The Inspector Morse theme music has been voted the number one TV theme of all time in a UK poll by Classic FM and the Radio Times.
I was lucky to be asked by the composer Barrington Pheloung to take part in the recording sessions at a studio in London for the very first series. Barrington himself was a very fine guitar-player and knew exactly the sound he wanted. The theme is in the guitar-friendly key of A minor which also suited the mood and temperament of the Inspector. A few minutes before we started the recording he said to me “a warm sound, and plenty of vibrato – you know the sort of thing!” The sheet music he gave me had no fingering at all, but yes, I got the message and worked something out in the few minutes before the red light came on. I fingered the opening bars on the 3rd string with vibrato and glissandi which you can hear at the beginning of the orchestral soundtrack.
Barrington was charming and informal, and always ready with a joke. He treated fellow musicians as part of an extended family. In one of the last recordings I made with him he brought together many of the original players from the early series of the 1980s. Looking around the studio for a moment he remarked “nice to see so many old faces”. That led to loads of laughter and a happy mood for the rest of the session.
I recorded other TV and film scores for Barrington in the years that followed. Then in 1999 he composed for me Tjukurpa (Dreamtime), a solo guitar piece which I have included in recital programmes. It is a hypnotically beautiful work which I will be recording in the next few months.
When I made a solo arrangement of the Morse theme I sent a recording of it to him and this was his touching reply:
Hi Carlos! Thank you so much. It’s a beautiful arrangement and I would be honoured for you to perform, record or broadcast it on any format you wish. With all my best wishes and may God bless you mate. Love, Baz –
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