OR 15 years now, Richard Harvey’s name on the credits has been enough to guarantee film and TV scores of the highest quality. He got off to flying start in this highly specialised field when he struck up a fruitful composing partnership with the late Stanley Myers. Together they tackled projects ranging from The Martian Chronicles, with Rock Hudson, and The Honorary Consul, with Michael Caine and Richard Gere (an early musical collaboration with the guitarist John Williams), to Lady Chatterley’s Lover.
Since those early days, Richard has gone from strength. Apart from the music on this album, he has brought his talents to bear on First Among Equals, based on Jeffrey Archer’s best selling novel, The Dirty Dozen: The Next Mission, with Lee Marvin, Gerry Anderson’s Terrahawks and Bob Swaim’s thriller Half Moon Street, starring Caine with Sigourney Weaver. Setting scenes, creating atmosphere, pacing action and defining character, he has added extra dimension to the visual medium. Within the tight disciplines of film and TV work, he has still found room to create real music, with a life and style of its own.
In fact, though he is best known as a film composer, Richard is also involved in many other musical activities. He is an exceptional instrumentalist, on all kinds of ethnic and classical instruments. But he is particularly renowned as a recorder soloist, having made several highly acclaimed albums of Italian Baroque concertos. As Composer-in Residence at the prestigious Exeter Festival in 1990 in 1990, he was able to programme a varied and entertaining selection of music from around the world, as well as experimental and electronic concerts.
Richard’s classical commissions have included a concerto for viola and orchestra which was premiered in 1990 Exeter Cathedral by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra under the direction of Vernon Handley with his friend Roger Chase as soloist. Another earlier commission from Exeter Festival’s Director, Richard Gregson-Williams, was the powerful and dramatic multi-media oratorio Plague and the Moonflower, with words by Ralph Steadman, which was later record for TV in Salisbury Cathedral with John Williams, Roger Chase, soprano Kym Amps and violinist Ben Kingsley, Ian Holm and Sir Michael Hordern, as well as Steadman’s startling paintings and illustrations. More recently, John Williams has recorded Richard’s sparkling new Concerto Antico for Sony Classics.
SHROUD FOR A NIGHTINGALE (1983-1995)
Suit from the P.D. James Commander Dalgleish TV series
The British reader has always had a fascination for murder mysteries, from Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie to P.D. James, and British TV has certainly never been slow to film and re-film many of these stories. Inspector Dalgleish (later promoted to Commander) first appeared in print in 1963 and made his TV debut in 1983 portrayed by Roy Marsden in Death of an Expert Witness. Unlike some TV adaptations, these famed stories have always kept quite rigidly to each novel's plot. Virtually all are set in the beautiful East Anglian landscape. Dalgleish is something of a loner, as well as being a poet, so a sidekick was quickly jettisoned after the third film Richard Harvey h~ been responsible for the music for all the Dalgleish stories, with the theme remaining constant throughout -a haunting Elegy for solo viola (Roger Chase) and a typically British string orchestra accompaniment. This present suite, a kind of Theme and Variations, features music used in both Shroud for a Nightingale (mysterious murders in a hospital) and the more recent Devices and Desires, which is about seemingly unrelated events surrounding protests at a nuclear power station and a serial killer on the loose The tide music was nominated for an Ivor Novello Award in 1996.
This engrossing and unsettling retelling of the events surrounding the kidnapping in the Lebanon of Brian Keenan, Terry Waite and John McCarthy was produced by Granada Television and HBO Showcase and directed by David Wheatley. A strong cast includes Conrad Asquith, Ciaran Hinds, Colin Firth and Natasha Richardson. With a swirling orchestral palette dominated by fierce, unrelenting percussion rhythms, Richard's musical motifs speak of the anguish, fear and dread endured by the captives, while quieter passages sensitively convey the feelings of the relatives waiting for news at home.
THE ASSAM GARDEN (1984)
A widow (Deborah Kerr) returns to England after the death of her husband, to the house where many years before he laboriously created an "Assam Garden" of plants and trees from the Far East Here, in this seemingly placid and tranquil backwater, she comes to terms with the present and the past. For this gentle and unassuming film, directed by Mary McMurray, Richard composed an elegant, delicate theme for harp, strings and woodwind that effortlessly depicts a small piece of India set in England's "green and pleasant land".
DOCTOR FINLAY (1993)
For viewers with tong memories, Doctor Finlay conjures up the popular 1960s BBC TV series that for many years was part of the staple diet of Sunday night viewing Recently, Scottish Television has remade and updated these stories to a 1946 setting With the war just over, the residents -and especially the doctors - of Tanocchbrae are faced with new challenges and problems. Scottish actor David Rintoul portrays the crusading Doctor Finlay, with Annette Crosbie as the canny housekeeper, Janet, and Ian Bannen in the role of Doctor Cameron. In fact, Bannen was originally offered this role, which went to the much loved Andrew Cruikshank, in the original TV series, Richard has resisted the temptation to conjure up a pseudo-Scottish melody and opts for a broad and noble theme for the doctors.
This groundbreaking and controversial black comedy, by Alan Bleasdale, revolved around the rise and fall of Michael Murray (Robert Lindsay), the power-crazed city councillor, and his battle with the placid local head-teacher (Michael Palin). G.B.H. masked the fart collaboration between Richard Harvey and one of rock music's most distinctive performers and composers, Elvis Costello. Two of their themes are represented here - melodic, yet unusual and even slightly erotic. The score won Richard a British Academy Award (BAFTA) in 1992.
DEFENCE OF THE REALM (1985)
The British political thriller Defence of the Realm was directed by David Drury and starred Gabriel Byrne as journalist who uncovers a link between a Russian spy and a member of Parliament. It boasted a supporting cast including Denholm Elliot, Greta Scacchi, Fulton Mackay and Ian Bannen. The mucky world of espionage is reflected in Richard's electronic scoring - tuneful, but enigmatic and never quite what it seems,
A SMALL DANCE (1991)
This telemovie by Lucy Gannon, writer of Soldier, Soldier, directed by Alan Horrox, concerned the slight, yet emotive, story of Donna (Kate Hardie), a bored 16-year old who is seduced by a travelling salesman and becomes pregnant. Somehow she manages to conceal this fact from her workmates and family until, one stormy night, the gives birth alone and is forced to abandon her baby. Acoustic guitar, strings and woodwind combine to paint an evocative portrait of the East Anglian countryside.
DOOMSDAY GUN (1994)
A taut, action-packed thriller made in the UK from a topical screenplay by Walter Berstein and Lionel Chetwynd for HBO in America and directed by Robert Young. Frank Langella started as Gerald Bull, the man who has perfected the building of the world's most powerful weapon and sells his secrets to Saddam Hussein. The CIA, in the guise of Tony Goldwin and Kevin Spacey, and MI5 (James Fox and Rupert Graves) watch but are powerless to intervene, Only a lone Israeli spy, Alan Arkin, is prepared to foil Bull's plan. This 8 minute suite contains all the major elements of Richard's score: opening and closing choral sequences, chase scenes plus the music which underscores a montage of the gun being assembled. The score was nominated for a US Cable Ace Award.
JAKE'S PROGRESS (1995)
After she success of G.B.H., Robert Lindsay was again cast in this Alan Bleasdale drama, described as "exploration of what parents do to children and what children do to parents". It also starred two of Bleaseale's favourite actresses, Julie Walters and Lindsay Duncan. Again Richard and Elvis Costello collaborated on writing the score, combining their ideas so seamlessly that it is impossible to detect where one hand finishes and the other begins. Shared credits don't always lead to satisfying results, but both Jake's Progress and G.B.H. are fine examples of skilful and supportive writing.
THE WIMBLEDON POISONER (1994)
Adapted by Nigel Williams from his own novel, this richly cynical and humorous drama tells of one Henry Fare (Robert Lindsay) who, living with an insufferable and domineering wife (Alison Steadman), decides that the time has come to put an end to all his troubles. Unfortunately Henry only succeeds in poisoning half the population of Wimbledon - friend and foe alike! A suitimly bitter-sweet song intreduces the drama, to be followed by a more pastoral soundscape, complete with a mournful cello solo, against the background of which Henry commits his grisly deeds.
TO EACH HIS OWN (1991)
To Each His Own is an unusual, but very effective drama from HTV, directed by Moira Armstrong (who made Testament of Youth) about obsession and the merits of letting sleeping dogs lie. Trouble begins when Fiona (Julia Watson) and her husband, Don (Hilton McRae), deride to find out the truth about a mix-up in hospital where babies were accidentally swapped. In her struggle so right the past mistake Fiona manages to alienate her husband, her sons and everyone around her. Richard's music is spare and economical, hut adds subtle injections of feeling at key points in this disturbing story.
DANCING WITH THE DEAD (1990)
Like all the films in the Compass series, Dancing with the Dead, directed by Patrick Lau, followed one individual's personal quest. In this case, it involved tracing the strange history of a seafaring ancestor from Devon who sailed to Madagascar several times and may or may not have been a pirate by trade. The score weaves together English and ethnic elements, using instruments such as the valiha (a Malagasy tubular zither) and the tin whistle. The climax of the film - and the music - is an extraordinary traditional ceremony in which the family tomb is broken open and the dead are carried through the streets in a joyful, exuberant parade, dressed in new shrouds and accompanied by a Mardi Gras-style band of trumpets, clarinets and drums.
SHAPE OF THE WORLD (1990)
Shape of the World is a six-part documentary series for Granada Television with narration by Patrick Stewart. It traces the process by which Man gradually made maps of his world, from the time of the Pharaohs through to the Europe of the Middle Ages, using a mixture of archive footage and computer simulation. Generous resources and the chance to write on a grand scale, Richard was able to indulge his love of classical choral music for the opening and closing title sequences.
DEADLY ADVICE (1993)
Living under the stern rule of their mother (Brenda Fricker), sisters Jodie (Jane Horrocks) and Beth (Imelda Staunton) live in the quiet Welsh town of Hay-on-Wye. Discovering a book about the great murderers in history, Jodie decides to dispose of her mother with the help and advice of her new-found "friends". Among the characters in this veritable rogues gallery are Dr Crippen (Hywel Bennett), Kate Webster (Billie Whitelaw), Jack the Ripper (Sir John Mills) and Herbert Armstrong (Edward Woodward). Richard's approach, making great use of the harpsichord, it straightfaced and classically romantic, with understated hints at the black comedy bubbling just below the surface. The score was nominated for an Ivor Novello Award
GAME, SET & MATCH (l988)John Williams
Unfortunately this brilliant TV version of Len Deighton's spy trilogy, Berlin Game, Mexico Set, London Match, has only been screened once on British television. Made as ITV's answer to the BBC's Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, It is a complex yet riveting saga of betrayal, intrigue, conspiracy, blackmail and double agents. Ian Holm vividlv recreated Deighton's memorable anti-hero, Bernard Samson, a British secret agent raised in post-war Berlin. Richard's score again features the majestic viola playing of Roger Chase in two themes of touching and achingly austere beauty. This is a personal favourite of mine and a fitting finale to this tribute to the many talents of one of Britain's most versatile and original composers.
Editor of Music from the Movies and The TV Composer Guide