Cinema Retro's London photographer Mark Mawston reports on a very special evening in honor of a very special man.
By Mark Mawston
On one special day in June 2007 I found myself in dream land. Not only was John Barry playing the Meltdown festival that night but I was allowed access to the rehearsal of the show in the hope that I would gain some informal photographs of Barry. As it transpired, those formal shots did indeed happen - to an extent I simply could not have imagined, as towards the end of the rehearsal John's wife Laurie asked if I could return later that evening and take some intimate family portraits and some informal shots of John himself. This was a great honour, but that’s another story.
Cut to last Monday evening, another very special day in June. I found myself attending the Memorial concert of the great man himself. This was organized by Laurie in conjunction with the Broccoli Foundation to establish and raise funds for The John Barry Scholarship In Film Composition, on behalf of The Royal College Of Music.
The evening started off with a very warm introduction from close family friend Sir Michael Parkinson, followed by a video message from Sir Michael Caine. Although it was disappointing that he wasn’t there in person, the message showed a very emotional Mr. Cain, telling some witty and emotive tales about his ex-flat mate. The favourite reminiscence for most was Michael describing his horror at being kept awake by John at the piano on the first night of his elongated stay at the composer'sluxury flat overlooking the Thames in the early 60s. The next morning he inquired what John had been doing and the composer confirmed, in a Yorkshire lilt, “Oh, it’s something for the new Bond, do you want to hear it”? Of course Caine said yes and then commented, in his usual laconic manner, “So I ended up being the first person in the world to hear the tune Goldfinger……All Night!”
What followed was an amazing night of music, conducted by the superb Nicholas Dodd and performed by the The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Musical highlights included wonderful themes such as The Ipcress File, Born Free and Midnight Cowboy, as well as the early 60s classics The Knack and Zulu. However, it wasn’t till they played the very emotive theme from Somewhere In Time that I realized exactly why we were really here. Although John’s son, JonPatrick had given a very brave and emotive introduction earlier in the evening, this theme from Somewhere In Time and the 'John Dunbar Theme' from Dances With Wolves really made me rather teary-eyed, knowing that the great mind that had given the world these wonderful pieces of music had been transported into the 'Beyondness of Things' - another tune that was very emotional, accompanied on the big screen by some wonderful photos from the family archive.
Other stars included Rumer, who impressed many with her version of 'We Have all The Time In The World', although I thought her voice not best suited to this (the Barry/ Rice theme 'All Time High' from Octopussy would have been a lot more fitting for her talents). Timothy Dalton gave a superb reading and Sir George Martin charmed us all with wonderful stories about his dear friend.The superb James Bond suite followed after various contributions from Barry’s other superlative scores, including Nigel Hitchcock performing Body Heat, and Derek Watkins fabulous trumpet solo on 'Remembering Chet'. Although the Bond suite was always going to be the highlight for many, the appearance of David Arnold singing and playing one of the last completed works by Barry called 'Tick The Days' on acoustic guitar, surprised many - for all the right reasons. I, like many others, had never heard David Arnold sing and was incredibly impressed with what I heard, his vocals not being not too far removed from George Michael in style and tone.
It was the real revelation of the night. I say that because we all knew that Dame Shirley Bassey would be brilliant - and she was.
Dame Shirley Bassey performs.
She entered in her sequined dress and literally lifted the roof of the cavernous (but packed to the Gods) Royal Albert Hall. She really was on sparkling form, both in voice and dress. My only disappointment is that she didn’t sing the much underrated theme from Moonraker ('Where Are You'), which rarely gets an outing and today would have been an excellent excuse. Other omissions that surprised me were The Persuaders and Girl with the Sun In Her Hair and although it would be impossible to please all, the former really should have been on the bill, rather than having a vocal and instrumental version of the same tune in Goldfinger (although, as we all know, that was John's favourite Bond theme).
With the likes of lyricist Don Black and another very brave and emotive speech by Laurie Barry at the conclusion, it really was a privilege to be there. As we were leaving I took the chance to have a quick word with Bond production designer Syd Cain who was sitting a few seats to my left and asked what it was like to hear the theme from On Her Majesties Secret Service again? He summed it all up rather neatly by saying that it still sounded incredible all these years later. The fact is, all the music performed last night will only become more definitive and breath-taking as time passes and more people realise just what an amazing and unique talent we had in John Barry.
The last time I saw John was when I popped by with some of those initial photographs I’d taken in 2007. The last words he said to me as I left his house, heading off to photograph a concert at the same Royal Albert Hall were, “Enjoy the Show”. I did, John, as did all of those present last night.Although billed as a memorial, Monday night's event was also a celebration of a great talent who will be sorely missed.
In his life as a composer, John Barry mostly left the words to others. In The Blessing that Timothy Dalton read there was a line that John O’Donohue wrote which sums up how most people felt after attending this special concert. The line goes:
“May you see in what you do the beauty of your own soul”.
Those present at this concert always saw that great beauty in what you did, John, but your great legacy will be that a great many more will see and more importantly hear it far into the future.