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George Fenton

George Fenton was born in Bromley, Kent in 1949. George sang in church choirs as a boy, but it was the electric guitar – a Rosetti Lucky 7 – that first won his heart at the age of 7.

At the age of 12, George began to study the church organ. This was a crucial part of his musical upbringing because it was at this point that he was fortunate enough to encounter two exceptionally gifted musicians who would have a lasting influence on him. They were both former cathedral organists and worked at St Edward’s School in Oxford: David Pettit was the director of music, and Peter Whitehouse the assistant director.

Having turned down the opportunity to go to university, George played in various bands and did a string of odd jobs until he auditioned for and was cast in Alan Bennett’s play, Forty Years On, in 1968.

In 1974, George was asked by the director Peter Gill to write the music for Twelfth Night for the RSC in Stratford. Since then he has written extensively for theatre, television, and film.

Whilst working in theatre, George began to write scores for television. Throughout the ‘80s, he wrote the music for a variety of TV series and many well-known themes for television, including nearly all of the BBC’s news output in the ‘80s and ‘90s.

As an indirect result of studying with John Leach, and as a direct result of his work at Riverside Studios, George was asked by Richard Attenborough to co-write the score to the 1982 film Gandhi with Ravi Shankar. He went on to score four more of Attenborough’s films. In fact, many of the films he has scored have been the result of long-lasting relationships with directors, such as Stephen Frears, Nora Ephron, and Ken Loach. Some collaborations are particularly prolific: he has written scores for Loach’s last 16 films. George’s film credits include Cry Freedom, Shadowlands, Dangerous Liaisons, The Madness of King George, and Groundhog Day.

In 1990, George scored his first natural history documentary series, David Attenborough’s The Trials of Life, and followed it up with Attenborough’s next series, Life in the Freezer. This led to the producer Alastair Fothergill asking George to compose the music for The Blue Planet in 2001, which began a 10-year period of writing for natural history television programmes, including Planet Earth, Frozen Planet and Life. With the producer Jane Carter, George turned each of the scores into concert works. His live film scores continue to be performed by orchestras worldwide.

George began to be recognised for his scoring work in the 1980s, and received his first award at the BAFTAs in 1982 for ‘Best Original TV Music’ with Bergerac and The History Man. Over the years, he’s won a total of 14 awards for music composition.

Now, George lives in London. He is a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and is a visiting professor at the Royal College of Music and the University of Nottingham. He continues to compose for film, television, and theatre.

Discover more about George on his website.

Watch Video

BBC Frozen Planet in Concert