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Gordon Langford and “Famous British Marches”


Gordon Maris Colman Langford (May 11, 1930 –April 18, 2017) was an English composer, arranger, and performer, who is well known for his brass band compositions and arrangements and also for his choral and orchestral music, winning an Ivor Novello award for best light music composition for his March from the Colour Suite in 1971. Langford was born in Edgware, Middlesex, England, on May 11, 1930, as Gordon Maris Colman. His father was a precision toolmaker. He was a precocious child, beginning piano lessons aged five. At nine, one of his compositions received a public performance. He attended Bedford Modern School and he went on to win a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music where he studied piano and composition with Norman Demuth. It was Demuth who suggested that he should change his surname or use a pseudonym. Hence, he changed his name to become Gordon Colman Langford.

     In 1951, during his army service with the Royal Artillery Band, he made his first BBC broadcast as a solo pianist. After leaving the army, he worked with seaside orchestras, a touring opera company and as a ship’s musician, but it was during the 1960s he came to prominence as a pianist, arranger and composer on BBC programmes such as Music in the Air, Melody around the World and Ronnie Barker’s Lines From My Grandfather’s Forehead. In later life he lived in East Devon, mainly composing but occasionally appearing in recordings, concerts and broadcasts.  Langford’s career had a notable relationship with the BBC. Some of his compositions and arrangements were used as Test Card music in the 1960s and ’70s, with such titles as Hebridean Hoedown, The Lark in the Clear Air and Royal Daffodil being remembered by Test Card aficionados. He also wrote and arranged music for Friday Night is Music Night, as well as numerous other BBC programs.

Langford produced many choral arrangements for the King’s Singers in the 1970s.  He was also known for his theatre compositions, such as The Crooked Mile and The House of Cards. Langford was often used by Hollywood as a score orchestrator, with Return of the Jedi, Superman II, The First Great Train Robbery, Clash of the Titans, and Return to Oz to his name.  Langford won an Ivor Novello Award for best light music composition for his March from the Colour Suite in 1971 and went on to make a huge impression on the banding movement in the early 1970s with a series of expertly written original works and arrangements of huge scope and versatility.  He is perhaps best known as a brass band composer and arranger, with a string of CDs to his name.  In particular, the test pieces Facets of Glass and Rhapsody for trombone are well known. He also arranged the works of other composers, such as Henry Mancini, Jerry Goldsmith and John Williams.  In 1974 he released a demo album entitled The Amazing Music of the Electronic ARP Synthesizer. This contained several compositions of his own, plus cover versions, played entirely on the then new innovation, the ARP synth, of pieces as diverse as “Yellow Submarine,” “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head,” “Cocktails for Two,” “Light Cavalry Overture,” and Mozart’s Symphony No. 40.

Langford’s popular ‘Sinfonietta for Brass Band’ (1975) was subsequently used as the theme tune to the BBC television series ‘Best of Brass,’ and the ‘Trombone Concerto’ was written for the great Don Lusher in 1976.    His output of influential concert works from ‘All through the Night’ to ‘West Country Fantasy’ was immense — each crafted with care, detail and an appreciation of the timbre and color palette of the brass band medium.  Due to his prolific concert repertoire output, his major original compositions and arrangement commissions were somewhat underrated — such as his youth band work ‘Metropolis’ written in 1978, to the later ‘Facets of Glass’, ‘Harmonius Variations,’ ‘Three Haworth Impressions,’ and above all his ‘Sinfonietta’, with its beautiful, softly pulsating middle movement.

Langford also adjudicated at a number of major brass band events — including Pontins and Spring Festival Grand Shield as well as the 1985 British Open Championship.  A CD of his original compositions for orchestra performed by the BBC Concert Orchestra conducted by Rumon Gamba was released in 2003.  Later compositions include his Berceuse and Burlesque for bassoon and orchestra, performed on February 1, 2008 at Axminster.  In 2011 he was nominated for a Fellowship of the Royal Academy of Music (FRAM) by the Governing Body of the Academy. He died on April 18, 2017, at the age of 86.

My CD collection includes the following work by Gordon Langford:

Famous British Marches

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