|Born||July 24, 1917
|Died||April 23, 2005(aged 87)|
|Occupation||Canadian-born composer, conductor, musical arranger and trumpet player.|
Robert Joseph Farnon (July 24, 1917 – April 23, 2005) was a Canadian-born composer, conductor, musical arranger and trumpet player. As well as being a famous composer of original works (often in the light music genre, but also for film and television), he was recognised as one of the finest arrangers of his generation. In later life he composed a number of more serious orchestral works, including three symphonies, and was recognised with four Ivor Novello awards and the Order of Canada.
Born in Toronto, Ontario, he was commissioned as a captain in the Canadian Army and became the conductor/arranger of the Canadian Band of the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force sent overseas during World War II, which was the Canadian equivalent of the American Band of the SHAEF led by Major Glenn Miller. He was noted as a jazz trumpeter - his long time friend Dizzy Gillespie once stated that he was pleased that Farnon took up composing, arranging and conducting as Robert was the better jazz trumpeter.
He married Joanne Dallas, a singer from the SHAEF band, whom he later divorced. At the end of the war, Farnon decided to make England his home, and he later moved to Guernsey in the Channel Islands with his new wife Patricia Smith and his five children. His friend the composer Wally Stott composed "A Canadian in Mayfair" as a tribute.
He was considered by his peers the finest arranger in the world, and his talents influenced many composer-arrangers including Quincy Jones, all of whom acknowledge his contributions to their work. Conductor André Previn called him "the greatest writer for strings in the world."
He won four Ivor Novello Awards including one for "Outstanding Services to British Music" in 1991 and in 1996 he won the Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Arrangement for "Lament" performed by J. J. Johnson & his Robert Farnon Orchestra. He was also awarded the Order of Canada early in 1998.
Robert Farnon died at the age of eighty-seven at a hospice near his home of forty years in Guernsey. He was survived by his wife Patricia and their five children, as well as two children from his previous marriage and his many grandchildren.
Robert Farnon is probably best known for two famous pieces of light music, "Jumping Bean" and "Portrait of a Flirt", which were originally released as the A and B sides on the same 78. Also famous are his "Westminster Waltz", "Destiny Waltz" and "A Star is Born".
Farnon also wrote the music for more than forty motion pictures including Maytime in Mayfair (1949) and Captain Horatio Hornblower R.N. (1951). His music can also be heard in a number of television series and miniseries including The Prisoner, Secret Army, Colditz, and A Man Called Intrepid. His composition "A la Claire Fontaine" was used by Barnaby a local children's show host in Cleveland.
From the early 1960s Farnon was a prominent orchestral arranger for vocalists. Farnon arranged and conducted Frank Sinatra's only album recorded outside of the United States, 1962's Sinatra Sings Great Songs from Great Britain, in London. Farnon also arranged and conducted Lena Horne's 1976 album Lena: A New Album, Tony Bennett's 1968 Christmas album Snowfall, and Sarah Vaughan's 1964 album recorded in Denmark, Vaughan with Voices.
He also completed three full-length classical symphonies, a concerto for piano and orchestra called Cascades to the Sea and a concerto for bassoon; he was commissioned to compose the test piece for the 1975 Brass Band Championships of Great Britain Finals held at the Albert Hall and constructed Un Vie de Matelot (A Sailor's Life), a set of variations based on an original theme.
The last piece he composed was titled The Gaels: An American Wind Symphony, as a commission for the Roxbury High School band in honor of the school's mascot, the gael. The piece had its world premiere in May 2006. It was performed by the Roxbury High School Honors Wind Symphony under the direction of Dr. Stanley Saunders, a close friend of Farnon.
- It's a Wonderful World (1956)
- David Ades, Robert Farnon biography, Robert Farnon Society, accessed 20 November 2010
- "Sinatra Sings Great Songs from Great Britain". Allmusic. Retrieved May 13, 2014.
- "Lena: A New Album". Allmusic. Retrieved May 13, 2014.
- "Snowfall: The Tony Bennett Christmas Album". Allmusic. Retrieved May 13, 2014.
- "Vaughan with Voices". Allmusic. Retrieved May 13, 2014.
- "Happy Gang's Fan Mail Largest in Canada". The Coaticook Observer. January 5, 1940.
- "The Happy Gang". The Ottawa Citizen. May 5, 1942. (Drag image down to access adjoining photo.)
- Canadian Press. "No More Stories of Bob's 'Gram'". The Ottawa Citizen. May 8, 1942.
- "Tunefulness Of Musical Score One Big Hit In the Army Show". The Ottawa Citizen. May 8, 1943.
- Reuters. "Robert Farnon Denies Peace Group's Position". The Montreal Gazette. June 22, 1951.
- Canadian Press. "Aiming at Early Retirement, Farnon Plans Composer Role". The Ottawa Citizen. October 31, 1955.
- "CBC Is Celebrating Its 25th Anniversary" (Captioned photo). The Ottawa Citizen. November 14, 1961. (Drag image up to access caption.)
- Gleason, Ralph. "Rhythm Section: Satch Will Take a Year Off to Rest His Chops - and Listen; Liner Notes". The Milwaukee Journal. March 3, 1962.
- Tomkins, Les. Robert Farnon Interview, Part 1. Jazz Professional. 1967.
- Tomkins, Les. Robert Farnon Interview, Part 2. Jazz Professional. 1967.
- Forester. "Sparkling 'Porgy'". The Age. October 26, 1967.
- Siskind, Jacob. "NACO Delivers Rich Sound Under Farnon Baton". The Ottawa Citizen. January 15, 1983.
- Shaw, Peter. "Canada's Arranger for the Stars". The Ottawa Citizen. March 31, 1984.
- McDonald, Tim. "Robert Farnon: Prolific light music composer famed for film and television themes". The Guardian. April 25, 2005.
- Riley, John. "Robert Farnon: Composer of film scores and popular song". The Independent. May 14, 2005.
- Cerra, Steven A.. "Jazz Profiles - Robert Farnon: An Arranger’s Arranger". Blogspot. December 31, 2011.
- Sultanof, Jeff. "Robert Farnon, Part 1". ArtsJournal. February 5, 2013.
- Sultanof, Jeff. "Robert Farnon, Part 2". ArtsJournal. February 6, 2013.
- Lees, Gene (2000). "À la Claire Fontaine: Robert Farnon!". Arranging the Score: Portraits of the Great Arrangers. London; New York: Cassell. pp. 46–71. ISBN 0304704881.
- Perito, Nick (2004). "Hello, Danny!". I Just Happened to Be There: Making Music With the Stars. Philadelphia: Xlibris Corp. pp. 138–139. ISBN 1-4134-5372-4.
- Barrett, Joshua; Bourgeois III, Louis G. (2005). "Why Indianapolis - Why Not Indianapolis?!". The Musical World of J.J. Johnson. Lanham: Scarecrow Press. pp. 213–216. ISBN 0-8108-3648-3.
- The Robert Farnon Society
- The Encyclopedia of Music in Canada
- Robert Farnon - Northern Stars
- Robert Farnon at the Internet Movie Database