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Other Composers

Robert Farnon (1917-2005) - bandleader, arranger and composer for film & TV

A Portrait of Farnon CD cover Robert Farnon was born in Toronto in Canada and his initial musical experience included playing trumpet in the Orchestra of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation before moving to work in the US. There he refined his skills as a conductor and arranger and started composing, his serious works including 2 Symphonies which were performed in the States. Conducting a military band during World War II brought him to Britain where he met Glen Miller and was introduced to the UK music scene. His contacts with Eric Coates and others in the "Light Music" scene were a powerful influence and he became one of its foremost practicioners, though the breadth of his experience was such that he brought new ideas into the genre. From his work in broadcasting he was no stranger to many types of popular music including jazz and the prevalent song styles, and he integrated such ideas into his own works. He settled in the Channel Island of Guernsey where he lived for several decades before his death in 2005.

Robert Farnon: Captain Horatio Hornblower R.N. - soundtrack CD cover In the UK he formed the Robert Farnon Orchestra which was to record regularly for BBC Radio and Television, and wrote a number of works for these media. He also arranged and recorded songs for many leading artists including Frank Sinatra, Sarah Vaughan and Tony Bennett with whom he was to form a long association through concert and television appearances. He composed the scores for several films, though his most instantly recognised compositions (at least to those of a certain age) are without doubt his themes for television series of the 60s and 70s particularly "Panorama" and the War Dramas "Colditz" and "Secret Army". His brightly comic "Jumping Bean", the romantic and relaxed "Westminster Waltz" and many other works became part of the media's "stock music" which was used on a variety of different programmes. For the inaugural flight in 1969 of the first UK-built Concorde (the supersonic passenger plane built as a joint venture with Air France), British Airways commissioned Farnon to write a piece of music and the result was the "Concorde March" whose recording was re-released in 2019 for the 50th anniversary.

In 2005 his final symphony was performed in Edinburgh on May 14th, three weeks after his death on April 25th.

Films by Robert Farnon:

Most of Farnon's earliest film credits were as music arranger, conductor and/or music director, and sometimes his stock music or songs were used in films. However he also scored several films including the following:

    Music of Robert Farnon CD cover
  • Just William's Luck - part of a short series of "Just William" films
  • William Comes to Town - also known as "William at the Circus"
  • Elizabeth of Ladymead
  • Paper Orchid
  • Captain Horatio Hornblower R.N.
  • Springtime in Park Lane
  • Maytime in Mayfair
  • Circle of Danger
  • His Majesty O'Keefe - scoring the UK release
  • Let's Make Up
  • King's Rhapsody
  • Gentlemen Prefer Brunettes - musical starring Jane Russell
  • All for Mary
  • True as a Turtle
  • Robert Farnon: Lovers Love London - CD cover
  • The Little Hut
  • The Sheriff of Fractured Jaw - the one with Kenneth Moore as the Englishman appointed as sheriff in a Wild West town
  • Expresso Bongo
  • The Road to Hong Kong - composer/musical director for the last film in Bob Hope and Bing Crosby's "Road" series
  • The Truth About Spring
  • Shalako - Western with Sean Connery and Brigitte Bardot
  • The Disappearance
  • Bear Island
  • Friend or Foe

TV music by Robert Farnon:

Out of my Dreams: Popular Melodies Arranged by Robert Farnon - CD cover Robert Farnon wrote the original theme for the long-running series "Panorama". The theme was called "Openings & Endings" and was used for the earlier shows starting in 1953 and throughout the 1950s and much of the 1960s. The composer's music was replaced firstly by an adaptation from the 4th movement of Rachmaninoff's 1st symphony in 1968, and then in 1971 by a theme by the French composer Francis Lai. It is this last theme by Lai which is probably best remembered by the British public. Farnon also composed for music libraries and some of this "stock music" was used in films and on television. Two of his tracks taken from "Drumdramatics No.2" played a key role in the Incidental Music of Doctor Who when they were used in the story "The Tenth Planet" which introduced the Cybermen for the first time and saw the first ever regeneration of William Hartnell into Patrick Troughton. Farnon's "Nautical Trilogy" has also been used on children TV shows such as "The Ren & Stimpy Show" and "SpongeBob SquarePants".

    The Wide World of Robert Farnon CD cover
  • Quatermass II - the song "Zero Minus Sixty"
  • Armchair Theatre - long-running series of plays on ITV for which Farnon provided the theme music called "Proscenium"
  • Panorama - the original theme music called "Openings & Endings" - see above for the history of the theme for this series
  • The Prisoner - incidental music for some episodes; Robert Farnon, Wilfred Josephs & Ron Grainer were invited to create themes for the series and Grainer's was chosen with Farnon's being a strange Western thing
  • Doctor Who - stock music "Drumdramatics" as noted above
  • The Champions - incidental music for one episode (most episodes by Edwin Astley & some by Albert Elms), the theme written by Tony Hatch
  • Colditz - a march theme with a touch of dark struggle
  • A Man Called Intrepid - series
  • Secret Army - dramatic theme
  • Mary and Joseph: A Story of Faith - TV movie
  • Kessler - a spin-off series from "Secret Army"

Robert Farnon - Recommendations:

Farnon's associations with Canada, the US and the UK helped to make his music popular on both sides of the Atlantic, and there are a variety of CDs available to showcase the type of music in which he was involved, both as composer and as conductor/arranger with his Orchestra. Here are some suggestions where Amazon provide audio examples to try online:

Among related websites is the comprehensive one provided by the Robert Farnon Society.