In memory of Ron Goodwin
Published: Sunday Time
Date: Thursday, January 9, 2003
Beginning his career as an arranger and conductor of popular music, an activity he continued with undiminished enthusiasm until the end of his life, Ron Goodwin became a household name in the 1960s for the martial scores he provided for a number of classic war thriller films. Indeed, at one time the Ron Goodwin sound seemed almost indivisible from the Second World War as seen through the movie camera lens in that decade.
Goodwin simply loved music and music-making, and was as happy to create it with children in a school hall as he was on the podium of a concert orchestra. To the end, one of his favourite dates was the series of annual Christmas shows he presented with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, complete with the Christmas cracker-style jokes that were an integral part of his repertoire.
Ron Goodwin was born in Plymouth in 1925. He was interested in music from an early age, but his first few jobs were outside the music business. At 18 he found a job as a music copier with the music publishers Campbell, Connelly & Co. At the same time he studied trumpet and arranging at the Guildhall School of Music, and he also began to play trumpet professionally with Harry Gold.
He graduated to become head of the arranging department at Bron Associated Publishers in 1945, and very soon he was writing arrangements for such bandleaders as Ted Heath and Geraldo, as well as for the BBC Dance Orchestra. At the same time he was taking charge of recording sessions for Petula Clarke and Jimmy Young, whose hit Too Young he conducted.
Signed by Martin for Parlophone, Goodwin launched his own career in broadcasting and recording as Ron Goodwin and his Concert Orchestra. With this he toured the world, presenting a mélange of popular hits ? Abba and James Bond theme tunes ? and light classical works.
During the 1950s Goodwin began to compose scores for documentary films at Merton Park Studios. Then, in 1958, he was asked to write his first feature film score, for Whirlpool, a Rhine-located melodrama based on Lawrence P. Bachmann?s novel Lorelei.
Though the film was not a great success at the box office, it brought him to wider notice among film-makers, notably Bachmann, who was executive producer at MGM British Studios. From 1960 Goodwin composed and conducted the music for most of MGM?s British productions and this led to other studios becoming interested in his work.
Goodwin appeared as guest conductor of many orchestras throughout the world, from Sydney to Detroit, and he was guest conductor at the Royal Academy of Music?s Festival of British and American Film Music in 1996. He was the recipient of three Ivor Novello Awards, the most recent being one for lifetime achievement. Appropriately, he received this from his first mentor, George Martin, in 1994.
Goodwin devoted a great deal of his time to working with young musicians. He was much involved with the Hampshire County Youth Orchestra and the City of Birmingham Schools? Concert Orchestra.
A trumpeter to his fingertips, Goodwin never forgot the brass: ?Don?t play what?s written! It should be Daah, Daah, Duh-Doohdada, and a fall with a half-valve gliss on the last note!? was his instruction to a Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra brass section taking its first faltering steps on the road to swing. An infectious spirit, he was a natural teacher and musicians of all persuasions were happy to learn new ways of doing things under his baton.
Ron Goodwin is survived by his second wife Heather, and by a son of his first marriage.