Ronald Binge (15 July 1910 – 6 September 1979) was a British composer and arranger of light music. He arranged many of Mantovani's most famous pieces before composing his own music, which included Elizabethan Serenade and Sailing By.
|You may hear Ronald Binge's Elizabethan Serenade as performed by Annunzio Mantovani and the Mantovani Orchestra in 1971 Here on archive.org|
Binge was born in a working-class neighbourhood in Derby, Derbyshire, in the English Midlands. In his childhood he was a chorister at Saint Andrews Church (Church of England), London Road, Derby – 'the railwaymen's church' (demolished 1970). Binge was educated at the Derby School of Music, where he studied the organ. Early in his career he was a cinema organist and later started working in summer orchestras in British seaside resorts (including Blackpool and Great Yarmouth), for which he learned to play the piano accordion. Binge's skill as a cinema organist was put to good use, and he played the organ in Mantovani's first band, the Tipica Orchestra. During the Second World War, he served in the Royal Air Force, during which time he was much in demand organising in-camp entertainment.
After the war, Mantovani offered Binge the job of arranging and composing for his new orchestra. In 1951, his arrangement of "Charmaine" gave him and Mantovani worldwide success and recognition. However, he later tired of writing arrangements and turned to composing original works and film scores. He died in Ringwood, Hampshire, of liver cancer in 1979 aged 69.
In early 2013, Derby City Council and Derby Civic Society announced they would put a blue plaque on one of his two early homes in Derby (83 Darby Street, Normanton, or 29 Wiltshire Road, Chaddesden).
Binge was interested in the technicalities of composition and was most famous as the inventor of the "cascading strings" effect that is the signature sound of the Mantovani orchestra, much used in their arrangements of popular music. It was originally created to capture the essence of the echo properties of a building such as a cathedral, although it later became particularly associated with easy-listening music.
Binge's best-known composition is probably Elizabethan Serenade (1951), which was used by the British Broadcasting Corporation as the theme for the popular 1950s series, "Music Tapestry," and as the play-out for the British Forces Network radio station, and for which in 1957 he won an Ivor Novello Award. It was later turned into a vocal version called "Where the Gentle Avon Flows", with lyrics by the poet Christopher Hassall. A reggae version of the tune, "Elizabethan Reggae", was performed by Boris Gardiner in 1970. Binge is also known for Sailing By (1963), which introduces the late-night Shipping Forecast on BBC Radio 4. Other well-known pieces include Miss Melanie, Like Old Times, The Watermill (1958) for oboe and strings, and his Concerto for Alto Saxophone in E-flat major (1956). His largest, longest, and most ambitious work is the four-movement Symphony in C ("Saturday Symphony"), which was written during his retirement between 1966 and 1968, and performed in Britain and Germany.
Less well known is a piano piece known as "Vice Versa", a musical palindrome which was not only a front-to-back palindrome, but also exploited the two staves used for writing for piano. The music reads the same whichever way it is turned. He later extended this theme, composing a piece known as "Upside/Downside" for his son, who was learning to play the recorder at Downside School. This musical palindrome was for piano, recorder and cello and again was universally reversible – two players could play from the same sheet of music reading from opposite ends.