Alexander Faris

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Alexander "Sandy" Faris (born 11 June 1921) is an Irish composer, conductor and writer, known for his television theme tunes. He has composed and recorded many operas and musicals, and has composed film scores and orchestral works.

Life and career[edit]

Faris was born in Caledon, County Tyrone, Northern Ireland. He attended Oxford University and served in World War II with the Irish Guards. After the war, still stationed in Europe, he was involved with the restoration of damaged German opera houses. He then attended the Royal College of Music. Faris first conducted in London for a 1949 revival of Song of Norway at the Palace Theatre.[1]

Faris was first associated with the works of Gilbert and Sullivan when he conducted excerpts from The Mikado, The Gondoliers and The Pirates of Penzance with the Linden Singers and the North German Radio Symphony Orchestra for World Record Club in Hamburg in February–March 1961. Then in 1962 for Sadler's Wells Opera he conducted both Iolanthe and The Mikado. He was engaged by the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company to conduct its last season in 1981–82, and he was one of the conductors for the company's last night at the Adelphi Theatre on 27 February 1982.[1] He was the conductor for twelve of the Savoy operas in the 1982 series of videos by Brent Walker productions.[2] Four years later, with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra in Glasgow, he conducted ten Sullivan overtures (Nimbus CD, NI 5066).

Besides his work at Sadler's Wells in the 1960s, Faris has served as the musical director for the Carl Rosa Opera Company in the 1950s and the Royal Ballet. His original London cast recordings include Summer Song (1956), Irma La Douce (1958), Robert and Elizabeth (1964), The Great Waltz (1970), Bordello (1974), Bar Mitzvah Boy (1978), and Charlie and Algernon (1979).[1]

As a film composer he wrote the scores for The Quare Fellow (1962), He Who Rides a Tiger (1965), and Georgy Girl (1966).[3]

For television he wrote the music for the series Upstairs, Downstairs, Wings[4] and The Duchess of Duke Street.[5] His title theme tune for Upstairs, Downstairs achieved great popularity and was used again in the new version of the drama aired in January 2011 on BBC1. Pauline Collins recorded two vocal versions of the theme music in 1973:[6] He also wrote "What Are We Going to Do With Uncle Arthur?", with lyrics by Alfred Shaughnessy, and "With Every Passing Day", with lyrics by Benny Green.[7] Faris's theme tune for Upstairs, Downstairs was also used as the title music for the "Upshares, Downshares" finance slot on BBC Radio 4's PM news programme. Cover versions of the theme, in a variety of styles from bossa nova to heavy metal, were submitted by a number of listeners[8] and eventually compiled into a CD, released on November 2010 in aid of the Children in Need charity appeal, for which it raised over £70,000.[9]

Among his other compositions is the song "A Century of Micks" for the choir of the Irish Guards.[10] He also wrote the orchestral Sketches of Regency England and the operetta R Loves J (Chichester Festival, 1973).[1][11]



  1. ^ a b c d Stone, David. "Alexander Faris", at the Who Was Who in the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company website, accessed 16 December 2009
  2. ^ Shepherd, Marc (2003). "The Brent Walker Videos". A Gilbert and Sullivan Discography. Retrieved 2009-12-17. 
  3. ^ IMDB
  4. ^ Recorded for BBC Records, RESL 37, 1977
  5. ^ Recorded for BBC Records, RESL 45, 1977
  6. ^ Decca 1973
  7. ^ Lyrics
  8. ^ "Up Shares, Down Shares theme tune". BBC Online. Archived from the original on 13 November 2010. Retrieved 19 November 2010. 
  9. ^ "Upshares Downshares: More than £70,000 raised. And you can help raise more". BBC Online. Retrieved 19 November 2010. 
  10. ^ Irish Guards Singers
  11. ^ Scowcroft, Philip L. "Some British Conductor-Composers", Musicweb International, accessed 16 December 2009

External links[edit]