Light Classics

Light Classics

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Beautiful Ballad Years
Sadly, this album is no longer available in the shops.  However, should you wish to purchase a copy, please click here to send us an email and we'll send details to you of how you can obtain one.
The greatest light music that no longer gets airplay
Great Britain


Neil Richardson

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We were very sad to learn that Neil Richardson died in Spain on Friday, 8 October 2010.

Neil was one of the country's finest composers and arrangers and one of our friends. He leaves the greatest possible legacy of wonderful music and will be missd by so many of us.

Service Of Thanksgiving
A service of thanksgiving for the life of the late Neil Richardson will be held at the Parish Church of St John at Hampstead, Church Row, London NW3 6UU on Saturday 15th of January 2011 at 2.30pm. Light refreshments will be provided afterwards. RSVP to Neil Grant-Richardson on 01243 574591 or

Neil's music will never be forgotten and we at Radiocafe listen to some of Neil's unique work every day. Our profile of Neil can be found below. We send our condolences to his friends and family, whom we know are so very proud of Neil.

Radiocafe profile of Neil Richardson

Neil Richardson is the man behind some of the most evocative arrangements and compositions of all time. 

Neil ranks up there with the best arrangers this country has ever produced.  He created much of the BBC Radio Orchestra's output during the 70s and 80s, and has worked with many of the leading orchestras in the world, including the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. 

If you listened to any decent radio during the 60s, 70s and 80s, you will have undoubtedly heard plenty of Neil's work, even though you may not have known he was the master behind the craft.  Even if you never listened to the BBC Light Programme or Radio 2, you will have still have heard Neil Richardson - he is the man who created the Mastermind theme tune, "Approaching Menace".  He was also musical conductor for "Four Weddings And A Funeral".

Theme tunes and compositions aside, it is worth taking a close look at his work with the BBC Radio Orchestra.  Along with other great arrangers during this period, such as John Fox and David Snell, Neil helped to create a unique sound and took full advantage of the wealth of talent available to him during his BBC years.  Quite simply, the arrangements he produced for the BBC are like no other.  The sensitivity and feeling he puts into a piece of music ensures listeners are enchanted and moved by his work.  Whether it be a classical piece or his own take on a more recent song, Neil always manages to achieve perfection.  We say this without any need for qualification.

In the late 80s, Neil got together with his old friend Mike Redway to produce the BBC Radio 2 show, "Those Beautiful Ballad Years", the songs from which Mike's own label, Redrock Records, later released on CD.  This was a truly magical combination.  One of the finest voices of the glory days of radio, together with its most talented arranger.  The result was a unique set of sensitive love songs and lovely old ballads - a recording that its owners treasure.

The real tragedy is that much of Neil's work is owned and controlled by music librarys, including the BBC.  The BBC must possess thousands of recordings of its Radio Orchestra, many of which feature Neil Richardson.  During the 70s, he was a central part of so many shows: String Sound, a half hour show devoted to the BBC Radio Strings; the Radio Orchestra show, a weekly fest of good music, presented by Steve Race; and numerous gala concerts and other wonderful broadcasts.  It is about time, surely, that these were repeated so that lovers of Neil's music, together with a whole new audience, can delight in the incredible arrangements.

We at Radiocafe are lucky to have a large collection of these recordings. Unfortunately, copyright laws prevent us with sharing these with the world.  However, his arrangements on Mike Redway's "Beautiful Ballad Years" CD are still available to purchase, and you can take a listen to these on Mike's page on Radiocafe here. A few of Neil's arrangements are also available on some commercial recordings, a small selection which we have located and made available from this page.  Take a listen to his arrangements of some of the popular songs from the sixties and seventies, and hear for yourself just how clever, and sensitive, his arrangements are.  These clips really do not do the great man justice, but do provide a taster of the skill and wizardry of Neil Richardson.

Neil recently moved from his Sussex home to Spain, and we are sorry to see a genius such as him leave our shores. But regardless of where Neil resides, his music occupies a place in the hearts and souls of all those who have had the privilege and pleasure of hearing his music.


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  arrow blue Artist profile

Neil Richardson is undoubtedly one of the country’s greatest composers and arrangers.

For the past 30-40 years, he has continued to work tirelessly producing compositions and arrangements for radio, TV and film. He is probably most famous for composing the enigmatic theme tune to the BBC show “Mastermind” (an original item which is entitled “Approaching Menace”). But there is so much more to Neil’s contribution to the music heritage that warrants recognition. Robert Farnon, regarded as the greatest producer of light music of all time, is quoted as describing Neil as “the finest writer for strings in Europe”. He is applauded by audiences and fellow musicians alike.

Early Days
Neil’s musical career started at the tender age of eight when he was accepted as a chorister at the choir school in Westminster Abbey.  Later on at Lancing College in Sussex where he was a musical scholar he was fortunate enough to become associated with Benjamin Britten and Peter Peers who paid regular visits to the school and encouraged him to engage in a career in music.  He continued his musical studies at the Royal College of Music studying clarinet, piano and composition (with professor Lloyd-Webber).  During his National Service, he was solo clarinet with the band of the Royal Air Force at Cranwell.

Music Maestro
Neil has been composing and arranging for fifty years, and much of this time has been spent working for the BBC. He started writing and conducting for the BBC Radio and Concert orchestras in London and also for many of the BBC’s regional orchestras. He was also invited by the BBC to found the new BBC Northern Radio Orchestra and was its conductor for many years.

Neil has composed and arranged for just about every style of music, from jazz trio to symphony orchestra. He has worked with numerous leading musicians, including the following:
• Johnny Mathis
• Neil Diamond
• Vic Damone
• George Shearing

As far back as 1959, university concert bands in America were playing his music. In the sixties and seventies, his work was presented to American audiences by the Longines Symphonette Society and Readers Digest.

In the 1960s he often composed under the pseudonym “Oscar Brandenburg”.

Vocal harmony
He has had much success writing for choirs and the world’s leading vocal groups. These include:
• The Baylor University Choir
• The King Singers
• The Swingle Singers (for whom he wrote masses of material and the arrangements for their American tour in 1979)
• His own group, the Neil Richardson singers, who have produced a large amount of material for American radio networks.

International orchestral work
In the 1980s, he worked as conductor for the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra performing in three concerts and presenting a programme of English music ranging from Vaughan-Williams, Gilbert and Sullivan through Noel Coward to the Beatles. As well as conducting, he played solo piano and saxophone. Three concerts were repeated very successfully in London Ontario, Hamilton, Calgary and Edmonton,

He has conducted many further concerts in Canada and the USA, and has conducted many orchestras in Europe, including:
• Belgian State Radio Orchestra
• Metropole Orchestra in Holland
• Bavarian State Radio Orchestra
• RTE Concert Orchestra in Dublin

British orchestral work
His work with British orchestras includes arranging and conducting for all the leading orchestras, including:
• Royal Philharmonic Pops
• Philharmonia Orchestra
• Bournemouth Symphony
• BBC Concert Orchestra
• BBC Radio Orchestra
• London Symphony Orchestra
• National Philharmonic

Neil was twice invited by Lord Mountbatten to conduct charity gala concerts and was musical director of Lord Olivier’s 80th birthday concert at the National Theatre.

He arranged a series of popular songs by Gershwin, Cole Porter, Jerome Kern etc. for opera star Maria Ewing with Richard Rodney Bennett and the BBC Concert Orchestra which formed the second half of a Promenade Concert. This was later recorded with the same artists and the Royal Philharmonic and presented at the Royal Festival Hall.

In 1992, he prepared all the music for Robert Palmers concerts at the Royal Albert Hall.

He also wrote many of the arrangements for the 40th anniversary of the Queen’s accession to the throne at Earl’s Court.

British radio work
For many years, Neil’s compositions and arrangements comprised the key component of the BBC’s light orchestral shows, including String Sound, The BBC Radio Orchestra show and numerous radio concerts and specials. A very brief example of some of Neil’s unique work can be heard here.

TV & film
In 1980, Neil was the musical director for Britain’s first ever Telethon. He has musical director for numerous other prestigious television events, including the Circus World Championship.

He has written numerous documentary and film scores, incidental music for TV and films, and most notably the theme tune to Mastermind.

He worked with Richard Rodney Bennett on many projects including the musical score for the TV min-series Poor Little Rich Girl. He was music director for the BBC film Virtuoso about the life of pianist John Ogden. He wrote some of the music for and conducted Richard Rodney Bennett’s music for the award winning film Enchanted April. He worked again with Richard Rodney Bennett in the film Swan.

He wrote some of the music for and conducted the score on the film Four Weddings and a Funeral.

He has written the music for and appeared in many of the episodes of the TV series Poirot.

He co-composed the famous test card piece “Scotch Broth”. Another of his library music compositions, The Riviera Affair (aka Prestige Production, from the 1970 KPM album Impact and Action, Vol. II), is best known to New Yorkers as the opening theme music for WOR-TV’s late-afternoon movie program, The 4 O’Clock Movie, in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The song was also used as part of an homage of the The 4 O’Clock Movie in the opening logo sequence for the 2007 heist film, Ocean’s Thirteen.

  arrow blue Discography

arrow Unfortunately, the majority of Neil's recordings were for radio use only, and are not available as publicly released recordings.  A small selection of Neil's magical work can still be obtained, including his arrangements for Mike Redway on the "Beautiful Ballad Years" collection.  Please email us if you require further details of how to obtain this recording.

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