BBC News

Composer John Barry remembered at memorial concert

By Neil Smith
Arts reporter, BBC News

image captionThe late John Barry received a Bafta Fellowship in 2003

Friends and fans of the late film composer John Barry have celebrated his life and career at a memorial charity concert.

Dame Shirley Bassey was amongst the performers at the event, held at the Royal Albert Hall in central London.

The musician, best known for his work on Born Free and the James Bond films, died in January aged 77.

Ex-James Bond Timothy Dalton and Beatles producer Sir George Martin were among the speakers.

The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra performed selections from a host of Barry scores.

Broadcaster Sir Michael Parkinson opened the tribute, remembering the composer as "a great man of music".

Barry, he said, had "an intuitive understanding of how to create the perfect union of music and the moving image".

Those sentiments were echoed by Sir Michael Caine, who appeared via video message to salute "one of the all-time greats".

"John was one of my oldest and closest friends," the actor continued, reliving the night he had stayed with the erstwhile bandleader only to be kept awake by him working on one of his most famous compositions.

"I was the first person in the world to hear Goldfinger," the veteran star recalled. "And I heard it all night."

Lyricist Don Black remembered Barry as a proud Yorkshire man who remained so, despite living in the US for much of his life.

"I like to say John put the York in New York," said Black, whose collaborations with the multiple Oscar-winner included the title song from 1966's Born Free.

Zulu, Midnight Cowboy, Dances with Wolves and Out of Africa were among other films to have their soundtracks showcased in the extensive programme.

The concert also featured excerpts from some less familiar Barry scores, among them music from 1965 comedy The Knack… And How To Get It.

Elsewhere Welsh tenor Wynne Evans - standing in for the indisposed Alfie Boe - gave a powerful rendition of 'Ave Maria.

Inevitably, though, it was Barry's contributions to the Bond series that took precedence at an event attended by several members of the so-called "007 family".

These included Bond producer Michael G Wilson, Goldfinger's Shirley Eaton and actress Samantha Bond, who played Miss Moneypenny from 1995 to 2002.

David Arnold, who wrote the music for the last five Bond films, produced the programme with Barry's widow Laurie and also performed.

image captionThe celebrated composer was awarded an OBE in 1999 for services to music

Dalton - whose first outing as Bond, 1987's The Living Daylights, was graced by Barry's last contribution to the series - said the composer had been "generous, warm and funny."

The actor went on to recite a poem by John O'Donohue, the Irish writer and philosopher who inspired Barry's final album, Eternal Echoes.

"John would love to know you were here for him," said Sir George Martin, declaring that his friend had had "an unerring instinct for what a film needed".

His tribute followed a 'Bond Suite' featuring music from Thunderball, From Russia with Love, You Only Live Twice and others that brought the audience to its feet.

London-born singer Rumer got a similarly warm reception, despite fluffing a line during her performance of 'We Have All the Time in the World' from On Her Majesty's Secret Service.

The song - originally performed by Louis Armstrong and later used in a Guinness advert - had been a personal favourite of Barry's.

The most sustained applause was saved for Dame Shirley as she took to the stage near the end of the evening to belt out the theme tunes to Diamonds are Forever and Goldfinger.

All profits from the concert will benefit the newly established John Barry Scholarship for Film Compositio, at the Royal College of Music, London.

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  • John Barry to be remembered at memorial concert