whom it had given so much pleasure.

There were dozens of ensembles, groups and orchestras drawing on the London Studio Players. In some cases, they formed the nucleus of a larger combination, but the majority of ensembles were comprised entirely of 'Unit' musicians.

The following list of 'Unit' based combinations is probably far from complete but does at least give the reader some idea of the London Studio Players' importance in broadcasting for over forty years:

Reginald Leopold

Billy Mayerl

Henry Krein

Sidney Sax

London Studio Players (conducted initially by Albert Sandler)
London Studio Orchestra (augmented version)
London Studio Strings (usually Reg Kilbey)
London Tango Orchestra (Reg Leopold - later becoming the Eugene Pini Tango Orchestra)
Fred Hartley and his Music
Reg Leopold and his Players / Orchestra
The Albert Sandler Trio
Strings of the Overseas Music Unit
Monia Liter's Sophisticated Serenaders
Monia Liter's Twentieth Century Serenaders
Monia Liter Quartet
Monia Liter Woodwind Players
London Variety Players (Jack Collings)
London Gypsy Orchestra (Albert Sandler)
The Casino Orchestra
The Casino Players
Langham String Quartet
The Palm Court Orchestra
Orchestre Montmartre
Michael Krein Saxophone Quartet
BBC Empire String Orchestra
The Winter Garden Orchestra (Sidney Sax)
The Majestic Orchestra (Reg Leopold - later Lou Whiteson)
Southern Serenade Orchestra (Reg Leopold - later Lou Whiteson)
The Rendezvous Players
Billy Mayerl Rhythm Ensemble
Billy Mayerl and his Players
The Stradivari Orchestra
The Spa Orchestra (Tom Jenkins)
Tom Jenkins Trio
Jack Byfield and his Players
Tom Jones Trio
London Light Concert Orchestra (Michael Krein)
Melody on Strings (directed by Max Jaffa)
The Pavilion Orchestra
The Pavilion Players (David Wolfsthal)
The New Casino Orchestra (Reginald Kilbey)
The London Theatre Orchestra
Sidney Bright and his Music
The Tunesmiths (Sidney Bright)
Henry Krein and the Montmartre Players
The Strolling Players (David McCallam or David Wolfsthal)
Edward Rubach and the Novelairs
Sidney Sax and the Harlequins
The Arcadian Players (David Wolfsthal)
The Metropolitan Orchestra
The Tom Jenkins Orchestra
The Boulevard Players
The Chameleons directed by Ron Peters
Orchestre Elegant
The Elgin Players (John Sharpe)
Max Jaffa Orchestra
Edward Rubach Quintet
William Davies Trio/ Quartet
The London Salon Orchestra
The Langham Orchestra

Jack Byfield

Max Jaffa

Michael Krein

Lou Whiteson

The following are examples of programmes by combinations based on the London Studio Players or utilising them as a nucleus for a larger orchestra:

Edward Rubach
Click here!
Listen to selections of music from 'Music on the Move' played by The Novelairs directed by Edward Rubach
as broadcast on the BBC Home Service at 6.35 p.m. on 22nd November 1963 and 29th November 1963.

8.18am Home Service, Sunday 21st. June 1959
played by
The London Theatre Orchestra
Conducted by Reginald Kilbey

Continental Galop
Canadian in Mayfair
Polka Dot
Heart of a Man
Merry Down Green
Selection:Glamorous Night
Dot and Carry One
Fly Away Fiddles
Amore Mio
Blackberry Pie
Georgian Rumba
Derby Day
Clive Richardson
Wally Stott
Eric Cook
Peggy Cochrane/Paddy Roberts
Frank Russell
Ivor Novello
Ronald Hanmer
Peter Yorke
Sidney Torch
Jeanne Harker
Ivor Slaney
Robert Farnon

8.00am Light Programme, Monday 19th. November 1962
London Light Concert Orchestra
Conducted by Michael Krein

(Sig) Melody on the Move
Overture: Susannah's Secret
Tarragona Melody
Jota and Rumba
Hansom Cab
Ballet Egyptien (2nd.Mvt)
Fairy Dance Reel
Belle of the Ball
Molly on the Shore
Dolores Waltz Emile
Fantasy on French Nursery Rhymes
Millers' Dance from the Three Cornered Hat
Nautical Interlude
Bolero (Spanish Dances)
Nutcracker Suite (excerpts)
Sig) Melody on the Move
Clive Richardson
Earl Fisher
Monia Liter
Sidney Torch
Robert Docker
Leroy Anderson
Percy Grainger
George Melachrino
Manuel de Falla
Ernest Tomlinson
Clive Richardson

5.30pm Light Programme, Wednesday 14th. October 1953
Southern Serenade Orchestra
directed by Lou Whiteson

Mexican Magic
L'ultimo Fiore
Cielito Lindo
Alma Espanola
A Garden in Granada
Adormentarmi Cosi
The Baion
Cancien de Amor

11.15am Light Programme, Friday 24th December 1954

Belle of the Ball
The Lazy Gondolier
Selection: Peter Pan
Pale Moon (Violin solo)
Twentieth Century Express
In the Shade of the Palms
Ourselves When Young
Leroy Anderson
Manilla and Forli
Fain and Wallace
Knight Logan arr. Kreisler
Trevor Duncan
Reginald King
Robert Docker

6.33am. Home Service, Tuesday 1st January 1957
The Chameleons
Directed by Ron Peters

Toy Shop Ballet
Scotch and Chaser
Dizzy Duckling
Bolivian Pagan Dance
Lazy Pete
Exactly Like You
Bella Biason
Poste Haste
Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea
Bernie Wayne
Henry Croudson
Harold Geller
Ivor Slaney
Jimmy McHugh
Louis Voss
Nino Ravasini
Derek New
Harold Arlen

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