Angela Morley
Recent Projects

The Film & Television Music
of An
gela Morley

John Wilson & His Orchestra perform themes
from the big and little screens

       For some time I have wanted to have a CD made of some of the music that I’ve composed for films and TV, along with a few miscellaneous pieces written early in my career. An agreement with Vocalion Records has at last made this dream a reality. The CD was recorded in three sessions on the 13th and 14th of May 2003 at EMI Abbey Road in Studio 2. John Wilson assembled a brilliant orchestra of London’s finest young musicians. Most were free lance, but a handful, notably the four French horns, were from London’s great symphony orchestras.

      The film repertoire consists of selections from ‘The Looking Glass War’, ‘When Eight Bells Toll’, ‘The Slipper and the Rose’, ‘Watership Down’ and ‘Captain Nemo and the Undersea City’. My TV work during the fifteen years that I spent in Hollywood is represented by music from ‘Madame X’, ‘Hotel’ and ‘Dynasty’.

Crowded recording session in Studio 2(transparent spacer)        At its largest, the orchestra just about filled Studio 2 and the three or four visitors could barely squeeze through the door, looking for somewhere to sit. The orchestra had not only a wonderful ensemble sound but also outstanding soloists. A welcome visitor, David Ades, took several photographs during the recording, some of which are on this page. Anyone interested in performing any of the pieces on the CD should email me at this website.

       The sessions were recorded, mixed and mastered entirely in the digital domain for the utmost in reproduction quality. The CD was released November 15th, 2003. Details about this CD, the track listing of the repertoire as well as links to online retailers that carry this title can be found here.

Soft Lights & Sweet Music

John Wilson conducts the arrangements
of Angela Morley

       The big event of summer 2001 has been the recording by the John Wilson Orchestra of 16 of my previously recorded arrangements. The three sessions took place in studio 2 at EMI Studios, Abbey Road, St. John’s Wood, London in late July. I have had an extremely long association with this studio. As a musician in Geraldo’s Orchestra, I recorded there many times between 1944 and 1948. In those days, the recording booth was down in a corner of the studio just inside to the right as you came through the door. In fact, it was underneath the present staircase. Back then, recordings were cut directly to a wax master. The engineer would turn a big handle that would wind a heavy-looking weight up to the ceiling. When he allowed it to fall, it drove the turntable at 78 RPM. After a ‘take’ came the big decision-- did we want to keep that ‘take’ or did we wish to hear it back? If we played it back, the soft wax grooves would be ruined! Therefore, we never heard a chosen take until a test pressing became available. Another difficulty was that bass and drums recorded rather poorly given the technology available at the time. The bass notes went too low for the restricted lower range of the transcription process and the drums made the needle jump. Recording engineers used to lose their patience with drummers who played above mezzo piano and the drums were always buried beneath a pile of overcoats. Our record producer was Oscar Preusse who, probably a little later, had an assistant called George Martin.

       I next worked in studio 2 in the late 1950s arranging and conducting for Max Geldray and Mel Tormé. I recorded Mel’s own ‘Christmas Song’ with him in that studio in the summer of 1961. I also did some recording with Rosemary Squires there but I cannot remember whether it was in the 1960s or 70s. However, I think that that was the last time I worked there until this summer. In the meantime, in the 1960s, I understand that the Beatles did their recording there, recordings produced by George Martin!

       John Wilson and I have been friends ever since we met at Robert Farnon’s 80th birthday dinner a few years ago. He is an immensely talented and appealing young man and he and I share all kinds of musical enthusiasms. About a year ago he proposed making a CD of 16 of my previously recorded or performed arrangements, an offer that I couldn’t resist! It meant digging into a lot of boxes in my garage. Fortunately, I was able to do this around November when Arizona temperatures had come down into the 70s.

       Some of my favourite arrangements were written for a Readers’ Digest project around late 1960. A producer called Ben Selvin took me to lunch at the Savoy and asked me to arrange 11 Broadway songs for a Readers’ Digest project (my first for them). I recorded them at Walthamstow Town Hall in two-track stereo with Arthur Wilkinson (‘Wilkie’) at the controls. I used a very large string section (10/8/6/4/2), three flutes, cor anglais, Sax/cl, trumpet, four trombones, tuba, harp, percussion, drums, piano/celeste, gtr. Seven of these arrangements are on the new John Wilson CD. The rest of the arrangements were all for slightly different combos apart from the strings, which are the basis of all of them. Then I decided to re-score everything to basically conform to the Walthamstow combo. The earliest one, ‘A Nightingale Sang………’, came from my London album of 1958. I’ve since rewritten the intro and the ending. I just can’t stop trying to ‘improve’ things! The next oldest is ‘Snowfall’ from my Christmas album of 1959. Then the Walthamstow seven, then ‘Ruby’ (RD again) from the mid-1960s, next five that I arranged and often broadcast when I used to conduct the BBC Radio Orch. in the 1970s. Lastly comes ‘Lonely Town,’ which I arranged during summer 2000 for a project that did not happen for me. It was written for a virtuoso violinist and not the easiest part to play! However, John’s leader, Andrew Haveron, played it beautifully.

       It was a strange experience sitting behind John’s podium with no active part to play once a performance started. It was like being a fly on the wall at my own sessions! It was also strange to look at a London session orchestra of over 40 players and to recognize only one face-- that of Andy Vinter, whom I’ve known for a long time. They were really excellent.

       Soft Lights & Sweet Music (CDSA 6803), an all-digital recording from Vocalion, is also available in the higher-definition SACD (Super Audio Compact Disc) hybrid format, under catalog # CDSA 4803. The track listing and other details of this release can be found here.

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