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George Fenton in 1969
|Born||George Richard Ian Howe
19 October 1950
George Fenton (born George Richard Ian Howe; 19 October 1950) is a British composer best known for his work writing film scores and music for television such as for the BBC series "The Blue Planet" and "Planet Earth".
Fenton was born in London, and attended St Edward's School in Oxford, starting in 1963. He has credited the school's Deputy Director of Music at the time, the late Peter Whitehouse, as an early influence. Fenton is now a Governor of the School.
Initially Fenton worked as an actor, getting an early break with a part in Alan Bennett's play Forty Years On. He had some minor success appearing in the film Private Road, the soap opera Emmerdale Farm and in Alan Bennett's first television play A Day Out directed by Stephen Frears and broadcast in 1972.
Often asked to play a musical instrument in productions, Fenton also tried his hand as a recording artist (taking the Beatles' Maxwell's Silver Hammer into the Swedish charts) and dabbled in band management, before deciding on an early career switch to composition. In 1974 he got his first major commission, as composer and musical director for Peter Gill's theatre production of Twelfth Night by the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon-Avon. This led to further work in British theatre, composing for productions at: The National Theatre, The Royal Exchange Theatre, The Royal Court, The Riverside Studios, and further compositions for the Royal Shakespeare Company.
He was the founder and is a member of the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors (BASCA),
By the late 1970s, Fenton was working regularly in television, becoming a popular choice for dozens of television productions, including Shoestring, a BBC police drama which ran for 21 episodes in 1979-1980.
He composed the music for all six of the Six Plays by Alan Bennett which were broadcast during 1978 and 1979. Their collaboration continued with the TV series Objects of Affection in 1982. A year later he composed the score of Bennett's TV film An Englishman Abroad (1983) which was directed by John Schlesinger. Fenton also composed for all of the episodes of Bennett's highly acclaimed Talking Heads series in 1987 and, a decade later, Talking Heads 2 in 1998.
Fenton also collaborated regularly with the director Stephen Frears, composing for his television productions of Bloody Kids (1979), Going Gently (1981), Saigon: Year of the Cat (1983), and Walter and June (1983).
Perhaps the TV series with which Fenton reached the widest audience was Bergerac which ran for ten years between 1981 and 1991, and for which Fenton composed the much-loved theme tune. He received his first major award for this, a BAFTA in 1982.
Television and wildlife
Fenton has composed for a number of notable wildlife television programmes, often for wildlife broadcaster David Attenborough. He started on the BBC's long-running series Wildlife on One and Natural World, and continued with one-off specials such as Polar Bear.
Since 1990, he has written the music for a number of acclaimed big budget wildlife series:
- The Trials of Life (1990)
- Life in the Freezer (1993)
- The Blue Planet (2001)
- Deep Blue (2003) (feature length version of The Blue Planet)
- Planet Earth (2006)
- Earth (2007) (feature length version of Planet Earth)
- Frozen Planet (2011)
His track record in this genre has placed him firmly as the BBC's composer of choice for its flagship wildlife documentaries.
Television and jingles
Fenton has composed the jingles or theme music to dozens of British television and radio programs, mostly for the BBC. Some of these are; the BBC's One O'Clock News, Six O'Clock News, and Nine O'Clock News, Newsnight and Newsnight Review, On the Record, Omnibus, BBC Breakfast Time, BBC World Service Television News, Westminster - In The House, Reporting Scotland, London Plus, Midday News, Telly Addicts and Daily Politics.
George Fenton is best known as a composer of film scores. He has written the music for over seventy feature films and has collaborated with some of the most influential film makers of the late 20th century.
His transition from television to film scoring began in 1982 with Richard Attenborough's biopic Gandhi for which he was nominated — with his collaborator, Ravi Shankar — for the Original Music Score Academy Award. Another of Fenton's notable film scores in the 1980s was for the period piece 84 Charing Cross Road.
His longstanding collaboration with Stephen Frears has not been limited to television productions. Fenton has scored four of Frear's feature films: Dangerous Liaisons, Hero, Mary Reilly, and Mrs Henderson Presents.
Fenton has scored more feature films for Ken Loach than for any other director; by November 2013, a total of twelve. This started in 1994 with Ladybird, Ladybird; then, in chronological order: Land and Freedom, Carla's Song, My Name Is Joe, Bread and Roses, The Navigators, Sweet Sixteen, Ae Fond Kiss, The Wind That Shakes the Barley which won the Palme d'Or at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival, It's a Free World..., Looking for Eric, and, most recently, The Angels' Share.
Fenton has developed other long-standing collaborations with film makers, scoring several films each for directors as diverse as: Harold Ramis, Neil Jordan, Nora Ephron, Nicholas Hytner, Phil Joanou, and Andy Tennant. Other influential film makers with whom he has worked include: Terry Gilliam, Pedro Almodóvar, Alan Clarke, Michael Radford, Michael Caton-Jones, Wayne Wang, Richard Eyre, Christopher Hampton, and Charles Sturridge.
Awards and nominations
- 1983 Nominated Best Original Score for: Gandhi
- 1988 Nominated Best Original Score for: Cry Freedom
- 1988 Nominated Best Original Song for: Cry Freedom
- 1989 Nominated Best Original Score for: Dangerous Liaisons
- 1992 Nominated Best Original Score for: The Fisher King
- 1981 Nominated BAFTA TV Award Best Original Television Music for: Shoestring (Also for: Bloody Kids, Fox)
- 1982 Won BAFTA TV Award Best Original Television Music for: Bergerac (Also for: The History Man, Going Gently, the BBC news theme)
- 1983 Nominated BAFTA Film Award Best Score for: Gandhi
- 1985 Nominated BAFTA TV Award Best Original Television Music for: The Jewel in the Crown
- 1987 Won BAFTA TV Award Best Original Television Music for: The Monocled Mutineer
- 1988 Nominated BAFTA Film Award Best Score for: Cry Freedom
- 1989 Nominated BAFTA TV Award Best Original Television Music for: Talking Heads
- 1990 Nominated BAFTA Film Award Best Original Film Score for: Dangerous Liaisons
- 1991 Nominated BAFTA Film Award Best Original Film Score for: Memphis Belle
- 1991 Nominated BAFTA TV Award Best Original Television Music for: The Trials of Life
- 1994 Nominated BAFTA TV Award Best Original Television Music for: Life in the Freezer
- 1996 Nominated Anthony Asquith Award for Film Music for: The Madness of King George
- 2002 Won BAFTA TV Award Best Original Television Music for: The Blue Planet
- 2006 Nominated Anthony Asquith Award for Film Music for: Mrs Henderson Presents
- 2002 Won Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Music Composition for a Series for: The Blue Planet -Seas of Life: Ocean World
- 2005 Nominated Primetime Emmy Outstanding Music Composition for: Pride
- 2007 Won Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Music Composition for: Planet Earth - From Pole to Pole
- 1988 Nominated Golden Globe Best Original Score - Motion Picture for: Cry Freedom
- 2000 Nominated Golden Globe Best Original Score - Motion Picture for: Anna and the King
- 2000 Nominated Golden Globe Best Original Song - Motion Picture for: Anna and the King
- 1984 Nominated Grammy Best Album of Original Score Written for a Motion Picture or Television Special for: Gandhi
- 1989 Nominated Grammy Best Song Written Specifically for a Motion Picture or for Television for: Cry Freedom
Ivor Novello Awards
- Nominated Best Film Score for: Anna and the King
- Nominated Best Film Score for: Ever After
- Won Best Film Score for: Shadowlands
- Nominated Best Film Score for: Final Analysis
- Won Best Film Score for: Cry Freedom
- Nominated Best Film Score for: The Company of Wolves
- Won Best Film Score for: Gandhi
- Nominated Best Original TV Music for: The Blue Planet
- Won Best Original TV Music for: The Monocled Mutineer
- Won Best Original TV Music for: The Jewel in the Crown
- Nominated Best Original TV Music for: No Country for Old Men
- Nominated Best Original TV Music for: Omnibus
- Nominated Best Original TV Music for: Fox
- Nominated Best Original TV Music for: Shoestring
Film & TV Music Awards
- 2007 Won Film & TV Music Award for Best Score for a Documentary Film or Television Program (Planet Earth)
- In 2007 Fenton was awarded a fellowship of the British Academy of Composers & Songwriters, which presents the Ivor Novello awards.
Fenton founded the Association of Professional Composers which later amalgamated with the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors and with the Composers' Guild of Great Britain to become the British Academy of Composers & Songwriters. He is a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and is a visiting professor at the Royal College of Music and the University of Nottingham.
He composed the score for "Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show" – a dinner show recreating the experience of the famous world travelling show of Buffalo Bill. The dinner show was created exclusively for the Disneyland Resort Paris and opened together with the resort (then EuroDisney Resort) on 12 April 1992. A recording was released by Walt Disney Records/Sony Records in France but is long out of print.
- "St Edward's Oxford - Notable OSE". Stedwards.oxon.sch.uk. Retrieved 2012-02-16.
- Founder of UBR (18 May 2009). "British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors". The Unsigned band review. Retrieved 4 February 2012.
- George Fenton at the Internet Movie Database
- George Fenton at AllMusic
- George Fenton discography at Discogs
- George Fenton discography at MusicBrainz
- British Film Institute, Film and TV credits
- British Academy of Composers and Songwriters
- The Gorfaine / Schwartz Agency PDF file
- Desert Island Discs
- George Fenton's The Blue Planet Live!