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Robert Farnon & His Orchestra

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b. 24 July 1917, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, d. 23 April 2005, Guernsey, Channel Islands, British Isles. Gifted with a prodigious musical talent, early in his life Farnon was accomplished on several instruments, and at the age of 11 was playing with the Toronto Junior Symphony Orchestra. In 1932 he joined the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Orchestra where the musical director, Percy Faith, made him responsible for many of the choral arrangements. In 1941 Farnon’s First Symphony was performed by the Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra under Eugene Ormandy. At the start of World War II Farnon enlisted in the Canadian army and was sent to Europe as leader of the Canadian Band of the American Expeditionary Force. After the war, he remained in the UK, writing arrangements for popular bands such as those of Ted Heath and Geraldo. He formed and led a studio orchestra for a long-running BBC radio series and many of his light orchestral compositions became popular, most notably ‘Jumping Bean’, ‘Portrait Of A Flirt’, ‘The Westminster Waltz’ and ‘The Colditz March’. His other important compositions have included ‘Melody Fair’, ‘Peanut Polka’, ‘A La Claire Fontaine’, ‘Gateway To The West’, ‘Pictures In The Fire’, ‘A Star Is Born’, ‘Manhattan Playboy’, Journey Into Melody’, ‘Lake Of The Woods’, ‘Derby Day’, and ‘State Occasion’. In the late 40s and early 50s Farnon wrote scores for several movies such as I Live In Grosvenor Square (1945), Spring In Park Lane (1948), Maytime In Mayfair (1949), Captain Horatio Hornblower R.N. (1951), His Majesty O’Keefe (1954), Gentlemen Marry Brunettes (1955), The Little Hut (1957), The Sheriff Of Fractured Jaw (1958), The Road To Hong Kong (1962), The Truth About Spring (1964), Shalako (1968), and Bear Island (1979). In 1962, Farnon arranged and conducted for Frank Sinatra’s Great Songs From Great Britain, the first broadcast the singer had recorded in the UK. Subsequently, he worked in television, composing several television themes for top-rated programmes such as Panorama, Armchair Theatre, Colditz, The Secret Army, and Kessler, and continued to make occasional radio broadcasts and assemble orchestras for special concerts and recording dates. In 1996, Farnon received the Best Instrumental Arrangement Grammy Award for ‘Lament’, a track on hisTangence album with the famous trombonist J.J. Johnson. In the following year, Farnon’s many admirers around the world, including the members of an extremely active British-based appreciation society, were celebrating his 80th birthday. He was awarded the Order Of Canada in 1998, and also completed a new piano concerto to be recorded by the Czechoslovakia Symphony Orchestra in Bratislava.

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