You might not know the name Maurice Murphy, but I am certain that you are likely to know – and maybe even be very familiar with – his work. His is the principal trumpet playing the lead themes in very many films with music by John Williams. I have for a long time been very impressed with how so many of those themes trip so easily off the tongue (physical or mental) and seem to fit together so well (just hum the Star Wars theme, and then follow it by the Superman theme, then the Indiana Jones theme, and so on). A lot of this is due to the fact that Williams (like most good composers) is a master at recycling and modifying, creating a cluster of much loved (deservedly) themes that accompany some of our favourite movie-going memories, but I now think that the other reason is that you’re hearing them all played by the same voice! That voice is the playing of Maurice Murphy, the truly wonderful trumpeter who Williams would specifically request to play the lead on recordings of his film music. Murphy died recently, and you can dig a bit more about him and explore what I’ve been telling you further by going to the London Symphony Orchestra’s site devoted to him here. There is audio there you can download of excellent programs made about Murphy’s work on film and other music too. It is quite a treat!
The picture above is not of the LSO but of the USC Thornton School of Music in rehearsal with John Williams from a post I did three years ago after attending the rehearsal, which was fantastic!
I heard about Murphy’s passing on the excellent program “Last Word” on BBC Radio 4, by the way, which also discussed the careers of some other interesting people who have recently died. This includes the astronomer Professor John Huchra, who did vitally important work on mapping galaxies and other aspects of the large scale structure of the universe (helping build a lot of the details of the picture we have of modern cosmology). There’s no podcast, as far as I can tell, nor a listen again button, so have a listen on Sunday if you get a chance. Go here for details. There’s a good piece by Overbye in the New York Times on aspects of Huchra’s career.
Now, it’s Friday, so why not down tools and go listen to some of those old movie themes. I’ll start you off here with the Imperial March…