Friday, 04 December 2015

Radio Review: 4 December

A celebration of a great composer of theme music

Written by Louis Barfe
Louis-Barfe-colour-176It’s said that you should never meet your heroes, but in my experience that’s rubbish. Many years ago, I found myself in the same room as Angela Morley, the musical genius who had composed the Hancock’s Half Hour theme and provided all the music for The Goon Show. If I hadn’t said hello, I’d have spent the rest of my life kicking myself. Thankfully, I don’t have to, because I spoke to her that day, and later interviewed her for a book that I wrote. She was a thoroughly kind and generous person. That really came across in Sarah Wooley’s Radio 4 play, 1977 (available on iPlayer), all about Morley stepping in at extremely short notice to complete the score for Watership Down, taking over from an ailing Malcolm Williamson.

At first, Morley – played here by Rebecca Root of BBC Two’s Boy Meets Girl – wasn’t keen to take on the project, citing lack of time and preparation. There was another reason to decline. In 1972, Morley had changed her name from Wally Stott and undergone gender reassignment surgery, subsequently preferring to do her superb work away from the limelight. If the film did well, publicity would be unavoidable.

The play charted Morley’s gradual warming to the idea both of the gig and of going public with her new identity, as well as the miracle she worked in producing the perfect score in just three weeks. Being good and being quick are sometimes mutually exclusive qualities, but Morley would invariably write all the Goon scores on the morning of the recording.

A little dramatic licence seems to have been used here and there, such as a chance encounter between Morley and Williamson in a bookshop, but it didn’t jar. This was a fine celebration of a truly remarkable and inspiring woman.

Louis on Twitter: @LFBarfe or email:

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