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George Fenton

June 5, 2009

With so much information available on the internet I do sometimes find myself feeling a tad guilty for not feeling arsed to go and find out stuff off my own back. Sometimes I need an impetus. Sometimes I need to be provoked into finding out stuff about someone or something.

That spark of interest came from Tommy Pearson‘s excellent Stage and Screen Online podcast interview with film and TV composer George Fenton (left). There’s a total of an hours worth of fascinating conversation between the two discussing the process he followed composing the film soundtrack to Ghandi. There’s also plenty of discussion about his other film scores to boot.

Quite apart from the fact Fenton comes across as a refreshingly humble and charming individual, what really surprised me was learning about Fenton’s work on various TV programmes I remember watching as a kid. In particular was the signature tune to BBC Breakfast Time, the first network breakfast programme in the UK and guaranteed to provoke a warm fuzzy feeling whenever I hear it.

I remember the moment well, sat in front of the fan heater in a cold lounge at home, up in time to watch the first programme go out. I remember there being something really quite exciting about the music back then. That combined with the arresting simple visuals provided a fitting moment in television. At least that’s how I think I recall it.

Whilst I can’t be sure whether he was the man behind the following news based signature tune (I know he composed Newsnight – and he discusses it at the end of the first part of Pearson’s podcast), I’m fairly certain he must have had a hand in the BBC’s One O Clock news from the mid-eighties.

The compositional style mirrors that of Breakfast Time effortless. It has, for me at least, Fenton’s name written all over it. It successfully combined urgency and excitement without the usual self-conscious impending doom associated with so many present-day news themes. It promised hope rather pessimism. The soundtrack combined with the graphics communicated integrity. It should come as no surprise it was around about the same time as I started dreaming of being a newsreader, a dream I might add I haven’t realised.

Hear Tommy Pearson’s podcast interview with composer George Fenton (Part One / Part Two)

Fenton is also in conversation with Tommy Pearson on Sunday 7 June prior to a London Symphony Orchestra concert in the Barbican Concert Hall featuring a selection of the composer’s film and TV scores. Be sure to go.

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One Comment
  1. Steve permalink

    Did you know he once wrote a song for ‘Song For Europe’ – “Mr. Moonlight” back in 1979, one of the years the SFE never actually took place, because of a BBC technicians’ strike – Wogan ended up playing the records on his morning show and just announced the top 4 of the jury voting.

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