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Composers pay tribute to Barrington Pheloung

We hear from members of the music creator community on the life and work of the Ivor Novello Award nominated composer, who has passed away at the age of 65.

Australian born Barrington Pheloung moved to London in the early 70s where he studied composition at the Royal College of Music. Pheloung’s first commissions were for dance, touring with the London Contemporary Dance Theatre, who went on to compose more than 50 pieces for dance and stage works. In 1986 Pheloung received his break in television scoring the Michael Elphick crime drama Boon, and was approached shortly after to supply the score for Inspector Morse, which was to earn him critical acclaim and recognition across the world. Pheloung went on to score dozens of other TV series and worked on several films, notably Nostradamus in 1996 for which he earned an Ivor Novello Award nomination.

Multi-award winning composer Christopher Gunning shares his memories of working with Pheloung:

“Barrington Pheloung was a founder member of the APC (Association of Professional Composers) when, in 1976, a small group of classical and media composers met to tackle some injustices making our professional lives difficult. Barrington arranged for us to meet at London Contemporary Dance’s premises once a month on a Sunday. If few of us knew Barrington well (we called him Barry or Bazza) that was to change as we became aware of his ballet scores and his intention of making a career in films and TV. He was converting his house in Westcliffe-on-sea into a recording studio having come from Australia to study at the Royal College of Music. With his long black hair and slightly dishevelled appearance, he looked like… a composer!

It was with his quirky but beautiful music for “Morse” that we sat up. Barry captured the series and main character in title music which caught the imagination. Morse code provided the rhythm while a solo guitar and/or strings supplied a flowing melody. It was quiet yet propulsive, and highly original. Barry went on to compose for a great many films and TV productions and was much loved by all. Reserved, but sometimes intelligently assertive, he was always a joy to be with. He was taken far, far too soon and will be greatly missed.”

Of Pheloung’s passing, Debbie Wiseman OBE has said of the composer and his music:

“Barrington was a towering talent, able to move effortlessly between composing scores for film and television, ballet, concertos, radio, theatre, pop and the concert hall. He had a unique voice – all Barrington’s scores bear his watermark of quality and originality. He was such a good-humoured, generous spirit and was always so modest and warm-hearted.

His wonderful music will live on – not only in the hearts of all those who knew him, but in the hearts of everyone who has had the good fortune to be touched by a Barrington Pheloung work. He was an inspiration, and leaves us with a stunning array of truly original music to treasure, and – equally importantly – the man behind the musical genius will always be remembered.”


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