The Greatest Show on Earth; as the Composer Behind Some of the BBC's Greatest Natural History Documentaries, He's Created the Score for Some of the Most Incredible Wildlife Footage Ever Seen. but, as Planet Earth in Concert Hits the Road, George Fenton Tells Nathan Bevan That None of It Can Compare to the Thrill of Performing It Live

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), September 7, 2012 | Go to article overview

The Greatest Show on Earth; as the Composer Behind Some of the BBC's Greatest Natural History Documentaries, He's Created the Score for Some of the Most Incredible Wildlife Footage Ever Seen. but, as Planet Earth in Concert Hits the Road, George Fenton Tells Nathan Bevan That None of It Can Compare to the Thrill of Performing It Live


YOU might think composing music for scenes of an insect-killing parasitic fungus couldn't be further removed from the glamour of scoring Hollywood movies.

And you'd probably be right. But in terms of George Fenton's career the former has seen him win the hearts and minds of just as many millions of viewers worldwide as his Oscar-nominated work for classic films like Gandhi and Cry Freedom ever did.

But it's not just insecticidal fungi, of course - as the musical mastermind behind the soul-stirring and the heartwrenching soundtracks to acclaimed BBC natural history programmes like Planet Earth (the stage version of which comes to Cardiff this weekend) Fenton's work has become synonymous with the kind of groundbreaking and never-seen-before footage of exotic wildlife that has helped change the very face of natural history films as we know it.

Pages 2 & 3 "Basically, I just had the good luck 10 years ago to be offered something nice," shrugs the 61-year-old Londoner, playing down the fateful transatlantic phone call from documentary producer Alistair Fothergill asking him to turn his back on Tinseltown to work on a new television show he was making in the UK called The Blue Planet.

"The minute I heard the title I was sold. I just thought it was so great that I turned down the offer of doing another film in the States and flew straight back home."

Having worked with Fothergill before on the 1990 nature series TheTrials Of Life, Fenton says he had an idea about what to expect, but it was his friend's pitch that set this new job offer apart.

"Alistair said he wanted me to approach it like it was an old-fashioned film score and for the next four or five months that was it," he recalls.

"They'd sit me down and show me the finished episodes, taking the time to explain to me just how difficult some of those shots had been to capture - after all, how am I supposed to convey to an audience what it feels like to be underwater just as a blue whale sails by you if I've not had the awesomeness of the moment made clear to me first? "And once I'd understood value of the footage and figured out the dynamic of the creatures it became a bit like doing a movie, complete with characters that need to be identified with and lots of drama."

Winning Ivor Novello, Bafta and Emmy awards for Best Television Score, he then went on to recreate the same musical magic on 2006's Planet Earth - which became the most expensive nature documentary series ever commissioned by the BBC and the first to be filmed in high definition - and 2011's Frozen Planet, chronicling the struggle for survival in unforgiving polar climes. …

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The Greatest Show on Earth; as the Composer Behind Some of the BBC's Greatest Natural History Documentaries, He's Created the Score for Some of the Most Incredible Wildlife Footage Ever Seen. but, as Planet Earth in Concert Hits the Road, George Fenton Tells Nathan Bevan That None of It Can Compare to the Thrill of Performing It Live
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