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Obituary: Alexander Faris

Musical director and composer Alexander (Sandy) Faris trained at Oxford University and the Royal College of Music, and served his apprenticeship as chorus master of the Carl Rosa Opera Company, before becoming a highly respected and sought-after conductor and composer for stage and screen productions.

He came to attention with The Song of Norway (Palace Theatre, 1945) and Summer Song (Manchester Opera House, 1955) before returning to the West End in 1958 for Irma La Douce (Lyric Theatre). The following year he won plaudits for his conducting of Candide (Saville Theatre) from its composer, Leonard Bernstein.

His other credits included Robert and Elizabeth (Lyric Theatre, 1964), The Great Waltz (Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, 1970), Billy, starring Michael Crawford (Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, 1974), Bar Mitzvah Boy (Her Majesty’s Theatre, 1978) and Oklahoma! (Palace Theatre, 1980).

An expert in conducting operetta, with director Wendy Toye he created admired productions of Offenbach and was in demand as a Gilbert and Sullivan specialist, leading The Mikado and Iolanthe for Sadler’s Wells Opera and The Yeoman of the Guard (with Tommy Steele) at the Tower of London for the 1978 City of London Festival. He also oversaw D’Oyly Carte’s final London season and the Brent Walker survey of the complete Gilbert and Sullivan canon for television.

In 1973, he composed the music for Peter Ustinov’s R Loves J at the Chichester Festival Theatre.

His 1971 Ivor Novello award-winning theme for Upstairs Downstairs brought him international recognition and enjoyed a new lease of life recently on BBC Radio 4’s PM programme, accompanying its financial slot Upshares Downshares. A CD featuring 83 versions of the theme by listeners raised more than £70,000 for Children in Need.

Other television themes included The Duchess of Duke Street (1976), Wings (1977) and Fanny by Gaslight (1981), together with film scores for The Quare Fellow (1962) and Georgie Girl (1966).

He wrote a biography of Jacques Offenbach in 1980 and published his autobiography, Da Capo Al Fine: A Life in Music, in 2009.

Samuel Alexander (Sandy) Faris was born on June 11, 1921 in Caledon, County Tyrone and died on September 28, aged 94.

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