Biography of Freddy Phillips

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Freddie Phillips
Publicity photo

Classical guitarist best known to UK audiences as the composer of the theme songs & incidental music for Gordon Murray's children's TV series, "Camberwick Green" (1966), "Trumpton" (1967) and "Chigley" (1969). 

Also wrote and performed the music for all six episodes of Gordon Murray's short-lived stop-motion television series, "Rubovia". Known for his plectrum-style playing.

d. 4th October 2003, Surrey, England.

"Rubovia" (1976) (TV Series) (6 x 21 minute episodes; Stop-motion puppet plays for children by Gordon Murray. Colour) ...(composed and played music)

"Man in a Suitcase" (1967) (TV Series) (episode #1.14: The Man Who Stood Still, 27 December 1967) ...(composed and played guitar music)
"Chigley" (1969) (TV Series) ...(composed and played music)
(1967) (TV Series) ...(composed and played music)
"Camberwick Green" (1966) (TV Series) ...(composed and played music)
Peeping Tom (1960) ...(composed and played music for dance music segment])
 ... aka Face of Fear (1960) 
 ... aka
The Fotographer of Panic (1960) 
The Gallant Little Tailor (1957) (Short film by dir. Lotte Reiniger, 10 mins) ...(music)
Prince Achmed
(1926) (A 1954 revision of  Lotte Reiniger's animation classic with a new musical score, replacing the original music by Wolfgang Zeller. This version also played the original 18 fps film too fast, at 24 fps. A new restoration done by Deutsches Filmmuseum Frankfurt in 1999, and released on DVD by Milestone Films/BFI, restores the original soundtrack with a new orchestral recording of Wolfgang Zeller's score. This new version is 65 minutes long) ...(composer) Books
"Songs from Trumpton" (1970) (A Hamlyn music book. Music by Freddie Phillips, words by Gordon Murray)

"Come to Chigley" (1970) LP record, EMI MFP1352. Sung and narrated by Brian Cant. Music composed and played by Freddie Phillips.
"A Visit to Trumpton" (1967) LP record. Sung and narrated by Brian Cant. Music composed and played by Freddie Phillips. 
"A Welcome to Gordon Murray's Camberwick Green" (1966) LP record. Sung and narrated by Brian Cant. Music composed and played by Fredde Phillips.
"History of music in sound, vol. X: Modern music (1890-1950)" (1959)  LP records, EMI HLP 26/27. Disc 1: Schoenberg. Guitar played by Freddie Phillips.

The music for the "Rubovia" stop-motion series was provided by Freddie Philips who was later to write and perform the theme tunes for all three of the Trumptonshire programmes. This included the music for all the characters' songs. He also co-wrote some of the lyrics and created all of the sound effects—such as the memorable sound of Windy's mill turning. The theme music from Rubovia is available on a recently released BBC CD Hello Children Everywhere.

Before Trumptonshire, Freddie Phillips was involved in a large number of radio and television programmes, including many early children's programmes, the acclaimed Lotte Reiniger Shadow Films, and Gordon Murray's later stop-motion television, Rubovia. In addition to his radio and TV work, Freddie Phillips also had a more 'formal' career, performing and recording with most of the leading orchestras: the BBC Symphony Orchestra, the Glyndebourne Festival Opera, the English National Opera and the Royal Ballet. His engagements have taken him to Russia, Poland, Czechoslavakia, and most of Europe. (If it hadn't been for these engagements as a performer with these prestigious orchestras he would not have been able, on what he was paid, to have even considered the Trumptonshire project).

In his later days Freddie Phillips was retired and living in Surrey. But, more than thirty years after it was written, his Trumptonshire music still generates considerable media interest (such as the recent BBC "smallpeople" promotional film) which in turn kept him interested. In his later years he still kept his hand in with the classical guitar, but was no longer actively working.

Richard Evans of the Trumpton website (Trumpton Web) interviewed Freddie in January 1999. Here is the interview in its entirety:

When I spoke to him, he seemed well aware of how popular the Trumptonshire music had been, and how people still fondly remember it.

What do you remember about the recording sessions?
I remember long days and some nights putting the M&E tracks together, to meet a deadline, followed by longer days feeding them to Brian Cant (who didn't read music) in the recording cubicle through ear-phones.

Gordon Murray called his contributors his "Cottage Industries" and that is what we were. All animation was done in a "small back room" as, I believe, were the set designs [by Andrew and Margaret Brownfoot -ajr]. An upstairs room in my house was divided by sound-proof partitions; two thirds for the machines, one third for the recording cubicle. I supplied all the recording equipment including Wright + Weir, Brenell, Revox A77, Revox A700 master mixer, speakers, Senheiser mikes, reverb/echo boxes etc., specially for work on Trumptonshire.

The firemen's roll-call came about when Gordon Murray sent me a line which read: "Pugh, Barney McGrew, Cuthbert, Dibble, Grubb"—five men only. As you will see it has no musical "foot" and requires another beat, for instance "Charlie Pugh, Barney McGrew etc would have sufficed, fitting a 6/8 rhythm. On my instigation Murray added the missing beat—another Pugh—and a catchphrase was born.

How did you go about recording all the various sound effects?
A Uher (portable tape recorder) travelled with me whenever outside effects were required such as traffic, birdsong etc. For example, Lord Belborough's little train was recorded at Sheffield Park Station (on the Bluebell Line) in Sussex, when I was engaged at Glyndebourne.

In the episode "Cuthbert's Day Off", which features the song "The Round Pond", he visits the Trumpton Park pond and falls in whilst feeding the ducks. The loud splash effect was achieved by dropping a large object into the bath, thereby drenching the floor, walls and ceiling. The ducks were recorded at the Spring, Ewell Village.

I believe you were an early exponent of multitrack recording. How many tracks did you typically use for each of the Trumptonshire songs?
Three tracks were usually sufficient for the music, which was then mixed with voice and/or effects.

I think there were a total of around fifty songs written for the Trumptonshire characters. Did you have a particular favourite composition, or one that you were particularly proud of?
I have no preference with regard to my compositions, but I think some compositions were more effective than others, such as "The Clockmaker", "The Greengrocer", "The Little Train", "The Windmill" and "The Round Pond".

When you were writing and performing the music, did you see the Trumptonshire programmes as a classic series in the making, or just another children’s programme?
Composing the songs, and some lyrics, playing all parts on multi-track—sometimes with the assistance of a percussionist paid for by me—supplying all equipment, and for each episode a final M&E (Music and Effects) and dialogue master tape for transfer to film, was very much a gamble... but, having completed the scores for thirteen silhouette films for Lotte Reiniger, I thought perhaps that Murray's venture would succeed.

I noticed that you get a credit on the track by the group Urban Hype called "A Trip to Trumpton" which includes a bit of "Firemen Bold"
Yes, it was all done through the proper channels, and I received a small royalty, but it didn't make me a fortune!

Copyright © 1999 Richard Evans.