Neil Richardson is undoubtedly one of the country’s greatest composers and arrangers.
For the past 30-40 years, he has continued to work tirelessly producing compositions and arrangements for radio, TV and film. He is probably most famous for composing the enigmatic theme tune to the BBC show “Mastermind” (an original item which is entitled “Approaching Menace”). But there is so much more to Neil’s contribution to the music heritage that warrants recognition. Robert Farnon, regarded as the greatest producer of light music of all time, is quoted as describing Neil as “the finest writer for strings in Europe”. He is applauded by audiences and fellow musicians alike.
Neil’s musical career started at the tender age of eight when he was accepted as a chorister at the choir school in Westminster Abbey. Later on at Lancing College in Sussex where he was a musical scholar he was fortunate enough to become associated with Benjamin Britten and Peter Peers who paid regular visits to the school and encouraged him to engage in a career in music. He continued his musical studies at the Royal College of Music studying clarinet, piano and composition (with professor Lloyd-Webber). During his National Service, he was solo clarinet with the band of the Royal Air Force at Cranwell.
Neil has been composing and arranging for fifty years, and much of this time has been spent working for the BBC. He started writing and conducting for the BBC Radio and Concert orchestras in London and also for many of the BBC’s regional orchestras. He was also invited by the BBC to found the new BBC Northern Radio Orchestra and was its conductor for many years.
Neil has composed and arranged for just about every style of music, from jazz trio to symphony orchestra. He has worked with numerous leading musicians, including the following:
• Johnny Mathis
• Neil Diamond
• Vic Damone
• George Shearing
As far back as 1959, university concert bands in America were playing his music. In the sixties and seventies, his work was presented to American audiences by the Longines Symphonette Society and Readers Digest.
In the 1960s he often composed under the pseudonym “Oscar Brandenburg”.
He has had much success writing for choirs and the world’s leading vocal groups. These include:
• The Baylor University Choir
• The King Singers
• The Swingle Singers (for whom he wrote masses of material and the arrangements for their American tour in 1979)
• His own group, the Neil Richardson singers, who have produced a large amount of material for American radio networks.
International orchestral work
In the 1980s, he worked as conductor for the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra performing in three concerts and presenting a programme of English music ranging from Vaughan-Williams, Gilbert and Sullivan through Noel Coward to the Beatles. As well as conducting, he played solo piano and saxophone. Three concerts were repeated very successfully in London Ontario, Hamilton, Calgary and Edmonton,
He has conducted many further concerts in Canada and the USA, and has conducted many orchestras in Europe, including:
• Belgian State Radio Orchestra
• Metropole Orchestra in Holland
• Bavarian State Radio Orchestra
• RTE Concert Orchestra in Dublin
British orchestral work
His work with British orchestras includes arranging and conducting for all the leading orchestras, including:
• Royal Philharmonic Pops
• Philharmonia Orchestra
• Bournemouth Symphony
• BBC Concert Orchestra
• BBC Radio Orchestra
• London Symphony Orchestra
• National Philharmonic
Neil was twice invited by Lord Mountbatten to conduct charity gala concerts and was musical director of Lord Olivier’s 80th birthday concert at the National Theatre.
He arranged a series of popular songs by Gershwin, Cole Porter, Jerome Kern etc. for opera star Maria Ewing with Richard Rodney Bennett and the BBC Concert Orchestra which formed the second half of a Promenade Concert. This was later recorded with the same artists and the Royal Philharmonic and presented at the Royal Festival Hall.
In 1992, he prepared all the music for Robert Palmers concerts at the Royal Albert Hall.
He also wrote many of the arrangements for the 40th anniversary of the Queen’s accession to the throne at Earl’s Court.
British radio work
For many years, Neil’s compositions and arrangements comprised the key component of the BBC’s light orchestral shows, including String Sound, The BBC Radio Orchestra show and numerous radio concerts and specials. A very brief example of some of Neil’s unique work can be heard here.
TV & film
In 1980, Neil was the musical director for Britain’s first ever Telethon. He has musical director for numerous other prestigious television events, including the Circus World Championship.
He has written numerous documentary and film scores, incidental music for TV and films, and most notably the theme tune to Mastermind.
He worked with Richard Rodney Bennett on many projects including the musical score for the TV min-series Poor Little Rich Girl. He was music director for the BBC film Virtuoso about the life of pianist John Ogden. He wrote some of the music for and conducted Richard Rodney Bennett’s music for the award winning film Enchanted April. He worked again with Richard Rodney Bennett in the film Swan.
He wrote some of the music for and conducted the score on the film Four Weddings and a Funeral.
He has written the music for and appeared in many of the episodes of the TV series Poirot.
He co-composed the famous test card piece “Scotch Broth”. Another of his library music compositions, The Riviera Affair (aka Prestige Production, from the 1970 KPM album Impact and Action, Vol. II), is best known to New Yorkers as the opening theme music for WOR-TV’s late-afternoon movie program, The 4 O’Clock Movie, in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The song was also used as part of an homage of the The 4 O’Clock Movie in the opening logo sequence for the 2007 heist film, Ocean’s Thirteen.