Paul Lewis Composer

Film, Television and Concert Composer.

Biography

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I was born into a family of professional musicians in Brighton, England, in 1943, and was educated at Brighton College where I learnt the piano from the age of nine, somewhat reluctantly as I was only interested in history and ancient buildings, but when at twelve I saw Laurence Olivier's film of Shakespeare's 'Richard III' with Walton’s music, I immediately realized I had to be a composer.

So I formed a cunning plan.....to avoid all formal training and leave school at fifteen to enter music publishing and find out how the music business worked from inside while I was young enough for it not to hurt, and so as not to waste three years at music college being told that writing film music was beneath my musical diginity, which I suspected was the prevailing attitude at the time.

What seemed to others a hazardous scheme worked! By the age of nineteen my orchestral pieces were being recorded by several production music libraries, finding their way into the cinema newsreels of the day, and at twenty I became Assistant Musical Adviser to ABC Television, one of the 'Big Four' British Independent Television companies. Within months I had composed my first score for a major TV drama, since when, over a period of forty-seven years, I scored over 150 series' and one-offs as well as being the subject of a half-hour ITV documentary in 1995. I resigned from ABC TV to go freelance after three years - another hazardous decision, or so I was warned - and moved to Hastings where I bought a 15th century house in the Old Town.

My TV work has ranged from high drama with Orson Welles, Peter O’Toole, Christopher Lee, Sybil Thorndike and Celia Johnson to international award-winning children’s comedy - ('Woof!' and 'Bernard's Watch') - by way of The Benny Hill Show and Monty Python! Many of my early library compositions are still sought after and can be heard in such popular TV series' as 'Sponge Bob Square Pants', 'Flog It', 'Top Gear' and 'Hairy Bikers'.

To my surprise in 1997 I was declared one of Britain's 'Legends of Light Music' in Denis Norden's BBC Radio 2 series of that name, and in 2011 my music was featured twice in BBC Radio 2 and 3's "Light Fantastic - the Best of British Light Music" festival.

Since changing course to concentrate on concert works ten years ago I have produced a catalogue of over 130 published concert works ranging from concertos, orchestral overtures and string suites to chamber music and compositions for solo instruments, most notably for my favourite instrument, the harp. Many of my works have been included in the Associated Boards and Trinity Examination syllabuses.

I have conducted entire concerts of my own music, which included world premieres of newly commissioned works, in America, New Zealand, Italy and Turkey, and was the subject of a day-long celebration, 'A Day with Composer Paul Lewis', at the Ecole Nationale de Musique at Mantes-en-Yvelines on the outskirts of Paris.

The discovery of the remains of Richard III under a Leicester car park in 2012 was for me a cause for celebration, for having been inspired to become a composer at the age of twelve by Laurence Olivier's film of Shakespeare's 'Richard III' I have held a lifelong fascination with the true character of this greatly maligned king. The discovery inspired my 'Fanfare for King Richard III' for brass and percussion, the premiere of which I conducted in York Guildhall, where Richard feasted in 1483, to coincide with the king's reburial in Leicester. This in turn led to a commission for a 23-minute work, 'Threnody for Violin: The Most Famous Prince of Blessed Memory' for a concert in Richard's honour held most movingly in his own church at Middleham as part of the Yorkshire English Music Festival in September 2015.

As well as eight CDs devoted entirely to my music, numerous other concert works of mine can be found in various CD series' alongside the music of some of my English composer heroes such as Arnold, Holst and Vaughan Williams. These recordings are broadcast around the world, with regular airings on Classic FM Radio in England and Radio NZ Concert in New Zealand

Details of all these recordings can be found on the CD RELEASES page.

I met my third wife, soprano/harpist/sogwriter Sharon Elizabeth, in 2007, and from 2008 to 2012 we divided our time between England and New Zealand. In addition to my many composing commitments, I am Sharon Elizabeth’s piano accompanist in everything from operatic excerpts to very naughty cabaret! (forgetmenotcabaret.com.) We have performed at arts festivals in New Zealand and the UK, with regular seasons in the Napier Art Deco Festival, Hamilton Gardens Summer Festival and Brighton Fringe Festival. The soprano part in my score for the 2009 BBC TV documentary 'Napoli, City of the Damned' was written for Sharon Elizabeth, as were the vocal parts in the NZ commssions 'Legends of Rotorua' and 'Jazz at the Movies' in the 2010 NZ National Jazz Festival. 

A favourite pastime of mine is giving my anecdotal 'Memoirs of a Media Composer' talks. I have informed and entertained music colleges and universities in America, France and New Zealand and am a regular speaker for the Women's Institute and many other English societies. See TALKS page.

My parallel life has been the pursuit and study of mediaeval and renaissance art and architecture in England and France, in the course of which I have discovered many previously unrecognised works of arts of the period and have painstakingly restored three early houses using traditional methods and materials, culminating in the fourteen-year recreation of an early Tudor courtly interior at the splendid courthouse built by Margaret Beaufort, mother of Henry VII, at Martock in Somerset.

I now live with my wife and six harps in a beautiful Tudor house near the Sussex coast.

 

 

 

 

 

Copyright Paul Lewis © 2010. All Rights Reserved.
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