Geoffrey Burgon at 15 years of age

This is a photo of Geoffrey at Pewley Grammar School, he is third from the left. At this time, Geoffrey was being introduced to Jazz by Nigel Jones, listening to records and learning the tunes. Nigel needed a trumpet player for his jazz band and this is when Geoffrey became the trumpet player. We don’t know who the other students are in this photo, maybe you could let us know! Is that Nigel on the right?

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Geoffrey Burgon Dance – Bob Cohan’s 90th Celebration

I attended Bob Cohan’s 90th Celebration at The Place last Friday, March 27th. The man who has been described as ‘the forefather of British contemporary dance’ was a member of Martha Graham’s company for more than ten years, and taught at the Martha Graham School in New York. When, in 1967, he became the Artistic Director of London Contemporary Dance Theatre (based, from 1969 until its demise in 1994, at The Place). Bob was drawn to Geoffrey’s music early in his career and included Canciones del Alma, the work that he choreographed, in the celebration.

I will be posting film footage of Bob Cohan in the next weeks as he is a fascinating man and I understand how both he and Geoffrey worked so well together.

Bob Cohan, Another Place

If Yolande Yorke-Edgell had appeared slightly uncertain as one of the dancers in the Lingua Francaquartet, her solo performance in Cohan’s Canciones del Alma (1978) helped make it the strongest work of the evening. Dressed in a long, full skirt like those Martha Graham used to wear, the dancer turned negative space positive by encircling it with her arms, or by taking quick, short, sideways steps through it. In the third section of the piece, the movement becomes more sweeping. The dancer extends both legs to slide herself to the floor. In her backward run on the diagonal from the front of the stage, with arms stretching out to the place just left, she resembles Isadora Duncan as described by Frederick Ashton and Edwin Denby. Yolande Yorke-Edgell  made this dance her own and I was very taken by her perforance on this evening.

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Geoffrey Burgon 1995 – Waiting

In 1995 Geoffrey wrote these nine easy piano pieces Waiting while he was waiting for his wife to get ready.  A special space in time known to many men.  The kitchen had an old upright piano and it was here that he used his time wisely to create these playful works. The drawing of him on the book cover was done while he was in Paleochora, Crete also in 1995,  where he slept while he waited!  If you click the Waiting cover you will be able to get the book and have a look!

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BBC Radio 3 – December 23rd, 2014 – Geoffrey Burgon’s Nunc Dimittis as a favourite!

Delighted to hear on Radio 3 this morning that listeners had voted Geoffrey’s “Nunc Dimittis” as one of the best 365 works ever written by a British Composer. The announcer also spoke about Geoffrey’s charm, sense of humour and ability as a jazz trumpeter. Thank you Radio 3 for all your wonderful support to the world of music, of which the great composers like Geoffrey can be heard. Wishing all of you and Geoffrey’s fans a Merry Christmas and a healthy, happy 2015!

BBC Music – Geoffrey Burgon

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The Composers of DOCTOR WHO – Geoffrey Burgon

The Composers of DOCTOR WHO – Geoffrey Burgon

Christopher Morley continues his look back at the many composers who have produced music for Doctor Who. This week it’s Geoffrey Burgon…

Geoffrey Burgon contributed only two scores to Doctor Who- 1975′s Terror Of The Zygons & the following year’s The Seeds Of Doom- but the sheer scope of his musical career deserves examination! Born in Hambledon on July 15, 1941, his first attempt to tease out a tune came when he taught himself to play the trumpet at the age of 15 in order to join Pewley Grammar School’s jazz band at the urging of Nigel Jones, their clarinettist & elder brother to Terry Jones- later of Monty Python fame! From there he went on to the Guildhall School of Music & Drama intending to forge a career as a trumpeter, before switching to composition after taking the advice of his mentor- the composer Peter Wishart, who was then a teacher at the School.

Following his graduation he supported himself with odd jobs as a freelance trumpet player before selling all but one of his musical instruments & devoting himself solely to the business of composing. His Requiem…

He took a rather dim view of his work for big/small screen, though! He saw it as a means to an end to allow himself to fund & devote time to what he dubbed his ‘ serious work’ for concert performances. His portfolio in this regard includes several ballet scores- his first for The Calm by London Contemporary Dance Theatre in 1974-orchestral works ranging from 1963′s Concerto For String Orchestra to 2006′s Industrial Dreams, two brass band pieces in the form of Paradise Dances (1994) & 1998′s Narnia Suite , chamber music running from 1969′s Fanfares & Variants- 2009′s Minterne Dances & vocal works from 1964′s Cantata on Medieval Latin Texts to 2006′s The Road Of Love.

Several of these vocal pieces were in collaboration with the counter-tenor James Bowman, who had begun singing as a boy chorister in the choir of Ely Cathedral, Cambridge,continuing his choral training at New College, Oxford- singing in the college choir.

Perhaps his best-known film scoring credit is his work on Monty Python’s Life Of Brian! As you may remember it caused quite some debate at the time- John Cleese & Michael Palin defending themselves against Mervyn Stockwood, the Bishop of Southwark. After that it was on to 1981′s The Dogs Of War, an adaptation of Frederick Forsyth’s 1974 novel, then Turtle Diary ( 1985)- a tale of love against the backdrop of visits to London Zoo.

He was also the man behind the music for the 1991 Robin Hood big-screen outing starring Patrick Bergin in the role, recently played by Tom Riley opposite Peter Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor in Robot Of Sherwood.

Burgon was also a keen cricketer & writer of detective novels in his spare time away from his musical outlets! He is survived by his children, son Matthew & daughter Hannah ( from his marriage to the late Janice Garwood in 1963) & his son, Daniel, from his second wife,  singer/pianist Jacqueline Kroft in 1992- he sadly died on September 21, 2010, with Terry Jones contributing an obituary to The Guardian, which opens-
‘Though an old friend, Geoff, born in Hampshire, wasn’t my friend to begin with. He was my elder brother Nigel’s best mate at Pewley school, Guildford, in Surrey. It was there that my brother persuaded Geoff to buy a trumpet so that he could play alongside Nigel’s clarinet in the school jazz band. But his ambitions to be a jazz trumpeter were thwarted by his yearning to write music. He taught himself notation while he was still at school, played the trumpet in a local youth orchestra, and was soon writing music for them.

He applied for a place at the Guildhall School of Music in London as a trumpeter, but they were more interested in his composing skills. Under the guidance of Peter Wishart, he found that writing music began to become more important than playing it. He later said, “I’d realised I wasn’t going to be the next Miles Davis,” so he asked Wishart if he thought he could make it as a composer. “You don’t seem to be able to stop,” was the reply. From that moment he bowed to the inevitable.’
And of his music for Life Of Brian, he said:
‘My brother suggested I should ask Geoff to write the music for the film. So – not knowing any other composers – I did.

I remember going to his house, and Geoff apologising for being a poor pianist, but he picked out the theme tunes and I liked what I heard, although I had no idea how wonderful the final score would turn out to be. The music he wrote now seems to be inseparable from the film. He gave it a simple but biblical-epic sound – so important in making the audience believe in the world, so the comedy could play against it. After working together on Life of Brian, Geoff and I became close friends. When my brother died, he gave a funeral oration in which he told the story of how my brother had got him into music, something I would otherwise never have known. He was a modest, calm, reassuring man – a good listener and a good talker – someone you longed to be with. Someone to love.’.

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Ave Verum Corpus – Geoffrey Burgon – All Angels

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Testament of Youth BBC 1979

Testament of Youth BBC 1979
Music by Geoffrey Burgon

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In Memory of Sept. 21st, 2010

Geoffrey recording at Lansdown Studio’s with his favourite engineer, Paul Golding. They did many recordings there together. Thinking of Geoffrey on this day and thankful for his astounding contribution to the world of music.

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Celebrating Geoffrey Burgon’s 73rd Birthday today July 15th.

To honour Geoffrey Burgon’s 73rd Birthday we are posting this superb performance by the Wellensian Consort of his ” But Have Been Found Again”, a choral work inspired by the text of St. John of the Cross. Conducted by Christopher Finch at St. John’s Smith Square, July 2011. This was part of a Celebratory Concert to commemorate Geoffrey Burgon’s life works.
The film is cut with a home movie of Geoffrey, his son Daniel with Daniel’s friend Matthew, flying on a sea plane to Paxos for the Classical Festival in 2006.

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Laurie Lee

In celebration of Laurie Lee’s centennial birthday we have uploaded the movie ” Cider with Rosie” that has Geoffrey’s score. Geoffrey wrote some of his most important works in Gloucestershire and was in tune with the allure of Lee’s words. He often said it was his “magical place” and Laurie Lee captured each subtle nuance with his lyrical writing. We send our thoughts and best wishes to Kathy and Jess Lee.

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