Wednesday, November 11, 2009

RIP Albert Elms

Albert Elms: light music composer

Albert Elms was a pioneering contributor of incidental music to television and films in the 1950s and 1960s and a composer of military music.

He was born in Newington, Kent, in 1920 and, showing early musical promise, he joined the Royal Marines Band Service in Deal in 1934. He first went to sea in November 1937 and returned home in January 1939, having taken part in the evacuation of refugees from Valencia during the Spanish Civil War.

He spent the Second World War in light cruisers, including Arethusa, Ajax and Orion. While in Arethusa as part of the Royal Marines party serving the cruiser’s B-turret, he took part in the Norway evacuations in April 1940. In June that year he was also involved in the bombardment of Vichy French ships in Mers-el-Kebir, Algeria, ordered by Churchill to prevent their falling into German hands.

He then served on escort detail on Malta convoys throughout 1941. He was serving on the Orion when the Arethusa was torpedoed by aircraft in November 1942 and the entire Marine complement of B-turret perished.

His service career ended in 1949 and he found employment in Tin Pan Alley in Soho with Francis, Day and Hunter, where composition and arrangement of popular songs were the order of the day.

Extra earning opportunities arose when members of the public would arrive unannounced in Denmark Street singing a song or whistling a tune they had created which they wished to have scored for posterity. Sitting at the piano, Elms would coax the melody out of the client and write down the score for a fee of 15 shillings.

He then went freelance and composed incidental music for The Adventures of Robin Hood starring Richard Greene, The Adventures of Sir Lancelot starring Roger Moore, The Buccaneers and William Tell. In the 1960s film work included Bluebeard’s Ten Honeymoons (1960) starring George Sanders, The Breaking Point and Treasure in Malta.

For the BBC he wrote music for the series Thorndike. He scored the incidental music for The Champions and the hit series Man in a Suitcase as well as for 14 episodes of The Prisoner, starring Patrick McGoohan.

In the 1970s Elms worked on the film version of the TV show Love Thy Neighbour and was musical director on The Benny Hill Show. But it was a return to writing military band music that occupied him for the rest of the decade. Wembley Way had been commissioned for the 100th FA Cup Final at Wembley in 1972, and Blaze of Light and On Parade were to follow. However, it was a meeting with the principal director of the Royal Marines School of Music, who, weary of the 1812 Overture, requested “something about Trafalgar” and the march Battle of Trafalgar received its premiere at the 1974 Royal Tournament and at the Mountbatten Festival of Music in 1975. It became a favourite of the Royal Marines Band Service and was also performed at St Paul’s Cathedral as an orchestral work with the Bach Choir conducted by Sir Charles Groves in 1981, and later at the Albert Hall at the bicentenary of Trafalgar in 2005.

Elms’s wife, Jo, predeceased him and he is survived by three sons.

Albert Elms, light music composer, was born on February 28, 1920. He died on October 14, 2009, aged 89

ELMS, Albert George
Born: 2/28/1920, Newington, Kent, England, U.K.
Died: 10/14/2009, Southampton, England, U.K.

Albert Elms western - composer
Whiplash (TV) - 1960-1961

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