Remember Music from the movies when it was in paper form as a magazine, remember silents to satellites, remember the man behind these and other publications that all concentrated on film and television music, well that was John Williams. here in this section are his thoughts, his articles and reviews, welcome back John…


BY John Williams, (c)2020.

As someone who has listened to more film music than he cares to remember and written more words on the subject than is probably healthy, certain thoughts and opinions seem to surface very quickly.   Now I know my opinion is certainly  not any more worthy than yours, and music being the  very being it is,  a subjective  art,  one piece of music heard by say, one hundred people will have one hundred different reactions. That is the way it is.   

But conversely having listened to so such music,  and as to borrow  from  Stanley Myers memorable and masterly OTLEY score, ” The Good, The Bad and the Simply Disgusting”, certain, shall we say priorities , certainly comes to mind.    There are composers who’s, own musical personality shines through whatever they do.  That doesn’t mean they don’t do what they set out to do and are more often than not, well paid for, it is just that is the way they write and that is it.   You may say that John Barry falls into that category, and it is true, he has a distinctive musical voice, but he has been known to vary it every now and then.  I was thinking of Bernard Herrmann and Maurice Jarre,  Two more widely diverse composers you couldn’t think of,   Herrmann, a superb composer no-one could deny, yet wasn’t it Lionel Newman who once said, “Herrmann, he always sounds the same to me and he can’t write a tune!” somewhat harsh but containing a grain of truth.   Maurice Jarre, multiple Oscar Winner, most composers would love to have half his awards and honours, but you can tell his music a mile off, even before his name comes up on the credits.  They score the film well, of course they do, but to me they score it from the outside; they bring their undeniable talents to the movie, but what you hear is what you get.

The other side of the coin is the composer who subjugates his style, personality, his musical traits, to serve the film first, write as much or as little music they feel it needs.  No musical wallpaper here.  To these elite band of composers, serving the film  is paramount above all, even it means, at the end, if you asked someone watching the film, what did you think of the music, they might say what music?.  That is not to say they can’t write good themes, memorable themes, but that is a secondary consideration. These, to me are the true artists in the undeniable art of film music.

I don’t know enough to comment on the current crop of composers here and the Stats. From the little I have heard; some can’t even write music.  though I have heard some good music from France, and believe it not, Russia and the Eastern Europe, but in the UK. Film and Television music has vanished.

More so then to savour the composers that serve us well, and composers who put the needs of the film first. I think with genuine admiration of the music of  Nic Bicat, who’s collaborations with Clive Donner and Philip Ridley come to mind, but, to me  there is only one who epitomises all what I have been trying to say, and that composer is Richard Hartley.

I may be totally wrong here but I think the first film I saw scored by Richard was one of Rank’s attempts in the late 70s to enter the world of film production once more, a remake of THE LADY VANISHES  but this time in wide screen and in colour.   The principal theme used over the credits was composed by the wonderful Les Reed, and the theme was used a musical device later in the film, but, I am getting ahead of myself here. The obvious question most interviewers ask Film Composers , and I am no exception, for after all, unless you are  like Jerry Goldsmith and born in LA , most composers , don’t start their career writing for the Cinema, so how did it all start?

” In the early 1960s there was a film review programme on the radio and they played clips from new films, s one would hear dialogue but they were often underscored, that was my first introduction to the art of film music.  I started piano lessons at the age of 5 and studied music theory then later orchestration and composition when I lived in Paris in 1966. My first film was a documentary about Gerard Manley Hopkins followed by one about Achille Island, they were both student films directed by a friend of mine. In the early 1970s I did orchestrations for Chappell’s the publishers and overdubbed strings on Reggae Records for Trojan then met Jim Sharman who hired me to write music for a play written by Sam Shepard that he was directing at the Royal Court. He also directed “The Rocky Horror Show” and that is how it all began.”

I would have the thought the main breakthrough came with Joe Losey, though I suspect he had very firm ideas on the use of music in his films? 

“My first film with Joe was Brecht’s “Galileo” which Joe had directed on Broadway with Charles Laughton. It was part of a series of plays that were filmed for The American Film Theatre, I ‘d recently returned from Sydney where I had been the Musical Director for a production of The Threepenny Opera in the opening season at the Sydney Opera  House. I orchestrated Han’s Eisler’s songs and wrote the incidental music.  Joe was very happy with my work and hired me for his next film “The Romantic Englishwoman”. He told me the story of “The Go-Between”!   Joe hated the way Hollywood films were scored but mostly left the spotting and discussions about the music to me and his long time editor. Reggie Beck”

I think we must be near THE LADY VANISHES now.  I personally enjoyed   it far more than Hitchcock’s somewhat over-rated movie, and this had the advantages of a all star cast, and filmed on location.  The only thing that spoilt it for me was Cybill Shepherds well over the top heroine, but it is a flaw I can well overlook.   I wondered if there was ever a soundtrack LP envisaged, as one did appear for Ed Welch’s THE 39 STEPS.?

“My music contractor worked with Philip Martell on many Hammer films and he made the introduction. The Les Reed music was already in place but I fitted it to the film and Bob Stewart and I orchestrated it. A soundtrack was mentioned but never materialized”

There was feeling around that time that you didn’t do many movies, am I right?

” Yes that is right. I was producing records for a while and also a Musical at the Royal Court (Theatre) which I am afraid wasn’t a success.  During that period I scored THE LADY VANISHES for Hammer and the next film was BAD TIMING for Nic Roeg.  I knew Jeremy Thomas (the Producer) from years ago, when he was a Editor.   Nic always paid the most unbelievable attention to detail, even for the smallest things. He had heard a particular piece of music in a cutting room somewhere and asked me if I knew what it was. Funnily enough, I knew it was a French Bass player called Francois Rabat, who has a unusual style of playing the Double Bass, anyway we found him, recorded this piece that Nic had heard, and then it had to be remixed, etc. and eventually what had started out as a two-day job went on for months!

I think Nic was the first Director I worked with who really loved music and so was Bernardo Bertolucci.  They both held the view that it was part of the fabric of Cinema”  On BAD TIMING, the brief was to re-record the Pachelbel Canon and a Beethoven Overture, but it didn’t end there  and there and three months later I was still working on the film. I think we re-recorded one short cue 3 times before Nic was happy. On STEALING BEAUTY, there was contemporary soundtrack but Bernardo also wanted a composed film score so that was a much easier to film to work on.

Then I did a film called BAD BLOOD. It was originally intended for the Cinema and partly financed by Southern TV.   SHOCK TREATMENT at the time was going to be a sequel to THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW.   but it really ended up a mess!   The script was continually being changed and we had to adapt the songs to the new script as we went along.  The original was a total Hammer horror sequel, with Frankenstein rising from the grave and that sort of thing!  I don’t think Fox fully realized what movie genre it basically was. I think they wanted something else – something different”

I am not sure if we are in sequence here, but it doesn’t really matter.  Then there was SHEENA!

“Ah yes SHEENA !  I had been in France doing a film with Joe Losey – in fact, I had done two with him- one was DON GIOVANNI and I went to help him mix the music. It really needed a lot of technical work to sort it out and in fact I spent some three months on it.   Joe then did a film that didn’t come out here called LA TRUITE and the Producer was doing this SHEENA film with John Guillermin   The main theme for SHEENA was a demo I had written in the late 1970s for a music library company but they rejected it, then it was to be the B side of Torvill and Dean’s BOLERO single. 

John Guillermin  wanted to hear some of my music , so I gave him a cassette, but for some reason or other I had left on this Torvill and Dean B side.  They just loved it and got Columbia to buy it, and then John got me to do the rest.   First they flew me out to Kenya to play tunes on a piano, and then to Guinea to record Ballet African.  I very nearly ended up in jail as I had no visa – I just bluffed my way in – The film had to be finished by a certain date so they would dub two reels, I’d write the music and it went on like that. Sometimes I’d have only have 3 minutes of music and we would have a orchestra booked in all day!  There were long sequences, ten-minute cues, travelogues long shots of flamingoes – no plot!  I remember John sending me the script and saying, “You won’t understand it – this is being made for American audiences. The record sold well though! SHEENA, has endured because I think it’s referenced in the Best of the Worst Film category.  It was my first film using synthesizers. On some cues we had 23tracks of synths and 23 tracks of orchestra synched up using smpte code……. often a precarious venture”.

Richard has worked on many Films and Series for Television so it is difficult to know where to start, but how about the Mini Series KENNEDY with Martin Sheen and Blair Brown.

“I had a great time doing that. It was the first film I had worked with Jim Goddard. There were a number of gospel songs in the script and there were a lot of violent scenes in the fil , so instead of violins etc, we decided to play against it and we recorded Gospel Singers. It was too expensive to use Mahalia Jackson, but I had seen this Gospel picture called SAY AMEN, SOMEBODY and there was this woman in it with a absolutely incredible voice , not well known but we tracked her down. – she was a school teacher!  We went to this Baptist Church and in one weekend we recorded everything we required. I like doing things like that which need a lot of source music”   We also recorded the U.S. Marine Band playing Sousa Marches. KENNEDY was a joy and I worked on it for several months”

In 1985, Richard scored the Screen Two movie THE MACGUFFIN, obviously a tribute to Hitchcock, and as well as Charles Dance, there were marvellous cameos from Anna Massey and Ann Todd, both from earlier Hitchcock movies.   The principal theme I have never forgotten after all these years, and I am very curious about this one.   

“I borrowed from everybody for that one!  Jerry Goldsmith at the beginning with a bit of CHINATOWN and a bit of THE TROUBLE WITH HARRY in the middle. The Director was a Hitchcock devotee and there was a scene in a park with a dog, and there was a kind of comedy – thriller music that Herrmann was very good at writing. I am sure it wasn’t tongue in cheek but that was the way it came out, so that was the way he wanted it to come out.  Instead of borrowing the scene entirely, I took notes from it, and we had the sound of the dog as well. I think we mixed it down so it didn’t sound too obvious, we had  the two notes and the dog barking in the gap.. There was a bit of Rossini in the middle as well, and the Director also liked Pino Donaggio, a sort of over – the – top – Herrmann, so I think we had a bit of everyone in the film”   “There was one thing about THE MACGUFFIN when it was being dubbed. The Producer thought it was too loud, too long, too over the top. It was very popular, especially with younger people .It had that fast, almost American approach to film making”

Marvellous, marvellous movie which can still be viewed on You-tube.  Richard also worked for the same director again for HIGH TIDE.  this time going even further down the Hitchcock – and Herrmann route. Ian McShane comes out of Jail and travels down to the West Country to find out more about the people that got him into prison in the first place.  Here he encounters John Bird and Kika Markham. Very much a West Country noir!   If there was any downside, it was just the narration, just when all you wanted to hear was the music.

“Colin Bucksey (the Director) is a big fan of Hitchcock and I of Herrmann. We even recorded the score at Denham with Eric Tomlinson who had recorded several films with Herrmann. This was a piece of total self-indulgence but it worked with the film. I think Colin would have shot it in black and white if he had been allowed……….. and there was a lot of music”.

Back tracking somewhat, Richard worked on a major BBC series in the late 1970s that was extremely popular, so much so in fact that it is still available to watch on DVD, and that is PENMARRIC.

” I wrote the music for the first 4 episodes but had previous commitments, so I suggested Bob Stewart to the Producers, and he expanded my themes for the other episodes. The music budget was OK as it was the big Autumn costume drama for 1979. Given the time I would orchestrate myself but often that’s not possible.. I do however make very comprehensive sketches…… Bob Stewart in the early days and then John Bell, sadly both no longer with us”.  

There was also Patricia Hodge in JEMIMA SHORE INVESTIGATES somewhat later.

” I scored all the JEMINA SHORE episodes with al little re-imagining of Vivaldi for the Title music at the suggestion of producer Verity Lambert”

There was another Screen Two movie – amongst many – entitled THE IMPOSSIBLE SPY. 

 ” It was a very good film and very popular, winning the American Cable Award. It told the true story of a man who spied for Israel and at the same time was a member of the Syrian Cabinet.   Another film I did THE GOOD FATHER won the Italia Prize. There was no money on that one at all and we did it with just two guitars and a piano. That was with Mike Newell. Most of the films were low budget and on one I even subsidised the recording, but generally he lets me get on with it, play a few ideas, then finesse them in the studio…….if there was time!  .  On GREAT EXPECTATIONS, there was a reasonable budget but the Producers wanted to see/hear the score with the film so I had to supply orchestral simulations. I think he only asked me to change one cue”

TUMBLEDOWN with Colin Firth got Richard a nomination for his score,

 ” Richard Eyre is another director who loves music. He had used a piece of stirring music by William Walton over the titles to slightly ‘ape’ the war movies of the 1950s, two guys thrilled at the thought of going into battle, the film contrasts the brutalities of war with the equally callous treatment of British Solider’s who are injured serving their country and the way Robert Lawrence adjusted to his new disability. We couldn’t use the Walton music. Again, Richard wasn’t afraid of using music and we had a large orchestra by BBC standards”

If TUMBLEDOWN needed a English approach, so did CONSUMING PASSIONS and THE RECTOR’S WIFE. 

  “It was laid up with Holst. I love working with orchestras and on CONSUMING PASSIONS we had a very large orchestra. Both very English with quotations from Elgar, Vaughan Williams and Finzi. but all in the best possible taste!

It is only recently I came across a film Richard scored entitled VICTORY (1996) with William Defoe and based on a novel by Joseph Conrad.  I wasn’t too sure what to make of it, but stuck with it for obvious reasons, and was well rewarded with an excellent film that passed me by all those years ago.  The score works so well, but not in an outwardly spectacular way. 

” This was a Miramax co-production so the heavy hand of Harvey Weinstein and his ‘interest’ in music meant I was the third composer for the film. We recorded over 60 minutes of fairly complicated orchestral music in 4 sessions thanks to brilliant musicians and impeccable engineering by Chris Dibble at CTS in Wembley.  Every single cue had to be tempted up using synthesisers, then mixed with the film and sent to Miramax before they would sign off on the score, we received  final approval on the Saturday before we recorded on the following Monday. It was an intense 5 weeks working fourteen hour days but I was very happy with the score and consider it to be amongst the best I have written”

Towards the end of the 1990s, you would have seen Richard’s name on a number of film from the Hallmark Organisation, mainly remakes of classic stories, DON QUIXOTE, ALICE IN WONDERLAND, and THE LION IN WINTER. It is a tribute to Richard’s scoring of the latter, that I never thought of the famed score for the earlier movie with the same name!  I wondered how these projects came about? 

  “They came through Dyson Lovell who approached me to score ALICE IN WONDERLAND. I’d never worked for him before but he said he’d looked at my credits and seen I had worked with many directors several times so he assumed I wouldn’t be a difficult person to work with!   Initially I had reservations about ALICE so they showed me around the Jim Henson workshop with all the different special effects they’d been working on, both Chris Thompson and Dyson were very committed to the project so I accepted”

DON QUIXOTE is just a wonderful film and score, and the middle of a very wet winter, it seems even more of a joy to watch. and whilst I have never been to Spain, just close your eyes and listen to the music and you would think you were there!   

 ” The Philharmonia Orchestra, Abbey Road Studio1 and a generous budget….. I was in heaven. Peter Yates the director pretty much left the music up to me, in fact he was on holiday when we recorded  but his son was the Editor and the only change we made was a triangle for a cymbal crash towards the end. Dyson Lovell was the producer and he trusted me, and I received an Emmy nominatio. It was a huge canvas to work with and a chance to compose a neo-romantic score”

Sadly a lot of BBC SCREEN TWO and BBC 1 equivalent remains unseen since their first showing, and many before the advent of VHS recorders. Thankfully there are many movies that Richard scored easily available on DVD and on occasion Blu Ray.  TALKING TO A STRANGER, HITLERS S.S.  ARMADILLO– the latter worth a look very strange and quirky later BBC production, the afore mentioned JEMINA SHORE, DON QUIXOTE, LION IN WINTER and superb USA Blu Ray of SHEENA which is a excellent print.   Another wonderful score can be heard in THE SECRET RAPTURE.  A very moving movie and the cast is just superb. The music is beyond belief. 

“It is a very sad story, originally a stage play. I worked very hard on this score , the music budget was minimal and the trumpet (the late great Derek Watkins)was recorded in the kitchen of my engineer friend Phil Chapman. There is a hint of the melodramatic scores of yester-year but underneath the orchestra are some very elaborate synthetic shapes. Thanks for the compliment”.

Oh yes, one more that I watched recently and shows so well how Richard merges his music into the, well, already mentioned the fabric of the film so it is almost another character. THE LIFE AND DEATH OF PETER SELLERS with a superb performance by Geoffrey Rush.   I thought it might be a difficult film to score?   

“It was although the Director had some firm ideas about what he wanted which always helps. The main difficulty was we were due to record in early January, I’d  tempted up all the cues and they had been synched up with the film but the head of HBO was on Christmas Holiday and no one wanted to sign off on the score before he did , so I had Abbey Road studio 2 and a orchestra on hold………..!  The score had one theme that is used in Seller’s relationship with his mother also quite a bit of  ‘source music’ that I composed and as his performance and personality continually changes from film to film , so does the music.”

To conclude I asked Richard about scoring here and abroad, and the current state of movie music?

“I like the European approach to a picture, and I suppose Morricone was the prime example of this. Some of the music is totally incongruous and may have nothing to do with what you are watching, but because he had a clever harmonic structure, it never quite moves when you think it is going to.  Jerry Goldsmith was one of the most consistent composers and he had a style all of his own.

Film music has evolved beyond recognition over the past 50 years. especially with the use of synthesizers and there is probably more music in films now than in the golden era of Hollywood. Some film composers are now deservedly celebrities and their scores are performed as concert pieces, there is a great interest in how they are composed and recorded and the list of musicians composing for film is ever expanding.   When you think back to Jerry Goldsmith’s ‘Planet of the Apes’ a score which to my mind was the first serious use of orchestral sound design, Goldsmith’s only electronic aid was the echoplex (which he used to great effect in ‘Patton’) but his atonal orchestral textures combined with a vast array of ethnic instruments and percussion can now be easily simulated in minutes using samples and synthesizers.

It only takes a second to get a good idea……….. It’s just getting that idea!     That good idea can take a while, I’d often sit at the piano and improvise. 

sometimes that nugget would emerge. If not, try, try again!”

I felt I must go back to my observations that Richard doesn’t like to make the music draw attention to itself, unless it needs to, perhaps over the Main Titles.  ” I’ve always tried to employ a minimalist approach to underscore even before it was fashionable and called ‘sound design’, some directors liked it, others wanted a more up front approach”

This then is Richard Hartley, a music man for all seasons.  A composer who scores what he sees, and perhaps more importantly, what you don’t see!

I sincerely hope that you have enjoyed this article, and I hope you will investigate Richard’s music by listening to some of his recordings.  I most certainly recommend the following.

THE LION IN WINTER  Varese Sarabande  VSD-6571

ALICE IN WONDERLAND Varese Sarabande VSD-6021


PRINCESS CARABOO   Varese Sarabande  VSD-554.

A THOUSAND ACRES   Varese Sarabande  VSD-5870

DON QUIXOTE Varese Sarabande VSD-6142

GREAT EXPECTATIONS Metropolis  8781017

SHEENA Varese Sarabande  Club  VCL 1104. (very rare)

With thanks to Richard Hartley, for his time, courtesy, friendship and most importantly, his patience.

This article is dedicated to the memory of Peter Kent who passed away a few years back, and loved Richard’s music as much as I still do now.  I hope he would have approved though I think he might have said it more eloquently  

© 2020 John Williams.



  Music inspired by the Motion Picture
                                Composed, and Conducted by Howard Blake            
                                         DDR687 Dragon’s Domain Records.
Many, many years ago, sometimes it seems in a different existence, a colleague from work and myself travelled up from the coast of Devon to Harrogate in Yorkshire, where the Menswear Trade was holding it’s half yearly Exhibition , when it previously it was held in Earls Court in London . I can’t recall where we were staying, but most of the hotels were close together. I recall going to The Old Swan Hotel, where some Exhibitors were showing, and then to the Royal Baths. It was worlds away from the bustle of London, and a superb relaxed atmosphere and I always recall it with enjoyment. I am pretty sure there was a plaque on the wall of the Old Swan re Agatha Christie , but I can’t really remember. I know now I walked the way of Agatha Christie all those years ago, and later Vanessa Redrgave did some ten years on from my visit.

Agatha Christie disappeared from home for well on 11 days in 1926. A nationwide hunt was launched for her, her marriage was going through a tricky period, and no one really knew where she was. When Ms Christie published her auto-biography many years later, the episode was basically glossed over, so no-one will ever really know what happened. Kathleen Tynan wrote a book on the story and collaborated with Arthur Hopcraft on a screenplay.. It was also well known at the time, that the Christie Family tried to get the Movie stopped and put up a fair bit of opposition against it, though, ultimately to no avail Vanessa Redgrave was cast as Ms Christie, not exactly type casting , certainly nor in stature, as Ms Christie was not exceptionally tall, and we as know , Dustin Hoffman who was cast as Wally Stanton, a fictional Newspaper man who eventually found her, is not , shall was say, that tall. So their scenes together , were somewhat incongruous , which didn’t help with the acceptance of the story . That said it was stunningly photographed and the whole venture had a fell of loss, hidden feeling and untold pain.

Which of course, would have been something a good ,well written score would have provided. When we originally saw the film, it probably wasn’t known that Howard Blake wrote an original score which subsequently dumped when it seems that Vanessa Redgrave wasn’t too keen on it. I should say that a lot of the coverage on this side of the story is highlighted in the CD Booklet so I won’t go into here. suffice to say, it was felt that a more modern score with a song was needed. Cue the arrival of Johnny Mandel, a consummate musician who’s great achievement must be rated as his score of the Richard Burton / Elizabeth Taylor movie THE SANDPIPER with its superb song “The Shadow of your Smile”. Which all worked sublimely there but in AGATHA, whether it was time restraints or lack of direction, Mr Mandel came up with basically a one tune score which at the end was worked into a song with lyrics courtesy of Paul Williams. He made the movie more sentimental and it did not propel the story or delve into the minds of the characters as it should have done, indeed I often felt it seemed to be written for a different film all together.



Which brings me, at long last to the main subject of this review. The score of Howard Blake which thankfully has been preserved and showcased in this amazing CD.

As an admirer of the works of Howard Blake for a very long time, I thought that his masterworks were THE DUELLISTS and THE RIDDLE OF THE SANDS (a particular favourite), but how wrong I was. Add AGATHA to these masterly scores.

Right from the opening cue (Prelude) we have a score that has been carefully thought out, lovingly created, and recorded with a clarity that takes your breath away. Whereas A MONTH IN THE COUNTRY tapped into the more Pastoral nuances of early 20th Century Orchestral music, here whilst sounding definitely English , has more cosmopolitan feel, more provincial, and full of a sense of not really knowing where the film will take us. Does it end up a possible murder mystery, a love story , a bit of both, or the novelist, just escaping from a marriage that has totally broken down. Coupled with the fact that as has mentioned before, the two main characters are not really written well enough for you to care what happens to them. Here Howard Blake’s score would have accomplished that. What you could not see on the screen or hear in the script, the score is telling you and propelling one to a end that anyone knowing the story before hand would have known

The Prelude sets the Scene and introduces the main theme, finely tuned and exquisitely orchestrated, which will surface again in “Agatha and Wally”. “Schnee” is almost atonal, but Howard very rarely goes down this route and there is a underlying sense of melody. “Following Baths” is a faster cue , where, is Wally following Agatha??. Maybe not. “Therapy Room Door” is very dramatic, drums and full orchestra. whilst I reserve full praise for a 6 minute cue entitles “They Don’t Believe / Closing”. To me it sounds like “They Didn’t Believe Me, originally written by Jerome Kern and Herbert Reynolds. It is not played in full or sung but running around one minute, just quoted segues beautifully into “Closing” – harp, strings and woodwinds utilising the principal theme to bring the score to a satisfying conclusion

dragons domain

Anyone remotely interested in British Film Music should avail themselves of this recording. It is required listening. Certainly it a major canon in the works of Howard Blake. Much as we all love THE SNOWMAN, there is much, much more than this score to the continuing genius of Howard Blake., but then we know that anyway!!

Don’t hesitate, just buy it!!




If I was pushed into a corner, and asked to name the most influential, most talented , adept and skilled British Composer of the latter half of the 20th Century, (OK I know I haven’t but just humour me!) well, there should be a few choices. Composers of Integrity and very proficient. Several Composers flit across my brain, but once they have disappeared into a quiet corner, well, there is only one serious contender. One name. Richard Harvey

Richard can do anything. Anything. Apart from his scores for Television, Cinema, and Production Library efforts that make most full blown scores like amateurish, you have Concertos ( Concerto Antico – John Williams), a Oratorio ( The Plague and the Moonflower), a stupendous work, filmed by the BBC amid the splendours of Salisbury Cathedral featuring Roger Chase – Viola, John Williams – Guitar – Kym Amps – soloist etc) and to my knowledge, broadcast one only, still thankfully the CD is still available. This is required listening for anyone with a interest in Richards music. There is also a wonderful Concerto for Viola and Small Orchestra, featuring Roger Chase again, and Premiered back in the 1990’s in Exeter Cathedral, for which I was fortunate enough to attend. This Concerto is available on CD, coupled with Vaughan Williams no less! Then don’t forget his work a featured soloist on many film scores, John Williams, (Harry Potter. Hans Zimmer (The De Vinci Code) and Harry Gregson – Williams (Kingdom of heaven).

Which brings me to the CD in question, EVENSONG. A delightful, peaceful collection of choral music written by Richard and with text’s he has adapted. Here with the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, he has fashioned yet another, highly original album of music that it is a real pleasure to settle down and listen to.

We have 10 cues, mostly for Chorus, sometimes on its own, and on occasion with solo instruments. I particularly like The Call for Mixed Chorus and Harp with Strings. This starts with just the Harp so delicate before the strings come in. Et in Arcadia is for Chorus with Percussion, and again Richard’s expertise with instrumentation comes to the fore here. The last band, self-titled EvenSong has the Mixed Chorus joined by Organ, Harp, Recorder and Psaltery. What a way to finish!
It possibly brings into play the question of shall we say how spiritual you have to be to enjoy this. As we all know, the are many roads to self-enlightenment. If you were religious, I feel the music would be of enormous benefit to you, If you weren’t, then you can find peace and contentment for just sitting down, perhaps late at night, at the end of the a strenuous day. As this is a strictly personal review, for myself, I can find God or something spiritual in a piece of music or a favourite book, not in a lifetime of going to Church on Sunday’s.

I don’t find God there. One of my favourite people was Bryan Forbes, and the very last paragraph of his very last book, breaks me up every time I read it. I listen to Richard’s PLAGUE AND THE MOON FLOWER and say to myself; Yes, there must be a God! “The afore mentioned PLAGUE AND THE MOONFLOWER gave a us, if you like, a foretaste of Richard’s choral skills, so of course his new Choral albums would come as no real surprise” Is it any better than Richard’s last album, KYRIE.? Not better, certainly on a par and just as good. Richard is such a good composer that he would never re-cycle old ideas, so shall we say a companion piece.  A fitting testament to the continuing ability and integrity of Britain’s finest Richard Harvey.


Review by John Williams. © 2020.

New Choral Music by Richard Harvey




A new album- if that is the right word – by Debbie Wiseman is an event indeed. I think it must be the first since her excellent CDs of 2018, the hauntingly moving music for EDIE – Certainly one of her finest, and THE GLORIOUS GARDEN, for which there are parallels here, for it is basically the same concept. Whereas on the earlier album, we had Alan Titchmarsh reading his poems to the backdrop of Debbie’s music, and then the same music played sans voice over, here it is very similar, albeit in a slightly shorter form.

The excellent Mr Fry, who puts us all to shame, for he seems to do everything, and just not that, he does it all to perfection as well, has written a book based on Greek Legends entitled MYTHOS. and at the launch party for the book, Mr Fry mentioned to Debbie that perhaps a suite based on the book could be composed. From the written word, Debbie and Mr Fry have fashioned a most enjoyable recording, a combination of evocative music and well-chosen prose. What I like is the high standard that Debbie brings to every project she approaches. From Film Scores, TV Music, themes and pieces for Classic FM Concerts, the music never disappoints, always uplifts and at a time when Film Music is undergoing a period of change, her music, is well, just sublime, melodic ,full of integrity, and in fact, a light shining in a film music darkness.

Mr Fry is a wonderful raconteur and his melodious voice is just perfect on the tracks he appears. It starts with “The Story of Chaos”, the beginning of life as it were, followed by the music sans dialogue. Very slow and, to me very modern and as if the music is being born out of nothing. The next music cue, “Hidden Danger” seems to flow for the earlier cue, and opens up the original theme.

debbie wiseman with stephen fry

I really love “The Story of Apollo and Marsyas” as told by Mr Fry with Debbie’s music undulating behind it. The revelation is to hear this cue, on its own, with solo mandolin carrying the melody, and whilst I have never been to Greece, one can imagine looking over a headland to the blue sea below with the small coastal town in the background just coming to life, and the soft , warm breeze gently brushing against you – There I go, wishing my life away again.

A wonderful concept album, not to be missed, not overly long, but of the highest standard possible, Further testament to the continuing genius of Debbie Wiseman. I liked it a lot, and when I had played it, I went back and played it again!!

Full marks all round.

Review by John Williams. 

Music Composed and Conducted by Debbie Wiseman
Words and Narration by Stephen Fry
Performed by the National Symphony Orchestra
Decca 4818820. Also available on various digital platforms.




carl d


Article by John Williams.

Even a cursory look through Carl Davis’ credits, shows the wide span and scale of his composing ability. Right from his earliest days in the UK, he has never been a composer that you could easily pigeonhole. Everything he has undertaken has been done with a style and sheer brilliance that at times can take your breath away

He is well known for a number of major and successful projects: THE WORLD AT WAR, NAPOLEON, CHAMPIONS, CRANFORD, PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, THE FRENCH LIEUTENANT’S WOMAN, the list goes on. Scores for Silent Movies, Documentaries, Animated, Ballet’s,quite amazing.


Yet between these bigger and more famous scores, there are a lot of fine and outstanding music that seem to have not had the public acclaim. Well, no that isn’t quite fair. THE SNOW GOOSE, starring Richard Harris and Jenny Agutter, shown during the Christmas Holidays in the early Seventies, was in fact the first time I saw Carl’s name on any credit. Those were the halcyon days, when the Radio Times only listed BBC programmes, and on the majority of BBC produced films or series, the Composer was actually listed. Such joy!!. That is a wonderful, emotional score, and in fact I only just realised it was only around a hour in duration, which is indeed quite short. Who could ever forget Jenny Agutter trudging away from the Windmill, at the end, clutching the picture that Richard Harris painting, to Carl’s moving score.There was a EMI LP produced not long after this that contains 3 cues. but we had to wait years for CARL’S WAR, a CD from Carl’s own label before we had a recording worthy of the name. An 18-minute tour-de-force of all the principal themes, not in filmic order, but as a fantasy. On CD,it is amazing, but I surely would love to hear in a Concert environment at some point.


I also have fond memories of EAGLE OF THE NINTH, MARIE CURIE, LORNA DOONE, FAIR STOOD THE WIND FOR FRANCE. Golden days of BBC Serials and one – off films. I also miss seeing HOLLYWOOD, which was precursor to the many scores that Carl has written for Silent films, and which to my knowledge is not available either on DVD or Blu Ray.

In 1977, Carl collaborated with John Wells in a one off, so called Pop Opera for BBC 2’s THE LIVELY ARTS. It was entitled ORPHEUS IN THE UNDERGROUND, IMDB have very little on this half hour musical, so much so in fact, I wondered if I had made it up. It’s in Carl’s credits, but information is sketchy. Thankfully I have now, courtesy of Radio Times online, found more information. It was shown on BBC 2 on 27th December 1977 at 19-55. It was of course a update of the old legend, and contains no less than eight songs. The music was provided by a very interesting combination of the Gabreli String Quartet, and George Fenton on guitar – no less.

If memory serves me right, it was singers and dancers against a almost- remember this is 1977 – computerised background so at no time did you see the actual London Underground. “It’s here, Where?? – on the line, Where?? – on the Circle line, doesn’t anyone care, doesn’t anyone know” lyrics that drift in and out of my brain over the years. That classic line, “Stand clear of the doors” is sung at various stages throughout the film. I don’t remember much of the dancing as such. but the music in lyrics are superb. Carl and John collaborated later on a similar project, the year later I think entitled IN THE LOOKING GLASS. Graphics, way off stories and again interesting words and music from John and Carl again and Carl appeared in them as a actor.!

I am quite sure in fact, that Carl and John worked years earlier on a version of CRANFORD. Yes I know Carl scored CRANFORD in this Century, but I am sure I saw a earlier version when after the opening credits, ladies in full costume swirl in , singing, “Good morning” to each other, though this appears on no-ones CV so maybe I have just watched to much TV over the last 50 years!!

I once had a somewhat battered cassette tape of ORPHEUS IN THE UNDERGROUND, which I treasured for a long time, till I moved around the Country much too much, and that with a number of other tapes vanished, so if anyone has any more information etc, then please do let me know. I doubt if I will actually see or hear ORPHEUS again before I leave this mortal coil, and that saddens me, but hey, I have it all the time, I can see it NOW at will and I can recall plenty of the music,. When I can’t remember some of the broadcasts, I saw last week, it must say something when you can recall at will a programme you saw only once over 40 years ago

Thanks Carl