Brian Morrell is Curriculum Co-ordinator for our brand new Film Music degree, an area of specialist music composition he has worked in for many years. He gathered his expertise being musical director on the QE2, working on large-scale productions internationally, and creating a vast number of scores for TV.
He is also a passionate human rights activist, and a globally renowned writer.
What was your earliest musical experience?
My first musical experience was playing the piano, aged 5, trying to recreate by ear what my sister (who was four years older and having piano lessons) had been playing.
Who/what motivated you to have a career in Music
There was never anything else I was remotely interested in. I played from 5 years old so music was, and is, my life. My dad was a musician and I think ultimately it was his understanding of music that created the musical environment in which I grew up.
How did your career develop?
I went to college in 1979 and afterwards worked on the QE2 as ‘staff arranger’, pianist and trombonist. I did several cruises for two years interspersed with ‘summer seasons’. I became Musical Director of Blackpool Tower and went on to direct cabaret orchestras in Europe for the next couple of years before moving to London. I was Musical Director of ‘The Talk of London’, a top cabaret venue where I worked with many top artists. Then I became a player and arranger for top London theatre shows and also did lots of Pop session and tour work with artists.
It was around this time that I began working in TV. This work increased steadily and by 1997 I was scoring, on average, two programs a week. To date I have written the music for 90 TV shows, mostly for Sky and other satellite / cable channels in Britain and abroad.
What is the best thing to have happened in your career to date?
I don’t have a ‘best thing’ but feel very lucky and honoured to have worked with some top people, including Barbra Streisand, Eurythmics, Elton John, Burt Bacharach, Gloria Gaynor, Kate Bush, and more, and to have worked on some great shows in London and New York, such as Phantom of the Opera which is the most successful musical ever staged. I have played on, or been involved in the arranging, four no.1 records. Also, writing TV at the rate I was doing it was an incredible rush; the tight deadlines are ridiculous but strangely addictive. The tightest ever was when I had to write ten minutes of ‘somber music’ for immediate broadcast following the death of Princess Diana. I asked how long I had and they responded that the courier motorbike had just set off. It took him half an hour to get to my flat and me two hours to write, arrange and record it.
How would you describe your biggest challenge in your role?
The biggest challenge is trying to get students to engage with music theory. In film music almost every successful composer reads music. This is not just so they can score parts out; it’s much more important than that. Being able to recognise, classify and contextualise harmony will make you into a better and more complex writer.
What attracted you to coming to work at LCoM?
I studied here thirty years ago before I went and worked in the industry. After years of composing and playing I became more and more interested with how music communicates. A creative environment like LCoM, which attracts some of the smartest minds in the country to come and study, is an ideal place to work and teach. If it hadn’t been for working here I would probably never have written my books on film music. It’s the most creative place I’ve ever worked.
Who/what would be your dream to work with?
James Newton Howard, he's a great American film music composer.
What has been your greatest achievement?
Musically speaking I don’t tend to think of greatest achievements, I’m just lucky to have done what I’ve done. In a non-music context, I participated in a Human Rights campaign from 1987-1991 called The Friends of John McCarthy which was run by my sister Jill. John was kidnapped in the Lebanon and held hostage for five and a half years. I participated in a campaign which highlighted the plight of the hostages. This resulted eventually in John being released, and led to my lifelong interest in human rights which I think has affected everything I do, including my approach to education and writing.
Who is your greatest inspiration and why?
My mum and dad, because without them I would never have had the chance to capitalize on my early musical ability and do the things I managed to do.
Where would you like to be in five years?
I would like to be a Professor of Film Music, running a vibrant world-leading course on film music!
Read more on Brian's expertise and find his books on his website.
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