Majestic Fanfare

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Majestic Fanfare is a short piece of music written by the British composer Charles Williams in 1935. It was first recorded in 1943 by the Queen's Hall Light Orchestra conducted by the composer.

In an abridged form, it came to prominence in Australia: first as the signature tune for radio broadcasts of proceedings from the Parliament of Australia; and then as the signature tune for radio and television news broadcasts by the Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC). It was first used for this purpose on 1 January 1952.

The Majestic Fanfare replaced a short version of Advance Australia Fair that had been in use throughout World War II. Further shortening of what was already regarded as a significant national song (it would in 1984 become Australia’s official National Anthem) was regarded as somewhat sacrilegious, while shortening the apolitical Majestic Fanfare was deemed less contentious.

The tune as used by the ABC exists in two formats: an 18-second version that was used for many years, and a 9-second abridged version that was usually used thereafter (although the 18-second version is still played on regional radio and on extended bulletins, such as the daily 7.45am Local Radio bulletins).

On television, Majestic Fanfare was updated in 1982 to celebrate the ABC's 50th anniversary. In 1985, when ABC's evening news bulletin was replaced by The National, Majestic Fanfare was replaced by Alan Hawkshaw's Best Endeavours, then also used by Britain's Channel 4 News bulletins.[1]

In 1987, when ABC TV News was relaunched, Majestic Fanfare did not return. Since then, two Australian-composed tunes have been used. The first titled ABC TV News Theme was written in 1987 by Sydney composers Tony Ansell and Peter Wall. It was used for 19 years. The current ABC TV News theme, composed by Martin Armiger and introduced on Australia Day 2005, incorporates some prominent elements of the original Majestic Fanfare.[2][3]

Originally, it was planned that the new 2005 theme would replace Majestic Fanfare on radio bulletins as well, but the plan never went ahead. A radio news inquiry later that year recommended that Majestic Fanfare should be either replaced or updated.[4]

In 1988, in accordance with the recommendation, and also to help celebrate the Australian Bicentenary, the ABC commissioned the Australian composer Richard Mills to re-orchestrate the tune in a more modern, Australian idiom. His arrangement was recorded by the Sydney Symphony Orchestra under Stuart Challender, at the Sydney Opera House. In the early 2000s, Mills' original pencil-written manuscript for the full and two abridged versions of the theme was donated to the music library of the University of Melbourne.[5]

Majestic Fanfare in the Mills arrangement is still used for radio news broadcasts. A remix of the original 1943 recording has also been used for Triple J's news bulletins since 1991.[6]

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