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Robert Farnon

Robert Joseph Farnon CM (July 24, 1917 – April 23, 2005) was a Canadian-born composer, conductor, musical arranger and trumpet player. As well as being a composer of original works (often in the light music genre), he was commissioned by film and television producers for theme and incidental music. In later life he composed a number of more serious orchestral works, including three symphonies, and was recognised with four Ivor Novello awards and the Order of Canada.

Born in Toronto, he was commissioned as a captain in the Canadian Army and became the conductor/arranger of the Canadian Band of the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force sent overseas during World War II, which was the Canadian equivalent of the American Band of the SHAEF led by Major Glenn Miller. He was noted as a jazz trumpeter–his longtime friend Dizzy Gillespie once stated that he was pleased that Farnon took up composing, arranging and conducting, because Robert was the better jazz trumpeter.

He married Joanne Dallas, a singer from the SHAEF band, whom he later divorced. At the end of the war Farnon decided to make England his home, and he later moved to Guernsey in the Channel Islands with his new wife Patricia Smith and his five children. His friend and fellow composer Wally Stott composed "A Canadian in Mayfair" as a tribute.

He was considered by his peers to be the finest arranger in the world, and his talents influenced many composer-arrangers, including Quincy Jones, all of whom acknowledged his contributions to their work. Conductor André Previn called him "the greatest writer for strings in the world." He was the musical director and conductor for Tony Bennett's 1972 series for Thames Television, Tony Bennett at the Talk of the Town.

He won four Ivor Novello Awards, including one for "Outstanding Services to British Music" in 1991, and in 1996 he won the Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Arrangement for "Lament" performed by J. J. Johnson & his Robert Farnon Orchestra.[2] He was also awarded the Order of Canada early in 1998.

Robert Farnon died at the age of 87, at a hospice near his home of 40 years in Guernsey. He was survived by his wife Patricia and their five children, as well as two children from his previous marriage and his many grandchildren. Farnon's older brother Brian and his younger brother Dennis were also orchestral composers, arrangers and conductors.



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