The composer and record producer is profiled by EDMUND
Philip Lane was born in 1950 at Cheltenham, the English Regency
spa town at the foot of the Cotswolds Hills made famous through
patronage by George III. It supports many annual festivals
including National Hunt racing, literature, cricket and international
music but was quite parochial until the latter stages of the
20th Century. The family owned a harmonium on which the small
budding musician showed quite an aptitude, after which an
upright piano was acquired on which he was able to indulge
his fancies for almost every type of music.
At six he embarked on formal lessons and when his teacher
discovered he could play by ear, remarked "Dont
worry, he will grow out of it". He then spent the new
few years trying to persuade his pupil that his talents lay
in the library service!
At the age of 11 he moved to Pates Grammar School for
boys whose former pupils include Gustav Holst and Brian Jones
of the Rolling Stones. Here he learnt to play the organ and
earned more from a half hour funeral (for which his enlightened
headmaster allowed him time off) than his friends could make
in a whole week delivering newspapers.
He then took to accompanying a local choral society and spending
weekends and holidays working for W.H. Smith at the time when
the Beatles and Bob Dylan were at their height. Selling records
possibly gave him ideas and he began to compose, among his
works being carols, piano pieces and a string quartet, plus
an orchestral Sinfonietta since withdrawn. The symphony
orchestra was to prove his favourite means of expression.
In 1969 he went to Birmingham University to read Music. His
interview with Professor Ivor Keys took the form of little
more than playing through his piano duet suite Badinages,
later to become his first commercially recorded work. He was
told he would "probably be accepted" and after he
went up, two of his tutors turned out to be John Joubert and
Peter Dickinson. There was little time for composition lessons,
however, and he was excused orchestration when it was discovered
that his orchestral works were already being played down the
road at the BBC Pebble Mill studios by the BBC Midland Light
Orchestra! Despite later encouragement from Bernard Hermann,
Philip considers himself virtually self-taught in both disciplines.
Whilst at University he developed a deep interest in Lord
Berners (1883-1950) who, in addition to being an accomplished
composer was also a painter, novelist and general eccentric.
Philips thesis on the composer, coupled with several
radio talks, led to him being appointed a trustee of the Berners
Estate and overseeing the completion of all Berners
music on to CD.
From 1975-1998 Philip taught at Cheltenham Ladies College
during which time he received many commissions, especially
for upper voices. In his spare time he worked freelance for
London publishers and quite by chance, in 1993, was invited
to look after the estate of Richard Addinsell (1904-77). He
wrote a radio documentary on the subject and was then asked
to embark on what became something of a passion for film music.
The Marco Polo CD of Addinsells music needed to include
the famous film score for Goodbye Mr. Chips, the brilliant
1939 film which starred Robert Donat. Unfortunately, most
of the score was lost so Philip sat down and listened to the
film over and over again, eventually successfully recreating
the music as it first appeared.
This led naturally to him being commissioned to do the same
thing for other famous films, such as The Thirty Nine Steps
and The Lady Vanishes. He is now an acknowledged
expert on the restoration of "lost" film music and
has been interviewed several times about the subject on BBC
Radios 3 and 4. It would not be unfair to say the nation owes
him a great debt because so many film scores were simply destroyed
during times when nobody ever considered there would be any
future interest or use for them. Among the film composers
"rescued" in this manner are Arnold, Auric, Alwyn,
Bliss and Victor Young.
Philip Lanes commercial successes include library music,
compositions for BBC plays (including The Merchant of Venice
and Sir Thomas More), plus the TV animation of
the immortal Captain Pugwash. Live music has included
a choral commission to mark the centenary of the death of
Lewis Carroll, one from the winners of the Sainsbury Choir
of the Year, and a ballet Hansel and Gretel for the
National Youth Ballet.
Conductor Gavin Sutherland, with whom Philip has worked on
several outstanding CDs, commented on "a perfectionist
with the quiet aura of a schoolmaster surveying his class,
who has played a very large part in the preservation of much
of the British Light Music canon that was presumed lost."
It was Cheltenham Ladies Colleges great loss
when Philip decided to devote himself full-time to composing
and producing CDs but it was a great gain for the music world
in general. It is hard to underestimate how much he achieved
in such a short time and we should all be profoundly grateful
that he took the bold step of leaving a secure post in a top
public school to enhance, recreate and restore tuneful British
[from Journal Into Melody March 2004]