By GARETH BRAMLEY
Neil Grant Richardson (1930-2010), known as Neil Grant-Richardson from 1990 onwards, was one of the most prolific library music composers in the 1970s working mainly with KPM (Keith Prowse Music) but also other libraries such as Boosey & Hawkes-Cavendish (9 themes). Although most of his output was in this medium he also contributed to the world of TV & Film Music – in fact, some of his KPM themes were used in many TV / Film / Radio productions. Robert Farnon – regarded by most as the greatest producer of light music of all time - described Richardson as ‘the finest writer for strings in Europe’. He had a great working relationship with Richard Rodney Bennett, as we shall learn.
Two of his most known KPM tunes are ‘Approaching Menace’ (1970) - which was adopted in 1972 as the theme to the BBC’s long-running quiz show ‘Mastermind’ - and other programmes around the world; and ‘The Riviera Affair’ which has been used as the theme for WOR-TV’s ‘4 o’clock Movie’ as well as background music to many other productions. Other popular KPM tracks were ‘Rio Magic’; ‘Firebird’; ‘Prestige Production’; ‘Sports Arena’; ‘Jewel of an Evening’; ‘Busy Spectacle’; ‘Girl In the Sun’ and ‘Western Panorama’.
Richardson’s musical background began when, at age 8, he became a chorister at the choir school at Westminster Abbey and, after leaving the Abbey school, he won a scholarship to Lancing College in Sussex where he was encouraged to follow a musical career by Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears. He continued his music studies at the Royal College of Music studying clarinet, piano and composition with Professor William Lloyd Webber. During his National Service he played solo clarinet with the Band of the Royal Air Force at Cranwell.
Richardson’s first job was with music publishers Chappell from where he joined the BBC as musical director of strings. He was responsible for pieces of library music for radio, television and film. He was also in demand for orchestras such as the London Symphony and Royal Philharmonic and contributed to many Radio 2 programmes including the long-running ‘ String Sound’. In 1975 he created the BBC Northern Radio Orchestra in Manchester and was its conductor for many years. Richardson created much of the BBC Radio Orchestra’s output during the 70s and 80s. He worked alongside other arrangers of this period such as John Fox and David Snell with some wondrous arrangements. In the late 80s he got together with his old friend Michael Redway to produce the BBC Radio 2 show ‘Those Beautiful Ballad Years’, the songs from which Mike’s own label, Redrock Records, later released on CD (see later). The result was a unique set of sensitive love songs and old ballads.
Richardson began his professional career by playing saxophone at the Trocadero Restaurant, London. He started arranging while playing for various bands in the West End and then joined a publishing house as staff arranger. He has accompanied many artists such as Connie Francis; Danny Williams; Ken Dodd and Rosemary Squires. Richardson worked with leading musicians / singers such as Johnny Mathis; Neil Diamond; Vic Damone; and George Shearing – often under his pseudonym Oscar Brandenburg.
In the 60s Richardson often used this pseudonym - a name he shared with colleagues Johnny Pearson and Alan Moorhouse for pieces the famous test-card piece ‘Scotch Broth’. As far back as 1959, university concert bands in America were playing his music. In the 60s and 70s the Longines Symphonette Society and Readers Digest presented his work to American audiences.
Until the 90s Richardson was an arranger and conductor of various BBC Radio and Concert orchestras in London; and regional orchestras working on programmes such as ‘String Sound’ and ‘The (BBC) Radio Orchestra Show’. He also conducted at numerous radio concerts and specials. Aside from the music libraries already mentioned, much of Richardson’s work is owned by the BBC – especially the half hour show ‘Radio Strings’ presented by Steve Race, not to mention the numerous gala concerts and other broadcasts.
His work with British orchestras includes arranging and conducting for the Royal Philharmonic Pops; Philharmonia; Bournemouth Symphony; the aforementioned BBC Concert Orchestra and BBC Radio Orchestra; London Symphony Orchestra and National Philharmonic.
In the 80s he conducted the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra – performing in three concerts; and presenting a programme of English music ranging from Vaughan-Williams, Gilbert and Sullivan through Noel Coward to The Beatles. He also played solo piano and saxophone. Three concerts were repeated very successfully in London; and Hamilton, Ontario; Calgary and Edmonton in Canada. He also conducted many other concerts in Canada and the USA and many orchestras in Europe including the Belgian State Radio Orchestra; Metropole Orchestra in Holland; Bavarian State Radio Orchestra; and RTE Concert Orchestra in Dublin.
His orchestra for which he conducted, arranged and played piano was featured regularly on the BBC. He formed his own group in 1979 – the Neil Richardson Singers – finding work with and producing a large amount of material for the American radio networks.
One of Richardson’s first TV assignments was music associate on ‘David Nixon’s Magic Box’ (1970); and musical director on an episode of ‘Cribbins’ the same year. In the 80s he worked on 3 episodes ‘Iris Williams’ (1981) as m.d.; conducted 6 episodes of ‘The Charmer’ in 1987. He worked on many TV programmes as musical director including ‘Poirot’ (1990); ‘Poor Little Rich Girl: ‘The Barbara Hutton Story’ TV Movie and ‘Charmer’ TV mini-series - both from 1987 – with Richard Rodney Bennett; the UK’s first-ever charity Telethon in 1980; and ‘Virtuoso’ the BBC’s film portrait of pianist John Ogdon shown as part of BBC 2’s Screen Two season in 1989 and scored by Nick Bicat. Other TV movies were ’The Attic: The Hiding of Anne Frank’ (1988); ‘Robert Palmer: Ridin’ High’ (1992) as musical associate; and ‘Flesh & Blood: The Hammer Heritage of Horror’ a TV - documentary from 1994.
For the cinema Richardson orchestrated and conducted some of Richard Rodney Bennett’s film music including ‘Enchanted April’ in 1991 and the 1994 film ‘Four Weddings and a Funeral’– which he also conducted - and ‘Swann’ (1996). He orchestrated some of the music for the 1983 production ‘Yor’; and conducted Douglas Finch’s music for ‘Prairie Doves’ (1998).
In 1980 Richardson was the m.d. for Britain’s first ever Telethon and numerous other TV events including the Circus World Championship. He was musical director for Lord Oliviers’s 80th birthday concert at the National Theatre in 1987 and was twice invited by Lord Mountbatten to conduct charity gala concerts. He also wrote many of the arrangements for the 40th anniversary of the Queen’s accession to the throne at Earls Court in addition to the ‘Impressions – Jazz Suite’ in 1979: -
Movement: Prelude – Part I
Movement: Prelude – Part II
Movement: Transition - Part III – Postlude
Richardson has had much success writing for choirs and the world’s leading vocal groups including The Baylor University choir; The King Singers; The Swingle Singers – writing much of the material and arrangements for the latter part of their American tour of 1979. He arranged a series of popular songs by Gershwin, Cole Porter, Jerome Kern, etc for opera star Maria Ewing with Richard Rodney Bennett and the BBC Concert Orchestra, which formed the second half of a Promenade Concert. This was later recorded with the same artists and the Royal Philharmonic and presented at the Royal Festival Hall. In 1992 Richardson prepared all the music for Robert Palmer’s concerts at the Royal Albert Hall.
‘The Riviera Affair’ (aka ‘Prestige Production’ originally appeared on the 1970 KPM album ‘Impact & Action, Vol. II’ – one of four tracks) and in New York it was used as the opening theme for WOR-TV’s late afternoon movie programme ‘The 4 o’clock Movie’ (1975-82). It was also used as part of an homage of ‘The 4 o’ Clock Movie’ in the opening logo for the 2007 film ‘Ocean’s Thirteen’. NFL Films also used some of Richardson’s compositions in its American football highlight films. This track first appeared commercially on the double CD set ‘This Is Easy’ released in 1996 by Virgin and again the following year on one of a set of 4 ‘Hotel Easy’ CDs containing music from the KPM library - ‘Paco’s Poolside Bar’.
One of Richardson’s earliest accompaniments was the B-side of the single released by Jimmy Young in March 1968 on MGM (‘Silver and Blue’) - a track called ‘ My Dream of Love’ which he arranged and conducted.
EMI’s Music For Pleasure issued an album in 1971 featuring music from ‘Love Story’ played by Richardson and his Orchestra containing 11 tracks. It was also issued, the same year, in the States on Wonderland Records. A further LP of 12 tracks ‘Music from Godfather’ was released in 1972. The vocal on the track ‘I Have But One Heart’ was by Rudy Cellini. Also in 1972 Richardson arranged and conducted a single on Columbia with Andy Stewart titled ‘Oh Soldier’ / ‘Farewell My Love’ produced by Walter J. Ridley.
In November 1973 he featured yet another B-side – the flip of Ronnie Hilton’s ‘Good, Bad But Beautiful’ single with his arrangement of ‘Can Someone Tell Me How’ again produced by Ridley for Columbia.
It’s not well known but the theme from the TV series ‘Mastermind’ - ‘Approaching Menace’ - was issued commercially on a single in July 1977 by Crystal records b/w a theme composed, arranged and conducted by John Hawkins from 1969 - ‘Child of the Sun’. ‘Approaching Menace’ had originally appeared on the KPM LP ‘Dramatic Background’ issued in 1970 – one of three Richardson tracks. The theme was described as ‘Insistent slow pounding rhythm with military undertones – slow build – tail end’. Play It Again pioneered the reissue of rare TV Themes in the 90s and this theme finally appeared commercially in 1998 on their 4th volume of ‘The A to Z of British TV Themes’
1977 also saw EMI issue two themes from Joe Loss & His Orchestra – the A side was Ridley’s ‘Hopscotch’ and the B-side was his own ‘Swingin’ the Weasel’. The following year he arranged and conducted a single for Pete Murray – ‘Forever Young’ / ‘I’ll Be Alright’ with vocal backing by The Ladybirds – again on Columbia. Also in 1978 EMI issued a single of his arrangement of Charles Williams’ ‘Devil’s Gallop’ which was, at the time, being used as the theme for Southern TV’s ‘Dick Barton’ Series. It was flipped with Walter J. Ridley’s ‘Snowy White Polka’.
Iris Williams’ single ‘He Was Beautiful (Cavatina)’ was a big hit in 1978 and it was Richardson and his orchestra that backed it. This single based on the theme from ‘The Deer Hunter’ film and composed by Stanley Myers & Iris Williams) reached No. 18 in the UK singles charted entering in October 79. The B-side ‘We Don’t Make Each Other Laugh Anymore’ was from the musical ‘Stan & Babe’.
In March 1980 Columbia records issued Roger Whittaker’s ‘Oh Life’ on a single, which was another Walter J. Ridley production arranged by Richardson.
In the 80s HMV issued a 12 track LP ‘A Sure Thing – Music of Jerome Kern’ featuring Barry Tuckwell on horn, with arrangements by Richard Rodney Bennett and ensemble conducted by Richardson. A CD was issued in 1996.
The Great British Music Library issued a rare album of themes titled ‘The Summer Knows’ with 12 themes including ‘ Sunshine of My Life’; ‘I Can See Clearly Now’; ‘If You Leave Me Now’; ‘Fool On the Hill’; ‘When I Fall In Love’; and the title track ‘The Summer Knows’ from ‘The Summer of ‘42’
In 1993 Neil conducted an entire album of music with the Philharmonia Orchestra for Silva Screen Records ‘Dracula: Classic Scores from Hammer Horror’ featuring music from the Dracula series of films and other Hammer classics such as ‘Hands of the Ripper’; and ‘Vampire Circus’. This was originally released as ‘Music From Hammer Films’ on LP and CD in 1989.
Flyback issued ‘Test Card Classics: The Girl, The Doll, The Music’ in 1996 with Brandenburg’s ‘Angry’; ‘My Girl’s Come Back’; and ‘Going Places’ (and there’s a 13 minute tribute of these themes on You Tube!). Their follow-up releases in 1997 ‘Big Band Width: Test Card Classics 2’ featured ‘Fings Ain’t Wot They Used To Be’; ‘Swinging Affair’; and his co-composed ‘ Scotch Broth’. The same year they issued ‘It’s Easy Volume 1: High Life’ which repeated ‘ Angry’; ‘My Guy’s Come Back’ and David Gold’s ‘Going Places’. 1996’s ‘Sound Gallery CD from EMI (Studio Two) featured the track ‘The Riviera Affair’ among its 24 tracks but it was omitted from the soundtrack album of the film in which it featured - ‘Oceans Thirteen’.
Koch Jazz issued a CD in 1998 licensed from TMD Records in the Netherlands. ‘A Beautiful Friendship’ featured the Netherlands Metropole Orchestra conducted by Jerry Van Rooyen with The Neil Richardson Singers conducted by Richardson. It included ‘With You I’m Born Again’; ‘Even Now’; ‘When I Fall In Love’; ‘These Foolish Things’; ‘Smoke Gets In Your Eyes’; ‘Cry Me a River’; ‘I Love Paris’ and many others.
In 2001 Steven Wills’ Winchester Hospital Radio label issued a CD of library themes ‘Girl In a Suitcase’, which included Richardson’s ‘Music To Drive By’ and ‘A Well Swung Fanfare’ under his alias of Brandenburg - reissued in 2009 with additional tracks by other artists. WHR also issued ‘Standby For Swing’ in 2005 featuring 14 tracks by Brandenburg and His Orchestra. Again all these tracks were from the KPM vaults. All other tracks were by The Gentle Giants featuring Ray Davies. Other releases featuring Brandenburg & His Orchestra were an LP titles ‘Big Band Hits’ and ‘The Golden Years of Springs’.
Apollo Music issued a CD in 2006 titled ‘Radio Visual One’ which contained a track Richardson had composed for Mozart Edition – ‘Sounds Latin’- played by the Richard Neilson Group.
In 2009 ‘Rio Magic’ was used in the film ‘OSS 117: Lost In Rio’ and issued on the commercial CD ‘Music For TV Dinners: The 60s’ on Scamp in 1997. December 2009 saw the release of 5 download only CDs on Redrock Records by Richardson and His Orchestra and Singers. Each contained 13 tracks.
Volume 1 – Day By Day
Volume 2 – PS I Love You
Volume 3 – Love On the Rocks
Volume 4 – I Love Paris
Volume 5 – New Kid In Town
Eight more tracks by the Neil Richardson New Sound (‘Brass Christmas’) were made available for download only in August 2010 by Mood Media. Also that year Vocalion issued a sumptuous CD of tracks from the KPM ‘1000 Series’ of LPs issued between 1970 and 1976 (‘Time to Fly’) which included three of Richardson’s compositions: ‘Busy Spectacle’, ‘Jewel of Evening’, and ‘Fun In the Sun’ taken from the 1970 LP ‘Open Air’.
A very recent double CD released in June 2012 by Soul Jazz Records highlights Richardson’s ‘Guide Path’, which he wrote for KPM, just one of 36 instrumental gems from top artists including numerous ‘library’ compositions.
Richardson spent his retirement in Spain where he died on 8 October 2010 aged 80.
Copyright © Gareth Bramley – February 2013