27 May

Clive Richardson

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The composer and pianist, Clive Richardson, died on 11 November 1998 aged 89. During a long and successful career he composed many pieces of light music which are still familiar by their melody, if not their name.


He was born in Paris of British parents on 23 June 1909; his father was a member of a family of Scottish sugar traders, and his mother was a daughter of Rear-Admiral Sir Sydney Eardley-Wilmot. His aunt, May Eardley-Wilmot, was the lyricist of the famous song Little Grey Home in the West, which was sung at his funeral.

Clive was educated in England, initially as a doctor, then he turned his attention fully to music. At the Royal Academy in London he studied the organ, piano, violin, clarinet, trumpet, trombone and timpani - as well as orchestration and conducting.

While still a student, in 1931 he played the piano in Bach's 5th Brandenburg Concerto at the Queen's Hall, London, with Sir Henry Wood conducting. He regarded this important concert as his first major musical achievement.

His early professional career found him arranging popular tunes for Walford Hyden's Cafe Collette Orchestra (including numerous BBC broadcasts) and touring as a member of Harold Ramsay's 'Rhythm Symphony Orchestra'. He also worked as a musical director in London's West End for several Andre Chariot reviews, including Vivian Ellis's "Please" at the Savoy (1933) starring Beatrice Lillie and Lupino Lane, and Herbert Farejohns' "Spread It Abroad" (Saville Theatre, 1936) with Hermione Gingold and Nelson Keys.

During the 1930s he also worked with the international singer Hildegarde, and as her accompanist and musical director they spent several years touring Britain and across Europe, culminating in a triumphant engagement at New York's prestigious Rainbow Room.

Late in 1936 Richardson joined the Gaumont British Films Company as arranger and assistant musical director to Louis Levy. For the next three years he worked alongside many other famous names in British films and light music, including Charles Williams, Leighton Lucas, Jack Beaver, Bretton Byrd and Mischa Spoliansky, although almost every film only credited Louis Levy for the music, despite the fact that Levy did little conducting and virtually no composing himself.

With Charles Williams, Clive Richardson composed most of Will Hay's Gainsborough pictures, including "Oh Mr. Porter", and also scored "French Without Tears" (1939), officially credited to Nicholas Brodszky.

Richardson had joined the Territorial Army in 1928, and during World War Two he served in the Royal Artillery Regiment, but like many other musicians who were drafted he continued to be involved with music. In 1944 the BBC asked him to contribute arrangements to Tommy Handley's "ITMA" programme, and his witty scores of folk songs, nursery rhymes and traditional melodies, played by Charles Shadwell and the BBC Variety Orchestra, became a popular feature.

Four of these were recorded on 78s in the early days of the KPM Recorded Music Library: The Irish Washer Woman, Oranges and Lemons (KPM 062), This Old Man Came Rolling Home Life on the Ocean Wave (KPM 063). In the late 1990’s some more of these were 're-discovered' by BBC producer Roy Oakshott for the Radio-2 series "Legends of Light Music", including Sing a Song of Sixpence andGirls and Boys Come Out to Play.

Towards the end of the war the publishers Lawrence Wright asked Richardson to compose an eight-minute work similar to Richard Addinsell's hugely successful "Warsaw Concerto", which had been featured in the 1941 film "Dangerous Moonlight" starring Anton Walbrook, Sally Gray and Cecil Parker. The work was originally conceived as "The Coventry Concerto" being a tribute to the Midlands city where Clive Richardson had been stationed. But as the score developed, the composer realised that it was more suited to our capital city, and it eventually appeared in 1944 as "London Fantasia".

It portrayed a day in the life of a city being blitzed. The work opens to a broad theme suggesting Londoners at work, and children at play (Richardson inter-weaved snatches of nursery rhymes); then the strings (with an eerily real interpretation of an air raid siren that apparently upset some people at the time) announce that heavy bombers are approaching. An raid ensues, and bells accompany the arrival of the rescue services. Eventually the all-clear sounds, and life returns to what passed as 'normal' in wartime. The work was an immediate success, with two competing commercial recordings by fellow EMI companies - Charles Williams on Columbia and Sidney Torch for Parlophone; in each case the composer played the piano solo. Decca also invited Mantovani to record a slightly longer version, with pianist Monia Liter. There were numerous broadcast performances for many years thereafter, and this work reached a new audience through an EMI Sidney Torch CD in 1992. Mantovani’s version subsequently appeared on a Vocalion CD in 1999.

Other major works during this period included "Salute to Industry" (1945), a choral work with lyrics by A.P. Herbert; and "White Cliffs" (1946), a nautical overture.

Although very busy as a composer and arranger, Clive Richardson embarked on a new career with his close friend, and fellow pianist, Tony Lowry as 'Four Hands in Harmony'. Their inventive arrangements and almost instinctive blend made them enormously popular, and they were soon topping variety bills all over the country, and they appeared on over 500 broadcasts.

Today Clive Richardson is best remembered for his light orchestral compositions. Most of these were commissioned by London music publishers, who wanted his inventive creations for their recorded music libraries, which supplied ready-made music for radio, television and film companies throughout the world. Titles such as "Running Off The Rails", "Beachcomber", "Shadow Waltz" (written under his nom-de-plume 'Paul Dubois'), "The Girl on the Calendar" , "Chiming Strings", "Saga of the Seven Seas", "Jamboree", "Tom Marches On" (the ITMA march) and "Continental Galop" quickly became familiar to radio audiences. Other slightly lesser-known works included "Sea Menace", "Society Wedding", "Airport", "Billowing Sails", "Rondoletto", "Chiming Strings", "Getting Together", "Summerland", "Song of Alcazar", "Atlantic Crossing", "Pulse Beats", "Mannequin Melody", "Orbit", "Ride to Rio", "Shopping Around" and "Mantovani Strings". With Tony Lowry, as 'Peter Crantock' he wrote "Cockney Capers" for the orchestra leader Harry Davidson.

The BBC Television Children's Newsreel used Clive's exhilarating "Holiday Spirit" as its theme, In the 1950s Radio Luxembourg's "Dan Dare" serial (a rival to the BBC's "Dick Barton -Special Agent") played Richardson's "Radio Location" (an early form of Radar) in almost every episode.

His most catchy piece was "Melody On The Move" which also gave the name to more than one radio series. In later years he confessed that the inspiration for this had been the Dorabella movement from Elgar's 'Enigma Variations'.

Clive Richardson continued composing for the rest of his life, and his works have gained new admirers through the renaissance of light music on CDs which began in the 1990s, He was particularly proud of the LRAM after his name, and in 1988 received the Gold Award from the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors, for lifetime services to the music business. 

David Ades

Clive Richardson
Clive Richardson
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1 comment

  • angela richardson posted by angela richardson Tuesday, 10 May 2016 15:04

    My father was Clive Richardson, and it is very thrilling for me as his daughter, to see how his music and many many compositions continue to be enjoyed and appreciated by people around the world ... how delighted he would be to see also the resurgence of Light Music once more. He was a fascinating man, delightful, moody, un predictable, charming and gregarious ... miss him so much. Thanks Angela H. Richardson

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About Geoff 123
Geoff Leonard was born in Bristol. He spent much of his working career in banking but became an independent record producer in the early nineties, specialising in the works of John Barry and British TV theme compilations.
He also wrote liner notes for many soundtrack albums, including those by John Barry, Roy Budd, Ron Grainer, Maurice Jarre and Johnny Harris. He co-wrote two biographies of John Barry in 1998 and 2008, and is currently working on a biography of singer, actor, producer Adam Faith.
He joined the Internet Movie Data-base (www.imdb.com) as a data-manager in 2001 and looked after biographies, composers and the music-department, amongst other tasks. He retired after nine years loyal service in order to continue writing.