Talking Music: Former BBC Wales Musical Director, Allan Singleton-Wood Releases Album At 86!
““I’m a bit of a technology freak and I’ve got all the gadgets that you could name,” Allan Singleton-Wood tells Andy Howells as they discuss Allan’s latest album, Golden Oldies for the latest Ents South Wales Audio Supplement podcast.
The Newport-born professional pianist and former music director of the BBC Welsh Dance Orchestra, the featured orchestra in the 1960s BBC national television series Swing High, has just released a new album at the age of 86!
Combining an interest in technology with a life-long passion for music, Allan recently released Golden Oldies via Amazon and Spotify. The album features a computer-generated orchestra playing Allan’s arrangements to accompany his live piano playing.
Allan continues “I treated myself to a keyboard in which I can reproduce any sound in the orchestra. I can create a virtual orchestra and then play live with the recording of the orchestra. I have added extra backing, bass, drums and a guitar, occasionally some violins. So, what you hear is all me!”
Allan who was born in Newport and attended St Julian’s High School first dabbled with music at the age of two.
“My father was a professional musician,” he says, “We toured Scotland with the Bernard Ashe Stage Band in a furniture van. I was two at the time and my father put me in front of the stage on the van to conduct it. I was on the piano, I could read music before I could read and write!
Allan shot to fame in the 1950s playing piano on the BBC Home Service Forces Show featuring alongside such personalities as Richard Murdoch and Kenneth Horne. He had originally been spotted at by BBC Producer Mai Jones while on leave from the RAF performing at the Royal Gwent Fete alongside singing stars Shirley Bassey and Burl Ives.
In 1960, he adopted the stage name Allan Wood, when he became music director of the BBC Welsh Dance Orchestra, broadcasting on the BBC Home service series Swing For Your Supper. A year later, the series formula, combining band music and musical guests transferred to television with the national BBC TV series Swing High. Allan composed songs for the orchestra, including its signature tune and would later write the jingle that accompanied the launch of the BBC Wales television service in 1964.
Allan recalls his contribution to the launch of BBC Wales television service,” I was heavily involved at that time with various things I was doing at the BBC. It was the only jingle and the words were crazy. It was a short snappy thing, but it became a little catchy. “Wales gets its very own TV service in 1964!”, putting music to that was a challenge!”
Allan’s music career was put on hold in 1965, when the interest in big bands wavered in favour of popular music provided by bands such as The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. He started a second career in publishing. Firstly, with The Western Mail in Cardiff, then The Sun in London, before moving to Canada where he became publisher of The Financial Post.
His music career continued a “moonlighting” basis. In 1968, he joined Moxie Whitney's orchestra at the Imperial Room at the Royal York Hotel, Toronto. He was later advised by the President of the Financial Post to concentrate on his publishing career, resulting in Allan not playing piano for over 20 years.
Allan’s publishing career went from strength to strength. He later founded the Canadian Information Productivity Awards (CIPA), which became the leading information technology awards show in the world.
Since retirement, Allan, who now resides in Victoria, Canada, has remained active on the music scene assembling an orchestra and regularly performing with jazz musicians. He’s delighted with the initial response people have given his newly recorded collection of Golden Oldies which features renditions of Music,Music,Music, Unforgettable and Besame Mucho.
“There must be a lot of people who will settle for the nostalgic memories,” he says, “I’ve already had sales in Africa, Italy and a lot in the UK which probably started with my family and all their friends.”
You can listen to Andy Howells chat with Allan Singleton-Wood about his new album and career, which also recalls working alongside such stars as Shirley Bassey, Tommy Steele and Arthur Askey on the latest EntsSouthWales Audio Supplement podcast above.