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As with so many composers, understanding the key events in the life of John Barry Prendergast (his original name) leads to a deeper understanding of his music.
After a youth spent as a projectionist in his father’s York cinema, he was bathed from an early age in the rich choral music of the English tradition, going for lessons with Francis Jackson, the organist at York Minster. But it is probably his later youth – as pop star with the John Barry Seven and musical director for Adam Faith – that informs this album more.
Coming at the end of a life in the cinema, this collection of pieces marries Barry’s tried-and-tested cinema style with the earlier ‘three-minute-thirty’ quick-hit singles. Pieces such as Nocturnal New York are like film scores in miniature, sweeping you up in their wake and enveloping you in the classic Barry sound. The title track is the CD’s show-stealer, allowing the English Chamber Orchestra’s lush string sound to come across at its best. At times, you can almost hear history playing out in front of you: Kissably Close doffs the cap, in style only, to the classic score of Midnight Cowboy, reminding us of John Barry’s genius. Beautiful, lush sounds.
English Chamber Orchestra; John Barry (conductor).
Illustration: Mark Millington