Modern music from bardic ballads

Providing the music for Dewch i Mewn and more is Derek Hilton

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From the TVTimes for week commencing 9 February 1958

TAKE a pianist, guitarist, bass player and drummer. Give them a tune. Pick a rhythm that has an exciting beat. That’s the style of the Derek Hilton Quartet, which has been presenting a new sound on some Granada programmes.

Viewers have heard it in The Youngsters, People and Places, Sharp at Four and even in a Shadow Squad night club scene.

Welsh viewers hear it even more frequently. For Derek adds something new to traditional Welsh ballads for Granada’s Welsh programme Dewch I Mewn, seen on Channel 9 only in the North.

The quartet’s clear, haunting style reminds me of another group – the Modern Jazz Quartet. So I was hardly surprised when Derek said: “They are my favourites. I have many of their records, and like their style.” Derek admitted that this kind of music was not yet very popular. “But it will be,” he prophesied, confidently.

Certainly Derek’s modern jazz interpretations are keeping him busy, and his quartet is used in many Granada programmes. Derek himself used to play the piano in Spot The Tune!

He does the arrangements which are played by drummer Red Carter, guitarist Les Beavers, bass player Bob Duffy and Derek on the piano.

Three people on instruments
Three members of the Derek Hilton Quartet

Derek Hilton, who is married to a Dutch girl he met when he was in the army, does not have a piano at home, so I was interested to know how he works.

“A piano would be no help,” he explained. “Arrangements that are good on a piano do not always sound well when played by a quartet. A piano would be a hindrance, and that is why I do not have one.”

Derek has a keen knowledge of music, gleaned since he began learning to play at the age of seven. “I read the music and can hear the tune in my mind,” the tall, bespectacled band leader told me.

Derek has to work quickly, for he spends so much of his time playing. Since his quartet first began broadcasting on the Welsh programme, he has arranged more than 30 Welsh ballads to suit his team’s style.

“I find Welsh songs are easy to arrange. They have a clear melody, and I enjoy playing them much more than some of the new songs which are being published today,” he said.

Derek explained: “The scope for arrangements in modern tunes is limited, but I can do a lot with Welsh tunes.”

He has the music for 60 Welsh ballads. “I think that most of the country’s folk songs have been published,” said Derek. “but I am on the lookout for some more.

“I would be glad if viewers would tell me of any lesser known Welsh songs which we could play in the programme.”

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