1934 - 2019
cathedral chorister in his native city of Bristol.
At Oxford University he attended no lectures after his first week and
spent much of his time composing musicals and incidental music for
amateur theatrical productions. He gained a First, however, and went on
to do a B.Mus and D.Phil on orchestration. This latter task he
abandoned when, in 1959 - seven years after he had arrived at Oxford -
he found out that National Service had actually stopped, so there was no
longer any need to avoid conscription.
Leaving academia behind him, Chappel joined the ranks of London's
freelance composers; that was the moment, he says, when he suddenly
found himself writing for studio musicians, and his real education
began. He scored and conducted everything from advertising jingles to
feature films such as "Licensed to Kill". He was to compose more than
250 scores for TV plays and for series such as "The Pallisers", as well
as the ever popular "Paddington Bear", released on Sony, narrated by
For children, he had great success with "The Daniel Jazz". This
provoked a number of cantatas, 'hotting up the Bible'. According to
Andrew Lloyd Webber's biography, "The Daniel Jazz" prompted "Joseph
& the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat".
Chappell's compositions are 'laced with tunes that stick in the mind' -
as the Gramophone described his "Guitar Concerto" - a work it also
deemed 'arguabley the most dynamic, colourful and explosive guitar
concerto of the last half-century'.
Although Chappell studied - fleetingly - with Egon Wellesz, one of the
Second Viennese School, he has little time for atonality, nor minimalism
for that matter. On the contrary, he is convinced that 'the composer's
job', as Benjamin Britten said, 'is to be useful - and to the living.'
He feels that many of the 'isms' of the past century have neglected the
existence of amateurs, and of children in particular. The result, he
says, is a ghetto.
With this in mind, he wrote "Dead in Tune", a musical 'whodunnit' for
narrator and the Leicestershire Schools Orchestra, to introduce young
children to the different orchestral instruments. For the same
orchestra he composed a whizz-bang overture, recently released on ASV
under the title "Boy Wizard, an impression of Harry Potter".
Wearing a different hat, he has written and directed many award-winning
music documentary films for television. These have presented leading
classical musicians of our day - such as Leonard Bernstein, Andre
Previn, Georg Solti, James Galway, Julian Bream and Kiri te Kanawa - as
well as highly-acclaimed ballets and operas from all over the globe.
His prize-winning film of African Sanctus introduced choirs and
audiences in many countries to the music of David Fanshawe, and his
glorious production of the original "Three Tenors" concert from Rome,
during the 1990 World Cup, which was televised live to 56 countries and
to an estimated 800 million viewers, and has been largely responsible
for attracting an ever-expanding audience of classical music-lovers.
(c) H.C. 2008