Music Composer Barrington Pheloung

Tea Time Tidbit for the week of August 21, 2017

Tea Time Tidbit

Barrington Pheloung

If you enjoy a good British mystery series, I’m sure you’ll agree that their accompanying theme and incidental music is every bit as important as the terrific stories, the high standard of acting, or the fabulous locations in which the series take place.

The music in Inspector Morse is practically a show in its own right! Not only did composer Barrington Pheloung use Morse Code to spell out the Inspector’s name in the opening notes of the theme music, he sometimes even spelled out the killer’s name in the episode’s incidental music! So when it was time for the episode in which Morse’s first name was revealed, savvy viewers were all ears – so to speak – to see if the name would be given away in the episode’s music. One national newspaper reportedly hired the U.K.’s Defence School of Communications and Information Systems, The Royal School of Signals, to attempt to decipher the notes. Their attempts proved futile though and viewer’s only discovered Morse’s first name – Endeavour - when Morse himself revealed it – albeit somewhat reluctantly.

Tea Time Tidbit

Composing at the keyboard

Pheloung, who will turn 63 in October, is also the composer of the Endeavour music as well as the theme to the Morse spin-off series, Inspector Lewis. The music for another mystery series that aired on MPT, Dalziel and Pascoe, was also written by Pheloung.

Although he’d been composing for several years prior to creating the theme music for Inspector Morse in 1987, it was that hauntingly melancholic melody that firmly established Pheloung as one of the U.K.’s great film and television composers. When, after 14 years, it came time for the series to end, in honor of the role he had played off screen in making it such a success, Pheloung was given a role on screen. He played the choirmaster in "The Remorseful Day" episode and, as he confessed when interviewed by the Essex Life & Countryside, despite the fact that he’d read the script and knew the outcome of the episode, he still shed a tear.

Tea Time Tidbit

Inspector Morse writer Colin Dexter flanked
by "Sargent Hathaway" and "Inspector Lewis"

Like the character Morse, Pheloung also enjoys classical music (although not Wagner!) and it was his love of Bach that led him to leave his Australian home at the age of 18 to study at the Royal College of Music in London, where he was tutored by John Williams. By his second year, Pheloung was commissioned to write a ballet score and since the late 1970s he has written more than 50 ballet scores for companies throughout the U.K. and Europe.

Pheloung’s film score composition credits include Truly, Madly, Deeply, starring Juliet Stevenson and Alan Rickman, where he again played a small cameo. His television commercial scores have been heard all over the world. In answer to the classical music critics who claim Pheloung "sold out" by working in film and television, the composer says he’ll always write for that particular medium.

“We are in this business to communicate”, said Pheloung “and if you reach millions of punters through film or television then that is real communication.”

Season 4 of Endeavour airs on Masterpiece Sundays at 9pm and you can see Inspector Lewis Friday, August 25, at 9:00 pm on MPT2/Create.

To contact Heather:
E-mail: heather@mpt.org
Address: Afternoon Tea
Maryland Public Television
11767 Owings Mills Blvd.
Owings Mills, MD 21117

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Afternoon Tea is Maryland Public Television's weekday presentation of British programs.
Our host and Tea Lady is Heather Sanderson.
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