At six he embarked on formal lessons and when his teacher
discovered he could play by ear, remarked "Don't worry, he will grow
out of it". He then spent the next few years trying to persuade his
pupil that his talents lay in the library service!
At the age of 11 he moved to Pate's Grammar School for boys whose former
pupils include Gustav Holst and Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones. Here
he learnt to play the organ and earned more from a half hour funeral
(for which his enlightened headmaster allowed him time off) than his
friends could make in a whole week delivering newspapers.
He then took to accompanying a local choral society
and spending weekends and holidays working for W.H. Smith at the time
when the Beatles and Bob Dylan were at their height. Selling records
possibly gave him ideas and he began to compose, among his works being
carols, piano pieces and a string quartet, plus an orchestral Sinfonietta
since withdrawn. The symphony orchestra was to prove his favourite means
In 1969 he went to Birmingham University to read Music.
His interview with Professor Ivor Keys took the form of little more
than playing through his piano duet suite Badinages, later to
become his first commercially recorded work. He was told he would "probably
be accepted" and after he went up, two of his tutors turned out to be
John Joubert and Peter Dickinson. There was little time for composition
lessons, however, and he was excused orchestration when it was discovered
that his orchestral works were already being played down the road at
the BBC Pebble Mill studios by the BBC Midland Light Orchestra!
Despite later encouragement from Bernard Hermann, Philip
considers himself virtually self-taught in both disciplines.
Whilst at University he developed a deep interest in Lord Berners (1883-1950)
who, in addition to being an accomplished composer was also a painter,
novelist and general eccentric. Philip's thesis on the composer, coupled
with several radio talks, led to him being appointed a trustee of the
Berners Estate and overseeing the completion of all Berners' music on
From 1975-1998 Philip taught at Cheltenham Ladies’
College during which time he received many commissions, especially for
upper voices. In his spare time he worked freelance for London publishers
and quite by chance, in 1993, was invited to look after the estate of
Richard Addinsell (1904-77). He wrote a radio documentary on the subject
and was then asked to embark on what became something of a passion for
film music. The forthcoming Marco Polo CD of Addinsell’s music needed
to include the famous film score for Goodbye Mr. Chips, the brilliant
1939 film which starred Robert Donat. Unfortunately, most of the score
was lost so Philip sat down and listened to the film over and over again,
eventually successfully recreating the music as it first appeared. This
led naturally to him being commissioned to do the same thing for other
famous films, such as The Thirty Nine Steps and The Lady Vanishes.
He is now an acknowledged expert on the restoration of "lost" film
music and has been interviewed several times about the subject on BBC
Radios 3 and 4.
It would not be unfair to say the nation owes him a
great debt because so many film scores were simply destroyed during
times when nobody ever considered there would be any future interest
or use for them. Among the film composers "rescued" in this manner are
Arnold, Auric, Alwyn, Bliss and Victor Young.
Philip Lane's commercial successes include library
music, compositions for BBC plays (including The Merchant of Venice
and Sir Thomas More), plus the TV animation of the immortal
Captain Pugwash. Live music has included a choral commission
to mark the centenary of the death of Lewis Carroll, one from the winners
of the Sainsbury Choir of the Year, and a ballet Hansel and Gretel
for the National Youth Ballet.
Conductor Gavin Sutherland, with whom Philip has worked
on several outstanding CDs, commented on "a perfectionist with the quiet
aura of a schoolmaster surveying his class, who has played a very large
part in the preservation of much of the British Light Music canon that
was presumed lost."
It was Cheltenham Ladies’ College’s great loss when Philip decided to
devote himself full-time to composing and producing CDs but it was a
great gain for the music world in general.
It is hard to underestimate how much he achieved in
such a short time and we should all be profoundly grateful that he took
the bold step of leaving a secure post in a top public school to enhance,
recreate and restore tuneful British music.
See also CD review
film scores by Philip Lane