Freddie Phillips –
I was wondering if anyone knows anything about the 8 string (harp) guitar made by Marco Roccia for Freddie Phillips circa 1948? It’s illustrated on the cover of BMG April 1953. – FP died 2003……Douglas Rogers
Freddie Phillips 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 + Fingers style playing.
Passed away, on 4th October 2003, at his home in Ewell Surrey. His music lives on…
FREDDIE PHILLIPS (by Peter Senster) began his musical life at the age of 17 when he bought his first guitar. Teaching himself, he attempted to play all the music he could lay his hands on, including books of violin and clarinet studies. During his early professional engagements, which included the International Sporting Club, Monte Carlo; the Hotel Bristol, Oslo; and Lyons Corner House, London. he worked hard to perfect his sight-reading and began to develop his “plectrum-pIus-fingers’ technique, based on old Spanish methods for the ‘vihuela de pendola’ (Viola Plucked with a Quill – one of the forerunners of the modern guitar) which was played with both right-hand fingers and a quill (or plectrum). This style of playing increased his scope for correct interpretation of his transcriptions of the works of Bach, Mozart, Manuel de Falla, etc. The war years saw him with the Field Ambulance Infantry and (in 1943) with the British Band of the A.E,F. under George Melachrino in which organisation he was frequently on the radio both as soloist and a member of the Ronnie Selby (Piano) Trio. FreddIe Phillips’ efficiency at sight reading and his ability to interpret all types of music has brought him radio work with orchestras of many widely divergent styles as Harry Gold, Ted Heath, Monia Liter and Eugene Pini. Latterly he has been heard frequently with his own Quintet and his Trio of 2 guitars and bass which mainly featured music of Latin origin. As an accompanist (remember the popular BBC feature, Riders of the Range”?) and as a dispenser of background music, he is much in evidence on both BBC Radio and Television programmes. Recently he broke new ground with his original television play, “The Eye of the Gypsy,” providing the entire background music on solo guitar for which he received the plaudits of the critics throughout the country. Some years ago, Freddie Phillips realised that the standard type of plectrum guitar was not entirely satisfactory, either for the wide range of music he was called upon to play or for his own special right-hand technique. He set to work and conceived the guitar he now uses, which was successfully built for him by Marco Roccia, the Clifford Essex craftsman, and which deserves special mention. This instrument, large for even a modern guitar, is built of beautifully selected woods. It has a carved top with round soundhole and possesses a delightfully clear tone arid extraordinary response. Two unusual features are the wooden cello-type tailpiece carved from a solid piece of ebony, which is “attached” to the body of the guitar by a dovetail block (no screws are necessary to hold it in place); and the 2 extra bass strings free of the fingerboard. These extra basses, apart from adding to the sonority of the instrument, allow for greater accuracy in transcribing pieces not originally intended for guitar and more scope in writing original music to be performed on it. Should there be any reader unacquainted with the music of Freddie Phillips. he should lose no time in making himself familiar with the work of this polished and musicianly guitarist.
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 earlier series Rubovia . In addition to his radio and TV work he 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 took him to Russia, Poland, Czechoslovakia, 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 their March 1995 issue, “Total Guitar” magazine published an interesting article showing the reader how to play the Trumpton Firemen theme “Firemen Bold”. Joe Bennett, the magazine’s technical/music editor and author of the article, describes it as ” an example of how you can find great guitar playing in the unlikeliest of places”. Freddie Phillips was the man behind the music of Trumptonshire.
He wrote and performed the theme tunes for all 3 of the Trumptonshire programmes, provided the music for all the characters’ songs, co-wrote some of the lyrics and created all of the sound effects – such as the memorable sound of Windy’s mill turning. For many people it was the music and songs that made the Trumpton series so memorable,
The original manuscript from the start of “Captain Snort“, as penned by Freddie Phillips
More than 30 years after it was written, the Trumptonshire music still generates considerable media interest (such as the BBC “smallpeople” promotional film), and even late in his life he still kept his hand in with the classical guitar. In 1999, he seemed well aware of how popular the Trumptonshire music had been, and how people still fondly remember it.
Pugh, Pugh, Barney McGrew, Cuthbert, Dibble, Grubb.
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. An upstairs room in my house was divided by sound-proof partitions; 2/3rds for the machines, 1/3rd 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.