The Composers of Doctor Who - Francis Chagrin

Christopher Morley continues his look at the many composers who have worked on Doctor Who.

We come now to perhaps the first 'one-shot' composer in our series of the many maestros to have worked their magic on Doctor Who- Francis Chagrin's entry courtesy of his work on The Dalek Invasion Of Earth.

Describing himself as 'Romanian by birth, British by nationality and cosmopolitan by inclination.’', his real name was actually Alexander Paucker, His Jewish parents were not supportive of their son's musical ambitions, & so he studied music at a conservatoire in Zurich while also undertaking an engineering degree to meet the demands of his mother & father, who wanted him to take over the family business. Having graduated in 1928, he expected them to be more receptive to his creative gifts- but when the support he so craved failed to show itself he upped sticks & travelled to Paris....

His arrival in the French capital was a new start in more ways than one! Alex shed his old name & picked up a new one- declining offers of financial support from his family following a change of tune on their part, he preferred to tread a more independent path, playing in the cafes & nightclubs of Paris in order to raise funds to study at the city's Ecole Normale. During his two years there his teachers included Paul Dukas, whose best-known work is most likely his orchestral piece The Sorcerer's Apprentice, & Nadia Boulanger, daughter of composer/pianist Ernest- who had been something of a prodigy herself at the Paris Conservatoire before deciding to concentrate on teaching, nurturing around seven decades' worth of students before her death at the age of 92 in 1979.

Perhaps sensing that the Second World War was on the way, Chagrin crossed the Channel to England in 1936- continuing to study, this time with Matyas Seiber, a Hungarian composer who had arrived in London the year before. Francis's spell in France soon helped him secure a job as musical adviser/composer in chief for the BBC's French Service- he was able to speak perfect English, to add to a linguistic portfolio which already included French, Romanian & German!

He would later learn Russian in time for a trip behind the Iron Curtain in 1966- two years after The Dalek Invasion Of Earth was broadcast, as well as finding the time to found the Committee For The Promotion Of New Music, with Ralph Vaughan Williams becoming its President, Chagrin content to be described as its ''organiser & chief founding spirit''. The Society would later merge with the British Music Information Centre, Contemporary Music Network & Sonic Arts Network to form a new organisation, Sound & Music which runs an awards scheme in Francis's name.

He also dabbled in film scoring- he's the man behind the music for Last Holiday ( 1950)...

He's responsible for The Happy Family ( 1952), the 1954 big screen adaptation of J.B Priestley's 1946 play An Inspector Calls, The Beachcomber ( also 1954), The Colditz Story ( 1955 ), Danger Within ( 1959), Greyfriars Bobby ( 1961) & In The Cool Of The Day ( 1963), these among a selection of over two hundred recorded works for film, theatre & radio. A selection of his best works for the screen can be found on the Film Music Of Francis Chagrin compilation.

His orchestral career ran parallel to all this. It included two symphonies ( one in 1959, another in 1970), a piano concerto in 1948 & an undated Prelude & Fugue.

If you yourself are a composer & want to apply for a Chagrin Award, you'll now have to wait until next January/September-
Applications for Francis Chagrin Awards will have two calls in 2014-2015 – in September and January.

Applicants can apply for financial support towards clearly evidenced and itemised costs. The criteria specify that the composers must be:
  • UK resident
  • not in regular paid employment equivalent to 3 days a week or more
  • not studying full time at undergraduate level
  • able to demonstrate clearly how the Award can be used to meet costs directly associated with making a specific new work, for example through copies of receipts or invoices, or through written evidence of future cost
  • Successful applicants may not apply for a year after receiving their award.
  • The maximum amount applicants can request is £500 but Sound and Music will only exceptionally make awards of that size (the average award size to date is £123).
  • Awards can be made both retrospectively or speculatively for costs between April 2014 - March 2015.
Who knows, maybe one day you might find yourself supplying the music to a Dalek adventure, following in old Franny's footsteps!
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