Cyril Or­nadel

The Jewish Chronicle - - Obituaries -

THE IN­TER­NA­TION­ALLY ac­claimed West End com­poser Cyril Or­nadel won fame with a host of pop­u­lar 1950s the­atri­cal and film mu­si­cal scores, from the orig­i­nal pro­duc­tion of My Fair Lady to the in­ci­den­tal mu­sic for the Beatrix Pot­ter sto­ries, with lyrics by David Croft and nar­rated by Vivien Leigh.

He be­came the youngest mu­si­cal di­rec­tor in the West End at the age of 25. Then, as res­i­dent mu­si­cal di­rec­tor of the Lon­don Pal­la­dium for four years dur­ing the 1950s, he con­ducted ITV’s mu­si­cal flag­ship Sun­day Night at the Lon­don Pal­la­dium. His weekly pres­ence, lead­ing the orches­tra from the pit, spawned a joke that the back of his head was the most fa­mous on TV. The show was broad­cast on ITV from 1955 to 1967, and he con­ducted three Royal Com­mand Va­ri­ety per­for­mances.

Suc­cess as the mu­si­cal di­rec­tor of many West End shows fol­lowed, sat­is­fy­ing the na­tion’s post-war ap­petite for light, glam­orous en­ter­tain­ment. The ac­tor Ian Carmichael in­tro­duced Or­nadel to the lyri­cist and later sit­com writer David Croft and their col­lab­o­ra­tion pro­duced some 300 songs for BBC Va­ri­ety shows. In 1956 Or­nadel wrote his first score for a mu­si­cal, with lyrics by Croft, called Star­maker, star­ring Jack Hul­bert and Cicely Court­nei­dge, fol­lowed two years later by The Pied Piper for Gary Miller.

But al­though Or­nadel knew from an early age that mu­sic would be his life, his am­bi­tions were nearly thwarted by his fa­ther, a dress man­u­fac­turer, who wanted him to join the family busi­ness, and tried ev­ery­thing in his power to wean him off his cho­sen ca­reer, even get­ting him ex­pelled from the Royal Col­lege of Mu­sic.

Un­de­terred, Or­nadel joined a trio with Dorothy Car­less and Sylvia Han­del, with whom he per­formed at the peace-sign­ing cel­e­bra­tions af­ter the Sec­ond World War in a field be­fore the top mil­i­tary brass.

Af­ter the war he con­ducted va­ri­ety shows and played at the Lon­don Pal­la­dium with Nat King Cole, the Crazy Gang, Mario Lanza, Judy Garland and Noel Coward. His cred­its in­clude Kiss Me Kate, Call Me Madam, at the Lon­don Coli­seum: (lyrics by Irv­ing Ber­lin), Paint Your Wagon, Pal Joey, Won­der­ful Town and Kismet. In 1961 he mar­ried Shoshana Shapiro with whom he had three chil­dren, Dan, Sharon and Guy.

It was in the 60s that he first came to no­tice as a com­poser. He was Roy Plom­ley’s cast­away on Desert Is­land Discs in 1963 where his cho­sen favourites proved his broad mu­si­cal tastes, from Mozart and Rach­mani­nov to Frank Si­na­tra and Gil­bert and Sul­li­van. His book of choice was the Tal­mud.

In that year he wrote the mu­sic for Pick­wick, star­ring Harry Se­combe, based on Charles Dick­ens’ The Pick­wick Pa­pers. Se­combe’s ren­der­ing of If I Ruled the World be­came a hit, win­ning an Ivor Novello Award and reach­ing the top 20.Twelve years later Or­nadel col­lab­o­rated on an­other Dick­ens adap­ta­tion: Great Ex­pec­ta­tions with Hal Shaper, star­ring Sir John Mills. It earned him an­other Novello award. This fol­lowed his ear­lier col­lab­o­ra­tion with Shaper on the mu­si­cal Trea­sure Is­land in 1973, adapted by and star­ring Bernard Miles.

His film scores in­cluded the 1968 thriller, Sub­terfuge, star­ring Joan Collins and Gene Barry, and the 1974 TV remake of Brief En­counter, star­ring Sophia Loren and Richard Bur­ton. Turn­ing to TV, he won a BAFTA for Ed­ward the Sev­enth and he con­ducted the Lon­don Sym­phony Orches­tra for the Strauss Family Se­ries, for which his mu­si­cal al­bum won the LSO a Gold Disc. His recorded work in­cludes the mu­sic for the Liv­ing Shake­speare se­ries and the Liv­ing Bi­ble, nar­rated by Lau­rence Olivier. His Matt Monro song, Por­trait of My Love (lyric by Nor­man Newell) won­aNovel­loAward for the best song of the year and a BMI award for over two mil­lion in­ter­na­tional broad­casts.

Al­though de­scribed as a great char­ac­ter, Or­nadel was some­times con­sid­ered a mar­tinet to work for. Yet he was mod­est, ac­knowl­edg­ing that he had been lucky. “I never knew what I wanted to do other than make mu­sic, “ he said. He was awarded the gold badge of merit by the Bri­tish Academy of Com­posers and Song­writ­ers for his ser­vices to Bri­tish mu­sic. He re­tired from con­duct­ing in 1989 and moved to Israel with his wife, where he wrote his au­to­bi­og­ra­phy, Reach for the Moon, and a can­tata, Her­itage, based on the Jewish Fes­ti­vals, with a li­bretto by for­mer JC staff writer and poet, Pamela Mel­nikoff. Cyril Or­nadel is sur­vived by his wife, his three chil­dren and two grand­chil­dren.

Or­nadel the hit mu­sic man

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