Thomas (Tommy) Tycho AM MBE (11 April 1928 – 4 April 2013) was a multi-talented Hungarian-born Australian pianist, conductor, composer and arranger. He was associated with musical productions on Australian television for many years from its inception in 1956, including such programs as The Mavis Bramston Show. The recorded version of the National Anthem Advance Australia Fair that is now usually used to accompany singers at major sporting and community events is Tommy Tycho's arrangement. He wrote a number of film scores, and his activities bridged both popular and classical styles.
Tommy Tycho was born in Budapest in 1928. His father was a senior government official and his mother was an opera singer who had retired to raise a family. His musical life started as a child prodigy pianist. He played George Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue with the Budapest Philharmonic Orchestra at age 10. He had been introduced to the work by his teacher, Egon Petri. He commenced studying at the Franz Liszt Academy of Music in Budapest, where his teachers included Leo Weiner and Zoltán Kodály. He and his parents had adopted Lutheranism in an attempt to disguise their Jewishness, but to no avail - he was interned in a German forced labour camp in 1943 at age 15, and was lucky to survive. He resumed his studies after the war, but fled his country ahead of the Communist takeover while still only in his third year of study. From 1948 to 1951 he lived in Iran, where he was the personal pianist for the Shah of Iran. There he met a woman named Eve, another Hungarian, who became his wife. They emigrated to Australia in 1951.
He was Musical Director at the Seven Network for 15 years, 1956–1971, was involved in nine Royal Command Performances, and has conducted all the ABC symphony orchestras. His work was an important element of many official openings (Sydney Opera House, Sydney Entertainment Centre, Sydney Football Stadium, Queensland Performing Arts Centre, Brisbane 1982 Commonwealth Games, World Expo 88, Darling Harbour, major sporting grand finals, etc.). In 2008 he performed at the piano for Crown Princess Mary of Denmark at the opening of the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute. (In 1980, after a heart attack, he had been treated personally by Dr Victor Chang.)
The Australian artists with whom he worked include Peter Allen, Ricky May, Olivia Newton-John, Julie Anthony, John Farnham, Anthony Warlow, Jill Perryman, Barry Crocker, Kamahl, James Morrison, David Campbell, Judy Connelli, Violinist Ian Cooper, Suzanne Johnstone, Jackie Love, James Blundell, Don Burrows, Andy Firth, Marina Prior, Rob Guest, Jimmy Little, Tommy Emmanuel, Normie Rowe, Rhonda Burchmore and many others. He also worked with overseas performers such as Sammy Davis, Jr., Nat King Cole, Shirley Bassey, Louis Armstrong, Jerry Lewis, Frank Sinatra and many others.
Tommy Tycho suffered a serious stroke in 2008. He then lived in a nursing home where he received regular therapy; though his left side was paralysed, he would compose and play with his right hand.
He died on 4 April 2013, aged 84, just one week before his 85th birthday, as a result of complications associated with pneumonia.
His compositions and arrangements include:
- 3 overtures
- 3 concertos (for trumpet, violin, piano)
- television music (documentary series ANZAC, drama series Riptide, and others)
- film scores (Young Einstein, Reckless Kelly, many others)
- arranged over 1,500 pieces for film and television, including:
- "Cole Porter Concerto", based on three Cole Porter tunes
- "Fantasia" (based on three Irving Berlin tunes)
- "No Other Love" (symphonic arrangement of the song by Richard Rodgers
- Symphonic arrangement of "Macarthur Park" by Jimmy Webb
- Symphonic arrangement of Cole Porter's "Begin the Beguine"
- "Tiger Rag" (in the style of Art Tatum)
- the medal ceremony music for the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games and the Melbourne 2006 Commonwealth Games
- a new Australian musical, Get Happy (2003)
In 2003 Tommy Tycho was commissioned by Symphony Australia to compose and arrange an overture for the 75th birthday celebrations of the West Australian Symphony Orchestra. That same year he conducted the Queensland Orchestra for concerts with Anthony Warlow, and was the arranger and conductor for Warlow's album, Let's Face the Music; and he conducted the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra in a Lounge concert. Tommy wrote a series of special feature arrangements for Australian clarinetist, Andy Firth when he featured as guest artist with the Atlanta symphony orchestra in 2006.
Honours and awards
Among his many accolades can be counted:
- In 1977, Tycho was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE)
- In 1985 he won the John Campbell Fellowship Award at the Australian Entertainment Mo Awards for services to the entertainment industry and the community
- In 1987 he was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia (AM)
- In 1992 he won the Rotary International Paul Harris Fellowship Award, in appreciation of tangible and significant assistance given for furtherance of better understanding and friendly relations among peoples of the world
- In 2007 he was conferred the degree of Honorary Doctorate of Music from the University of Sydney.
- Tommy Tycho website
- University of Sydney
- ABC: Talking Heads, 29 August 2005
- do-re-mi Music for Children (New South Wales)
- Jason Dasey, SMH, 17 June 1982
- Sydney Morning Herald
- National Stroke Foundation
- Brisbane Times, 17 April 2010
- ABC News: Australian composer Tommy Tycho dies; Retrieved 4 April 2013
- Lurline Chamber Orchestra
- It's an Honour: MBE
- It's an Honour: AM