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Emmy Winning and Oscar Nominated Arranger Angela Morley Passes Away at 84

Emmy Winning and Oscar Nominated Arranger Angela Morley Passes Away at 84

Music arranger Angela Morley, who won Emmys for arranging two of Julie Andrews television specials has died at 84 in Scottsdale, Arizona. She's said to have passed away from complications of a fall and a subsequent heart attack.

The three-time Emmy winner, also received Oscar nominations for adaptaing the songs in the musicals "The Little Prince" and "The Slipper and the Rose"

This prolific woman also wrote her own official bio for her web site, which we reprint below. A very full life! Our thoughts and prayers go out to her partner Christine Parker, along with her son, grandchildren and great-grandchildren during this difficult time.

For more information, visit http://www.angelamorley.com/

I was born at Leeds, Yorkshire in 1924. My father was a watchmaker, and had a family shop that sold watches, clocks, jewellery and silver plate. My earliest musical memory was of sitting on the floor surrounded by records of the bands of Jack Payne and Henry Hall and playing them on our enormous wind up gramophone. My dad played the ukulele-banjo that he used to let me tune for him, using his pitch pipe, to either G-C-E-A or A-D-F#-B. My mother had a contralto voice and sang: There is a Lady Passing By and, her favorite, Big Lady Moon.

When I was eight years old, my dad bought a brand new Challen upright piano that had pride of place in our over-the-shop Sunday sitting room, and sent me to a lady a few streets away for piano lessons. Three months later, my dad became ill and very unexpectedly died at the early age of thirty-nine. My piano lessons were immediately stopped and never recommenced. They are the only piano lessons that I ever had. A year later, my mother, who had no head for business, sold the shop and we went off to live with her parents at Swinton near Rotherham, Yorks.

At age ten, I had a month-long love affair with the violin but my grandfather, a prankster who didn't like the violin, smeared butter on my bow and very effectively brought my career as a violinist to an end. At eleven, I started to play the accordion, had lessons and won a couple of competitions. A judge from the BBC advised my mother that there was no future in the accordion, and that I should learn a band or orchestral instrument, for instance the clarinet or saxophone. My mother bought me a clarinet at the local pawnbroker's for one pound ($4 at the time). It was built all in one piece; it was a simple system instrument that was ‘high pitch' and had a broken mouthpiece. I had lessons on it and started to play in the school orchestra. Several months later, a kind mother bought me an alto saxophone that said ‘Pennsylvania' across the bell. I started to play, unpaid of course, in the semi-pro band of Bert Clegg at the Empress Ballroom, Mexborough, Yorks.

I left high school at fifteen and went on tour with Archie's Juvenile Band for ten shillings a week ($2 at the time). On joining the band, I was asked to name my favorite band. ‘Ambrose' I replied, whereupon they all laughed themselves silly and queried, ‘What, you've never heard of Benny Goodman and Tommy Dorsey'? I confessed that I hadn't, and my education was taken in hand that very moment as we all headed off to the nearest record shop. I started to take down arrangements from records about this time under the tutelage of the pianist, Eddie Taylor, who was an old hand at it.

World War II started and created a new dimension to my life that was anything but a hindrance. Suddenly, with all the bands starting to lose musicians to the ‘draft', a fifteen-year-old musician who could sight-read was eagerly sought by every bandleader in the UK. Before I was seventeen and a half, I'd gone from band to band in quick succession until, at seventeen and a half, I found myself playing lead alto with Oscar Rabin's Band. Still touring alas, but broadcasting and making records too. It was during my two years with this band that I graduated from taking down records to writing arrangements for pay.

At age twenty in 1944, I joined the Geraldo Orchestra, arguably the best band in the UK at the time. The Geraldo Band practically lived at the BBC doing several radio programmes a week. The great bonus for a developing arranger was that the band might be a swing band on Monday and then augmented to symphonic size on Tuesday, while on other days perhaps various combinations in-between, and on occasion even adding a choir. Since I got to arrange for all these combinations, was there ever a better arranging academy? I doubt that anything like that exists today.

Self taught so far, it was during this period that I started to study harmony, counterpoint and composition with a Hungarian composer, resident in London, Matyas Seiber. I also was an enthusiastic participant in a conducting course taught by the German born conductor, Walter Goehr. Both Robert Farnon and Tommy Dorsey arranger Bill Finegan had written many of the arrangements in our repertoire, and I fell under the spell of both of these great talents and remain, today, greatly indebted to them.

At age twenty-six I decided to give up playing to concentrate on writing. I was busy from the start and three years later, at age twenty-nine, a lot of good things happened to me. I became musical director of the newly launched Philips Records (UK), arranging and conducting every week for all the contract artistes and occasionally for American ones like Rosemary Clooney and Mel Tormé as well as recording several instrumental albums of my own. I started to score films under my own name (I had ‘ghost'-written two scores the previous year) and was writing all the cues for a top BBC comedy show: Hancock's Half Hour, and doing the same, plus conducting, for The Goon Show, which was probably the most successful BBC radio comedy show of the 1950s. The same year, 1953, I started to score films for Associated British Picture Corporation at Boreham Wood Studios where Louis Levy was Music Director.

The 1950s was a very exciting time to be recording, because not only had tape taken over from direct to disc recording and advanced German microphones were in every studio, but stereo had magically added a new dimension to sound. However, these advances had not found their way into film studios and to go to a cinema to hear one's latest score was absolute torture. I was so depressed by these experiences that by the time I was thirty-six (1960), I started to turn down any offers to score films.

During the 1960s, although I had a very busy and interesting musical life, including doing a lot of recording for Readers Digest Records, writing arrangements for Benny Goodman, Nelson Riddle, arranging and conducting some Mel Tormé TV Specials and scoring some documentary films about art for television, I regretted having turned my back on feature film scoring and tried my best to get back into it. Finally, starting in 1969, I scored The Looking Glass War (from a John Le Carré spy novel featuring a very young Anthony Hopkins), When Eight Bells Toll (another Anthony Hopkins movie) and Captain Nemo and the Underwater City. This led to my writing adaptation scores for The Little Prince (collaborating with songwriters Lerner & Loewe) and The Slipper and the Rose (collaborating with Robert & Richard Sherman). In 1977, I scored almost all of Watership Down. I was officially credited as the composer of this score but I had taken over the commission from indisposed composer Malcolm Williamson, who had written six minutes of very high quality music that is the first six minutes of music in the film, and who was given the not very satisfactory credit: Additional Music by Malcolm Williamson! In between scoring films I was also a regular conductor of the now, alas, defunct BBC Radio Orchestra and, from time to time, helped John Williams with the orchestration of his scores for Star Wars, Superman and The Empire Strikes Back.

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