JOHN BARRY MEMORIAL CONCERT ROYAL ALBERT HALL
MONDAY 20TH JUNE 2011
Report by GARETH BRAMLEY
Tickets for this concert had virtually sold out the day
they went on sale apart from the odd seat; and from day
one the guest list got longer and longer. With so many
people being involved in Barrys long and illustrious
career it was great to see some of these coming forward
to make their tributes on the night.
After a brief warm-up from the orchestra Sir Michael
Parkinson came on stage to introduce us to the man he
had known since he was a Granada TV presenter in Manchester
in the early 60s - where the John Barry Seven were guests
on his show. He said his output was monumental both
in quantity and in quality and described John as
a great man of music and someone who had an
intuitive understanding of how to create the perfect union
of music and the moving image.
Many images of John were projected onto a large
screen throughout the evening, interspersed with footage
and interviews from the BBC Omnibus programme from 2000
(John Barry Licence To Thrill) and
Moviola a PBS TV Special from 1993. Michael
introduced us to Johns son Jonpatrick who only had
a few, but very charming, words to say: Welcome
to my fathers memorial. Id like to introduce
our conductor Nicholas Dodd. Have a wonderful night.
This was the first time I had seen Jonpatrick in person
since the comeback concert in 1998 and I was amazed at
how tall he now was.
Dodd, who had conducted Barrys music for many of
his later concerts, raised his baton for Goldfinger
performed to perfection by the Royal Philharmonic
Orchestra. The Knack followed a theme
which we had first heard performed in concert at the 1998
event. This was another splendid performance followed
by a video tribute from one of Barrys earliest and
best friends Sir Michael Caine, who couldnt
attend in person due to work commitments. Naturally he
recalled the time in the 60s when he was looking for somewhere
to live short-term and John had invited him to stay at
his flat. In the event Caine was kept awake with John
playing on the piano all night. On questioning John the
next morning he learnt that he had finished what was the
score to Goldfinger. Caine said I was the first
person in the world *ever* to hear Goldfinger, and I heard
it all night. He described John as one of
the all-time greats. He went onto say that Barry
was one of my closest and oldest friends and a nice
guy; and that he was important in his early career,
writing the music for his early films Zulu
and Ipcress File - and it was these two themes
that followed Caines tribute. Zulu,
in particular, was just as stirring as was
when John conducted back in 1998. He finished with a very
moving statement saying that the last time he was at the
RAH it was in a concert tribute to John and his
music, and I introduced him; and now Im here in
the same place; sort of saying goodbye.
Sir Richard Attenborough featured amidst some clips and
music from Chaplin and some black and white
stills of John with Dickie and Jonpatrick as a child.
Sadly none of the music from the film- which received
an Oscar nomination - was played on the night. Nicholas
Dodd then conducted Somewhere in Time and
clips from Lion in Winter; and Omnibus
with Dr. Francis Jackson discussing this score with John
Don Black OBE then came on stage to voice his comments
about his long association with John which had started
as early as 1965 when they collaborated on Thunderball.
He recalled how he remembered the lunches more than
the songs and how John used to like fish &
chips with a little vinegar on the side; and swam
every morning to Mahlers 5th symphony.
It was great to hear him say, yet again, that John had
always remained a Yorkshire man through and through despite
living in America for almost forty years; and that he
felt that John always put the York in New York.
It was very poignant when he remarked: Unfortunately,
outside of the Bond world you only live once. Nicholas
Dodd then conducted their song Born Free which
won two Oscars in 1966.
Midnight Cowboy followed, with a delightful
harmonica solo by Julian Jackson and the penultimate tune
in the first half was The John Dunbar Theme
from another Oscar-winning score Dances with Wolves
which followed some brief clips from the film and
comments on the score and film from John. Dodd announced
that John had handed him the baton a few years back before
a concert of his music in Paris and to end the first half
of the concert he introduced Rumer as one of the
countrys finest new talents- who sang We
Have All the Time in the World to good applause;
and the first half of the concert drew to a close. From
the BBC Radio 2 Friday Night Is Music Night
broadcast in 1st July it was revealed by the
singer herself that she was invited to sing at the concert
because she was in the process of putting words to music
John had written just before he died.
After the usual interval Michael Parkinson introduced
the first two selections of the second half to highlight
Johns influence in jazz. Firstly one of my
favourites Body Heat with the saxophone
solo played by Nigel Hitchcock. Another fine performance
of one of my favourite Barry themes previously heard in
concert form. So too was the second theme Remembering
Chet from Playing By Heart which first
featured in his 1999 concert with Chris Botti on trumpet.
On this occasion the trumpet solo was played by Derek
Watkins who, as we later learnt from the Radio 2 broadcast,
had played on all of the Bond scores and had worked with
Barry since 1965.
One of my favourites on the night - splendidly played
by the RPO was Out of Africa, followed by
another standout track from 1998 and the title of his
new album at that time The Beyondness of Things.
The only non-Barry tune on the evenings programme
was Ave Marie. As Nicholas Dodd explained
this was a personal favourite of Johns and the song
was superbly sung by Wynne Evans deputising for Alfie
Boe who was unable to attend. This selection was very
popular with the audience.
The next item was a surprise clips relating to
Eternal Echoes (from the BBC Omnibus special)
followed by a reading of the Blessing by John Donoghue
by Bond actor Timothy Dalton. He explained that Laurie
had asked him to read this as John had it permanently
on his desk whilst he was working; and he described John
as a kind and generous man, warm and funny.
It would have been nice to hear a concert version of The
Living Daylights for the first time but, as expected,
this was not to be.
Current Bond composer David Arnold was the next guest
who along with Johns widow Laurie
had organised the evenings concert. David came on
with his guitar with which Id recently seen him
backing Shirley Bassey. He said I heard John Barry
and I wanted to be a film composer. He went onto
say its terribly difficult at saying goodbye
to someone like John because hes been such a huge
part in everyones lives; but in a way he is here
hes in the first violins, hes in the
horns, hes in the trumpets and I think hes
definitely in the bar somewhere. This raised a huge
laugh and what followed was a real treat as David premiered
a song which was the last song to be composed by John
Tick the Days Off One By One. Extremely
well-sung, this was a great number and one wondered who
and what it had been originally written for.
Before I could catch my breath the RPO began The
James Bond Suite. I have to say that, although I
have heard this many times before, as it was always included
in Barrys concerts, Dodd gave it his all and the
RPO were superb and faultless; and this time the suite
was far raunchier. Dodd enjoyed it as much as the crowd
and proved this by holding up the score booklet during
the rapturous applause at the end commenting marvellous
After what seemed like a never-ending applause Sir George
Martin was then introduced. Id half expected another
video link but was pleased to see a somewhat frail looking
Martin come onto stage to recall the early days of John
and the John Barry Seven; and his technique of using the
violins and pizzicato strings. He said John Barrys
a pretty hard act to follow and had an unerring
instinct for what a film needed. For instance, he
would ask for twelve French horns, all playing the same
phrase, and when told this was extravagant he replied
sure, but its a great sound. Soon after
the audience exploded into applause as George introduced
Dame Shirley Bassey as probably the greatest dramatic
singer of all time. What followed was simply the
best version of Diamonds Are Forever sung
by Shirley that Id ever heard and I think the rest
of arena agreed.
But even better things followed when Shirley and her
conductor launched into Goldfinger which received
a standing ovation; and bouquets of flowers and presents
from members of the audience and Johns grand-daughters
were presented to Shirley. A stupendous performance
surely the finest yet from 74 year old Shirley.
John would have been proud of her.
The final item was yet another surprise and this was
a tremendous version of the James Bond Theme with Dodd
conducting the RPO accompanied by David Arnold on guitar.
Ok, hes no Vic Flick but David can play superbly
and his second tribute for the evening was accompanied
by images of some of the Bond movies on the screen.
To end the evenings concert Laurie Barry
Johns driving force was introduced.
She confirmed that the RPO had been perfect,
and thanked everyone for being here for John.
She went on to thank all the artists and deep inside I
felt pleased, and relieved, that she didnt just
take a back seat as before but had made herself present.
After all, it was Laurie with help from David Arnold
and Eon Productions who we have to thank for the concert
which was in aid of The John Barry Scholarship for Film
Composition recently set up at the Royal College of Music.
She was soon joined by Jonpatrick who, if I remember correctly,
entered with a bouquet of flowers. Id only ever
seen Laurie once in person and that was at the Symphony
Hall in Birmingham where John performed in 1999
she sat a few rows behind us and we later presented her
with a leather bound copy of our 1998 book to pass onto
Having to dash off to ensure I was in good time for my
last train I quickly left knowing that I had, without
question, thoroughly enjoyed the evening. I would have
loved to have dashed down to meet Laurie and thank her
but trains do not wait! So Id like to take this
opportunity of thanking all concerned for arranging such
a splendid tribute to my hero John Barry.
This Concert Review originally appeared in Journal
Into Melody September 2011