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In January I was asked to write a Clarinet Concerto by Thea King, my dear friend whose playing to me excelled all other clarinet players I had heard. I started work and took it very seriously. It must be the best I can possibly do! When it was completed Thea gave the premiere in a concert at the QEH with the English Chamber Orchestra, recording it the following day. Both were conducted by myself. (30th May 1/2 June 85) She played exquisitely. Ted Perry at Hyperion was delighted with it and it was released with works by Lutoslawski and Seiber. The CD later won a prize.
THE HUNGER, LAKME AND BRITISH AIRWAYS
In 1982 the film director Tony Scott had taken me on as musical director for the feature film 'The Hunger', a stylish contemporary rethink of 'Dracula' starring David Bowie, Catherine Deneuve and Susan Sarandon. He'd had the interesting idea of constructing most of the score from existing classical music, but it had to be very carefully chosen to fit each scene and I was given the job of finding it. I started to go to his house in Wimbledon with case-loads of recordings to play to him, mostly at 8am before he started the day's filming. Together we chose excerpts and I would then rerecord them with the finest musicians. Between them, Howard Shelley, Ralph Holmes and Rafael Wallfisch played excerpts from Schubert's E flat Trio, Bach's solo cello Partita in G some Ravel ('Le Gibet'). There was also a recording of some Lalo with violinist Madeleine Mitchell with whom I was to record a Naxos album of my music many years later (Music for strings and piano) and my own recording of 'Le Gibet' which was the version eventually used.
Tony wanted music for a strange erotic scene played between Deneuve and Sarandon in a set like an Egyptian temple. The script suggested the soprano duet from Lakme called 'Viens O Mallika' and I found an old Fifties recording of it. Tony liked it but didn't like the wobbly sopranos. I suggested we use two 'early-music' sopranos, Elaine Barry and Judith Pearce from 'London Voices' whom I conducted several days later singing magnificently with The Sinfonia of London. On the same recording session I improvised a piano version of the song and in the film we see Deneuve apparently playing it until sopranos and orchestra take over, cross-fading into the next scene. Tony loved it and two years later he rang me again:
'I've shot a commercial for British Airways with the shadow of a 747 going up the Empire State Building. Do you think you could get that opera piece we did to fit it?'
'I'll have a look at it.'
I arranged a special version of 'Viens, Mallika' from 'Lakme' and recorded with the girls for a second time. British Airways loved it and decided to use it as their global signature-tune, something that still happens 24 years later and quite possibly makes this theme the most long-running piece of ad music in history. The incessant airplays of it at the same time caused it to be an all-time operatic hit which sopranos all frequently perform and record. Tony used it incessantly repeated in 'True Romance', and Brian de Palma used it in 'Carlito's Way.'
Five years on from the recording Saatchi and Saatchi invited me to meet the President of British Airways, Lord King at a celebratory drinks party. It was quite noisy with chatter and clinking glasses:
'Marvellous piece you wrote for us.'
'I didn't write it, I arranged and recorded it. It's from an opera by Leo Delibes called Lakme.'
'Yes terrific, but I often wonder why you wrote it in French.' (He obviously couldn't hear me.)
'Errr, well it's in French because it was written by a Frenchman -Leo Delibes.' (He gazed into the distance.)
'Marvellous piece. I've invested over nine million pounds in the advertising using it. I've often wondered what the French words actually say.'
'Oh I can tell you that. They say FLY AIR FRANCE!' (but I don't think Lord King found it so amusing) (In April I orchestrated 'Dances for two pianos' as Concert Dances for Orchestra.)
HENRY THE FIFTH
I got a call from Adrian Noble, Director of The Royal Shakespeare Company.
'I love your Snowman music. Have you ever composed incidental music for the theatre?'
'Would you like to score Henry V for the opening of this year's season at Stratford? We have a new boy called Kenneth Branagh. Could you write the music like a film score?'
I thought how exciting this would be and wrote an unusual score. It featured in a Stratford seminar on theatre music and received excellent critical attention, later transferring to The Barbican.
NURSERY RHYME OVERTURE
In May, at the request of Raymond Gubbay (whose Snowman concerts at the Barbican had been a great success) suggested that I compose a 'Nursery Rhyme Overture'. I wrote this, and conducted the premiere in St Albans. It was also a guessing game for children and has been a success with audiences, used as the Overture in many Snowman concerts.
I meet Georgina Ivor who has had excellent past experience working as an artist agent for Ian Hunter at Harold Holt Ltd. I play her 'Benedictus' on the Australian student tape and she thinks it is marvellous. She is interested in working in promotion for me. We start to plan a new 'professional' premiere of Benedictus. In October I picked Adrian Noble's brains and asked if he would research cathedral locations for a 'Benedictus' premiere. We chose St Albans Cathedral and plans began to shape.
I'M ALL RIGHT JACK
In September I get a call from Alan Hackney, who is author of the book from which the Peter Sellers hit film of the fifties was made - 'I'm All Right Jack'. He comes to see me and suggests we write a musical. I think this is a great idea and start at once. I write most of the lyrics and the music and Alan writes the script. The first draft takes about 2 months.
THE WRECK OF THE JULIE PLANTE
In December I write a folky song for a prize-winning short animation film 'The Wreck of the Julie Plante' made by Taylor Grant, my excellent and devoted music editor on all three TVC cartoons.