Angela Morley

Composer and conductor

Born: 10 March, 1924, in Leeds.

Died: 14 January, 2008, in Arizona, aged 84.

ANGELA Morley will be remembered as one of the UK's leading musical arrangers for landmark radio and television series and major films. She worked at Philips Records, recording with stars such as Shirley Bassey, Frankie Vaughan, Harry Secombe and Dusty Springfield. Morley wrote the theme tunes for Hancock's Half Hour and The Goon Show and in her later career, when she lived in the United States, she scored the music for several drama series including Dynasty. Morley could evoke moods and atmospheres which added greatly to such movies as The Slipper and The Rose and Watership Down. In 1972, she underwent a sex change operation, having been born – and achieved early success as – Wally Stott.

Wally Stott was the son of a watchmaker. It seems he inherited his father's dexterity but chose to apply it to music, showing early talent on the piano. He also learned the clarinet but his father's early death meant he had to leave school at 15.

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Stott joined a touring band but by 1942 was playing with the renowned Geraldo Orchestra. He also studied conducting under Walter Goehr. Aged 26, he gave up playing in the orchestra to concentrate on composing and arranging. Three years later he joined Philips to work with the company's contracted artists and wrote the musical content of two of the most successful comedies of the era: Hancock's Half Hour and The Goon Show.

Stott conducted the BBC Dance Orchestra for the third series of The Goon Show in 1952. By the very nature of the show – anarchic and full of ad libs – it was not a straightforward job. But Stott had a good relationships with the Goons – especially Peter Sellers and Harry Secombe – and composed some zany music which suited the madcap mood of the show.

He worked closely with the show's resident harmonica player, Max Geldray, and they produced jazz-oriented musical interludes which proved very popular. Stott retained happy memories of working with Sellers, who, despite his comic genius, was not the easiest of colleagues. Stott told a biographer in 2002: "I hate to believe that there was any harm in Peter. He was a very likeable person."

In 1954, Stott was asked to work with another erratic comedy genius: Tony Hancock. The theme tune on Hancock's Half Hour (used on radio and the subsequent TV series) became widely known. The opening notes on a tuba captured Hancock's personality, and the confrontational relationships he had with Sid James and Hatti Jacques, brilliantly. They were followed by Hancock's breathless introduction to the programme.

In 1960, Stott composed the classic theme music for Michael Powell's psychopathic thriller Peeping Tom, in which the music rises and the rhythm intensifies as the scene is set for Moira Shearer's murder.

Stott then worked on many acclaimed movies including The Looking Glass War (from an early John Le Carr novel) and When Eight Bells Toll – both of which starred Anthony Hopkins.

Stott had been married and had children but confessed to "a lifelong mental struggle with his gender identity". He had kept his concerns private but after his wife, Beryl, died in 1968 he felt more able to confront his inner worries. He was much aided by his second wife, Christine Parker, whom he married in 1970. Two years after their marriage he decided to go through with the operation to change his gender and assumed the name of Angela Morley. She continued to work for the BBC although, significantly, turned down the offer to work on The Last Goon Show of All, in 1972.

She won an Oscar nomination for her arrangements of Lerner and Loewe's music for The Little Prince and that was followed by The Slipper and the Rose in 1976. Her work on the cartoon film Watership Down two years later brought much life and energy to the movie. Morley greatly assisted John Williams with the arrangements and orchestrations for Star Wars, Superman, Schindler's List and The Empire Strikes Back.

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In 1980, she and Christine upped sticks and moved to Arizona, with Morley principally working on episodes of established soaps Dallas, Dynasty and Falcon Crest. She won six Emmy nominations for composing and three for arranging.

In the less understanding years of the 1970s, Morley displayed a definite fortitude in deciding to undergo a sex change. She had the support of Christine and behaved impeccably, never rising to the sometimes inevitable jibes.

Angela Morley is survived by Christine Parker and a son from her first marriage. A daughter predeceased her.


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