Light Music

Light Music

water mill

Originating in the 19th century, Light Music is hugely popular. Usually short – always melodic – orchestral pieces composed to appeal to a wide audience, many have become timeless favourites through film, radio and TV. It's well worth discovering.

  • Light Music can be traced back to such giants as Mozart, who often wrote lighter pieces – such as Eine Kleine Nachtmusik. 
  • Later examples include the operettas of Lehár and Gilbert and Sullivan, the Continental salon and parlour music genres, and the waltzes and marches of Johann Strauss II and his family.
  • Seaside orchestras flourished in Britain during the 19th and early 20th century, and played a wide repertoire, from classical pieces to arrangements of popular songs and ballads.
  • Elgar wrote a number of Light popular works, including Salut d'Amour and Chanson de Matin.
  • With the arrival of radio in the late 1920s, and particularly the Light Programme in 1945, radio shows playing Light Music was the dominant musical genre, reaching into millions of homes.
  • Eric Coates defined the structure of Light music, adopting pre-existing forms like the suite, the symphony, and the peculiarly English fantasy.


  • Ronald Binge's cascading string effect was later associated with the music of Mantovani. Binge's Sailing By became known for preceding the radio shipping forecast.
  • Many compositions are familiar as theme music, for example: Trevor Duncan's theme to Dr. Finlay's Casebook or Edward White's Puffin' Billy; Eric Coates's By the Sleepy Lagoon - theme to Desert Island Discs; and Charles Williams' Devil's Galop.

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