Howard Goodall, Composer and Musician Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything

Howard Goodall, Composer and Musician

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Howard Goodall is a name you will have seen many times, but probably without noticing it. He has written the theme music for an incredible number of television programmes, most notably Red Dwarf, Blackadder1, Mr Bean and The Vicar of Dibley.

If that was the limit of his oeuvres, he would be an interesting enough figure, but his work stretches a great deal further. He has written theatre music, musical drama (including Silas Marner, 1993), and has co-operated with, among others, Melvyn Bragg and Charles Hart (who wrote the libretto for most of Lloyd-Webber's Phantom of the Opera, the balance being the work of the inestimable Mr Richard Stilgoe). He started writing musicals for the excellent reason that he 'doesn't really like them', so he decided to produce something a little more to his taste. Happily, his taste is excellent.

His choral works for full choir and for upper voices have their roots in his training as a chorister, and this was also put to good use in his three television series: Organ Works, Choir Works and Big Bangs.

These three series are an excellent contribution to the televised history canon, and Tiger Aspect and Channel Four are to be congratulated for commissioning them. Goodall's style is accessible, but without compromising his high musical standards. Guests on the programmes included Peter Hurford (probably the finest organist alive) and Stephen Darlington. If you don't know who these people are, no matter - suffice it to say that they are not often seen on television, but are masters of their art.

The third series, Big Bangs, was so good that it prompted AA Gill, acerbic TV critic of London's The Sunday Times, to say:

Watch this programme. It's on tonight; it might even be on as we speak. Don't bother finishing this article; the rest of it is boring.

Goodall's voice is very fine, with a range from the counter-tenor (a falsetto of great clarity and no hard edges) to, it seems, the bass-baritone. He can also play the organ and piano with considerable skill. However, it is as a composer and a communicator that he is at his best.

A good quote from Howard Goodall, prompted by the discipline of writing for advertisements, film and television:

If someone had told Wagner when to stop, he would have produced work you could sit through.

Howard Goodall has an Official Website, and if you email his assistant with a question you will undoubtedly receive a prompt and courteous reply.

1For which he also sang the lyrics.

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