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Herbert Chappell

Born: 1934

Nationality: British

Publisher: Novello & Co

Born in 1934, Herbert Chappell first began to compose when still a cathedral chorister in his native city of Bristol. At Oxford University he attended no lectures after his first week and spent much of his time composing musicals and incidental music for amateur theatrical productions. He gained a First, however, and went on to do a B.Mus and D.Phil on orchestration. This latter task he abandoned when, in 1959 - seven years after he had arrived at Oxford - he found out that National Service had actually stopped, so there was no longer any need to avoid conscription.

Leaving academia behind him, Chappel joined the ranks of London's freelance composers; that was the moment, he says, when he suddenly found himself writing for studio musicians, and his real education began. He scored and conducted everything from advertising jingles to feature films such as "Licensed to Kill". He was to compose more than 250 scores for TV plays and for series such as "The Pallisers", as well as the ever popular "Paddington Bear", released on Sony, narrated by Stephen Fry.

For children, he had great success with "The Daniel Jazz". This provoked a number of cantatas, 'hotting up the Bible'. According to Andrew Lloyd Webber's biography, "The Daniel Jazz" prompted "Joseph & the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat". Chappell's compositions are 'laced with tunes that stick in the mind' - as the Gramophone described his "Guitar Concerto" - a work it also deemed 'arguabley the most dynamic, colourful and explosive guitar concerto of the last half-century'.

Although Chappell studied - fleetingly - with Egon Wellesz, one of the Second Viennese School, he has little time for atonality, nor minimalism for that matter. On the contrary, he is convinced that 'the composer's job', as Benjamin Britten said, 'is to be useful - and to the living.' He feels that many of the 'isms' of the past century have neglected the existence of amateurs, and of children in particular. The result, he says, is a ghetto.

With this in mind, he wrote "Dead in Tune", a musical 'whodunnit' for narrator and the Leicestershire Schools Orchestra, to introduce young children to the different orchestral instruments. For the same orchestra he composed a whizz-bang overture, recently released on ASV under the title "Boy Wizard, an impression of Harry Potter".

Wearing a different hat, he has written and directed many award-winning music documentary films for television. These have presented leading classical musicians of our day - such as Leonard Bernstein, Andre Previn, Georg Solti, James Galway, Julian Bream and Kiri te Kanawa - as well as highly-acclaimed ballets and operas from all over the globe. His prize-winning film of African Sanctus introduced choirs and audiences in many countries to the music of David Fanshawe, and his glorious production of the original "Three Tenors" concert from Rome, during the 1990 World Cup, which was televised live to 56 countries and to an estimated 800 million viewers, and has been largely responsible for attracting an ever-expanding audience of classical music-lovers.

(c) H.C. 2008
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