For many years Gordon Langford has been recognised as a fine pianist. People who take the trouble to check composers’ names will also recognise him for his brass band music. Light music admirers first came across the March from his ‘Colour Suite’ as long ago as 1970 when it was recorded by Sir Vivian Dunn and the Light Music Society Orchestra. Collectors of production music know him from titles such as ‘Royal Daffodil’ and ‘Hebridean Hoedown’.
But his pre-eminence also as an arranger and orchestrator of other people's music has tended to obscure the fact that Gordon Langford is an important composer in his own right. Although nearly all his music for bands - military (concert) and brass - is commercially recorded, very little of his original music for orchestra has found its way into the record shops.
Born in Edgware, North London in 1930, Langford soon showed an interest in performing and writing music and had piano lessons from the age of five. When he was aged nine, one of his compositions received a public performance, and two years later he was the concert soloist in Mozart's Piano Concerto in A major, KV 488. He went on to win a Middlesex Scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music, and included the trombone in his musical studies. During his army service he was a member of the Royal Artillery Band, making his first BBC broadcast as solo pianist with the Band in 1951.
For several years he worked as pianist with seaside orchestras, at ballet schools and in restaurants, as trombonist with a touring opera company, vibraphone player with a jazz group, and as a ship's musician. During the 1960s he was increasingly featured as pianist, arranger and composer on BBC programmes such as Music in the Air, Melody around the World, Ronnie Barker's Lines from MyGrandfather's Forehead, Hubert Gregg's Thanks for the Memory, Friday Night Is Music Night, The Radio Orchestra Show and At the Piano, also making appearances at the Light Music Festivals in the Royal Festival Hall.
He has written many arrangements for The King's Singers and numerous original works for brass band (including London Miniatures for the Philip Jones Brass Ensemble), for various chamber ensembles, and for orchestra, the BBC commissioning him to write a Grand Fantasia on La Bohemefor the centenary of the Henry Wood Promenade Concerts at the Royal Albert Hall in 1994. He won an Ivor Novello Award for the March from his Colour Suite in 1971, has twice won the European Broadcasting Union's competition for new music for brass, and in 1994 was awarded the Gold Badge of Merit by the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors
He has worked as an orchestrator for several musical shows in London's West End and for films such as Raiders of the Lost Ark, Superman II, First Great Train Robbery, Clash of the Titans and Return to Oz. His arrangements for brass and military bands are widely recorded, as are many of his orchestral arrangements, notably with Vernon and Maryetta Midgley, Evelyn Glennie and Michala Petri. He has featured on record as pianist with Marilyn Hill Smith and the late Max Jaffa.
Gordon Langford now lives in East Devon, spending most of his time composing, whilst still making the occasional recording, concert or broadcast.
David Ades (2003)
The above biography is based on the booklet notes for the Chandos CD "Gordon Langford’s Orchestral Classics" (CHAN 10115). This features the BBC Concert Orchestra Conducted by Rumon Gamba playing:
Fanfare and Ceremonial Prelude, Concertino for Trumpet and orchestra, Four Movements for String Orchestra, A Song for All Seasons, First Suite of Dances, Greenways, Spirit of London, The Hippodrome Waltz, Pastorale & March from Colour Suite.