Born John Douglas Louis Veale in Bromley Kent on June 15th,1922, composer John Veale, is again one of the driving and original forces within British concert hall and film music that is at times sadly overlooked. Veale attended the Dragon School in Oxford from 1930 through to 1936, and then later went to Repton school which was in Derbyshire from 1936 up until 1940. After this Veale attended The Corpus Christi College in Oxford until 1942 where he studied History. Even when he was a young child Veale took a keen interest in music, which was something of a surprise as none of his family as in his parents or siblings were musically inclined, although his Father did like to listen to Gilbert and Sullivan. Veale found himself particularly attracted to the sound of the wind instruments and whilst attending the Dragon School and at the age of twelve was given a clarinet for his Birthday. He taught himself to play the instrument and when he moved onto Repton School took lessons and began to experiment in composing. He then began to play in the school orchestra and was a member of a jazz band and tried to emulate his hero at the time Benny Goodman. It was the arrival of his new music teacher in 1939, John Gardener who opened the young composers mind to other composers and widened his appreciation of the classical music world, in the form of Sibelius and Shostakovich that really fired up Veale’s interest in composition. It was Gardener who also introduced Veale to the work of William Walton via a performance of Walton’s first symphony. Veale also became interested in the music of Bartok, Bax, Ravel, Vaughn Williams, Rawsthorne and Barber. All of which made a lasting impression upon him and shaped the way in which he fashioned his own music in the following years. During the second world war, Veale spent his war service in the Education Corps, and during this time he continued to study music unofficially with Egon Wellesz and had lessons from Sir Thomas Armstrong in harmony and counterpoint. It was during this period that the composer had his first works performed and completed his first symphony.

early3 After the composer was demobbed, he returned to Oxford where he continued his studies with Wellesz and further studied music. He began to write incidental music for the theatre, and it was a piece of music from one such production LOVES LABOURS LOST (1947) that began Veale’s involvement in writing for films, the composer sent a copy of his score for the production to Muir Mathieson, who after seeing it asked Veale to write music for The Crown Film Unit, it was via this assignment that Veale met conductor John Hollingsworth, who was assistant to Sir Malcolm Sargent. Veale then became friends and moved in musical circles with many of the most respected composers of that period, Elizabeth Lutyens, William Walton, Humphrey Searle, Constant Lambert, Alan Rawsthorne plus poets and writers such as Dylan Thomas, Philip Larkin and Kingsley Amis.

It was around 1954 that Veale returned to writing music for film, John Hollingsworth attended a performance of the composer’s clarinet concerto and had heard that Muir Mathieson was looking for a composer to write the score for THE PURPLE PLAIN which was a movie that starred American actor Gregory Peck. After hearing Veale’s clarinet concerto Hollingsworth spoke with Mathieson, who agreed that Veale would be right for the film. The score was a great success for the composer and this led to other film scoring assignments that included, WAR IN THE AIR which was a documentary for television and the feature films, PORTRAIT OF ALISON-aka POSTMARK FOR DANGER (1955) and THE SPANISH GARDENER (1956) which starred the then British heart throb Dirk Bogarde. Veale’s score for this was grandiose and dramatic and had to it a hint of the style employed by Miklos Rosza in his early British movies.


After this the composer worked on several B movies, CLASH BY NIGHT, THE HOUSE IN MARSH ROAD, HIGH TIDE AT NOON and NO ROAD BACK which was an early movie for Sean Connery and featured Alfie Bass.



As the 1960, s began Veale and composers like him who wrote romantic and richly thematic music seemed to fall out of favour, the music fans at that time opting for the pop music revolution or the more Avant Garde and modern sounding music. The decades of the 60, s and the 70, s were not kind to the composer. But interest in his music soon returned during the 1980, s and the 1990, s. With Chandos records recording a few his works. John Veale may not have written the scores to that many movies, but the few he did write were impressive and filled with rich thematic material. He battled prostate cancer for many years but finally had to leave Oxford and return to Bromley where he resided in a care home, he passed away on November 16th, 2006.




There have over the years been many compilations released under the title of THE FILM MUSIC OF a number of these have concentrated upon the music of British composers and also music from British movies of the 1930,s through to the late 1950,s and into the 1960,s. this was I truly think the Golden age of British film music where composers such as John Addison, William Alwyn, Sir Arnold Bax, Sir William Walton, Richard Addinsell, John Ireland, Malcolm Arnold, Stanley Black, Alan Rawsthorne, Clifton Parker, Vaughn Williams and many others applied their expertise and musical prowess to the world of cinema. Many of the composers who were involved in the scoring of British movies back in the 1940,s through to the late 1950,s were in fact classically trained and began their musical careers by writing for the concert hall in fact a number scored films for a while and then returned to “SERIOUS” music. These compilations of course were re-recordings which are excellent and wonderfully reconstructed and performed. However there are a couple of compilations that I would like to bring your attention too, BRITISH FILM MUSIC Vols 1 and 2 were released by Pavilion records ltd on the Pearl label. These two compilations have within their running time some classic British movie music and also contain the odd obscure piece from a movie that maybe we had forgotten. The difference between the Film Music of compilations and these is that they are the original recordings which include selections from the scores of movies such as THE RED SHOES, OLIVER TWIST, SCOTT OF THE ANTARTIC, THE OVERLANDERS, WHILE I LIVE, MALTA G.C., 49TH PARALELL, DANGEROUS MOONLIGHT, THE STORY OF A FLEMISH FARM, NICHOLAS NICKELBY, COASTAL COMMAND, THEIRS IS THE GLORY, THINGS TO COME and WESTERN APPROACHES to name just some of the titles.


Considering the age of the recordings it is surprising that they are so clear and sharp of course there are a few sections that have not weathered so well but I would not say that these are terrible and both of the compilations are an enjoyable listen and also a glimpse back into the heyday of British cinema and also into the Golden age of British movie music. I was particularly drawn to Arnold Bax’s music for the 1948 production of OLIVER TWIST and the beguiling and alluring piano performance of Harriet Cohen on the scores central theme and throughout the remainder of the work. Piano was an instrument that was featured a great deal within film scores throughout this period, examples of this can be heard within the two discs. On volume 1 for example we are treated to the glorious DREAM OF OLWEN from the 1947 production WHEN I LIVE penned by Charles Williams, with the piano solo being performed by Arthur Dudley and the stirring and melodious strings of The National Symphony Orchestra under the baton of the composer.
This section also includes incidental music from the score which is a delight to hear. There is also a beautiful but at the same time slightly urgent piano solo on MEN OF TWO WORLDS by Arthur Bliss with the solo being performed by Eileen Joyce that is supported by choir, subdued woodwind and strings. Volume 1 also features The Prelude and Ballet Music from THE RED SHOES composed by Brian Easdale and performed by the Philharmonia Orchestra conducted by Muir Mathieson. This first disc also contains John Irelands rousing and robust sounding music from THE OVERLANDERS (1946), Vaughn Williams stunning work for SCOTT OF THE ANTARTIC (1948) which is a score that influenced many composers who followed such as James Bernard and Malcolm Williamson. Volume 1 also contains selections from Lord Berners score to the 1947 production of NICHOLAS NICKLEBY which is filled with charm and elegance but includes its fair share of drama. LOVE STORY from 1944 contained a score by Hubert Bath and it is his CORNISH RHAPSODY that represents his score on this compilation which is track 19 on volume 2. Overall these two compact discs are an excellent purchase and are certainly an entertaining collection and representation of British Film Music, a great addition to any film music collection. Volume 1 runs for 74 mins and Volume 2, runs for nearly 80 mins. Informative notes are included in both volumes which make fascinating reading. Well worth having.