A rousing chorus for Harold Rich’s 90th birthday celebrations - The Solihull Observer

A rousing chorus for Harold Rich’s 90th birthday celebrations

Solihull Editorial 25th Mar, 2017   0

FRIENDS and family gathered to celebrate the 90th birthday of a ‘quite remarkable’ but humble music man.

Harold Rich began playing piano at the age of three – and his musical talents paved the way for a glorious career with music at its very heart.

The 90-year-old former musical director for BBC’s Pebble Mill at One still tickles the ivories on a regular basis – as organist at St Thomas Church in Hockley Heath and for the church choir – Harold’s Angels.

And it was his Hockley Heath friends and fellow music lovers who joined him to celebrate his milestone birthday.

It is hard to cram Harold’s 87 years of musical achievements into just one newspaper article – but, in honour of his 90th birthday, we are happy to give it a go.

After taking up the piano as a youngster Harold’s life has followed a music path throughout – resulting in an illustrious career, all thanks to his pianist talents.

He served in the Royal Navy from 1945 to 194, where he was the pianist/arranger for the Royal Naval Barracks Dance Band (The Bluejackets) at Devonport.

During this period, in 1947, he made his first broadcast – a 15 minute solo spot ‘At the piano’ from the BBC in Bristol.

In 1945 he won a scholarship to the Royal College of Music, where he studied from 1948 to 1952.

There he won the ARCM diploma, and was made a Graduate of the Royal Schools of Music, London.

He also won both the Hopkinson Gold and Hopkinson Silver medals, both of which were presented to him by Her Majesty the Queen (then Princess Elizabeth), the College President.

In addition he won the Dannreuther prize for the best performance of a concerto during the year 1951 to 1952.

From 1953 to 1959 he was Conductor of the Dudley Choral and Orchestral Society and served on the local committee of the Incorporated Society of Musicians, and the committee of the Dudley Arts Society.

He began his musical career with the George Mitchell Minstrels, and then the Continental Ballet, as one of their respective accompanists.

After a seven-year spell as a music master in a secondary modern school, he became (in 1960) the pianist of the BBC Midland Light Orchestra (which he later conducted, including the Orchestra’s first appearance on colour television), and then was appointed orchestral pianist for Norrie Paramor with the Midland Radio Orchestra.

He also played with, and arranged music for, Norrie’s Big Ben Banjo Band, and was Norrie’s piano partner in the group “Pianorama”, which Norrie formed.

Harold took over this group in 1980, since when (as well as numerous broadcasts) it has made several commercial recordings.

In addition to forming his own broadcasting Quartet in 1961, he was a member of the Palm Court Trio, which, apart from making many radio brodacasts, and a number of records, had the pleasure of playing for Her Majesty the Queen Mother at a private dinner party in Scotland.

In addition to conducting his own orchestra for many broadcasts, Harold Rich became Musical Director for the popular television programme “Pebblemill at One” where he conducted for the likes of Tom Jones, Eartha Kitt, Vic Damone, Nana Mouskouri, Elaine Page and Peter Skellern, and accompanied numerous artists on solo piano.

These ranged from ‘pop’ stars such as Cilla Black, instrumentalists such as the violinist Max Jaffa and the renowned flautist, James Galway, to singers such as Rosemary Clooney, Val Doonican, and operatic stars, including Jose Carreras.

He has, over the years, been the orchestral pianist and soloist for many distinguished Light music conductors, including Stanley Black, Robert Farnon, Geoff Love, Frank Chacksfield, and Ron Goodwin (with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra), to name but a few.


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